Are people watching the Winter Olympics for the wrong reasons?

Published: Feb 08, 2014 12:39pm EST
By Jeff Kryglik, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Feb 08, 2014 @ 01:22pm EST

 

The Olympics, whether in the winter or summer, is a series of events where the world comes together on the grandest of stages as countless countries are brought together by the avenue that is sport.

But has the mystique of the Winter Games diminished in recent years with more attention given to a sport like snowboarding?

With the growing popularity of the X-Games and extreme sports in general, some may question exactly why most people watch the games anymore. Some have grown frustrated with sports where judging comes into play and there is a question of integrity and justice for certain nations due to international animosity outside the games. Some watch the Games for what they should be: a race against the clock and whoever performs the best, gets rewarded with the gold, silver or bronze medals. 

However, the Winter Olympics is a smaller scale global spectacle that features events that some watch for the "it's strange" factor with sports like curling and the biathlon. As strange and as different as those events are, athletes competing in such events take as much pride in their sport as every professional football player does in the NFL. It's their niche. It's their passion. It's what they love. 

Others, especially in the younger generation, watch the games for quite a disturbing and skewed reason on what the games are really about. Take sports like skeleton, luge, bobsled, alpine skiing and snowboarding. All of which are incredibly high-flying, intense sports that require immense skill, preparation and dedication to master. It's almost like an argument can be made about hockey being the toughest sport to play among the four "major sports" in the United States because it requires every element of athleticism while playing on ice skates. There is no winner on either side. As difficult as these crafts are, some of the spectators watch the sports much like why some watch NASCAR: for the inevitable crash.

Death-defying sports, like skeleton and bobsled, where competitors are traveling at high speeds on what is virtually solid ice will more often than not feature it's fair share of scary and hard-to-watch crashes that could jeopardize a competitor's career in the sport, and also their life. 

Some wait for this moment their entire life to compete on such a grand stage like the Winter Olympics. Take Lolo Jones for example. A "from-nothing-to-something" story whose dream was to compete as an Olympic athlete in track and field, but now she's turned to bobsled for a new challenge of being a dual Olympic competitor. It doesn't resonate in a lot of folks' minds that she could die during any race as this event is more life-threatening than her summer event of hurdling. 

Great athletes have had to miss out on the Games because of such tragic injuries. Lindsey Vonn is at the forefront of the discussion in that department, as one of the most decorated female skiers in Olympic history has had to sit out of the games with a devastating knee injury. A fellow skier in Bode Miller didn't anticipate the Sochi Games as being a possibility after missing all of last year due to a similar injury. 

These athletes are risk-takers to a tee. Even snowboarder Shaun White has had to sit out of a slopestyle event due to the danger presented by the course and how the risk of further injuring himself would affect his ability to not only compete for a gold medal in these games, but also further jeopardize his extreme sports career. 

The moral of the story?

People watch what they watch because they want to see something out of the ordinary. Some people want to see spectacular accomplishments. Others want to watch hockey for the potential fights. 

Not everyone will ever be pleased by the Olympics, but those competing are the best in their respective sport for a reason. The athletes should be admired by their feats, but far too often, they are gazed upon amidst their failures and falls. 


 

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Jeff Kryglik
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