Winter Olympics deserve your attention


Maybe it’s just the cold weather getting everyone down, but the Sochi Winter Olympics are getting zero love.

In 2012, the London Summer Olympics were among the most-watched events in television history. They had superstars like Michael Phelps, Lebron James and Usain Bolt. They brought the world together without complaint and criticism.

In contrast, the Sochi Olympics have garnerd a massive collection of farcical tweets and lost out in television ratings to the midseason premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” The Games have been subject to criticism from everyone from journalists to my grandmother.

Lots of the criticism has been warranted, but I submit this plea to you, dear reader: Don’t give up on Sochi.

The Olympics are supposed to bring the eyes of the world to a beautiful place where the invincibility of the human spirit shines through. It has been well documented how poor some of the conditions are in Sochi, and it’s been well documented (even by yours truly) that the political conditions of the host country are not ideal for the cultivation of the human spirit.

The Winter Olympics bring fewer superstars than the summer games, and host fewer athletes who are household-faces year round, but switching off the games to watch a show about zombies is an insult to those athletes.

Take Alexandre Bilodeau, the gold medalist in the men’s moguls in Sochi. I did an impromptu poll of some of my friends who are native to the unfortunately flat state of Illinois, and only about half of them even knew what moguls were! Bilodeau’s name only comes up once every four years, but in Sochi he became the first man ever to repeat as the gold medalist in a freestyle skiing event. His inspiration is his 28-year-old brother who has cerebral palsy, and he was the person Bilodeau referenced most in his emotional post-race interview.

And you skipped watching this because you had to watch a show about zombies?

It might not be easy to watch the biathlon, cross-country skiing or even long track speed skating, all of which are mundane sports, but listen to the commentary, and watch for the nuances of the event, and if you are a sports fan, you will slowly get drawn in. Why are the Dutch so good at speed skating? Because they skate to school in the winter sometimes! Did you know that before? No, I bet you didn’t.

Take some time to appreciate the effort it takes to participate in the non-traditional sports like ski jumping, and marvel at the sheer adrenaline it requires to go flying down an ice-covered hill at 80 miles per hour. Isn’t that impressive?

Now, we haven’t even covered curling, everyone’s favorite winter sport. The best thing about watching curling is the intense competitive face of people at the top of their profession who look just as average as you and me. Why can’t we celebrate them too?

Look, the Olympics get plenty of attention, but athletes at the Winter Games often fade out of our public view faster than the athletes that play their sports in the summer. There may not be bathing suit bodies to look at, or the fastest man on earth, but the Winter Olympics are just as special, and the athletes involved deserve to compete on the largest stage of all with as large an audience as possible.

Turn on the TiVo, record “The Walking Dead” or “The Bachelor” or “How I Met Your Mother,” and instead watch the most talented athletes in the world do what they do best.

Peter is a freshman in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @pbaileywells22.