What's Wrong with the Winter Olympics

I love the Olympics, both summer and winter. The atmosphere brings out the best in the competitors, from Phelps’ touch out to take his seventh goal to the USA-Canada hockey rivalry, the Olympics make for great entertainment (and often drama). But while I enjoy the Winter Olympics, they don’t promote as much diversity as the Summer Olympics. The fact is few countries have an opportunity to compete seriously or produce medal contenders. While the Summer Olympics present an opportunity for many countries to medal, only a fraction as many have a legitimate opportunity to medal at the winter games, and the top echelon of medalists come almost entirely from a tiny handful of countries. Granted, fewer medals are given at the winter games, but the fact remains that so far only 25 countries total have received any medals at all during the winter games compared to the 80 total countries which medaled at the Summer games in Beijing.

To be sure, few countries are geographically, socially, or economically able to support the extensive training regimens of winter athletes. But of those that are able to sustain and maintain such a program are glorified by the Winter Olympics. Although it’s supposed to be a great forum and gathering of the nations, only a few have the opportunity to compete seriously.

Take Women’s Ice Hockey. Scores during pool play were 12-1, 13-1, 13-0 and even a humiliating 18-1 defeat by Canada over Slovakia. The fact that Canada defeated, by such a large margin, a country that is actually supposed to be good at hockey is embarrassing to the sport and the games. While I will always support the American team (USA! USA!), I wish the possibility existed that they might someday have to compete with some country like Argentina.

And while this is unrealistic, it also serves to point out a potential flaw in how the Olympics are delivered. I think that there is too much emphasis on medal counts among countries. I am proud of the American athletes and thoroughly enjoy watching them out-perform such dreaded countries as the Communist Chinese, I wish there was more emphasis on the achievement of those who come from these almost insurmountable odds and succeed, instead of the amount of medals they might contribute.

After all, medals are achieved through hard work and personal achievement. But without the economic support, many individuals are not given the opportunity. Korea, as of Friday night sat in 7th place, for total medals, with 14. Only one, a world record gold medal performance by figure skater Kim Yu-Na, was not a speed skating medal. Countries like Korea must focus their resources on a select few sports leaving countless individuals sidelined without ever being given the opportunity to compete.

Although I love the competition and patriotism of the Olympics, I feel that we should not be as consumed with medal counts as with the character and resolve of the athletes to achieve for their countries. We should support the Olympics as a forum where individuals from all countries can compete and engage in this great gathering of nations.

Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew,  made up of Ari Zyskind, Dan Campbell, Kavin Shuai, and Ned Schooler, a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio talk show on KSPC. You can listen in online at KSPC.org (click “Hear us Online via Live365”) every Monday from 8-10 PM.