I love to watch the Olympics, and although I greatly prefer the Winter variety, Summer has quite a few competitions I like to follow. There are quite a few, however, that leave me quite puzzled. Today they aired the "Rhythmic Gymnastics" competition, and it left me completely baffled as to how this is an Olympic sport. What I saw, both individual and team, was basically a combination of ballet and Cirque du Soleil. There's not really any flips, diving rolls, or any of the cool stuff we're used to seeing in gymnastics. What's stranger, and more vexing, is that the Olympic comittee held a secret vote on all 28 sports in the Olympic program, and the only two sports voted out were baseball and softball. These are the first sports removed from the Olympics since Polo in 1936. There's certainly no denying that these are actual sports, with two teams, a winner and loser that's not voted upon, offense, defense, and uniforms. Kind of my definition of a sport. IOC President Jacques Rogge's excuse is that basically since pro ball players don't go to the Olympics, the best of the world are not competing. Apparently he's not paying attention to Soccer, where the same situation exists; the best go to the World Cup, not the Olympics.
Another Olympic comment I have might get me lynched in the USA; I have kind of an issue with calling Michael Phelps the "Greatest Olympian of All-Time". Granted, he's probably the greatest swimmer of all-time, but that's a statement that's not only impossible to qualify, it's downright unfair. How many Olympians compete in sports where there's only one possible gold medal? Wrestlers are in insane condition, have to win multiple competitions to gain the finals, but there's only one possible gold medal. Is it their fault because they picked a sport that doesn't offer 8 chances at a medal in one Olympics? A decathlete has to excel in ten different sports to get a chance to win that one possible medal. Is Michael Phelps a greater athlete than decathlon record-holder Roman Sebrle of the Czech Republic, who BTW has such respect for this year's winner, US' Bryan Clay, that he regrets that Clay didn't break his record. Maybe we can just stop with the superlatives for a second, and appreciate the effort itself. I know, madness.
Speaking of both of these issues, I also would much rather see the decathlon, a traditional sport of ironmen on primetime, than the prancing pixies of rhythmic gymnastics, but apparently the demographics of NBC for the Olympics is 14 yr-old girls and pedophiles. What I'd really like to see is the first 3-4 days dedicated entirely to the ancient games; wrestling, running, discus, javelin, etc. Start with the Classic Olympic sports, then, once they're done move into the ping-pong and BMX. I'd also argue that they should always be in Athens, but financially the world would lose their collective minds.
The next time someone bitches about Curling during the Winter Olympics, I'll shove a big bucket of "go watch ping-pong" in their face. Now water polo? That's bad-ass. It should be called water hockey.