The motto of the modern Olympics motto has been "citius, altius, fortius" ever since they started in 1896. This is Latin for "faster, higher, stronger." I never understood why they used Latin since the original Games were organized by the Greeks, not the Romans. But the motto does seems to reflect the spirit of the original Games.
But the more sports that get added, the further we get from this motto.
Should beach volleyball -- the first sport designed around showing off female derrieres -- really be an Olympic sport?
The wonder of the Olympics comes from watching athletes perform and thinking, wow, I could never do that -- what they do is just incredible! I've never once watched volleyball players and had that thought.
NBC seems to stick the unpopular stuff -- like beach volleyball -- up front so that everybody has to wait around and digest a lot of commercials to see whatever they want to see. Have you ever heard a single person mention the outcome of a tournament away from the TV?
No sport for which the Olympics does not represent the apex of achievement should be in the Olympics. Runners, rowers, and gymnasts grow up dreaming of being in the Olympics. Basketball players dream of making it in the NBA, and tennis players dream of playing at Wimbledon.
The NBA players at the Olympics seem to almost be slumming. Ditto for the top tennis players. They're not quite acting bored, but this is obviously just a sideshow for them. Toss 'em out.
No sport for which the barrier to entry is as high as it is in the equestrian events should be in the Olympics either. To buy and care for the kinds of horses it takes to compete, one must be extremely rich. Dressage (accent on the second syllable, please) isn't a sport for farmhands. It's a sport for the royalty the dignitaries at the IOC like to hobnob with. Toss 'em out. (And the IOC with them.)
Or, at least award the gold medal to the horse and not the rider.
Synchronized diving has gotten a lot of airtime. Every pair I've seen has been impressive, both in their athleticism and their synchronicity. The men's version seems a little gay -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
Diving, although associated with swimming because it takes place in natatoriums, is much closer in spirit to gymnastics, and in fact, a lot of divers are former gymnasts.
The gymnasts themselves are amazing. The male gymnasts are built like body builders -- yet their muscles are actually functional.
The female gymnasts always look a little abused somehow. Many of them look as though their growth was stunted, and their hair has been pulled back so severely they look as if they've just had face lifts. You just know that a fair percentage of them have eating issues, though most are muscular as well as lean.
What they do is breathtaking. I remember being wowed by Olga Korbut doing a back flip on the uneven parallel bars in 1972. That would barely qualify as a warmup for today's muscular little robots. But any semblance of femininity and grace has long since departed.
Rowing is a sport that represents the Olympic ideal. Rowers train hard in obscurity, end up extremely fit, and emerge once every four years to shine. It's not exactly exciting to watch, though.
I suppose the same could be said of swimming.