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Olympics 2002 Wrap-up

Published by marco on


So, now that we’ve all learned how to become Olympic champions (eat at McDonald’s, drink Budweiser and chug Zoloft, which, by the way, shouldn’t be a surprising sponsor of the Olympics, since Study Finds Utah Leads Nation in Antidepressant Use). Mark Morford reports in Numerous Mormons On Prozac that Utah has twice the national average in anti-depressant usage.

Other states with high antidepressant use were Maine and Oregon. Utah’s rate of antidepressant use was twice the rate of California and nearly three times the rates in New York and New Jersey, the study showed.


Don’t get me wrong. I love the Olympics. I haven’t missed watching an Olympics in my whole life. Growing up near enough to the Canadian border, I was treated to the noon to midnight Olympics coverage on the CBC, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. If you’ve never heard of it, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

While NBC, which has exclusive U.S. distribution rights to the next 800 Olympics, is moving increasingly to packaged, videotaped coverage, with long, moving interviews with family and friends, clever promotional tie-ins, and even, if you’re quick, the occasional sport occurrence, all sandwiched between 3 or 4 minute long commercial blocks that just keep on coming, the CBC still covers the Olympics mostly as sports.

The start, middle and finish of the event are often shown. Athletes from other nations that may or may not win medals, may or may not have had cancer or withstood great odds can be seen. Sure, Canadians get pumped up, but not even close to NBC’s outright jingoism. The sports can easily speak for themselves. However, NBC doesn’t trust the American attention span and drowns it all out with truck commercials.

Yeah, I watched the Olympics on NBC this year again. I have no choice. I don’t get the CBC anymore. I was actually in broadcast range for one weekend and revelled in at least 15 glorious hours of live coverage. An AlterNet article, Welcome to the American Olympics talks about the CBC, the cost of the Olympics and the growing feeling that these are the American Olympics:

Part of the appeal of the Olympics is its carefully cultivated image of selfless altruism and global harmony … But while selling that image, the United States, especially in years when it hosts the games, tends to think it’s all about us. … A sociologist could probably find something compelling in U.S. media’s obsession with proving that no matter what we do or who among us does it, America really is #1. It reeks of an insecurity, or immaturity, not befitting a great nation. But the simpler truth is, it’s probably what the networks think American audiences want. We grow up with mindless jingoism and “America #1” propaganda from birth …

Well, Aren’t We Proud Of Our Medals? by Robert Reno in the New York Newsday also talks about the crowing of the U.S. and suggests that the reason the U.S. was so successful was simple investment. With $40 million dollars invested into the USOC directly, that comes out to over $1 million per medal.

Sandra Baldwin, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said it was “not serendipity” that we seemed to dominate these games. … “We put a lot of money and a lot of time into these games and we’re happy to see it pay off,” she said.

He also points out that other nations have far better cost/benefit ratios and have much higher medals per capita as well, so perhaps the U.S. should zip it.

After all, the Germans got the most medals, 35, on the strength of a gene pool of only 83 million people. If their athletes had had the bad taste to dance around shrieking boasts to being the master race, I suppose we would have just had to put up with it. … The Norwegians, of whom there are only 4.5 million, won 24 medals. Austria, home to 8 million people, won 16 metals. … Do your arithmetic and see what were among the more stunning “victories” of these Olympics.

Switzerland, with about 7.1 million people, took 11 medals.


The cost of the Olympics is another issue that gets neatly glossed over. You see, despite the best gouging efforts of local retailers and restauranteurs in Salt Lake City (Durst’s Olympic Winners and Losers tells of $7 hot dogs and $3.50 Snickers bars), they came up well short of the $1.5 Billion price tag for hosting the Olympics. Campaign Contributors Go for Gold tells of the wheeling and dealing that made the Olympics happen (this is all after the whole mess with the bribes, scholarships and prostitutes for the IOC).

The price tag for taxpayers for the 2002 Olympics is some $1.5 billion, according to a special report in Sports Illustrated by award-winning investigative reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele. That’s one-and-a-half-times more than the amount spent by the government on all seven Olympics games in the U.S. since 1904, combined, even after adjusting for inflation.


Gold, Silver, Bronze — But Not Green (again on AlterNet) tells the story of the environmental situation there. The games were to be very eco-friendly, with rail lines and buses put in, but, in the end, there wasn’t time, and tens of millions of dollars were put into the tried and true parking lots, highways and thousands of SUVs.

The environment was touted as one of three pillars of the Olympics, along with sports and culture, and cities bidding for the Games had to trot out their green credentials. … Such considerations, however, have largely been abandoned in Salt Lake, and in the end the region will … likely [be] left with significant environmental damage from the Olympics.

Some of the ongoing issues in the area are covered also in the February National Geographic in Leap of Faith (abstract only), over 80% of Utah’s population lives in the Salt Lake area, the “Wasatch Front” and the population looks to double in the next 50 years. The water situation is so desperate there that rivers have been moved already, and there are plans to reroute another with a dam, destroying the largest wetlands in the “intermountain West”.

On to Athens.