Olympics cater to athletes and apathetes alike

From emotional origin stories to fierce competition, Rio has something to offer everyone.


by Julia Kerrigan, Staff Writer

Before we begin, let’s get one thing straight; I’m the type of person who is unathletic, jaded by sports and not particularly patriotic. However, that doesn’t stop me from keeping my eyes glued to every second of the Rio Olympics, from taekwondo to table tennis. I’ll find myself sitting on the couch for hours watching archery between Sweden and Mexico, and ask myself, “How did I end up here?”

In his opening ceremony speech, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said, “In this Olympic world, we are all equal.” I see where Bach is coming from, but in the context of such a rigorous competition entirely based on deciding who is best at what and placing the said person on a literal pedestal, that statement seems silly.

We know not all athletes have the same skills and strengths, and are decidedly unequal in their abilities. Let’s instead apply Bach’s quote to the viewer.

For two weeks, everyone is on the same page. Twitter is flooded with Michael Phelps’s angry face and Final Five appreciation. Every channel’s run time is jam packed with ads inexplicably advertised by McDonald’s. The sense of community is overwhelming, and the earworm that is the Olympic theme is being whistled and hummed by all as primetime begins. There is one common focus, which is cheering our athletes on while sitting on the couch eating excessive amounts of cereal with Simone Manuel’s face plastered on the side of the box.

Half the events at the summer Olympics are completely beyond my sports knowledge. What do you mean a handball player can only hold the ball for three seconds? And as far as I’m concerned, Aly Raisman’s entire score relies on if she sticks the landing. After watching with others, I’ve noticed that many are in the same boat. Oh, boats in rowing are called shells? My bad. When covering such a wide variety of sports, it seems impossible to watch everything, let alone know the actual rules, even for athletes. I fit in perfectly.

The London 2012 Olympics reached 3.6 billion viewers, according to an IOC study. A grand 219.4 million of these people were American, and if any of them watched in the way I do then it involves donning stars and stripes socks, American flag tees and chanting “USA! USA!” at the television. It’s catered to the world, not a sports audience, with its emotional origin stories and triumphant victories. Is it one huge marketing ploy? Definitely. Do I care? Absolutely not, because as long as Ibtihaj Muhammad and countless other athletes are overcoming the odds, I’ll feel athletic and inspired without even leaving the couch.