I've been an Olympics buff ever since I can remember. ABC's Wide World Of Sports, with its frequent broadcasts of international sporting events, was a weekend staple on our TV growing up. I loved the pageantry and exoticism of the unfamiliar sports, and the international cast of characters. The Olympics were like a two-week smorgasbord of that feeling, and I gorged myself every four years.
In 1984, my family went to several events at the Los Angeles summer games. When Atlanta got the bid for the 1996 Centennial games, I celebrated by geeking out at the Olympic stores that opened around town, stocking up on memorabilia featuring Barcelona's superbly cute mascot, Cobi. Noel and I attended the games in '96, too. I always look forward to sixteen days of round-the-clock Olympic broadcasting glory on the TV -- heck, I wish they'd bring back the Triplecast.
So it's with deep fascination and ambivalence that I watch the massive turmoil surrounding this year's torch relay. In one sense, it's thrilling to see such a large population come together in solidarity to protest the world's collusion in China's Olympic farce. The country does not deserve a free propaganda platform in light of its regime's disregard for the Olympic ideals of peace, equality, and brotherhood. You can feel the excitement of activists sensing that for once, they have the upper hand -- that they control the message of this moment, not the managers who sought to carefully orchestrate it.
I even look forward to seeing how NBC handles the touchy political and publicity issues of the Beijing games -- how much attention will they give to the controversies and contradictions, and how much will they seek to downplay the conflict in favor of Wheaties-ready stars in waiting? It would delight me to no end to see an opening ceremony pockmarked by boycotting teams, a spectacle crippled by the refusal of the world to collude in its lies.
But of course, I want my Olympic drama, too. The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. The up close and personals. The unlikely heroes and tragic falls from grace.
The Olympic torch has now been extinguished and rerouted to keep it from falling into the hands of the people it is supposed to inspire. How much of my Olympic idealism will follow suit?