Watching the Olympic Games used to be like watching “The Godfather” or “Citizen Kane” — you knew you were watching something spectacular and you didn’t want the show to end. I remember anticipating the opening ceremony of the games, enjoying the complexities and rivalries between cultures, seeing the top athletes from around the world give it their all, learning the traditions and the political overtones of the competition.
There are a few reasons the upcoming Winter Olympics will not be met with the same excitement in as in years past, but still eagerly anticipated. Our athletes represent ideals, not just athletic skill and prowess. In years past, the United States competing against the Soviets got my full attention. Every four years it seemed like a battle of good vs. evil, white cowboy hats and black cowboy hats. Beating the Soviets was like winning a battle in the Cold War. It was much more than just the games, and I loved every second of it.
The Olympics aren’t truly international games anymore: In the Summer Olympics, many of the athletes live and train in the United States even as they still play for their country. They take advantage of our country, facilities and coaches even, but then the medals go elsewhere. We are such a globalized society now, I understand, but I think the old mystique was what made the Olympics great. When I was younger, I knew our athletes trained in our country and the Soviets trained in theirs, and it seemed like a more even playing field. That nationalistic luster has had its day, and it’s what made the Olympics great.
The Internet has hurt my viewership a little as well. Many of the events you wanted to watch the last 10 years, you already heard about while you were getting a cup of coffee at the office or during lunch. Before the Internet, the stations could actually play tape-delayed events as if they were live. Now NBC has commercials for “The Today Show’ pretty much telling you who won the event you’re watching, the event you turned off your cellphone and didn’t check the Internet all day in order to maintain the suspense. Famously Al Michaels said “You might want to watch this one” before the famous “Miracle on Ice” game in 1980.
Revelations about the athletes’ personal lives and steroids have certainly hurt the integrity of the competition and affected viewership. There were things about athletes we didn’t used to know, and now with Twitter we know everything 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Despite the setbacks, we’re getting back to the days of “It’s more than just a game” with the coming Olympics in Russia. In a few weeks time, we will get to learn more about Russia, as we did China in 2008. That summer, China tried to sugarcoat its human rights violations and negatives throughout the competition, but Chinese officials still couldn’t hide the smog that hovered over Beijing.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has a horrible record on human rights, and is actively driving Russia backwards. He openly supports our enemies in Syria and Iran and constantly seeks to belittle President Obama. Mr. Putin is going to attempt to mislead the American audience with the aesthetic appeal of the Olympic Village, to boost his standing on the international stage.
We need to see through this, and realize our country offers better ideas and a better way of life. I hope we enjoy the Sochi Olympics for the athletic brilliance, but also see the games as a showcase for our country’s triumphant values.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” Join him from 4-5 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.