Nathan's column: Changing the GamesThe Olympic Games are a truly remarkable event. They bring nations together in difficult times.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
The Olympic Games are a truly remarkable event. They bring nations together in difficult times. They showcase human achievement at its most impressive. And, maybe most remarkable, they are the rare situation where McDonald's and Coca Cola are closely tied to elite athletic performance.
I've seen Michael Phelps swim. He doesn't have the abs of a guy who orders a lot of extra value meals.
All of that is on display now in London, where some of the world's greatest athletes have gathered for the 30th edition of the Summer Olympics. The games originated, of course, as a way for the ancient Greeks -- who at the time presumably referred to themselves simply as the Greeks -- to prove their mettle. Either that, or they were an excuse for a bunch of guys to wrestle naked. I'm not here to judge.
The Games have changed a lot since then. For one thing, almost everybody wears pants. For another, some of the sports included in the earliest editions of the Olympics have been removed from competition as they have fallen out of favor with the general public or been determined not to be a real sport (I’m looking at you, competitive air rifle). Others, like mountain biking, have taken their place as dictated by popular culture or Mountain Dew ads.
No longer do Olympians compete in Jeu de Paume, a predecessor of tennis that was included at the early part of the 1900s before being eliminated for, in the words of one Olympic historian, "being way to Frenchy."
At various times, the Olympics have featured both croquet and Roque, which Wikipedia describes as an American version of croquet. Apparently, the early Olympics were big on sports that could be played with a cold drink in hand.
They were also big on racket sports. In addition to Jeu de Paume, the early Games featured a game called Basque Pelota, which involved hitting a ball against a wall, and another sport simply called rackets.
Now, rackets are largely absent from the Olympics, used only in tennis and, on rare occasions, fencing. But that's only when someone forgets to pack their sword.
Many of the early events are largely forgotten by now, replaced by more modern sports like BMX bike racing, an event largely dominated by 1980s middle schoolers who have somehow managed to time travel to the future, and beach volleyball, a sport I assume will lose much of its mainstream appeal now that the women who play are no longer required to wear bikinis.
I haven't had much chance to watch the early competitions of this Olympics, but I expect to see a lot more as the Games go on. I will watch because the Games make for excellent television. Because there are many remarkable stories. And because there is nothing like viewing athletic excellence to make a person want to spend hours sitting on the couch.
Now, somebody get me a Happy Meal.