Turin's Real Tourist Attraction Is Still a Shroud

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If the early ratings of the Turin Olympics (or if you want to be sophisticato, Turino Torino) are any indication, that Italian city will continue to be better known for a full-body wipe of Jesus than freestyle skiing and curling competitions:

The first three days of NBC's Winter Olympics averaged 22.9 million. Though potent, that's down from 35.5 million for NBC's 2002 Salt Lake City Games and 26.4 million for CBS' 1998 Nagano Games. Coverage didn't crack the week's top 5, despite NBC's move to boost ratings by pulling commercials from the first–and least-watched–half-hour, exempting those periods from Nielsen consideration Saturday and Sunday.

More here.

Really, do the Winter Games exist for any reason anymore other than to further humiliate the Arab and Islamist worlds via exclusion (at least until Oil Wrestling becomes a winter sport)? Back during the 2004 Summer Games, I wrote an obituary for the Olympics, concluding:

The Olympics matter less because we live in a better world, one filled with innumerable options for leisure and one mostly–though by no means completely–free from the most onerous aspects of geopolitical strife. We live in a world where nations matter less than individuals, a reality that is mirrored by the increasing number of "nation-hopping" Olympians.

If this all takes away some of the luster to the medals won in Athens, that's a price even the most ardent sports fans are likely happy to pay.

And what's true of the Summer Games is quadruply true of their winter counterpart.

NEXT: They'd Better Be Buying a Lot of "Morale"

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  1. But if we eliminate the Winter Olympics, NBC will go back to its regularly scheduled programming. And no one wants that, do they?

  2. Actually, it’s “Torino”, capisce?

  3. I actually prefer the winter version. It’s fun to watch figure skating once every four years.

  4. Do we have to start calling Rome “Roma” now?

  5. That’s 22.89999 million more people than I thought were watching them.

  6. Might not the dip in ratings have something to do with tape delay in an internet news world? Especially compared to SLC in ’02, which we could watch live?

  7. Sez *you*. I live for this stuff.

    AND the World Baseball Classic is coming up, AND we got our tickets the first day, AND we are gonna get our asses kicked by the Dominicans, and we will still have a great time.

    And I would disagree that the concept of nations is diminishing in importance. Specifically referring to sport, perhaps nationality matters less to first-worlders, many of whom compete for ancestral countries. One of my teammates competed for Peru in 1980 and 84 – she was born there and they were delighted to have her on their national team.

    But I think people from non-G8 nations are sometimes crazy about their national athletes. I can’t recall the name of that Moroccan middle-distance runner who medalled in 2004, but his success WAS Morocco’s glory. And for (wannabe) breakaway areas, wouldn’t nationality be everything? Taiwan, the Basque region, Catalonia, Ukraine, Quebec? I think international sport can be a non-confrontational, almost backdoor way for these areas to assert some autonomy.

  8. i admit that i’ve been watching them so far. however, i don’t doubt that viewership is down.

    i enjoy the olympics, particularly the winter games where between the skiing, skating, bobsledding, and luge–ing, there is far more speed on display than the summer games.

    i have a theory that would perhaps make the winter games a bit more competitive with their summer counterpart: move some of the events from the summer to the winter. the summer games are a hundred times bigger than the winter ones, but feature a plethora of indoor (and traditionally wintertime, at least here in the states) sports.

    i propose moving basketball, wrestling, weightlifting, gymnastics, taekwondo, muy thai kickboxing, sumo, and debate to the winter games.

    summer would keep all the track and field stuff and beach volleyball.

    anyway, that’s my proposal.

  9. The tape delay is what keeps me from watching. Most things aren’t interesting once you know the results. They should just play it live even if it is at odd hours. Of course it would be even better if other stations were allowed to show some of the events also.

  10. There is something a bit darker in Torino…how about the Gates of Hell?

  11. I argued awhile back that the USA tanking the olympics was about the best move it could have made after 911. But like all my other great ideas, it never materialized. Typical!

    Especially the summer olympics. Go ahead and send some fat old white guys to run track. Or some crippled people. That way the Saudis or the Syrians or whoever could actually win a pretty little bauble or two and celebrate how they beat us at something. Then we could have Hillary Clinton issue lots of vacuous sounding laudatory statements like “this truly proves we’re all competing on a level field now.” Seriously. Throw these people a frickin bone. They’ll gobble up every word like they’re droppings from the Bird of Paradise.

    What’s it to us anyway? Nothing compared to what it would be for them. Shit, they’d probably rename their country Bronzemedalvania and hold wild weeklong celebrations with gunfire and burnt lamb.

    If losing a stupid medal helps repair international relations a little by boosting the self esteem of some of these countries, I say go for it. The only ones who lose out are the weird subculture of robot-people we’ve created who exist only to perform in 9.8 second bursts once every four years. Them and the dopes who still get off on chanting “USA! USA!” 25 years later like it’s still a big deal when we win something.

  12. If you really, really want to be pretentious and one-up your NPR loving friends, call the city “Turin”, since, “as everyone knows”, in the local Piedmont dialect “Turin” is actually the city’s correct name. Let everyone know you won’t collaborate with the Mussolini sympathizers and corporate fascists who try to make everyone speak standard Italian.

  13. Really, do the Winter Games exist for any reason anymore other than to further humiliate the Arab and Islamist worlds via exclusion…?

    Hey everyone! Let’s have a contest to come up with the best cartoon of Mohammed messing up a bobsledding run…

  14. Funny, New Jersey also has a few entrances to Hell:

    http://www.weirdnj.com/stories/_underground04.asp

  15. I know how to boost ratings: Female pairs figure skating! I’d watch.

    I guess they could also show male pairs on Bravo, right after Two-Man Luge.

  16. I was so happy when the winter games started including snowboard halfpipe, a sport in which the participants can converse for hours saying only “dude” in different tones of voice. That sport is recompense to the US for all those years the Soviet Union included things like biathlon, which obviously was the event for gulag guards.

    Beyond that, I do think we should include some sports that people from miserable third world toilets can win, like, oh, car burning (team and invidual).

  17. I know how to boost ratings: Female pairs figure skating! I’d watch.

    Yeah, baby, yeah! The female beach volleyball of the summer Olympics was a scene, man. Who can forget that shot of Misty May and Kerri Walsh writhing in each other’s arms on the hot sand?

  18. We live in a world where nations matter less than individuals…

    Try telling that to the Swedes and Norwegians. They’re pretty much the same nation that split 100 years ago. Yet they hate each other like hell.

  19. Yeah, baby, yeah! The female beach volleyball of the summer Olympics was a scene, man. Who can forget that shot of Misty May and Kerri Walsh writhing in each other’s arms on the hot sand?

    I believe there’s an actual rule in that sport that Female competitors have to wear bathing suits.

  20. We live in a world where nations matter less than individuals…

    Actually two of the things I recall learning as a 4th grader in Tasmania in 1956 when every ‘strylyun scholchild got thoroughly indoctrinated in the months leading up to the Melbourne games were:

    1) The games are awarded to the city not the country.

    2) The athletes are competing as individuals not for their nation.

    I think 1) went by the board because it became to difficult for cities to raise the cash to run the games on the lavish scale that everyone expected. And 2) just because (as if it was ever real, anyway).

  21. too difficult…dammit!

  22. Try telling that to the Swedes and Norwegians.

    You must be thinking of Denmark and Norway.

  23. I’m not sure why, but I root for the USA more in the Olympics (and World Cup) than in the “War on Terror”.
    The USA may not win the most medals (although American athletes seem to be doing well), but we consistently have the cutest female competitors. Compare Sasha Cohen, Hannah Teter, Cassie Johnson or Krissy Wendell up against some of the she-men from other countries.

  24. Ok, first, let’s not forget Gretchen Bleiler.

    Nick has valid points, but I’m intrigued by the spike in viewership in 2002, and also by the fact that the 2002 games in Salt Lake City were packed with fans — that was only four years ago, and everything Nick says was true four years ago. Cold War over, cable TV ubiquitous, etc. Athens was duller than sawdust, by contrast. There seems to be something wrong in particular with European Olympics.

    And Karen, car burning would also be an excellent sport for our own youngsters from places like LA and Detroit. We would SO kick ass. U S A! U S A!

  25. Not David: Damn!! I thought I’d found a solution to the self-esteem problem for horrible countries, something to replace murder. Maybe a team sport, like rioting? We haven’t had any good riots since the early 1990’s. Of course, France would still have an advantage, but I’m assuming that all those kids from the banluies would riot for France. It’s possible they could actually form teams for their home countries. Algeria would truly kick ass.

  26. Unlike the summer games, there are many times in the day when there is nothing being televised. When there are events being televised, they are usually things like curling and hockey, which aren’t going to be shown in primetime.

    In primetime everything is recorded. It’s usually about 2/3 figure skating. They show figure skating practices. They occasionally switch to another sport to show the Americans competing, and maybe a top contender, but ignore everybody else (the magic of tape delay).

    I’ve been disappointed when trying to find Olympics to watch, and even more disappointed when I actually find some.

  27. These Winter Games have fallen on hard times, after all, they reduced to awarding DVDs to the winners!

    http://www.olympic.org/uk/games/torino/open_medals_uk.asp

  28. “Really, do the Winter Games exist for any reason anymore other than to further humiliate the Arab and Islamist worlds via exclusion (at least until Oil Wrestling becomes a winter sport)?”

    They do for now, but not for much longer:

    http://www.skidubai.ae/gallery1_eng.htm?mid=1&sid=4

    Don’t think they won’t be coming from all over the Arab world to train in sunny Dubai!

  29. Figure skating is lame.

    Biathalon freakin’ rocks.

  30. @A pedant: Actually he isn’t. Sweden and Norway formed a union between 1815 and 1905, when those mutinous Norwegian dogs decided to rebel against their benevolent Swedish masters.

  31. What’s the deal with Americans and figure skating? I mean… it’s figure skating. Snowboarding or curling I could understand, but paying attention to figure skating just doesn’t make sense.

  32. Biathalon freakin’ rocks.

    Indeed. Biathalon appears to be a demanding and challenging sport on several levels. But as a spectator sport it doesn’t get far. But I’m not that big on watching sports any way.

    Interestingly enough in spite of our vaunted “gun culture” the US does not do as well as one might expect in the shooting sports. Mind you, how many people regularly take off for the hills on skis with a rifle.

  33. Most of these sports are about as boring to watch as NASCAR qualifying.

  34. Stockholmian:

    tack saa myckett – beat me to it 🙂

    just like the king “christian the good” 🙂

  35. If this all takes away some of the luster to the medals won in Athens, that’s a price even the most ardent sports fans are likely happy to pay.

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