Celebrate Your Right To Ignore (or Watch) the Olympics

Born in nationalism, the Olympic games are fading into a niche entertainment option.


Viewership for the Olympics is down (way down) from 2018, to an audience for the 2022 opening ceremonies that was 43 percent smaller than that which watched the winter games in 2018. But that still leaves millions of Americans choosing to watch the international contest, which is fine. Unlike the situation in many other countries, U.S. Olympic teams are supported by those who spend of their own accord, so everybody is free to glue themselves to the screen, to tune in on occasion, or to totally ignore the event without being compelled to fund the proceedings against their will. And that's as it should be.

"Unlike nearly every national Olympic Committee in the world, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee's Olympic programs receive no federal government support," the Olympic Committee's Team USA Fund notes on its website. "Thus the U.S. relies on private resources to help fund America's elite athletes as they focus on their pursuit of excellence at the games."

Maybe I'm imagining a slightly outraged tone in that begging note, but the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee should be happy that people continue to be willing to voluntarily hand over sufficient funds for the committee to purchase airfare and ski wax for athletes. Organization of these international contests is a boondoggle that lets insecure governments spend vast amounts on propaganda they could have purchased for much less with a few Facebook ads. If you're curious as to why China got to host this year's games (with some events in the middle of what appears to be an industrial park), it's because every slightly reputable contender balked at the dubious honor.

"Oslo is dropping out of bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving Almaty, Kazakhstan and Beijing as the only remaining cities seeking to host the event," Slate reported in 2014. "Why? One reason is that people are starting to realize that spending mega-money to build sporting venues that may not ever be used again doesn't make economic sense. Another is that the International Olympic Committee is a notoriously ridiculous organization run by grifters and hereditary aristocrats. Norwegian citizens were particularly amused/outraged (amuseraged) by the IOC's diva-like demands for luxury treatment during the hypothetical Games."

Aren't you glad you get to decide whether or not to financially support the Olympic games?

The choice of proudly dystopian China as this year's Olympic venue contributed in no small part to peeling away viewership for figure skating, luge, and that eternal crowd-pleaser, curling.

"40% of those who said they don't plan to watch cited opposition to the Games being held in China as a factor," Morning Consult found in a poll published before the start of this year's games. But it's not all about politics! More respondents said they would ignore the games because they're not interested in the events (65 percent), not interested in the athletes (57 percent), or just flat-out bored with the Olympics (48 percent). The fact is that there are all sorts of overlapping reasons to refrain from tuning in to the sight of big air skiing in front of concrete cooling towers.

As Nick Gillespie observed in a 2016 piece on the declining relevance of the Olympic games, they are "explicitly nationalistic in a world that is moving toward greater individualism." That's always been one of the weirder aspect of the games, with athletes competing not just on their own behalf, or for teams, but as representatives of countries (even if they've chosen whose colors to wear). The defining moment of the Olympics from my youth was the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" when the underdog Americans upset the favored Soviet team and went on to win the gold medal for hockey. It's difficult to imagine fractured, mutually hostile modern Americans coming together in a vast, flag-waving celebration of a victory in a sporting event as if they all had a hand in the win.

That's for the best, given the silliness, corruption, and expense that goes into efforts to have your community disrupted by these quadrennial(ish) competitions. The bidding process for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City "resulted in 15 counts of fraud, conspiracy and racketeering," though the charges were later thrown out, the Deseret News reported. It was an allegedly reformed and supposedly contrite International Olympic Committee that offended Norwegians roughly a decade later with demands for designated highway lanes, free booze, and meetings with the king. Frankly, it's astonishing that Oslo considered hosting the games at all.

"The $51 billion price tag associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, has scared everyone off," the AP noted that year. Before Oslo pulled out, Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; and Lviv, Ukraine had already withdrawn from consideration over concerns about the cost.

Once again, aren't you glad you get to decide whether or not to financially support the Olympic games?

Of course, bids for the games are separate from the price tag for supporting Olympic teams. But as the dwindling ranks of contenders for the "honor" of hosting the games suggest, places where the residents have any sort of say have largely lost interest in shouldering the expense. Voters in Munich and St. Moritz, Switzerland, explicitly ruled out bids for the 2022 games in referenda on the issue. The Olympics are well on their way to being nothing more than wildly expensive propaganda campaigns for autocratic regimes that don't have to worry about public opinion.

China's government perfectly fits that description. The country is a dictatorship under the rule of the Communist Party. When China hosted the Olympic games in 2008, it displaced 1.5 million people to make room for the events. The 2022 Winter Olympics take place under the shadow cast by concerns over serious human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims, including torture and concentration camps. And, while their situation doesn't begin to rise to that level of awfulness, the athletes themselves complain of abusive treatment, including pandemic measures that conveniently exclude them from competition. If the future of the Olympic games consists entirely of authoritarian regimes taking turns glossing their turds, they richly deserve the dwindling audience that tunes in to view the spectacle.

But maybe some people will choose to continue supporting the Olympic teams and watching them compete in stadiums built for the glory of various unsavory states. So long as that's their decision to make and others are free to turn away in disinterest or revulsion, so be it. Born in nationalism, it's appropriate that the Olympics are withering away to just one option among many available to a niche fanbase.

So, remember the Team USA Fund's advice that "the U.S. relies on private resources to help fund America's elite athletes." Give, or not, as you please, and celebrate the gold-medal fact that it's your decision to make.

NEXT: Expanding Our Understanding of the Revolution

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  1. "U.S. President Donald Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping Saturday after the ruling Communist party announced it was eliminating the two-term limit for the presidency, paving the way for Xi to serve indefinitely, according to audio aired."

    "He’s now president for life, president for life. And he’s great,” Trump said, according to audio of excerpts of Trump’s remarks at a closed-door fundraiser in Florida aired by CNN. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” Trump said to cheers and applause from supporters.


    1. Poor stroozle. Can’t shake the TDS.

    2. It was obviously a joke (unless the opportunity arises in which case he'd definitely jump on it).

        1. "unless the opportunity arises", says sarcasmic, defending Boehm's "I won't vote, but if my vote mattered, I'd vote for Biden." stance against Trump's utter lack of principles.

          1. I didn't defend shit. And the reason I don't vote is because I can't hold my nose and vote against what I perceive to be the greater of two evils anymore.
            So great job of making stuff up about me. Maybe one of these days you'll respond to what I actually say instead of trying to impress the trolls.

            1. ...but you don't actually every really say anything.

            2. "And the reason I don't vote is because I can't hold my nose and vote against what I perceive to be the greater of two evils anymore.
              So great job of making stuff up about me. Maybe one of these days you'll respond to what I actually say instead of trying to impress the trolls.", says sarcasmic, responding to something I didn't actually say.

    3. Dumbass Orange Man! We tried that once! Can you say "FDR" and "New Deal?"

  2. How do you keep Canadian bacon from curling in the skillet?

    Take away the little brooms.

    1. Wolverine would stop Canadian Bacon from curling by cutting it with his claws. And he could eat it raw, since his mutant healing ability would kill the Trichinosis.

  3. I can't pretend that I'm boycotting the Genocide Games; I've long found the Olympics to be boring, much like dog shows.

    1. I gave up long long ago. Seems like 1/3 commercials, 1/3 gushing biographies, and 1/3 ill-timed snippets of American athletes regardless of whether they are winning.

      1. Don't forget cutting away from the 25th mile of the marathon for a lengthy commercial break, then coming back after the key lead change of a 2 hour race, instead of just putting ads on the bottom or the side of the screen.

        1. And that's for the marathon, where they have 2 hours of lead up and, barring freak injury, well defined leaders and followers. In weightlifting (and other sports), where a record-holder can choose his lifts poorly and some second-tier-nation's B-team athlete can choose them well, they end up airing 20 min. of a non-medalist failing to hit a single lift and 8 whole seconds of someone on the podium lifting.

    2. Internatiolist Greek homosexuality.

      I have no use for Gay Games.

      How do you separate the Men from the Boys in Greece?

      With a 2x4!

    3. For me the Olympics haven't been entertaining since the LA games in 84. They reused facilities built in 1932 and made a profit. I think ABC covered the games. Once they went to NBC it was 90% close-up and personal bullshit aimed at soap opera women.
      They hardly cover events except for ice skating. Yawn.

  4. There's nothing wrong with nationalism based in the principles of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the basic principles of freedom and justice.

    And there's nothing wrong with cheering on American athletes as emblematic of the superiority of capitalism either.

    "Four years ago, Red Bull used the private halfpipe it funded in Colorado for White to create a full-length film called “Project X.” Now GoPro is taking a run at tapping White’s Olympic popularity for some content gold using its own cameras.

    "The new training ground, built in Australia in the fall, not only features the halfpipe but a full slopestyle course with jumps and rails, to help him get ready for the Games’ newest snowboard event."

    ----Fast Company, January 2, 2014


    The reason Americans do so well in the winter Olympics despite the lack of support from the government is because so many American consumers can afford to take their kids on a ski vacation and can afford to give their kids ice skating lessons. The reason entrepreneurs sponsor these kids' training is because it's extremely lucrative for them to do so.

    If GoPro and Burton Snowboards are the ones picking and training our athletes, libertarian capitalists should absolutely cheer them on--as GoPro and Burton compete against the governments of China and Russia--that invest heavily in their athletes. If cheering the U.S. on while Xi's Olympic propaganda efforts are undermined by American entrepreneurs funded by American consumers is nationalist, then we should proudly support that kind of nationalism.

    1. Nationalism is equating the country with the government. It's toxic in any form.

      1. Cite?

        Or do you, like jeff, prefer rule by elites?

        Being proud of your community isn't inherently bad. But you're a leftist now.

        1. You too make the same mistake: government is not community. Sarcasmic is a loon but does occasionally get something half-right. He should have said "society" instead of "country", but it;s the same thing: nationalism is glorifying the government instead of the society.

          Another comparison is glorifying the Constitution-as-interpreted-by-the-government instead of glorifying the Declaration of Independence.

        2. Really, they might as well complain about people cheering on the major league home teams who mainly consist of non local athletes. BTW people also cheered on various international Olympic athletes like Nadia Comaneci, Usain Bolt and the Jamaican bob sled team.

      2. "Nationalism is equating the country with the government. It's toxic in any form."


        1. Nationalism is an idea and movement that holds that the nation should be congruent with the state. As a movement, nationalism tends to promote the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty over its homeland to create a nation state.

          Do not confuse nationalism with patriotism. Mark Twain said "Patriotism is supporting your country, and your government when it deserves it." Nationalism is supporting both because they're the same thing.

          1. Got the quote wrong. "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." Forgot the "all the time" part.

            Patriotism is good. Nationalism leads to murder. Which, no doubt, is why Nardz is a proud nationalist.

          2. Nations are the means by which individuals secure their rights. Being ruled by foreign people (who are not of your nation) frequently (in history) resulted in worse for the people out of power.

            Nationalism promotes the rights of nations to rule themselves. Not have someone else rule over you.

            1. Too many people mean "government" when they say nationalism.

              1. Possibly you, and definitely sarcasmic, for example

            2. And it blurs the distinction between nation and state. A nation is the people. The state is the government. Nationalism means devotion to a nation-state, as in not seeing any difference between the two. To a nationalist if you don't love your government then you hate your country.

      3. No it’s not. How ignorant are you. Nations are people, not their governments. National pride supports their governments when they are good for their people. Persians have national pride - but they are dissident rebels to the Iranian government.

        1. Nationalism is an ideology that emphasizes loyalty, devotion, or allegiance to a nation or nation-state and holds that such obligations outweigh other individual or group interests.

          Persians have no nation-state to be devoted to, so by definition they can't be nationalists.

          Do a little googling before calling someone ignorant.

          1. "Fuck the historical use of the term, Google gave me the (updated) definition that confirms my prejudice (and resentment)"

            1. Speak for yourself. Nationalism brings to mind fascist Germany and Italy. That's nationalism. Which of course is what you want, with your guy in charge of course. So you can murder your political enemies without consequence.

            2. I don't know why you don't own your desire to murder progressives. You've made it clear that voting in a manner different from how you voted is an act of aggression, and aggression justifies violent self defense. So murdering people who don't vote like you is justifiable self defense. Just taking your own words to their logical conclusion. Everyone knows it's what you want. Why won't you admit it?

      4. By the exact same token, anti-Nationalism is disparaging the country, not the government. Toxic in any form.

        1. Oh, you mean like a hipster?

    2. there is so ething wrong with it here

      The US is Statist not nationalist.

      I am not a National citizen.

  5. propaganda they could have purchased for much less with a few Facebook ads

    But that is how Russia stole the election for Trump!

  6. There are so many reasons to not care any more. All sports have this problem, but if every child was raised to curl, or ski around in the woods and shoot things I am betting that the level of competition would skyrocket. Instead, we see the ten people in the world who had the funds and the privilege to train and then we see them duke it out. That just doesn't sound entertaining.

    1. That just doesn't sound entertaining.

      It’s not.

    2. If the Israeli Olympic Team skied and shot on a Saturday, it would he called a Shabbat Slalom. (Try saying that once, let alone 5 times fast. 🙂 )

      1. That was BAD!!!!

        1. Especially because the biathlon is cross-country skiing (and shooting) and slalom is downhill.

          1. Women's biathlon is a shit on of fun to watch. Just saying.

            1. No doubt some nice curves to see with the skiing and good vibes to see with the shooting.

            2. *squints*

              Unable to tell if that statement is genuine or carries a '2 girls, 1 cup' connotation.

          2. OK, you got me. The downhill would be the Shabbat Slalom for Striaght Israelis, but Sammy Davis Jr. could do the Bi-athalon and make it the grooviest, swinging-est Shabbat Slalom ever, baby!

            1. When does the Nation of Palestine host?

              Oh, sorry, there ISNT ONE.

    3. if every child was raised to curl, or ski around in the woods and shoot things I am betting that the level of competition would skyrocket.

      Case in point: Norway is second in the medal race right now.

    4. I would watch if they got to shoot at each other.

    5. You can't even get kids the sweep the floor, much less an ice rink.

  7. The only time I watch is at the gym because the TV ahead of my treadmill is showing the games. I would say the games were enjoyable, but not enough to watch at home.

    There are many problems with the selection of sites for the games. The reality is that site selection will only change when the viewer ship is so far down that no major network will pay a fortune for the broadcast rights. Judging by the drop in viewership that maybe happening soon.

    1. You pay to walk/run on a treadmill!? An activity the rest of the world does for free. You should change your handle to privilaged4ever.

      1. If it helps, I walk to the gym. I run on a treadmill in the winter because I live in Wisconsin. There is plenty of ice on the roads and sidewalks. At my age bone breaks take a long time to heal. So, I gave up outdoor winter running many years ago.

    2. It's way past time to house the games in a permanent location. Greece for the summer games, Switzerland for the winter. And when the Greeks get ready to gouge, and they will, threaten to give them back to the Turks.

    3. I’ve caught a bit at the gym, and a bit at home. I’m only interested in watching the more daredevil sports like ski jumping, luge, bobsled.

      I see that Los Angeles is slated to host the Summer Olympics (eight years from now, I think it said). Hope the pandemic is over in LA by then. I grew up in LA, so I was there for the last time LA hosted. I didn’t manage to get any tickets in the raffles so the only event I got to watch was a marathon, where you could stand alongside the road.

  8. If you watch the olympics, you are a bad person. The same media that would persecute you for a 10 year old tweet or for saying Joe Rogan is not a racist, really really wants you to see how awesome China is!

    How evil they are really hasn't changed. How many glowing articles and fawning TV coverage did we get in 2018 for the North Korean 'Cheer Squad'? It was fucking despicable. These people were literal slaves, performing under the threat of imprisonment and death. It was something to be horrified over, not to gush over like they did.

    The media truly are the enemy of the people when they will ruin your life for going against their ideology, then will be oh so overjoyed as slaves put on some fun looking cheer routine.

    1. Don't forget the media's woman of the year 4 years ago. Kim Jong Il's Dragon lady sister.

  9. The winter olympics are as boring and scripted as Joe Friday.

  10. Fuck the Genocide Games.

    And fuck the Chinese Communists who afflicted our country with their China virus.

    1. Absolutely! For all their shamelessness thuggery and tyranny, Emperor Xi & Minions had might as well have Thunderdome as the Olympics.

    2. The assholes have a country FULL of the Wu Flu but screen a few hundered visitors?

      Talk about Victimology.

      Fuck China

  11. I despise Savanah Guthrie so will not watch for her alone.

  12. The problem with the Olympics is not the Olympics. It's not nationalism, there are worse forms of nationalism that doing sports.

    The biggest problem is the the spectacle. Keep it simple and cheap. Don't need to build a huge new complex that will never be used again. You'll never make your money back. Keep it small and local.

    Next, way too many sports. Everyone has to have their competition, but they can't all be televised. Well with only one official media company, they can't.

    Need to keep the taxpayers out of it. Donate all you want, but don't make me pay for it. And stop it with the stupid "but it will boost the economy!" because it doesn't. If it did then more businesses would donate.

    And finally, the stupid politics. I don't mean partisan politics, I mean the stupid bickering. Time to disband the Olympic committee and let NIRSA run it. (Look it up).

    1. The biggest problem is the the spectacle. Keep it simple and cheap. Don't need to build a huge new complex that will never be used again. You'll never make your money back. Keep it small and local.

      What you're pointing out is the nationalism that used to be kept on the field, where it belonged, has now been moved to your Stadium and other spectacle features.

      What do I care of some country can move 10,000 people out of a favela two weeks before the games so they can make a good show to the world's press. Or another country can put a crazy snow facility in the midst of a dead industrial zone with shuttered steel plants. But that's what countries do now. I want to see Team America compete in Hockey with Team Soviet. That's when the Olympics were great. And those days are long gone.

      1. Team America! Fuck Yeah! I can just see the puppet strings tangling ×hen they fight on the ice rink! And Kim Jung-Un running over Hans Brix with the Zamboni machine! 🙂

        1. Now its "Team Hate America"

      2. What you're pointing out is the nationalism that used to be kept on the field, where it belonged, has now been moved to your Stadium and other spectacle features.

        Yeah, it would seem that the IOC is stuck in first-century thinking on the matter. It would make some sense to hold them all in one place up until about 1950 or 1960, but once international travel boils down to a matter of hours to minutes and the telecom can broadcast in real time, it's a little unclear as to why (e.g.) downhill skiing isn't held in seperately in the Swiss Alps (among, what, 5 countries), the Rockies (among 2 countries), the Japanese Alps, Patagonia (between two countries), the Southern Alps, with the medals decided on neutral territory or a 'switch sides' between territories. For more empirical (in the sense of objectivity), individual sports like weightlifting and shooting sports, it makes even less sense.

        1. The whole thing sounds rather.....

          CAPITALIST !

          Das verboten or something.

  13. I've watched a little bit of it, but it's only the online content completely divorced from NBC's commentary that is bearable. I tried to tune into one of their primetime restreams because I wanted to find some of the figure skating commentary, and the hosts were just slobbing all over China's COVID policies and I couldn't tolerate it anymore.

    There's something to be said about just letting the athletes be athletes, so you let them compete even when the politics are gross. But if participation requires blind, insipid praise of the host country, as it seems to, then the US should have boycotted the games.

  14. Celebrate Your Right To Ignore (or Watch) the Olympics

    Now this is just a damn lazy headline for a Libertarian publication! Couldn't a Libertarians publication say that about anything?

  15. This is such a stupid take on the Olympics. I’m no fan of them - I haven’t watched them since my grandfather died - but to lay at their feet national pride (as if it’s a bad thing) shows how ignorant of the global expositions you are.

    Yes, it’s national pride - but their purpose was to bring nations together in pursuit of something other than war and each other’s resources. It’s from these events that we have any kind of ability to comprehend a world without borders, you ignoramus. Before the olympics and other expositions, other nations were dangerous strangers. These events opened them up to each other. Libertarians should be praising the olympics (at least as an ideal).

    1. " bringing them together" is a Communist construct.

      1. And "we could've only conceive of a world without borders thanks to The Olympics" is a pretty globalist one.

        If Andrew Jackson had removed the Indians to go skiing in California and Colorado, it would've been OK, but those self-serving Puritans who fled England to avoid persecution were just lousy, unathletic, tax dodgers. Thank God we had the Olympics to show Hitler the way.

  16. “Give, or not, as you please…”

    That’d be nice. Contribute to the charities and social programs you want to, without government coercion.

  17. Making the Olympics a nation vs. nation contest was a questionable idea all along. It's like your state's AAAA, AAA, AA, and A level high schools were all in the same league, despite having vastly different numbers of students.

    The Olympics should be Nike vs. Adidas vs. Reebok vs. Under Armour. Let's see the world's best athletes competing against each other, not some human interest story guy who has no chance at a medal, or even making it out of the qualifying round.

  18. Born in nationalism, the Olympic games are fading into a niche entertainment option.

    It's because they're no longer nationalistic. They're just a corporate sports event where free agents shop countries to play for. Who gives a fuck about that? We're rooting for laundry.

    1. Rooting for laundry? As in "Help! Help! I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese laundry!"?

      China Jones (1959) (Trigger warning: Heavy Political Incorrectness Throughout, but guaranteed to trigger drink-through-the-nose-spurting laughter.)

      1. that Looney Tunes open needs Bidens head in it...

  19. I haven't watched one moment of the Olympics this time around, and I don't see that changing during these games. I can avoid them for the most part.

    But my Sunday morning BBC-America lineup, which normally features a steady diet of David Attenborough nature documentaries, was interrupted this week by some 2-hour long CCP Propaganda piece about all the wonderful ecological preservation work the government and people of China are allegedly participating in.

    It was terribly obvious.


    1. yes, the CCCP are burying Wu Flu victims in mass graves to not disturb the landscape.

  20. Lindsey Jacobellis forever.

  21. I think the author is too harsh on the idea of Olympic Games. They did start as a VERY nationalistic competition between city-states, and the winners were really heroes!!!

    And it's not at all true that they became a sort of battleground for authoritarian regimes. The Brits had their Olympic Games, they spent a lot of money on them and definitely you cannot call UK authoritarian!

    And one last thing, I really enjoy watching the Olympic Games - Summer and Winter - because of the rare opportunity of watching different kind of sports otherwise not covered by programmes in a particular country. In UK almost nobody is interested in Handball, Volleyball or Basketball, but you can still can watch them at the Summer Olympic Games. The same is valid for Winter sports. Who would ever broadcast live Skiing competitions in Britain? Maybe Sky...

    The politics behind every Olympic Games, as well as the willingnes of different countries to invest huge amount of money in them it's not my concern, and definitely the thought of it won't spoil my pleasure of watching the Olympics!

  22. China..China...China...

    The future is China..get used to Reason. They are united in people and culture. America used to have this but now its all about "I'm going to get mine" like the 18-year-old American who is skiing for China. That young girl knows America is not a nation anymore but a place to make some money and enjoy freedom while attacking the folks who actually do the work.

    1. From Lucius Vorenus,

      What's interesting is that the author is criticizing China for being authoritarian. But look how they put it, about comments: "we reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time". This newspaper, who considers itself very much liberal, uses in this instance an abusive terminology which the censorship in former communist countries used in order to ban books and films. I just discovered Reason, I hope they are better than that! (No newspaper in Britain would put such a blatant threat).

  23. I have nothing against the athletes. However, EFF the Olympics Committee and EFF Emperor Xi Jinping right were the sun don't shine...

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