Commentary: Get ready for the iOlympics

Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 11:45pm
By Barry Gottlieb (aka Mad Dog)

The Winter Olympics are in full swing. This is when 5,500 amateur athletes from 82 countries compete in 86 events over 16 days while wondering why their professional counterparts are raking in the big bucks and they’ll be lucky to get their face plastered on a used Wheaties box.

But that’s not really what it’s about. It’s about pushing the human body and spirit. It’s about intense competition. It’s about bringing together representatives from more countries than could be mustered for the coalition that invaded Iraq. OK, so it’s 40 times as many countries. Who’s counting?

If there’s one thing you discover after watching 8,247 hours of the Olympics on TV, it’s that even a funny commercial becomes tiresome after seeing it three commercial breaks in a row. Well, that and it all starts to feel awfully, well, familiar.

After all, the Olympics have been around for 2,786 years and they basically haven’t changed. You get a big crowd together, light a torch, then watch competitor after competitor try their hand at the same event. True, athletes nowadays have to wear clothes when they compete. And Greece was in better financial shape back then. But hey, there’s no need to pine for the good old days.

Actually, there are a lot of differences between the original Olympics and the current ones. For one thing, the modern Olympics are held every two years, rotating between summer and winter sports. Obviously the ancient Greeks didn’t have winter Olympics because snowboards, Scott Hamilton and the Zamboni hadn’t been invented yet. Not to mention that if you’d tried to convince the ancient Greeks that sliding a heavy round stone across the ice while your teammates use brooms to sweep in front of it was a sport, they’d have sacrificed you to Zeus.

On the other hand, they did have the feta throw, synchronized Spartan toss, and Greek-style wrestling (wink, wink) so you know they had fun.

It doesn’t help that there are no new events this year — not like a couple of Olympics ago when they added the skeleton, which has competitors sliding down a hill head first atop a grown-up version of a Flexible Flyer, pretty much like you did as a kid except they don’t have to dodge cars at the bottom of the hill. Leave it to the Olympics to take the fun out of everything.

That same year they added the women’s bobsleigh, which was more notable for the mysterious dumping of the name bobsled, which is what it had been called since 1924. Heck, this year was so slack no one even tried to get bridge added as an event.

Don’t laugh, in 1995 the International Olympic Committee declared bridge a sport. Of course keep in mind that they also deemed chess and ballroom dancing to be sports, so it was probably hard to tell the bridge players ‘no.’ That was all the World Bridge Federation (motto: “We knew trump was important before Donald was even born”) needed to hear. They turned around and lobbied to get bridge sanctioned as an event in the 2006 Winter Games in Turin.

True, International Olympic Committee rules say winter events have to be held on ice or snow, so the WBF probably figured they could play while wearing skis or lying on a skeleton. Luckily the Powers That Be thought better of the plan.

What we need now is new event blood — maybe a couple more biathlon events. They keep expanding the winter version of the biathlon, which defies logic by combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, so why not have curling using a hand grenade for the stone? Or figure skating while the competing teams wield slingshots?

Better yet, let’s drag the Olympics out of ancient history and into the 21st Century. That’s right, it’s time to make it over as the iOlympics.

So it’s not too much of a shock, they could ease into it slowly by adding one event to start. Say, the post-modern pentathlon. It could include the 80GB iPod song shuffle, the 300dB cell phone shout, the marathon coffee drink order, team texting, and the 140-character Tweet relay.

Needless to say, uniforms will be all black, winners will be announced on their Facebook status, and it will be shown exclusively on YouTube. It would liven things up, give everyone something to talk about and, best of all, we can combine some of ancient and modern Greece together by watching it naked while broke — on our iPhone apps.

Now that sounds like a gold-medal winning idea.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: His compilation of humorous travel columns, “If It’s Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting on This Airplane For Twelve Hours?” is available from