Flaming out: Winter Olympics skate between mainstream and mainly ignored

02/11/14 by Rennie Detore

By now, you've seen the pictures of Sochi, but only if you're actually paying attention to the Olympics.
Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, hasn't exactly scored major points from a public relations standpoint when photos of the "resort" city emerged in preparation for hosting the games.
Between the sub par bathrooms, shoddy hotel room pictures and photos of last minute touches that included flames and blow torches, Sochi didn't exactly put its best foot forward as the Winter Olympics loomed large over the city in Russia.

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Before that, Sochi put its foot directly in its mouth.
President Vladimir Putin, more specifically, reinforced the law that states promoting non traditional relationships in Russia to minors is prohibited, suggesting that athletes who are homosexual could potentially be met with discrimination. That fear, even as the Olympics has already begun, still permeates through the events of the day.
Simply put, Sochi hardly felt like the most sociable or socially acceptable town.
With so much drama, speculation, fear and angst leading up to the Olympics even before the opening ceremony, it's hard to get overly excited about the rivalry between countries or being mindful of how many medals anyone has tallied, whether that total is monitored individually or by country.
Then again, how popular are the Olympics, really?
That question, even minus the nightmarish nuances and flat out finger pointing that is happening in Sochi, is a valid one that can be asked and pondered by the masses to likely surprising results and answers.
The Olympics are a worldwide presentation of sport, athleticism and dueling at its highest form. Those who participate in the events deserve tremendous amounts of adulation, credit and respect for what they do, more specifically the training and hard work leading up to the events.
The Olympics arguably are quite tedious and ignored to some degree. You may take homage to the last notation, and point to the ratings NBC will achieve during the Olympic telecasts as proof that more than just a modicum of men, women and children have their televisions tuned to any and all Olympic happenings.
But does anyone make it a point to watch the Olympics? Or, do you ever hear friends, family or co workers talk openly about how they can't wait to see them?
Probably not.
Setting aside time to watch the Olympics feels a lot different than having the Olympics on the television while you're relaxing on the couch, making dinner or entertaining guests. Just because the Olympics are on the TV, doesn't mean you're engrossed in the action or whipping out your at home medals ledger to keep a close tally on who's winning what.
The Olympics often feels like something you'd see on at a sports bar or background noise via television in a waiting room or doctor's office.
In essence, the Olympics feel more like an episode of "Family Feud," rather than dueling countries taking aim at gold, silver and bronze medals. The excitement and true existence of anticipation is what is being brought into question regarding the Olympics, not the participants putting everything they have into winning the ultimate prize.
One would assume the episodic events leading up to the Olympics in Sochi would draw the viewer once the games begun, but that non sports related talk hasn't exactly led to more people chatting about the Olympic Games themselves or presumably caring to do more than nonchalantly watch what is happening.
There are a few notable Olympic athletes that help the cause and increase popularity. Names like Shaun White turns heads but even that might not be enough.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photos from the opening ceremony tell a tale of enthusiasm, vigor and unabashed life. In that moment, the Olympics feels like it should: an event that brings countries and the greatest athletes in the world together for competition.
The only wish is that more casual viewers would see it the same way.

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