How the Olympics became so small

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Olympic Rings by ZEVS
Olympic Rings by ZEVS

For the record, I did not plan to have surgery wherein the two-week, doctor-recommended recovery period would perfectly coincide with the Olympics.

I actually find watching the American Olympic coverage to be rather cloying, like beer that’s too sweet or warm sushi.

Much has changed since the last time I had the time to sit down and watch the Olympics in their entirety.

Today I can stream every single event through my Apple TV without any ridiculously redundant broadcasters causing me to roll my eyes every 20 seconds.

On Saturday, I watched two hours of table tennis with just the sounds of  the ball, the paddles and the fierce yelling of the competitors from Uzbekistan and Czech Republic to keep me company. It was beautiful.

My wife, Cheryl,  and I were living in the Japanese Apartments in Kona, Hawaii in 1996. And we had a Korean roommate who offered to pay for cable TV so he could watch the Olympics that summer.

Cheryl was working for Kona Coffee Co. in those days and would ride her moped out the airport and back each day to sell coffee to tourists.

Meanwhile, our roommate and I would wake and eat rice and kimchee for breakfast and then sit around and watch the games until lunchtime, when his girlfiend would show up and prepare us some sort of Korean soup or grilled shortribs with more kimchee.

We’d watch the world compete through the late afternoon, when the sun would shine directly into the apartment and set it ablaze like a spicy furnace.

This is how Cheryl would find us, sprawled out in front of the fan, shirtless and sweating kimchee through our pores. The smell had to be nauseating.

In primetime, we would all three sit on our couch watching as the heat finally subsided and the huge cockroaches emerged from the crevices to clear the spilled rice and kimchee from the floor. Our roommate would cheer for his Korean athletes, and we’d cheer for the Americans, and the Olympics were a lot smaller for me that year.

Eight years later, I would watch the summer Olympics in a bar called the Lemonhead in the basement of the Israeli embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.

What commentary existed was in Ukrainian, and though I secretly cheered for the Americans, I couldn’t help but revel in the collective joy of a country celebrating 10 years of freedom from Communist rule and 22 Olympics medals.

My colleagues, some American but mostly Ukrainian, drank copious amounts of vodka and cheered wildly for their favorite competators.

The Olympics became even smaller that year, so much so, that I never really could return to the regular U.S. broadcast comfortably again.

So what to do with myself for my two-week home imprisonment? I’m currently watching the U.S. women get beat down by the Dutch in volleyball, and the commentary is making me roll my eyes so much I’m dizzy.

Not sure I can handle another night of Dan Hicks talking about how fast the swimmers react to the starter signal either.

And gymnastics is just, no.



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