Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 20, 2016

My Olympics List: What’s In? What’s Out?

The Rio Olympics are winding down, and attention will shift to the decision about where the 2024 games will be held: Los Angeles, Paris, Rome or Budapest. But another decision regarding the 2020 Tokyo games looms sooner: What sports will be added to the list of events, and which will be dropped?

Here in the U.S., we’ve seen only the events the NBC network decided to broadcast, meaning only those in which Americans did well, or ones with heart-warming human interest stories. The broadcasts have included — at best — something like 10 minutes of actual sport per hour, the balance of the time filled with blather from “commentators and hosts” talking into the camera, sappy human interest stories, endless hours of footage of athletes standing around adjusting their equipment waiting to swim, run or see their scores, and commercials — my god, the commercials. There were some hours in which athletes were onscreen for more minutes in commercials than in competition.

Everything’s nicely produced with hundreds of cameras and thousands of spiffy graphics. It looks great. Most of it is chaff.

Whichever company bids highest for the broadcast rights can do whatever they want. What they want — more than anything — is to sell you stuff: a car, fast food, insurance, Internet service, a new mobile phone and, of course, beer. The ideal viewer of these Olympics will soon be driving his new car to the fast food drive-through with a cold beer in the cup holder while texting on his new mobile phone, because he’s well-insured and can risk it.

I like the Olympics. I’ve watched dozens of hours, mostly waiting through commercials and pointless on-camera commentary to catch a race that lasts 10 seconds or 40 seconds, because I like to watch the runners.

Some events don’t interest me. Because I’m watching an American broadcast, there are events I don’t have to skip on TV, including field hockey, badminton, table tennis, judo/tae kwan do and Greco-Roman wrestling, since no Americans did well in them or, if they did, they don’t have contracts with companies that make cars, insurance, phones or beer, so they’re not shown.

Here is the International Olympic Committee’s official list of summer 2016 sports.

I would eliminate many of the events. I want to make it clear that I respect and admire the skill and immense labor that all the participants have dedicated to their pursuits. That doesn’t mean it’s something I want to watch.

To create the impression that my list is scientific and based on some method, not subjective opinion, I’ll break it into classifications.

Propelling one object with another object

This lets us omit golf and tennis, the silliest things to have in the Olympics. These are games, not sports. Thus field hockey, badminton, table tennis and shooting bullets out of guns should join baseball (already eliminated) as things to be played in other settings. Yes, many of the practitioners train hard and lift weights and eat properly, but they’re playing a game, they’re not in an athletic competition.

Gun events are a fossil left over from the aristocratic days when the “amateurs” who ran the Olympics were wealthy elites who prohibited people from the poorer classes and undesirable ethnicities from competition. If you want to use a gun at the Olympics, apply to be a member of the security force. They get to carry really powerful semiautomatic weapons.

Possible exception to above: archery. Probably the ancient Greeks had archery, so I guess it should stay. I’ll never watch, but it’s okay. See below under Equestrianism for more on archery.

Games with humans propelling objects we see plenty of, elsewhere

Foremost: basketball, followed closely by football (soccer, in the U.S.). We do not need more basketball in any medium. Period. Football has the world’s largest participation of any sport, and there are already competitions for the entire planet (the World Cup), as well as every continent, country, league, state, town and school in the world. Enough. Rugby, same deal. I’m indifferent about handball; no Americans will ever win, so I’ll never have to watch it. It’s essentially the same as water polo, except you don’t have to swim. See next item.

Exceptions to above: water polo and indoor volleyball. Water polo is no-holds-barred wrestling while swimming in water over your head while trying to throw a ball into a net. Those men and women are athletes. And, unlike big-time wrestling on TV, you’re never quite sure whether that Bulgarian defender has just kicked that Romanian attacker down below the water line (ahem), or if the Romanian is faking. I think the ancient Greeks would’ve loved water polo. Volleyball is my favorite thing next to track and field, so I leave it in, even though it takes a long time to play, now made worse by the fact that they’ve introduced instant replay challenges.

Powerful, highly trained animals propelling humans

Viz., equestrian events. Everyone likes horses. They’re beautiful, whether running fast, leaping over obstacles or just standing around. But, really, the horses do all the work, the over-dressed people get the medals. What’s next, horse racing? Trained dogs jumping through hoops of fire?

I’d let the equestrians into my Olympics if they had to ride horses while jumping over obstacles and shooting arrows at a target. Maybe dressed up like Cossacks or Tartars or Vikings or characters from Game of Thrones. Cool.

Problematic: Humans propelling themselves with machines

I love cycling, and I admire the strength and endurance of cyclists. This was probably the last Olympics in which any of the big-time cats I met back when my company sponsored a team will have competed. Doping issues aside, though, there’s something not entirely “pure” about a sport that requires a $5,000 machine in order to compete. This would also exclude rowing, kayaking, sailing and canoeing. I’ll eliminate sailing, right off. Who cares? I’ll pass on judging the other water-machine events. What do you think?

This category is further complicated in that it eliminates pole vaulting, but vaulting stays. As I wrote previously, I like vaulting. It’s my Olympics.

Incredibly, tediously repetitive events

E.G. diving. At least not 6 rounds of qualifying and 6 rounds of finals: one dive. That’s what you get in my Olympics. Up the ladder, off the board, and that’s it. No one understands the judging, anyway, other than whether or not there’s a big splash when you enter the water. At least have a “Cannonball” competition to balance things out. There you could have actual metrics: Whoever makes the splash with the greatest total height and distance wins. That would be cool. Let the weightlifters join in: I’ll bet those dudes can empty half the pool.

Here’s another opportunity for the horse people: Equestrian Diving. Who wouldn’t want to see that? Especially if the riders wore those spiffy dressage outfits.

Wackiest, silliest things I like and dislike

Respectively: synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. I’ll bet the ancient Greeks would’ve gone for synchronized swimming in a big way, although it would’ve involved only naked men, which doesn’t appeal to me so much. To even things out, make Rhythmic Gymnastics an aquatic sport (maybe on horseback in the pool!), and it can stay. Otherwise, I just don’t see the point.

You’re free to disagree. What’s your #1 event you’d eliminate? Leave a comment. Good luck to all your favorite competitors in Tokyo.

© Brad Nixon 2016


  1. If you lived in a country where there is *real* TV coverage of the Olympics (that is, showing different events in progress in real time, across several broadcast channels, even if your country isn’t likely to win a medal) you might have a different view on which sports should be included included!

    For me, the Olympics, are a chance to watch events that I never get to see otherwise on TV, like canoeing/kayaking, modern pentathlon, field hockey, pole vault, marathon etc etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, Bill, but if I’d simply written about how endlessly fascinating all the sports I never otherwise see are, I wouldn’t have had anything worth saying, and wouldn’t have gotten a comment from you. Our former bandmate, Alicia, posted a nice thought on FB about how proud they were of a Malaysian badminton competitor who did NOT win a medal, but acquitted himself well. THAT’S the Olympics! Hats off to all the Aussies, natch. Fierce competitors. Nice to hear from you.


  2. I agree with your comments about Olympic coverage. Fortunately, I live next to Canada and I watch their coverage also. During the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, their coverage was fair, balanced and celebrate all athletes regardless of what country they represented. I agree with your assessment of NBC’s coverage. Three hours of early morning fluff about everything except sport. Cooking, language classes, style, etc. yuk, yuk, yuk. I grew up in Alaska where everything was delayed in coverage. Now that I have access to live events, that’s what I want to see.
    Thanks for being brutally honest!


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