Did you watch the Olympics?
The Olympics, which lavish the world’s best athletes with gold-plated medals, can puff up your chest (if your nation wins) and be fascinating, as you witness what the human body can do — such as American gymnast Simone Biles' amazing flips and spins in mid-air, followed by an unfaltering landing on two feet.
You can scarcely believe a person can do such things, but then you realize they train every day, usually from childhood, and miss out on a lot of the fun of life, then finally have to perform beyond anyone’s expectations in the final Olympian moment, with 28 million (NBC) watching, praying you maintain absolute grace under unimaginable pressure and don’t blow it.
The Olympics are not cheap. Some 20,000 people were tossed out of their homes in Rio de Janeiro to make way for the Olympics, and eight people were killed by police, according to Amnesty International. Brazil spent $15 billion on the Olympics, vastly more than it is spending to beat the Zika virus.
But never mind the cost. The United States proudly walked away with 121 medals and, in addition to Biles, made heroes out of swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, who both nailed four golds.
The Rio show also broke the world record for notorious behavior by athletes, with American swimmer Ryan Lochte and two others lying about trashing a gas station door and (allegedly) being robbed by Brazilian cops at gunpoint. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, he forgot that just about everything is being videoed now — and the tape didn’t support his tale. He also mangled the English language but probably coined a new excuse for inexcusable behavior, saying he “over-exaggerated” the story.
With the explosion of the internet, viewership of the Olympics on broadcast, cable and satellite TV is down. Teen interest is 57 percent below the national average. However, older folks love it. Their viewership is 82 percent above the average. Minorities don’t like it, with blacks and Latinos 74 percent below the national average. Women like it more than men, by 56 to 44 percent.
TV use in general is going down. Netflix use has doubled since the last Olympics four years ago. Use of prime-time TV by the 18-to-24 age set has dropped by 25 percent since the last Olympics. Millennials spend more than half their TV time binge-watching series and eschewing live stuff.
We asked Ashlanders if they watched the Olympics. Most hadn’t. Maybe a smidgen. Many didn’t even have a television and said they can grab videos of interesting things, like the Olympics, off the internet as they please.
Dillon Jefferson (declined photo) — The Olympics was pretty good. A lot of the same stars as four years ago. No one in tennis did well except Randy Murray. The (fiasco with the swimmers) was a total embarrassment to America. Most of the world sees us as arrogant and thinking we don’t have to play by the rules. It was shameful. I most enjoyed the men’s 400 meter dash, where the South African set a world record in the eighth lane. A country that struggles like Brazil should pass on hosting it. There’s such a huge disparity between the mansions of the wealthy and the favelas of the poor.
John Fisher-Smith — I watched women’s gymnastics. I was astonished at the youthfulness, power and grace of Simone Biles. She and the other women were such calm, self-possessed winners. I was touched and proud. I was visiting my sister in California all week so watching the gymnastics was quite enough.
Genevieve Wolfe — No, I didn’t watch TV. I was interested in doing other things with my time. If I happened to see it, well, it’s beautiful to show off the greatness of the human form and what we can do with our bodies and intention. It is something to celebrate.
Mardy Carson — I watched a tiny bit. It was men’s volleyball. I like to watch sports that don’t have 11 players on each team. Fewer people is better. I don’t have TV. I saw it at Peerless. It’s nice to have something to entertain me with my nightly glass of wine. I love the Tidings “Local Take.” I read every word. Topics are consistently relevant. I’m in favor of anything that supports athletic activity.
David Sherr — I watched men’s basketball a little. It was wonderful, inspiring. I love to see really athletic people. They inspire us all to be better people.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.