#2. Participation Requires a Bigger Investment
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One gigantic difference between the Summer and Winter Olympics is the financial investment required to participate. Sports like track and field or swimming don't require fancy equipment. You'll need to find a track or pool to practice at, but those are everywhere. As long as you're fast enough, you can compete, basically.
That's not the case with the Winter Olympics. Even the sports you'd expect not to be that expensive are costly enough to be outside the reach of most Americans. For example, in this interview, the mother of a competitive figure skater estimates that she spends an average of $800 a month just to keep her kid in the game. Skates, costumes, ice time ... it all adds up. And there we're talking about a sport that doesn't require anything even close to this ...
Cool Runnings joke!
That's a bobsled, and chances are you don't own one. Who does? That's what I've always wondered about sports like this one. How does a person even try to become a competitive bobsledder? Not only do you need a bobsled, but you also need to find three other friends who are just as good at it as you are. Gathering that kind of talent all in one place at the same time to pursue a common goal must be unspeakably hard to do. Basically, every gold-medal-winning bobsled team is the Olympics version of the Beatles.
Even if you line up an ice-ready bobsled and round up three friends who all look good in rubber body suits ...
Cool Runnings joke part two!
... there's still the matter of coaching. Chances are your high school or college has a gymnasium with basketball courts, a running track, and maybe even a swimming pool. In addition, there's probably a track or swimming team you can join. Do you remember your high school having a competitive figure skating team, though? How about a bobsled squad? A varsity giant slalom squad? Probably not, but if you want to excel at any of those sports, you need to start at an early age and stick with it your entire life. That requires a coach, and they don't work for free.
All of this adds up to make the Winter Olympics a remarkably exclusionary experience. For the most part, it's going to be the kids of super rich parents who excel enough to reach the Olympics. Poor people who dream of winning a gold medal on the luge are shit out of luck, and I fucking love that. If you think that makes me an asshole, you're right, but probably for the wrong reason.
#1. ... And That Investment Inevitably Goes Up in Flames
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I grew up poor. Very poor, at some points. Growing up that way tends to make a person kind of bitter when the talk turns to rich kids who get whatever the hell they want. It's hard to imagine, at least among the U.S. competitors, that this wouldn't be an appropriate explanation for how they got to where they are.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they didn't work hard. Obviously, becoming "Olympic-level" good at something takes a lot of work, no matter what activity we're talking about.
Except curling, of course.
I'm just saying they wouldn't even have the opportunity to put in that much work if there wasn't some sort of wealth in the family, and, you know, fuck that noise. It's easy to be the best when the majority of the population can't challenge you.
Still, I just said in the previous entry that this is what I love about the Winter Olympics. What gives? It's simple. There's just something about knowing that I get to see privileged kids squander their parents' fortune in a way that breaks both of their hearts that makes me really look forward to the Winter Olympics every four years.
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Except hockey, of course.
The Summer Olympics are filled to the brim with athletes who got there only because of talent. Their sport is open enough that anyone with a desire to try it can participate, and anyone with enough skill can excel. You don't have to be wealthy, you just have to work hard. Having the socioeconomic system that rules America break in your favor is not necessary. I like that a lot, and I want those people to succeed, but not nearly as much as I want to see their Winter counterparts fail.
In short, I don't watch the Winter Olympics because my patriotism necessitates enjoying the men's speed skating finals. I watch the Winter Olympics to watch rich people's dreams die every fucking night for two solid weeks.