Someone is going to win an Olympic gold medal this year for figure skating. The winner will score a fractionally higher “score,” as granted by a panel of judges, than the runner-ups. Sure, a few people will fall down or something, making it fairly easy to stack-rank them toward the bottom, but there will be negligible technical differences among the top seven or eight competitors.
The difference in scores will come from the “artistic” elements of their program. Imagine for a moment that the Cowboys got extra points in each game for the elegance of their passing routes, high quality touchdown celebrations, or the jaunty manner in which they wore their pink breast cancer towels.
Or, perhaps you might picture Picasso, Rembrandt and Jasper Johns sitting nervously with their coaches, waiting to see what score they received from the notoriously corrupt French judge. The announcer explains that, “’Guernica’ was a flawless technical performance, but it just didn’t strike the right chord with this audience.”
That’s why Olympic artistic competitions, from ice-skating to gymnastics, are complete bullshit.
Don’t talk to me about the “technical” elements of the scoring. Look closely enough and you’ll find that Da Vinci smudged a brushstroke here and there. Van Gogh used the wrong ochre for some of his sunflowers. The absurd pretense that there is a “winner” in this these competitions makes them intolerably phony and anything but “artistic.”
As the world grows more tightly integrated and cultures more deeply influenced by commoditization, the performances themselves are harder and harder to distinguish from one another. Thirty years ago you could tell at a glance which country the performers were representing. Top performers now train internationally with coaches from all over the globe in front of crowds used to seeing a similar product. Artistic distinctions are breaking down, pushing performers into more and more outlandish stunts to establish any uniqueness.
Those same factors are driving the games more generally away from any emphasis on athletics. Savvy athletes use the games as a platform for more lucrative pursuits. Olympic competition is a marketing ploy, like competing for the Republican Presidential nomination.
When Olympic snowboarder (think about that phrase for a minute) Shaun White failed to medal in Sochi, the first thing anyone thought about was the impact to his growing business empire. Slovenian downhill skier, Tina Maze, has parlayed success on the slopes into a career as a pop star, model and blogger. Back home her win in Sochi should place her within striking distance of becoming dictator for life.
Enjoy the Olympics for the spectacle and the performances, but some parts of it are just too ridiculous to accept at face value. For those who love a classic, timeless performance, I present the greatest skating routing in history.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the incomparable Chaz Michael Michaels: