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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

High Time For Games To Get Trim

The Centennial Olympiad now nearing its end has boasted more athletes from more countries and more medals in more sports than any other competition in sports history.


Through it all, athletes have continued to turn in fine performances, records have continued to fall. Yet the sheer number of events has grown so out of control that it distracts and detracts from the essence of the Olympic spirit: individual athletic achievement.


In future years the Olympics would benefit from a careful but significant cull.


Begin with the easy targets: this year's additions of beach volleyball and mountain biking. Fun ways to spend a weekend they may be, pinnacles of physical achievement they are not. The newspaper Izvestia pointed out with some justification that the Games are America-centric enough already without an event that few in the world besides sandy-haired Californians have even heard of.


Then there are other sports whose traditions are unimpeachable but whose place in the Olympics is questionable. Baseball, basketball and football (soccer to Americans) all have their own various championships that matter; the Olympic Games are merely a distorted sidelight. Tennis also falls into this category. Name a player who would prefer an Olympic gold to a Wimbledon title.


Team events in general seem rather beside the point. Field hockey and volleyball, handball and water polo all have their merits, but in drama and intensity they do not compete with the "traditional" one-on-one or one-against-the-field Olympic events, such as track and field, swimming and diving, gymnastics, weightlifting and wrestling.


Reducing the number of events would also draw welcome attention to some of the "lesser," but outstanding traditional sports. Putting archery or fencing on television once every four years is no bad thing.


Sadly, this is hardly the direction the Games are heading. In choosing Atlanta over sentimental favorite Athens as the site of this year's Games, the Olympics powers-that-be virtually endorsed commercialism and a bigger-and-more-is-better philosophy. And holding these myriad events requires ever more tacky corporate marketing to pay for it all.


Should the backlash against the increasingly over-the-top Olympics ever set in, however, here are some modest proposals for thinning the wheat from the chaff: Anything requiring locomotive assistance in battling the elements -- sailing, for instance, and perhaps cycling -- can be done in other forums. Anything involving a ball should be reconsidered. Any competition that can't be finished in a few days should be ditched. If it couldn't be done in ancient Greece, it shouldn't be done now.