Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Time to Fix the Olympics

Now that the Olympics are over it’s time for that age old barroom conversation on what should and should not be in the Olympics. My criteria for this argument are as follows:

Is the Olympic Gold Medal the ultimate prize in the sport?
Are the best participants in the sport competing at the Olympics?
Is the sport attracting the same high quality athletes as the other sports?

The winter games are pretty clean, but there are two ‘sports’ that need to go.

First of all is Ice Dancing. This ‘sport’ is 100 percent subjective and by rule, all the participants have to basically do all the same tricks. It does not attract the highest quality of athlete it can. All the good skaters are in speed skating, hockey and figure skating. If you suck at all three of those, but really like skating, you go into ice dancing. It’s pure JV and belongs in shopping mall rinks, not the Olympic Games.

Next is Curling. As entertaining as Curling is, it requires no athletic talent, strength or stamina. I don’t doubt the skippers are quite skilled at what they do, and I don’t question their dedication. But it’s just not an athletic contest. It’s a fun game that gets good TV ratings. Can anyone explain why we need separate men’s and women’s events?

One thing I’d like to see happen is putting Basketball in the winter games where it belongs. The NBA could take a two-week break like Hockey and we’d get players in mid-season form without having to make them train all summer every four years. The only reason some of the stars sit out is because as they get older they can’t put up with the 12-month schedule. If they’re already in shape and they’re assured of taking the summer off, everyone will play.

Now to the summer games where there’s a bit more fluff.

There are two violating sports that will never come out because they come from a military tradition: Pistol/Rifle shooting and the Equestrian events. Again, I don’t question the skill or dedication of the gun participants. I just can’t call it a sport. The gun does all the work. The oldest medalist in the history of the games is a 72-year-old skeet shooter. If you can compete at 72, it’s not a sport.

The equestrian riders aren’t even doing the jumping – they’re relying completely on the athletic prowess of the horse. If they want to give credit to the horses like they do in thoroughbred racing, I’d be all for it.

Two semi-athletic endeavors that need to go because they don’t attract high-quality athletes are Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics. I can tell you from first-hand experience that Synchro is easy and the women competing are no where near the quality of athletes as swimmers, divers or polo players. In 1988, I was on a tour of the Arabian Peninsula with a team of Syncho swimmers. These girls had a great attitude and made the trip much easier than it ever would have been. That being said, I learned their routine in the space of one afternoon. I even had the toe point to pull it off too. It would have taken the best of them several years to acquire the skill to do the diving portion of the show. So Synchro, like Ice Dancing is J.V. Rhythmic gymnastics? Please.

Two legitimate sports that need to go are Soccer and Baseball (gone for the London games, but probably back for Rio). Countries don’t send close to their best athletes for these games and the Olympic Gold Medal means very little compared to a World Cup, or World Series title. If Bud Selig wants to break up the season for two weeks and let the best players play, then it would be legit. Otherwise it’s got to go.

One sport that I could be convinced should stay, but is on my ‘out’ list is sailing. I know these guys are in shape and do a damn good job getting those rigs around the courses, but I still think the wind is doing more of the work than the athletes.

Next we have the sports that aren’t in and should be. These include Power Tumbling, Ultimate Frisbee, Water Skiing, Golf (including Long Drive), Bowling, High Diving, Endurance Racing, Cricket, Summer Biatholon, BMX and Skateboarding.

And finally we’ve got the list of ‘sports’ that have applied and are actually being considered. These include Poker, Bridge, Auto Racing, Chess, Dominoes, and yes, even Spelling.

I can hear Jim Thorpe turning over in his grave.


  1. Want to push a button with a group of athletes? Find out why there isn't womens ski jumping. They can do arials all they want with one part of the ski team, but they can't simply Jump. Bugs the $@# out of the women who do it outside of the Olympics.

  2. Word is that the NHL is talking about keeping NHL players out of the Olympics because they loose too much money shutting down the season. What say you on that? And they should have Hurling in the summer games. That is a real sport.

  3. I'll argue that equestrian sports don't take a tremendous amount of skill and physical strength form the rider as well as the horse. If you've ever spent anytime in the saddle doing anything other than ambling along on a rental nag then you know it's a lot of work.

    Also if you think about it the competitors are not only training themselves but 1/2 a ton of animal that's not all that smart. Yes there are professional trainers but a rider has to work the horse they are compete with on or they'll never make it.

  4. Okay, I'm totally with you on nixing ice dancing, synchro swimming, and rhythmic gymnastics (never even heard of it... isn't that something Micky Hart used to do??)

    However, much as I LOVE bowling, I don't know about putting it in the olympics. What would the rules be for beer frames? And are they going to broadcast all those stupid graphics after you roll? Like the bowling ball that splits in two when you get a split? Lots of details to work out.

    As far as guns in the olympics, I didn't catch the biathlon being broadcast this time around. Is is still in? Not the most thrilling to watch, but the skill involved in cross country skiing and then stopping periodically to shoot a rifle is pretty incredible.

    Also, I have to second Nari on women's ski jumping. Put it in!!!

  5. Bill C. thinks: I love the idea of Ultimate Frisbee in the Olympics. A sport where the participants call the fouls, have to talk any "issues" out and get some sort of consenses before they can continue; doing so across country, political, language and cultural boundaries... Geez, something like that might lead to... PEACE!