Three days ago someone told me that the Olympics had started. “What?” I replied, incredulous. If the Olympics had truly started, I would’ve definitely heard about it. I associate the Olympics with fanfare, prestige, celebration, appearances on mainstream media and newspaper covers. How could they have just begun without telling me first? Was it even 2018? Two whole years since the last one? That’s far too soon. Shouldn’t I care more about this global event?
It’s been five weeks since I arrived at Oxford for the Bing Overseas Program, and in that time, I’ve been to London twice, met new people, watched three different NFL playoff games on British television, stayed awake long into the night watching the Overwatch League and the NBA and interviewed three different Oxford sports teams, but in that entire time, I haven’t heard a peep about the 2018 Winter Olympics. I didn’t even know where they were being held!
In my diligence in keeping up to date with the modern sporting world, I simply cannot point the finger for my ignorance at myself. The reason for the lack of information surrounding the Winter Olympics is, in my opinion, a difference in how the games are treated from a cultural perspective.
The Olympics aren’t the mass fanfare over in the UK that they are in America, at least the Winter Olympics aren’t. In fact, although they’ve hosted the Summer Olympics three different times, the United Kingdom has never hosted the Winter games. In fact, the United Kingdom doesn’t even participate in the Olympic games, as they still compete under the moniker of Great Britain, due to Olympic registration rules. Northern Ireland athletes can compete on Team Ireland or Great Britain at their preference.
But when you look around at the surrounding environment, there are other distinct differences in how the Olympics are presented in this foreign country. The Olympic rings aren’t slapped on every Coke can in an effort to abuse the event for branding. Advertisements don’t claim to be the official sponsor of the Winter Olympics as they do in America. And every television in the country isn’t constantly tuned into NBC to watch Bob Costas explain the day’s proceedings to us. What? Bob Costas isn’t even doing them this year? Why is anybody even watching?
The newspapers aren’t as plastered with stories about Great Britain’s success in the games; gone are the friendly TV-ready personae of Chloe Kim and Adam Rippon. Actually, that’s because at the moment, there isn’t any British success in Korea. They have a total of zero medals so far, fewer than countries like Kazakhstan and Australia possess.
The only Olympic story about a Brit that I could readily find broadcast on the BBC was that of Elise Christie, a speed skater who crashed out and lost during her 500 meter race. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except during the last Winter Olympic games, she crashed in all three of her races, making this her fourth consecutive fall in Olympic performance. That’s what I call a tough break.
It’s possible that other areas of the UK are jubilant about their country’s participation in the Winter Games, but none of it has shown its head in Oxford. I suspect that I may go the entire duration of the event without watching a single bit of it live, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m alright with that. Even though the UK time-zones are more conducive to viewing the Korean-hosted games, I simply don’t have the time, or enough personal investment in the action to sit down and find a place to watch the events. If I head to a pub during the night, they’ll just be showing football (soccer) anyway. I suppose I’ll just have to wait until 2020 for the next batch of good old-fashioned American Olympic hype. It’s alright, I like the Summer games better anyway. They’ve got volleyball.
Until next week, enjoy orange juice that doesn’t come in a box and the thrill that comes with watching your home country take home the gold.
Contact Bobby Pragada at bpragada “at” stanford.edu