MAD DOG: The New, Improved Olympics!

It's Olympics time again. This is the biennial sports event in which amateur athletes compete for medals while wondering why their professional counterparts are raking in the big bucks and they'll be lucky to get their mug plastered on a box of Wheaties. It's impossible to miss. TV stations are running countdowns on the nightly news ("Only nine more days until the women's mixed doubles table tennis quarter-semi-hemi-demi-finals, Lisa!"). "Time" devoted a special issue to it ("Sleeker bodies, tighter outfits, less unsightly body hair!"). And those five linked rings--officially named after the five biggest corporate sponsors--are everywhere. Not to mention the fact that you haven't heard the word Sydney in the news this much since Ms. Biddle Barrows was busted for running her prostitution ring .

There's no question the Olympics are special. After all, it's not every day you see someone running through the streets carrying a lit torch. Well, not unless you live in the inner city, are watching footage of WTO demonstrations, or catch the final scene of "Frankenstein Runs the 3000-meter Steeplechase." It's also not every day you can hear sports announcers say shuttlecock over and over while trying desperately not to snicker, learn that men don't wear bloomers when they play field hockey, and watch competitors win gold medals for flitting around twirling ribbons in the name of rhythmic gymnastics.

There's a lot of tradition in the Olympics. They began a long time ago in Ancient Greece where Strom Thurmond presided over them. The modern day version was launched in 1896 when Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived them as a means to sell ads because TV hadn't been invented yet and, face it, a Baron's got to make a living. This year about 10,000 athletes from 200 countries will go to Australia to participate in 300 events. To put that in perspective, if every one of them sent me $10 at the end of their event I wouldn't have to work for a long time. If they sent me $100 I could retire. Hell, most of them are subsidized by their government anyway, so it's not like it's any sweat off their back.

There are a lot of differences between the original Olympics and the current ones. For one thing, the modern Olympics are held every two years, rotating between summer and winter sports. Obviously the ancient Greeks didn't have the winter Olympics because ice skates, Red Buttons, the Ice Capades, and the Jamaican bobsled team hadn't been invented yet. On the other hand, they did have the feta throw, synchronized Spartan toss, and Greek-style wrestling (*wink*wink*) so you know they had fun.

An example of how things have changed is the pentathlon (from the Greek "penta" for five and "athlon" for incongruous combination of sports). The modern pentathlon includes shooting, fencing, swimming, running, equestrian jumping, and telling the truth. Sorry, that last one's the modern sodium pentathol. These are much handier skills for modern people to know than the originals, since they can be put to good use in everyday life, especially if you're a bank robber, drug addict, or go to a public school.

There's already talk of updating this event for the 2004 Olympics. They're planning on launching the post-modern pentathlon, which will include using a Palm Pilot, the 300dB cell phone shout, suckering people into sinking money into a ridiculously unneeded dot-com that has no chance in hell of making money, and keeping a Ford Explorer from flipping when the tires blow out. Needless to say, the uniforms will have to be all black.

It's important to keep the Olympics up-to-date since it's harder than ever to hold an audience's attention. After all, we're more used to watching action shows like "The World's Goriest Sports Accidents With Bones Sticking Out" than we are dressage. In fact, if they were smart the Olympic committee would let MTV take over that event, call it "Undressage," and the ratings would go through the roof. Especially if Jerry Springer hosted it and the riders were all naked co-eds whose bust size is higher than their IQ.

Traditionally the Olympics have been about the royalty sports, like equestrians ("The sport of kings"), badminton ("The sport of princes"), and synchronized swimming ("The sport of queens"). But this is the new millennium so they've added fresh, new, exciting events like trampoline, triathlon, taekwondo, and synchronized diving. You haven't lived until you've seen two divers do a Double Greg Louganis and hit their heads on the diving board in perfect precision.

If they really want to draw people to watch the Olympics they need to make some bigger changes. An event like the 400-meter Shark Dodge would definitely get people to tune in. Dumping that boring greco-roman wrestling and letting the WWF take over would do wonders for the sport. Hell, I'll put my money on the Rock over Alex Karelin any day! They should quit shooting air rifles and let Arnold compete with an AK-47 and all the bandoliers he can fit around his chest. And instead of shooting arrows at targets why don't they set up Millie, Ollie, and Syd, this year's Olympic mascots, and let everyone have a go at them? Like it wasn't bad enough the Atlanta games had nonsensical Izzy for a mascot, they had to up the ante this time around?

But alas, it's too late to make these changes this year. That's why you might as well relax, throw Crocodile Dundee on the barbie, grab the Foster's from that roo's hands, and enjoy yourself. Let the games begin!

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