We are just one day away from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and I can’t wait anymore! I love the Olympics and always have. For me, the first week of the Summer Games are the best because that is when all of the swimming events take place. I am caught up in not only the events themselves but the side stories. Michael Phelps going for 8 Gold medals, Dara Torres competing at 41 years old; they are all so compelling. I will DVR every bit of content I can and will probably watch a bunch on the web as well. I will keep track of the medal count constantly hoping that the United States is always in first. I get almost as excited about the Olympics as I do the NCAA Tournament.

However, there are a couple of aspects of the Olympics that I feel are lacking and need change. The first; the IOC should have never chosen China to host. For all of the geopolitical reasons that exist, choosing China was irresponsible and arrogant by the IOC. There was a time I felt that the U.S. should protest and not send a team to China and I agree that we were right to not send a team to Moscow in 1980. However, I do understand that the Olympics are supposed to be about athletic competition, not the policies or politics of the host nation and the athletes should not have to suffer to serve a political end. That is part of why China should not be the host. When it is known long before hand that a country will be controversial for significant reason, that country should not be in the running for an Olympic bid. It isn’t like this is a new concern, people have been protesting this choice since it was made. So, while politics shouldn’t have an effect on the athletes, it absolutely must play a role in selecting the host and the IOC should be ashamed of considering China for the games and I believe they did so partly just to cause the controversy in the U.S. especially.

The second aspect covers all Olympic Games and that is the allowed use of professional athletes in the games. The primary reason for allowing professionals was understandable; to counter act the USSR and Eastern European Bloc’s use of ‘professional’ amateur athletes. The world knew that while they weren’t part of professional clubs, team athletes from those countries were by all accounts professionals. So, 20 years too late, the IOC allowed professionals for all events. Of course, that started in 1992… after the fall of the Berlin Wall… at which point, the need to allow professionals was greatly diminished.

This is another area where I have changed my mind over the years. I agreed with the use of pros for the primary reason that the Olympics should showcase the best athletes regardless of pro/amateur status. However, now I take the stance that pros are paid already to perform in their profession and are showcased already through the countless TV networks and internet. If you want to see someone play, you have ample opportunity to. However, rising stars and those currently not paid directly for their competition should get this chance to show off in front of the world. It was easy to allow professionals before, it should be easy to go back to amateur competition.

Despite some flaws, I love the Olympics, the competition, and the side stories. I think NBC does a great job mostly of presenting the Games (except for that nasty time delay issue that is hard to avoid) and I will look forward greatly to the next 2 weeks!