The Olympics hasn't really been about "the spirit of sports and competition" since 1984--when Peter Ueberroth made record profits for the Los Angeles games by turning it into a giant corporate advertising event--but this year's Winter Games in Sochi, Russia have now moved into the realm of "reality TV programming". Controversy has erupted over the inclusion of Lolo Jones on the USA Bobsled team--which was reportedly orchestrated by NBC Television to provide them with the "Face of the Games" they can use to promote their coverage.
NBC found itself in a tough spot this month after previous "it girl" Lindsey Vaughn--and Tiger Woods' Girlfriend (don't forget NBC's coverage of the US Open from Pinehurst coming up in June!) dropped off the downhill ski team due to a knee injury. And this year's Ice Capades--I mean figure skating team--features a bunch of no-names that have failed to become breakout stars (more on that in a moment). So NBC needed someone with a pretty face and an interesting backstory to carry its prime-time coverage.
Lolo Jones just happens to fit the bill. She's young, attractive and will be just the sixth athlete to compete for the US in both the Summer and Winter Games. You may recall, she was a total flameout in the London Games, failing to medal in any of her hurdles events. The only problem is, she isn't the best pusher or brakeman in the US Bobsled program--or the second best or even the third best. But there she will be in Sochi--glowing on the TV screen in the Opening Ceremonies, features, interviews, previews, tape-delayed coverage of actual runs, post-race analysis, more interviews and the Closing Ceremonies--while a far more experienced and deserving sledder sits home in Illinois and watches.
This decision by the USOC follows a controversial choice for the women's Ice Capades--I mean figure skating team--earlier this month, as attractive blonde Ashley Wagner was selected for the Games despite falling about a dozen times at the National Finals and admitting that she couldn't handle the pressure. That will leave the less-TV-friendly Mirai Nagusa--who finished third in the finals--at home. Interestingly enough, Wagner had been featured in a number of NBC promos for Winter Games coverage before her gagfest at Nationals--but I can't remember seeing Nagusa anywhere in those ads.
I haven't looked real closely at the hideous Polo Ralph Lauren Team USA Uniforms that were unveilled (On the NBC Today Show) yesterday--but I'd be willing to bet there are tiny little peacocks mixed in with all of the Red, White and Blue.
And fans attending the games should just leave the U-S-A! chants at home. You're really rooting for Team N-B-C.