Winter Olympics vs Summer Olympics

I recently posted a simple question on my Facebook profile: Which is better — Winter or Summer Olympics? Those who voted were very confident in their choice, making claims like “summer by a lot” and “winter for sure,” while others added colorful comments such as “figure skating is horrible” and “without the winter olympics we would never have been blessed with Cool Runnings.”

I figured summer would win in a landslide, but when the votes were tallied it was much closer than I thought. Summer had the edge, but barely. I didn’t scoff at those who voted for winter. I’m just jealous of them. I want to like the Winter Games more, I just find the Summer Olympics to be so much better. Here are four reasons why.

1. He won…I guess
For the most part, people like competitions in which there are clear-cut winners. Team A scored more points than Team B. Athlete X reached the finish line before Athlete Y. We don’t like our sports to include judges. Let them decide American Idol.

Unfortunately, a large number of Winter Olympic sports have judges, such as figure skating, snowboarding, and freestyle skiing. Subjectivity takes away from the viewing experience, because fans have to delay their excitement until the judges’ scores are posted. Unless a competitor does something that is obviously bad — i.e. fall — it’s hard for the average viewer to distinguish between two good performances.

2. You’ve never luged
Most everyone has ran, swam, played basketball, ridden a bike, and lifted weights. Perhaps not competitively, but you’ve done these activities. Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in a bobsled. Or if you’ve soared through the air, on skies, the length of a football field. Or if you’ve even thought about taking a broom with you to the ice rink to push around a chunk of granite. Yeah, didn’t think so.

Now, I’m not suggesting bobsledding, ski jumping, and curling aren’t worthy of being Olympic events, nor am I saying the athletes who compete aren’t incredibly skilled. But an overwhelming majority of people have no frame of reference for these events. What is a good score? A good time? A good distance? Even in the objective events, it’s hard to make much sense of what you’re watching.

3. Everyone can play
You don’t need wealth, or a particular climate, to compete in many of the summer events. All you need are shoes to train for track and field, water for swimming, fists for boxing. There’s a reason that 10 countries have more than 100 summer medals but fewer than 10 winter medals. If your country doesn’t get any snow, it’s sort of hard to train for most of the winter events.

The winter sports are also, generally speaking, more expensive. Renting ice time is very costly, and this likely prevents some of the poorer countries from participating in many events. The Olympic Games are supposed to be for all, right? The Summer Games promote this ideal; the Winter Games do not.

4. Big names left out in the cold
Make a list of your top five greatest Olympic champions of all time, using whatever criteria you choose. I’m only 23, but here are mine: Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis, Mark Spitz, Jesse Owens, and Usain Bolt. Of course I’m biased towards more recent competitors as well as American athletes, but I can’t imagine any list that includes a majority of winter athletes.

I’d be shocked if Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, or Apolo Ohno generate the buzz that Phelps, Bolt, and Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh provided in the 2008 Summer Games. Simply put, the Winter Games lack the star power that the summer Games have.

I didn’t go with the more conventional five reasons because I’m leaving it up to you to either provide an additional reason why the Summer Games are better or to give a reason why I’ve got it all wrong, and that the Winter games are superior. Let me know in the comments.

7 thoughts on “Winter Olympics vs Summer Olympics”

  1. I agree with reasons 2 and 3. I have bob sledded once; packed onto a sled with the rest of my family in Lake Placid. However, I agree, it does feel like some of the winter athletes are coming from a much smaller pool of competitors due to a lack of opportunity for most people. Shaun White was amazing last night but he has his own half pipe and it looks like you have to helicopter in to get to it. I like the winter and summer Olympics about the same and both leave me unsatisfied because I don't like the sports that get the most TV time in prime time. Gymnastics dominate in the summer while figure skating dominates in the winter. I only got to watch team USA play one basketball game and that was the finals. Hockey is shaping up to be same with most of the games being played during the middle of the day. In the summer, I liked being able to watch swimming and beach volleyball but would love to have seen mountain biking. The half pipe snowboarding, speed skating, and downhill skiing from yesterday were all awesome (mainly because big names delivered) but it wouldn't surprise me if the rest of the winter games are less interesting. The first games (summer or winter) that make it easy for people to watch whatever they want in prime time will be the winner; whether it be on-demand TV, internet, or other.

  2. This is not an endorsement of the Winter games, but I have enjoyed the SnowBoardingX competition and the short track Speed Skating. This admission actually emphasizes one of the points you make; I like it when there is a clear cut winner. Although, I have to say the judges let a Canadian into the final(medal) SS round because they thought he was pushed in the qualifying round but they couldn't tell for sure. I was quite surprised to see him race again. Another point to make is that there are only 4 countries competing in Speed Skating: South Korea, Canada, the US and one other. Maybe I am making the case that the Winter Olympics are what you say they are.

  3. Rob: I agree with you re: television coverage. Some of the basketball games in the summer of '08 were great, including the epic final, but how many people stayed up (or woke up) at 5 am EST to watch those? Hockey, supposedly one of the best winter sports, has been on in the middle of the day so far.Marci: I really like short-track speed skating also. The maneuvering during the race is incredible to watch. And I agree with you on the shortage of countries in the Winter Games. Like I wrote, the Summer Games, unlike the Winter Games, is truly for all. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  4. I was wodering myself about that when I found this blog trying to get a comparison of summer vs winter stats. I have to say that the results of your poll are also (completely?) biased. Make the same question in July 2012 in Europe, and you will have a completely different answer. I agree the most with your 3rd reason, have a look to the list of participant's countries and you can see right away that winter sports are for the rich countries. I am canadian and I can understand our preference for the winter olympics, but I have to admit that in a global sense summer ones are the (original) olympics.

  5. Here is my list of the greatest Olympic champions of all times, no kidding, these athletes are the ones that first comes to my mind, you should check them out:1. Sonja Henie2. Bjørn Dæhlie3. Johan Olav Koss4. Ole Einar Bjørndalen5. Kjetil Andre AamotLegends!

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