Cool it with the Winter Olympics talk

Across the US and Canada (especially Canada) people are starting to talk about the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Colombia as it is only a few weeks away. There are television commercials for it and product ads featuring various winter Olympic athletes. The winter Olympics are supposed to obviously be the winter edition of the summer Olympics. However, I believe the winter Olympics should not use the 5-ring logo that the summer Olympics use and should not even be considered a real Olympics. It should be referred to as the Winter Games. The reason I say this is because the winter games have some major differences from the summer Olympics and it makes them considerably less important.

First, the basic premise of the Olympics is that all countries compete in a wide range of sports in a sportsman like, yet competitive manner. The summer Olympics do just that, with only a few exceptions where certain countries did not participate (usually due to political reasons). By in large, every country in the world and even some places that are not even considered to be countries participate in the summer Olympics, 205 nations took part in the 2008 Beijing Olympics last time as an example. Compare that number to the 80 nations that competed in the last winter Olympics, less than half of the total. That right there should be enough to for anyone to see the two events are simply not on the same level.

The next major point I have to make for the winter version to be called the Winter Games and not an Olympics is the number of competitive events that take place. The summer Olympics have over 300 events, versus the 80 something that the winter games have. Many countries do not have the climate necessary for athletes to participate in these events all together. Another point related to that is the athletes themselves. I think just about every American and Canadian (not to mention every other country in the world, but that would just make my argument too easy) can name at least 7-10 summer Olympic athletes. If anyone gets stuck after Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt they can just go down the list of NBA stars like Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh just to name a few. I challenge you to do the same for the winter games…..I thought so.

Another important fact in this discussion is the host cities for the two events. Take the summer Olympic hosts like Tokyo, Rome, Los Angeles and Paris. All these cities are either the largest city or second largest in that country. Now look at these past winter Olympic hosts from the same countries: Nagano, Torino, Salt Lake City and Grenoble. I have no doubt that many people never even heard of some of these cities before the winter games took place there and many of you probably forgot they exist now that the games have long passed.

I also feel obliged to discuss the dollar figures associated with these two events as this is a business blog after all. Reports suggested that the Beijing Olympics in 2008 had costs of just under $20 Billion. Compare that with cost estimates for the 2010 Vancouver games pitted at around $2 Billion. It is tough to know how real these numbers are for several reasons but, the massive range clearly indicates that the winter games are simply on a much lower level than the summer Olympics and thus, should not be considered as its equal.