Why Watching the Olympics in the United States is Better

… from the perspective of someone who spent the first 18 years of her life in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.


via bludgeoner86 on Flickr

1. There’s More Than Just One Medal
When you grow up in a country that has only won two medals in its entire Olympic history, the race for a single medal is a huge deal. The whole country rallies behind the one event, and the media hypes behind the sport like crazy. But it’s over in a day. The United States goes into every Olympic Games expecting to medal nearly every single day, which means the excitement continues for three solid weeks.

2. U.S. Commercials Are A Part of the Olympic Games
Compared to watching the low-production, terrible commercials I watched in Singapore growing up, American commercials are like blockbuster movies. First, all the ads are made specifically for the Olympics. While you may come to expect this, this is not normal. There’s so much money to be made in U.S. television that huge corporate advertisers like Coca-Cola or Citibank will make high-production commercials with people like Michael Phelps or Nastia Liukin, all rooting for Team USA. This was not the case for Singapore television back in 2004, which featured the same, boring, terrible ads that were played at any other time. In the United States, the commercials are a part of the spirit of the Olympics.

3. The U.S. Media Builds a Narrative for U.S. Athletes
With world-class coverage from outlets like NBC and The New York Times focused squarely on Team USA, there’s so much to learn and read about athletes from the U.S. National Team. Wired Magazine taught me all about the technology behind training Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones. The New York Times built a neat infographic that showed how Lochte defeated Phelps in yesterday’s 400 IM. NBC has an inside look at the famous Karolyi gymnastics ranch near Houston (which interests me because of my -shameful- addiction to this ABC Family show), and airs a primetime Olympics wrap-up every night. And I’ve never forgotten this incredible “Olympic Musical” interactive graphic from the 2010 Winter Olympics.

With so much information and storytelling, and a clear focus on Team USA, watching the Olympics in the United States is FUN. I know all of the athletes by name, I know all of their personal stories, and I know what I should be watching for. There were so few Singaporean athletes competing, and they so rarely won, that there wasn’t a clear focus in the media. Every day we’d be watching a different star athlete from a different country, and I rarely knew their story. And sometimes, Singapore’s star athletes aren’t even from Singapore, but imported to help us win a medal.

4. It’s History in the Making
Every time we talk about Michael Phelps, we bring up his “Golden 8” in Beijing, and Mark Spitz. This year’s U.S. Gymnastics team is following in the footsteps of the Magnificent Seven. To this day, everyone still talks about the 1980 Miracle on Ice and the 1992 Dream Team. The United States has such an incredible collection of inspiring stories and heroic athletes that every time the Olympics rolls around, you know you’re watching history in the making. That’s pretty neat.

5. And as my American boyfriend says: “Of course it’s better. We always win.”