Obstacle Course Racing and the Olympics, or “Why?”

If I wanted to troll OCR Facebook groups, which they certainly deserve but on the other hand, how is it possible not to be better than that, I would post the following article to them:

Climbing Passes Major Hurdle on Road to 2020 Olympics,” Climbing, June 2, 2016.

I don’t think it’s hard to predict the types of responses such a post would get: a chorus of cries of injustice at OCR’s continued overlookedness, probably pointing at the current batch of top OCR athletes as exemplars of what Olympic athletes ought to be, as well as a (probably significantly smaller) chorus of vows to renew efforts to get OCR into the Olympics (without a lot of detail of how one does that, particularly if one isn’t working for a sport’s governing body. Does that exist for OCR, by the way, apart from the individual companies that put on races? I’ve kind of lost track). Also there would probably be a lot of words in ALL CAPS and a LOT of EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!! because OCR Facebook groups tend to be populated by people who do that. (I lurk on several, and finally decided to drop out of Spartan 4-0 when I realized that their claim to be a group for mature Spartan racers meant that it was a group of people who are mature in the sense of a racist grandma who just got an email account.)

But I wonder if asking “why?” wouldn’t be useful. Specifically, why does anyone want OCR in the Olympics?

Okay, well, we could start at its most prominent advocate. Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena wants it in. I don’t know that he’s ever officially said why (the best I found in a very quick and decidedly non-comprehensive Google search was that there aren’t other sports that “capture the true spirit of the Olympic games the same way Obstacle Racing Does“). I assume that he thinks it would be good for business, and it would be good for ego as well. (And despite the bluntness with which I say both of those things, I don’t think either is wrong: we’re all in this life for ourselves, and that can often lead to creating good for others as well. And, as Community put it: Astronauts don’t go to the moon because they hate oxygen, they go to impress the girls who rejected them in high school.)

And I get that the Olympics traditionally have a cachet. I mean, the first Olympics of my memory was 1984, that patriotic smorgasbord when the USA was clearly the best, because none of the other countries that were any good at anything came in retaliation for our boycott in 1980. But everyone sure got a lot of free crap from McDonald’s!

But how much Olympic cachet is left, and how much will be left in four or eight years? There’s, apparently, a bunch of medals from the past few Olympics in jeopardy due to better drug testing, which kind of suggests that the whole point of the Olympics these days is to cheat as much as you can without getting caught while making sure that everybody else gets caught for the same cheating. And bribery scandals. Even badminton seems to be a total den of crapulence. And terrorism. And Zika. And so on.

If OCR gets into the Olympics, there would suddenly be a bunch of national federations viewing it as a potential tick in their quest for medal standing supremacy. Would that lead to wackadoodleness? Probably; when goals are set so clearly, means of achieving them are frequently not judged too carefully. Is it worth it to OCR to invite them into the sport?

Hard to say. And that’s a genuine “I don’t know” rather than a passive-aggressive, you’ll-be-sorry “I don’t know.” Lots of sports have had scandals and gone on to do really well, and the added exposure may well be worth the headaches.

I’m into OCR as a participant, rather than a spectator, so I don’t particularly care if it ever makes it into the Olympics. And the Olympics seem to be becoming more of a slog, or maybe an excuse for posturing, than an expression of peace and joy through sport, which only increases my indifference. (To roughly 750 words, if you’re counting!)

But ultimately, I hope that the sport gets what it wants. Or, more accurately, that it wants what it gets.


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Filed under Commentary, Funny, Obstacle Course Racing

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