I love the Olympics. And my love predates the Olympic Channel (and the recent Olympic Channel cancellation).
The first Games in my memory took place in Seoul in 1988.
Florence Griffith Joyner was the star of those Olympics, but I remember being fascinated by men’s volleyball. The Americans (with Karch Kiraly) took down the Soviets in the gold medal game. You can watch it here:
Why do I love the Olympics so much?
Most sports are filled with stars playing on million-dollar contracts and who make millions more through endorsements.
Most Olympic athletes are different.
Yes, there are well-known, well-compensated athletes like Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Mikaela Shiffrin. But, for most athletes, while their athletic careers are part-time endeavors, their Olympic dreams never sleep.
And then there’s the scarcity of the Olympics. They only come around once every four years per athlete! (Though some Olympians, like Lolo Jones, find a way to crossover from summer to winter.)
If an Olympian fails, he or she has to wait another four years for a second chance. Lots can happen in four years, and that second chance may not come around at all.
For these reasons (and others listed below), I loved watching the Olympic Channel. Sadly, NBC is canceling it. I received this message from Hulu (my live TV provider) this week:
Hey, I’m a realist. I’m sure the Olympic Channel’s ratings were bottom of the barrel. But I do think it served a purpose, and I will miss it greatly.
With that in mind, and so we don’t forget, here are the 4 reasons why I loved watching the Olympic Channel.
1. Get to Know the Athletes
When I was a kid, I would get to know the Olympians through Sports Illustrated’s preview issue.
In the modern age, I’ve been getting to know Olympians through the Olympic Channel.
My family spends the weeks and months leading up to the Olympics watching the U.S. qualifiers. Those qualifiers (in track and field, in swimming, and in other sports) introduced us to America’s best.
By the time the Olympics rolled around, we knew who to watch and cheer for.
2. Keep Up With Olympic Sports Year-Round
I always get sad when the Olympics end. After months of anticipation, you get weeks of Games. And they’re over. Just like that.
I remember sitting in my bedroom on the day of the closing ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Games. NBC aired a montage of the best highlights, and I found myself in a deep melancholy.
Here it is:
The Olympic Channel aired world championships, Alpine Ski World Cup events, plus more. I could turn on the Olympic Channel at any time and watch the same athletes doing their thing — only away from the bright lights.
3. Great Daytime TV
I work in an office by myself. I like to turn on the TV to make some noise and make the office feel less lonely. I use golf tournaments as background noise on Thursdays and Fridays from spring to late summer. The rest of the time, I use the Olympic Channel.
At least I used to.
I might have to switch to soap operas or cable news now.
4. Relive the Games Again and Again
The Olympic Channel aired a great “Return To” series. Return to Tokyo would show the best events from the Summer Olympics. Return to Beijing would do the same for the Winter Olympics.
The Return To series made me feel like the Olympics never really ended. Now that the Olympic Channel is ending, I’m in for an ever longer wait before Paris 2024 begins.
Will Anyone Else Miss the Olympic Channel?
Am I alone in feeling this way? Given that the Olympic Channel is going away, the ratings must have been abysmal. I’ve also read that NBC is moving to more of a streaming model for Olympics-related content, so maybe I’ll need to switch to an app.
If you will miss the Olympic Channel, let us know why in the comments below.