The most popular spectator sport in the U.S. (football) is not represented in the Olympics at all, nor is the most popular sport world-wide (football, aka soccer). At the opposite end of the spectrum are minor sports that no one even knows exist, except once every four years when we see them briefly at the Olympic games, for example kayaking, archery and my personal favorite, the two-man luge.
Figure skating is in the middle. Our sport attracts a certain live and television audience for National and World Championships, and for a few other high profile events. Still, historically, many people tune in only for the winter Olympics -- at which figure skating is the marquee event.
It seems to me that in the last few years circumstances have conspired to bring the regular skating seasons into sharper focus and to diminish the role of the Olympics as the only show in town. Some of these factors are:
1. The judging scandals and the perception that Olympic victories are more about corrupt politics than about sport.
2. The success and popularity of skating icons such as Michelle Kwan, Irina Slutskaya, Todd Eldredge, Elvis Stoyko and Kurt Browning, with multiple National and World Championships but no Olympic gold medal...In contrast with...
3. The feeling that many recent Olympic champions were not really the best in the sport, only the luckiest on that day. This is especially true for those who disappear from the sport immediately after their victory.
4. We have so many blockbuster “entertainment event of the century” things going on all the time (the super bowl, March madness, Wimbledon, the Masters). The big sports people in the U.S. are not Olympians, but those who win major championships in their individual sports (Michael Jordan, Serena Williams -- she’s on TV right now! -- Tiger Woods.)
What do you think? Are the Olympics fading away as the big whoop of figure skating?