Reason covers the many reasons, most of which are nonsense:
- The end of the mostly-fake-but-still-compelling fiction that participants were “amateurs” who competed out of mere love of the game.
- A fuller understanding of just how much cheating went on among the athletes. First, it was the massive revelations about juicing by Iron Curtain teams but post-Cold War, it became clear that many Western athletes (Ben Johnson! FloJo! Marion Jones!) who won our hearts were faking it too (except for Carl Lewis, the greatest track and field Olympian yet one who was never fully embraced by the crowds, either).
- The mainstreaming of sports TV and the ability of less-popular sports to gain an audience independent of the Olympics.
- The disturbing spectacle of the Games being hosted by tyrannical and/or bankrupt countries and cities that wasted huge amounts of money on conspicuous consumption (Beijing, Moscow and Sochi, and Athens obviously, but let’s never forget Montreal too!).
- An endless stream of scandals implicating national-level Olympic Committees but also the IOC itself in just terrible, terrible behavior.
- The growth in cosmopolitanism around the globe, meaning that we are no longer as mesmerized by “exotic” athletes from foreign countries.
- Oscar Pistorius.
- Bob Costas.
- Rick Wakeman’s 1976 soundtrack to the Innsbruck Winter Games, White Rock.
- Brazil’s political instability, Zika problems, and inability to control sewage.
- The long, acrid hangover from the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, during which the Palestinian terrorist group Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches. In the wake of the murders, the head of the IOC, American Avery Brundage, famously declared that “the Games must go on,” despite “two savage attacks.” For Brundage, a lifelong racist and personal friend of Adolf Hitler (as head of the USOC during the ’36 Games in Berlin, Brundage watch track and field competitions from der Fuhrer’s box and pressured the American track coach to sideline Jewish runners), the second “attack” during the ’72 Games was a threatened boycott of the Olympics by African nations if apartheid Rhodesia was allowed to compete. Beyond all that, endless boycotts for this or that reason, usually tied to politics, not athletics.
- The Olympics, designed as a means by which France might avenge its loss in the Franco-Prussian War, is explicitly nationalistic in a world that is moving toward greater individualism.
- “The Olympics matter less because we live in a better world, one filled with innumerable options for leisure and one mostly—though by no means completely—free from the most onerous aspects of geopolitical strife. We live in a world where nations matter less than individuals, a reality that is mirrored by the increasing number of ‘nation-hopping’ Olympians.” And the rise of an actual “refugee team.”
- The IOC’s insane attempt to control and regiment all aspects of the Games on the Internet, including a prohibition on GIFS, Vines, and other home-brewed content. Apart from all the scandals, the IOC is the athletic equivalent of Metallica, busting the balls of its most-fervent fans in the hope of squeezing a few more nickels out of a dying franchise.
On the plus side, the Olympic torch carrier sprinting to get away from gunshots in a nearby favela has already provided more entertainment than any three recent Olympics.