Olympic rower Megan Kalmoe will represent the United States in her third Olympics. She is on her way to Rio. She had some strong thoughts about media coverage.
Kalmoe does not appreciate the “tactics” of major Western media outlets covering the Olympics believing they are “flat out embarrassing.”
At a very basic level, the tactics selected by many of the major western media outlets covering the Games are just flat-out embarrassing. Everywhere I look, I read negative stories and op-eds – and the resulting comment threads (yikes) – that express outrage and disgust, disappointment and disapproval of the conditions that short-term visitors like athletes and spectators will be forced to endure for all of two weeks this summer while they participate in the Olympics. They do not mention the countless Brazilian citizens who live their whole lives in Rio and don’t complain; they offer no solutions for their readership to pitch in and help to make things better for the visiting delegations they so pity (let alone long-term solutions for the population of Brazil!); all from the comfort of their figurative armchairs, the majority of these great thinkers and contributors having never been a part of the Olympic Movement, or themselves been to Rio. As a culture, could we possibly be more entitled, ignorant and embarrassingly egocentric?
We would point out that thousands of the quite countable Brazilians are in the streets protesting conditions in their country. But, that would be inaccurate. The number is in the millions.
Kalmoe asserts that the American media should be more grateful because she’s there competing for us.
And that hurts. Because we are doing this for you, after all. We are American, and we are going to Rio to represent you in this potentially flawed and imperfect setting that you are trying so desperately to get the public to love to hate. We are going to compete for medals to bring them home to you, and for you so that the US has a good shot at winning the medal tally again in Rio. We go to Rio and face incredible odds, some of us, for you so that you will be proud of us, and proud of supporting Team USA. We are supposed to be a team – all of us – and those of you covering our stories, and those of you resting comfortably in your intellectual armchairs are supposed to have our backs.
Dear Ms. Kalmoe,
You are not doing this for us. You are not a member of the military. Competing at sports is not a great sacrifice for the nation. It’s a chosen pursuit, sadly more lucrative in some sports than in others. You will “row through shit” for yourself. Your overriding concern here seems to be attention being drawn away from your event.
Media members are not your teammates. They don’t and should not wear “rally caps.” They are there to cover news. Why does the media focus on things like crime, violent policing, environmental destruction, the near complete meltdown of a corrupt government, the terrible infrastructure, or the possible exacerbation of a global health pandemic in Brazil? Because that’s news.
Serious real life things are happening to real life people. Things that (gasp!) may overshadow the results of an Olympic rowing competition.
Why did the media fixate on the air pollution in China when you went to the Olympics in 2008? Because it’s a horrific problem, that takes a toll of thousands of Chinese lives…per day. That’s before one gets to the impact unchecked Chinese pollution and growth may have on the broader climate.
Covering the unsavory things going in Brazil during the Olympics is not “insulting” the Brazilian people. Ignoring them in service of a jingoistic schmaltz assault would be an abdication of responsibility to them. The media fixates on the negative things and exposes them because otherwise no one else will.
If you want “Western” outlets to lead the bandwagon and gloss over the human impact of rampant corruption, there may be some “Eastern” outlets better suited to your tastes.