Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.

This sentiment has been echoed in every sport, at all levels of competition, and throughout time. Legacies have been sealed, fortunes have been made, legends have been forged on the back of victory. History remembers winners, not losers. Would we even know who Michael Jordan was even if he hadn’t won six championships? Would we even care about Babe Ruth if the Yankees weren’t so dominate? Would Jesse Owens have become part of American folklore if he didn’t defeat all challengers in Germany?

Matt Blitz is a writer based out of Los Angeles who’s written for Atlas Obscura, CNN, Untapped Cities, and Today I Found Out. He’s currently the head of Obscura Society LA. He does laundry on a regular basis. You can follow him on Twitter @whyblitz.

The Winter Olympics are, in essence, about putting things on your feet. This is a function of the weather. You cannot go barefoot into the snow and ice. In the summer, you can run around with nothing on at all. That’s what the ancient Greeks used to do when they had their Olympic games. You can see pictures of it on ancient vase paintings. The Greeks jumped and ran and threw things in a state of total nudity. The Olympic games — in their original form more than two thousand years ago — were about the beauty, grace, and possibility of the human body in its purity. 

Morgan Meis has a PhD in Philosophy and is a founding member of Flux Factory, an arts collective in New York. He has written for n+1, The Believer, Harper’s Magazine, and The Virginia Quarterly Review. He won… More…

Should writing poems be an Olympic event? — K. Stevenson

I’m glad you asked that. I’ve been thinking of something similar for a long time. I don’t think that poetry should be an Olympic event per se, because writing poetry involves our mental resources more than our physical ones, but some competitive event, definitely, should be established for writers of poetry. I’ve been thinking about a competitive poetry reality series similar to what singers have in American Idol, what dancers have in So You Think You Can Dance, what fashion designers have in Project Runway, and what contortionists, comedians, musicians, and other miscellaneous artists have in America’s Got Talent. Even spoken word poets have slam competitions, but what competitive event do shy, awkward poets with speech impediments have? Nothing! Nothing, at least, that can infiltrate the mainstream as these other competitions do, and I think we should change that. Poet… More…

People in Chicago were stunned by the announcement that their city was out of the running for the 2016 Olympics after just the first round of voting. Everyone had expected a positive result, particularly after Chicago son Barack Obama got involved. Was it Chicago’s reputation for corruption and strong-arm tactics? If Chicago had been announced as the victor, it may have looked as though the committee bowed to pressure. Or maybe it was the fact that the world does not seem to know what to make of modern-day Chicago. The Olympics were going to be Richard Daley’s legacy: the reintroduction of Chicago to the international community.

Chicago: A Biography by Dominic A. Pacyga. 472 pages. University of Chicago. $35.

Any recognizable narrative of Chicago ended around the second World War, when the population of the city started to drop. The industries… More…

 

“China is the most unresolved nation of consequence in the world.” — Orville Schell, Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society

Travel vs. Tourism

Paul Fussell, in his nostalgic travel book Abroad, described the difference between travel and tourism: Travel is authentic and surprising; tourism, packaged and predictable. Fussell claimed that the former, in our market-driven, homogenized society, has been more or less superseded by the latter: not just cities but countries, too, have been turned into “pseudo-places or tourist commonwealths, whose function is simply to entice tourists and sell them things.”

My sentiments exactly. And why I tend to balk at the idea of going anywhere, especially to faraway, inconvenient places — like China. I was sure that a two-week, organized trip to China, which my husband had arranged when I was… More…

 

If the Olympic Village descends into orgiastic debauchery this summer — as it did during the 2004 Olympics, when 130,000 free condoms were given away along with 30,000 sachets of lubricant, or during the 2000 Sydney Games, when the Durex supply had to be supplemented with an emergency shipment of 20,000 extras — athletes in Beijing will be only be upholding the finest traditions of classical Greece. Back in Plato’s day, sex and sport were always intertwined: In classical gymnasiums, Greeks competed stark naked beneath a statue of Eros, and the workout rooms were prime pick-up spots. In the first Olympic Village — an enclave in the rural city of Elis where, every fourth year, the cream of ancient athletes gathered for 30 days before the Games — this lusty atmosphere reached a frenzied pitch, with groupies arriving… More…

Figure skating is the quintessential American sport, not merely because it is fiercely individualistic while at the same time incredibly conformist, but also because the athletes and fans, like the American electorate, have an extraordinarily high tolerance for corruption. It is surprising that the sport is not more popular in the U.S. It has long been the most popular sport in the Winter Olympics, but that is probably damning with faint praise because winter sports tend not to be very popular spectator sports, what with the standing out in the cold and all that. Still, figure skating has experienced a marked decline in popularity in recent years, so much so that the United States Figure Skating Association, now known simply as U.S. Figure Skating, lost its long-standing television contract with ABC and has had to accept what is rumored to be a much less lucrative arrangement with NBC.

There has… More…