I have to say that the Olympics are the biggest distraction to come around since Facebook. I mean, how can you NOT follow the drama? Michael Phelps, the Redeem Team, Usain Bolt, let alone the whole side story of human rights, pollution, and underage gymnasts in China?
What is amazing about the Olympics is that they epitomize competition. It isn't necessarily the best gauge of who is best, but it is the best competition in the world. In this competition, you have the world's best athletes all together in one place, showcasing their abilities for the world to watch.
I cannot think of any other venue that attracts the world's best talent and have the entire world watching at the same time. The World Cup might be the next closest thing, but soccer is just one sport.
There is something rare about athletic competition that brings people together. No math competition (despite the dreams of Math Counts competitors and their math teachers) would bring such a huge drawing. I think the factor that comes into play is how easily comprehensible every sport is. You could distill every competition into an easily understandable form -- fastest time, most # of points, best form. And even more important, every observer can easily be a judge of the competition. Every observer can make their own call about if a punch was landed, a landing was stuck, or the finish line crossed. Right or wrong, everyone can become involved with sports. Once you take away the simplicity of sports or the competitive nature of sports, people stop paying attention.
These same factors are the driving force behind the success of American Idol, Project Runway, and my current favorite -- America's Best Dance Crew.
Where am I going with this post? I'm not really sure...I think I'm blabbering and on some tangent now.
But the Olympic stage reminds me of the trend in casual gaming. For casual games to explode, they really need to distill the game down to an easily understandable form. More importantly, they also need to have a competitive factor that motivates people to stay involved. Easy for me to say...hard for you to do. That's why I'll just stick to what I know and watch Usain Bolt demolish other sprinters.