Dachokie's Reviews > The Secret Olympian: The inside story of the Olympic experience

The Secret Olympian by Anonymous
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's review
Jul 11, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: sports
Read from July 11 to 17, 2012

Never Found the Secret ... or a Reason for the Author's Anonymity ...

With the 2012 Summer Olympics starting in a few weeks, my Olympic Fever was brought out of remission early after reading an online sampling of THE SECRET OLYMPIAN. The tantalizing summary of a book that gives an insider's view of the Games was too much to pass up. Even more enticing was the fact that the author preferred anonymity ... alluding to the revelation of some deep and damaging stuff. What better way to start watching the Games than finding the disgusting and disturbing filth that hides behind the triumphant pomp and circumstance of the Olympics? Would this landmark expose turn my view of the Olympics upside-down and tear down everything that I thought was righteous and holy about the greatest sports show on the planet? Unfortunately, THE SECRET OLYMPIAN proved to be a false start, scratch, fault or any other sport-specific analogy I haven't listed. While vaguely informative on a superficial level, there really isn't enough evidence provided to earn the use of the word "secret" in the book's title and certainly no real justification for the author's anonymity.

This book had a lot of promise, but ended up being a rather ho-hum (and brief) summary of journal entries by a British athlete who participated in the Athens Games (2004). The chapters of the book are separated by the steps of the Olympic experience ... more simply, a before, during and after story. The anonymous author leads each chapter with a summary of his own personal experience in italics (basically a journal entry). The rest of the chapter is comprised of other Olympians' take on the chapter's subject matter. The contributing Olympians cover a span that goes back as far as the 1960 Summer Games.

While there are some interesting details such as the literal pounds of free stuff (kit) heaped on the athletes and some of the nuances associated with life in the Olympic Village, there simply isn't anything provided that should get readers overly excited. Quite frankly, I found the author's take on the Olympics to be sadly akin to exam week in college with exams being the events and grades being the medals. Even the tempered revelry of those who finished competition in order to respect the peace and quiet needed for those who haven't yet competed, echoes dorm-life during exam week. The author does shine light on all the over-sexed condom use as being a lot of hype (after seeing individuals from the Indian Olympic team hording hundreds of the logo-encased condoms to sell as souvenirs). Anon also taps the surface of few scandals that most of the world already knows about (US Hockey team disgrace in Nagano, the `roid use of Ben Johnson and Marion Jones) but never really digs deeper to unearth anything new or shocking. Certainly nothing, at least superficially, that would warrant the necessity of anonymity. The supportive commentary from other Olympians is mostly milquetoast page fodder that simply follows the author's lead ... safe and somewhat dull. With the experience of 50 years to draw from, one would expect a lot more compelling stories being told. With that being said, the Winter Olympics is pretty much ... er ... left out in the cold by this book.

Most of the athletes contributing to the book participated in athletic events that are more popular outside the United States (men's field hockey, fencing, rowing, etc), so American readers may be disappointed in the lack of perspective from sports they are more familiar with. I do not believe, however, that this is the problem with the book. The main issue, in my opinion, is the lack of gossipy expose material. No juicy details of shenanigans within the Olympic Village, corruption amongst the judges and officials or host-city horrors ... just a humble account of one Olympian's somewhat uneventful experience. With Olympic Games of the past 50 years covered, one would expect an almost limitless source of material to be revealed. Another sticking point is that I found a lack of passion in the author's story and this lack of passion, excitement and detail makes the entire book seem like a 215 page ramble. THE SECRET OLYMPIAN simply doesn't live up to its hyped title or the need for the author to be anonymous ... I was expecting more, much more.
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