more milk

Why Aren’t the Olympics More Like This?

What a beautiful Olympics this could be. Photo: Getty Images

Listen, I love the Olympics, and before the pandemic shunted them to summer 2021, it would not have occurred to me to suggest tweaks to the lineup. But now that we have begun an unfortunately Olympics-free August, I hope the International Olympic Committee will take this time to productively retool the events to better suit our new reality. Specifically, I hope it will consider the addition of niche challenges. For example, instead of asking athletes to do a set number of laps in the fewest number of seconds (predictable, we’ve seen it), why not ask them to do the thing while balancing a full glass of milk on their heads, in however many seconds or minutes it takes — just don’t dump any dairy in the water? As five-time gold medalist Katie Ledecky demonstrated in a recent “Got Milk?” ad, this makes for surprisingly gripping content. IOC, take notes.

On Monday, Ledecky posted a video to her social-media accounts in which she swims the length of a pool with a glass of (chocolate?) milk on her head and does not spill at all. Not even a tiny drop. Indeed, the dang glass remains as steady as if glued to her crown, while she paddles a smooth, snorkeled freestyle. It feels very much like a look-at-this-neat-trick-I-learned-while-bored-in-quarantine moment but is captivating nonetheless. Who can balance a glass of milk on her head while sitting stationary, let alone swimming? Next to no one, which is probably how the video successfully maintains all the riveting tension of your classic Olympic competition.

Crucially, though, prioritizing stability over speed would in many cases eliminate the need for athletes to engage in side-by-side races, and that seems like a safer sporting alternative for our possibly pandemic-ridden future. To reiterate my colleague Emilia Petrarca’s question upon watching the video, I would ask, “Why aren’t the Olympics more like this?”

Apparently, we are not the only ones wondering.

Great news for the IOC, then, that it now has basically a year to make the adjustments necessary to give the people what they want. Which is, for once, milk.

Why Aren’t the Olympics More Like This?