1. They're predictable. the largest share of medals go to the largest-income countries. Though, someone clever has created this chart showing medals by population size. The Czechs are currently doing the best in Gold per million people, the Aussies in total medals per million.
2. They're the same every 4 years. Can you really tell me the difference between the synchronized diving even this year and the one in 2004? Is there any new routine being invented in gymnastics? 100 meter dash is still the 100 meter dash, oddly enough.
3. I believe most scores are driven by randomness. Take diving, for instance. Every athlete competing is capable of a perfect-form dive but each has their own probability of performing it in a given jump. Out of 100 jumps, each diver would have a wide range of scores. What matters, though, are the few jumps that the diver makes that are being judged. If a person gets lucky and has his least-probable yet most-perfect form dive when being judged, he advances. So, the worst diver can advance by being lucky. My guess is that the probabilities are not all that different among divers, and that's how it is in many sports being judged.
4. The judging is subjective anyway. Past Olympic judging scandals aside, a person decides whether or not a competitor's routine was harder or better performed. There are few objective criteria. And if a judge blinks during a routine he/she misses something critical.
The exception to this are the sports that professional athletes compete in-- basketball, soccer, etc. And these are fairly fun to watch, I admit.
5. There's a war on, you know. I don't remember what newspaper I read it in, but there was an op-ed that essentially stated "I bet the Georgian government figured out that the U.S. wasn't going to be all that helpful when they turned on the TV and saw Bush embrace Putin before the opening ceremonies, saw him take brief time outs from watching Olympic events to chat with Putin before hurrying back to cheering, and spent his days doing this:"
6. I don't think rooting for the U.S. national teams = patriotism. Patriotism is being an informed voter. It's not littering because you want to keep your land beautiful. It's standing up for freedom and democracy. It's not Team USA blowing out the Chinese national basketball team. I think the bronze medal 4 years ago united American efforts behind a common goal more than anything since Sputnik. I talked with someone who skipped church on Sunday to watch the basketball game. "The Chinese teams are just... rude." She badly wanted to see them get beaten badly.
We're (technically) still the #1 economy in the world (see #1 above), so I expect to be at the top of the medal-earning list. If not us, then China. Fact of life. *Yawn*