One of the most popular sports at the 2004 Games did not give medals out to its participants. Admiring Olympic cheerleaders became a favorite pastime for many who attended the Athens Games, and the cheerleaders' popularity led the Beijing Olympic Committee to put together their own cheerleading squads (photo gallery here).
Over 400 cheerleaders have spent the last week entertaining fans throughout venues in Beijing. According to the official Olympic website, most of the cheerleaders were chosen through contests run by official Olympic and gymnastics committees.
So why can't we see Olympic cheerleaders on television? This is the $100 question that I have been asked several times over the last few weeks, and the answer is? There is no good answer. The only thing I can think is that the IOC and/or NBC received complaints after the cheerleaders' first appearance four years ago (although NBCOlympics.com does feature many photos of the women).
Maybe they they are afraid of seeing a cheerleader have a wardrobe malfunction. But it's not as if these Olympic cheerleaders are any different than their American counterparts. In fact, the New England Patriots cheerleading squad was brought to Beijing earlier this year to train cheerleading hopefuls about the basics of the sport.
Why spend all the money and time getting these cheerleaders ready to perform if you can't show them off to the entire world? Because they wear skimpy outfits in some cases? This doesn't seem to bother most people in Beijing, so why should the IOC or NBC care?
"Some of them are wearing a bit too little maybe, but I can accept it," said 53-year-old Beijing accountant Li Shuqin."I think we're quite open now. This sort of thing is normal now on TV," said Li.
I couldn't agree more. I don't see what the big problem is. The cheerleaders are there to entertain fans, why can't they also entertain the fans who aren't lucky enough to have a ticket? They have already become very popular with Olympic enthusiasts, so why pretend like they don't exist? We want more!
If you want to see a little more of these cheerleaders in action, check out our Olympic cheerleader photo gallery.
Photos via Getty Images