Five-ring Circus

Best Jobs at the Olympics: Bobsled Decorator

Germany's 4-man bobsled on the track, the Olympic rings and Beijing 2022 logo on the ice
Your art. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images.

Nominee: Bobsled decorator

Where to find them: Yangqing National Sliding Center

Job description: Decorate the bobsleds, help people differentiate between the bobsleds, don’t take public credit for the bobsleds

Why this might be the best job at the Olympics: You have a very important role. As bobsled decorator, you are responsible for “fancying up” one or more of the bobsleds that will be used in Olympic competition. It is your job to transform these sleds from barren husks of metal into curvy, aerodynamic works of art. Using high-gloss paints, and possibly also low-gloss paints if they fit into your design scheme, you will make these sleds come alive with vaguely patriotic imagery and national abbreviations. It is not out of the question that you might also be allowed to use stickers. No relevant art supplies will be withheld from you, the bobsled decorator.

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You provide a necessary logistical function. As bobsled decorator, you give casual viewers the means by which to tell one country’s bobsled from another country’s bobsled. Without your decorative labors, every sled would just look like an old septic tank on skates. “Guess they’ve got a bunch of plumbers in the Olympics now,” viewers would say, shaking their heads sadly as they changed the channel over to a Shark Tank rerun. It is because of you, and only you, that those viewers stick around. You will be hailed as the savior of NBC’s bobsled ratings. The president of the network will send you a nice cutting board as a thank-you gift.

Your work instills a sense of national pride in the bobsledders with whom you work, and this pride will make them sled faster. “Our impeccably decorated sled accurately captures the beauty of our glorious homeland,” the bobsledders will say. “The faster we sled, the sooner we can get back there.” Your bobsled decorations will cause many new Olympic records to be set. You will be the first person thanked in several induction speeches for the Bobsled Hall of Fame.

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As bobsled decorator, your work will get lots of exposure. For the duration of the Olympics, in fact, you will become one of the most viewed and talked-about artists in the whole world. The cognoscenti will discuss you in their dimly lit salons. You will be constantly pestered by gallerists hoping to represent you. Your friends from art school will speak of you with envy. “Seven years ago we were all smoking clove cigarettes together,” they will say. “Now, our classmate is a world-renowned bobsled decorator.”

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Though you are not an official bobsled competitor, you are assuredly part of the team. The bobsledders will clap you on the back and ask you to join in their drinking games. When you prove capable of holding your liquor, they will have even more respect for you. You will be asked to officiate many bobsled weddings.

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Unlike your Sliding Center colleague the luge patroller, who would likely get fired for showing too much “personality” while at work, no one will blink an eye if you show up one day wearing too much eyeliner and a My Chemical Romance T-shirt. “That’s just how artists are,” the other workers will say, reverentially. They will talk among themselves, and wonder if you know Gerard Way.

As bobsled decorator, you will embody the Olympic spirit for sensitive souls who do not really care for sports. You will be asked to give talks to gifted children, in which you will encourage them to follow their passions. “Though the bobsled is my canvas, the entire world could be your canvas,” you will say. You will inspire an entire generation of unathletic children to dream big.

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Why this might not be the best job at the Olympics: Though your art will be seen by the world, it will not be seen very clearly. Olympic bobsleds go very fast and are almost always in motion, making it difficult for the casual viewer to gain a detailed appreciation for your work. “Cool stars on that bobsled,” people will say, which will make you furious, because they weren’t stars at all: They were bedazzled hexagons. You will blast these people in an aggrieved Twitter thread that makes liberal use of the words cretins and Philistines. A writer for Slate will use your tweets as fodder for an article that deems you an Olympics Jerk.

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Even though millions of people will admire your work, they will not know that it is your work. Your name is not on the bobsled, after all, even though by all rights it should be. The obscurity in which you labor will gnaw at you. “More people need to know about me, the bobsled decorator,” you will say. Eventually you will sneak your signature onto the underside of the bobsled just before a run, and the excess weight of the paint you used to sign it will cause the sled to overturn coming out of a curve. You will soon learn to be careful what you wish for.

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You may one day run out of both high-gloss and low-gloss paint, which will really put you in a jam. You will send out for several dozen eggs to try and whip up some tempera on short notice, only to realize too late that tempera is not a great bobsled paint. The hideous results will dispirit the athletes, and will cause them to sled slower. “Our sloppily decorated sled dishonors our beloved homeland,” they will say as they scoot listlessly down the track. You will be responsible for many new Olympic records, but not the good sorts of records. You will be inducted into the Bobsled Hall of Shame.

You are sort of a sellout, and you know it. In art school you dreamed of making challenging art that might change the world. Instead, you ended up making what are effectively mobile propaganda posters for the state. You won’t blame your art school friends for shit-talking you behind your back. You will understand why Gerard Way no longer takes your calls.

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There will be one meathead bobsledder who does not think of you as part of the team. He will mock you for your eyeliner and for your clove cigarettes. “It’s called bobsled, not nerdsled,” he will say over and over. He will “accidentally” spill his beer on you so many times that you will realize it was never an accident. You will lose your zest for the decorative arts. You will withdraw into yourself and develop a seething hatred for “jocks” of all sorts. You will be tempted to become an incel.

How this could be a better job at the Olympics: The bobsled decorator could get overtime pay by also being the bobsled interior decorator.

Verdict: I’ll give bobsled decorator 1 out of 3 for exposure, because, let’s face it, the cognoscenti will lose interest in you as soon as the Olympics are over. 3 out of 3 for enjoyability, because bobsled weddings are the best weddings. 2 out of 3 for enviability, because it would actually be sort of cool to be inducted into the Bobsled Hall of Shame. And 1 out of 1 in the category of “Can you wear a funny hat in this job,” because wearing a funny hat is exactly the sort of thing that people expect an “artsy” person to do. 7 out of 10 for bobsled decorator. This is currently the best job at the Olympics.

Previous nominees for Best Jobs at the Olympics:
Mascot Wrangler
Luge Track Patroller
Robot
Curling Measuring-Device Guy

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