1) It was much more dramatic when the US' AMATEUR athletes competed against the world. Our college basketball players were better than the world's pro players. Now, it's almost all pros against pros, and a lot of the drama is gone. The Dream Team was amazing to watch that first year, and then got lousier every Olympics afterwards.
The Miracle on Ice was amazing because those were college kids who beat the Best Team on the Planet. It'd be like Des Moines' Polk High beating the Patriots in football, or Uganda's 14-and-under development team beating Man U in the other football.
Without that potential for drama, it's simply not compelling.
2) 20 years ago, they were the only things on TV. Not the case anymore. The fact that American Idol beat the living hell out of the Olympics says a lot. Either people love Simon Cowell, or hate Dick Buttons.
3) Tape delay - when we were younger, we had the Lake Placid, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Calgary games all in our relative time zones. When the Games are in Australia, Greece, Norway, Italy...it's harder to watch. We want instant access to our broadcasts, not tape delays.
4) The Olympics are every 2 years now. There's not that four year hype buildup. I was actually shocked the Olympics were this year. Coulda swore we just had one.
5) Ice skating was always a big television draw in the old days. Now, skating's on regular broadcasts more often, and less unique. Hell, celebrities skate now.
If you have a loose definition for the term "celebrity."
6) Women's Gymnasts - Please, let's call it what the event is - Pint-Sized 12 Year-Old Girls with Pushy Parents. These girls aren't women yet, PERIOD! End of discussion. Put in an age limit before we start getting dancing embryos in frilly skirts.
7) There's no enemy anymore. When we were kids, it was the West vs. the East. NATO vs. the Eastern Bloc. USA vs. USSR. US vs. Them. The Miracle on Ice.
Now, the veil's been lifted, and we've seen the enemy, and they look like us. It's hard to get amped up over a US vs. Latvia match-up. Even in our current war(s), the Afghani and Iraqi people aren't REALLY our enemy, so, in a way, the competitive level for the bigger nations simply isn't there. "Wow, we beat Togo...wow?"
8) They're predictable. The Nigerian will win the long-distance running, the Americans and Aussies will win the swimming, the Brits win the equestrian, the skinny dude will win the cycling, the Canadians or Russians will win the hockey, the Germans will win most of the shooting events, and the Europeans will snag the skiing medals, and the American and Canadians will get the snowboarding medals. There, I'm 90% accurate and I saved you hours of TV time. Go read a book to celebrate.
9) Hate to break this to the world, but MOST OF THESE SPORTS SUCK!!!!!!! ESPN 8, The Ocho, wouldn't broadcast half this crap. If the biathalon were on TV every week, it'd be lower rated than "Love Monkey." The only reason people watch the luge, bobsled and ski jumping events is because somebody might wipe out spectacularly. And women's figure skating is only viewed by women and lonely, horny men.
If those girls had to put on proper clothing, the ratings would drop like a fat bungee jumper.