Sunday, August 24, 2008

Some Olympic Thoughts

With the 2008 Beijing Olympics ending today, the following thoughts come to mind:

Just how small can you be and continue to be called an Olympic Athlete? If memory serves me right, the Chinese "women" gymnasts averaged 77 pounds, while the much larger Americans topped the scales at about 90 pounds. The mantra seems to be: " if they were only a little bit smaller, they could really do some neat tricks". The top Chinese star, Ms. He (Isn't that some sort of contradiction?), is thought by all the semi-conscious, non-Chinese, people of the world to be 14 instead of the minimum 16 years of age. The IOC seems to think that pointing this fact out would somehow be in bad taste to the hosts. Taking the issue of competitor's size to it's logical extreme, it's really too bad that embryos are not allowed to compete. That might be interesting to watch. I guess the "right-to-life" folks just won't allow it.

How come we pay attention to the sports presented during the two weeks of the Olympics every four years, but totally ignore the same participants in many of the same sports the rest of the time? I don't know about you, but I'm not normally a big (beach or otherwise) volleyball fan. But, I really enjoyed the Olympic volleyball games, especially the women's beach version. Maybe it has something to do with their (lack of) uniforms. I don't recall watching any swimming events since 2004, but I think I watched all 8 of Michael Phelps' races, who, by the way, is built for nothing but swimming. I mean, what else can you do with those size 14 flippers, huge paddles, and extra long oars... oops, I meant to say, feet, hands and arms? And I know it's politically incorrect to say it, but, unfortunately, while I enjoyed the straight races, I never really got into the swing of synchronized swimming.

The performance of the Jamaican runners doesn't pass my smell test. How come they're so much better than everyone else this year? I read somewhere that they didn't have an anti-doping program established until 3 days after the Olympics Opening Ceremony. I wonder if that little tidbit has anything to do with their success. The Jamaican squad kind of brings back fond memories of the East Germans before the Wall came crashing down.

And, finally, did you check out Olympic boxing? It's nothing like the kind you see outside of the Olympics. The fighters wear these overstuffed pillows on their heads, leaving only their eyes, noses and chins exposed to the elements. You're supposed to get a point each time you bop one of the aforementioned opponent's body parts with the white-painted portion of your glove. No other form of contact counts. Something like 3 of 5 judges have to agree within one second that you did this for a point to be scored. The whole setup is ridiculous. 3 of 5 international referees can't agree on what to have for dinner, let alone something as fleeting as one of these scoring punches. You get some pretty weird scores as a result. I prefer the old-fashioned system of simply beating each other into a pulpy and bloody mess until one guy cries "Uncle".


Anonymous said...

The Olympics are perfect entertainment to watch for two weeks every four years. 95% of those sports are unpalatable if shown any more frequently.

SpecRider on the Storm said...

I would like to know why the judges have been moved to positions that favour the athelete, and diminish the actual acceptable skill level of the athletes.

In gymnastics - it seems as if it is alright to fall and all is forgiven. This used to be a huge deduction, and now it is almost as the athlete is rewarded for having a good attempt.

In diving, the judge has been removed from the end of the pool where all of the split tucks and pikes are all but invisible to the judges sat at the side of the pool.

One of our Canadian swimmers stated on national television that they did not give it their all in the semi-finals, and thought that they would make it to the finals. He did not...

As a rower, I appreciated the men's heavy weight gold medal 8's attempt. Basically, if you are going to put on the number - then you are there to do your best, to achieve a world record and take home the gold. You are not there to do your personal best, national best or be there just for the "Olympic Experience". And, you are not there to have your mistakes forgiven - that doesn't happen in life.

We need a return to the Olympic Ideals. I've had enough of mollycoddling spoiled athletes who feel the are the best thing since sliced bread - in my world if a person fails, people are at risk. In the real world there are seldom any second chances. I find it it difficult to watch the cream of our collective crops not go for the best in the world.

I've probably spouted too much, but heck - might as well stir things up a bit. Eh?

Incontrovertible said...

I'm surprised to hear you say that the participants don't give their best efforts. The only athlete I watched who coasted to the finish was Usain Bolt in the 100 meter dash, and he beat the world record and everyone else in the race by a bunch.

I guess as a part of an overall strategy, you could save some energy in an early heat if you thought that you'd need it in later events. But, as you mention, this is sometimes dangerous.

Here in the States, we don't mollycoddle the athletes in the minor sports...we totally ignore them, except for two weeks every four years.

Anonymous said...

I doubt that we will see another spectacle like that in our lifetime. The Chinese were trying to prove that 'they're back' and we should respect them as well as take notice of what they are saying and doing. I'm not so sure I want to as I don't trust them one iota but we may not have a choice. They are a repressive regime and will do what they think is best for them, not for the world in general.

As for the Olympics, it's become overly politicized. When the daily news is about what country has what number of medals rather than the athleticism of the athletes, then I believe the priorities are wrong. In Beijing, every day the number of gold medals was prominently displayed throughout the city. For the Chinese, this Olympics was all about how badly could China beat the west. I dislike State run Olympics programs like the Russians and east Germans used to have and the Chinese have now. I think they all cheat to the extent they think they can't get caught; the underage Chinese gymnast issue is an example of that and needs to be resolved. they sure didn't look 16 to me. I dislike events that require judging and are judged on style. examples are synchronized diving (when did this become a 'sport'?), even gymnastics where everything seems to hinge on whether their feet move during the dismount. I like the events where there are clear-cut winners and losers. Swimming was very enjoyable as was volley ball of all kinds. Even baseball was OK. Rhythmic gymnastics seems to be an entertainment, not a sport although you have to be in very good shape to do it. High wire entertainers also have to be in good shape so being physically fit is not a requirement to define a sport. table tennis, oops ping pong, still seems like a basement activity and badminton something you did in high school gym class. If you're going to add so called sports like this, why not bocce ball and bowling. Anyway, I'll keep watching the Olympics and bemoaning what it has become.