Beijing Olympics

Sadly, the Olympics are once again over, leaving me with Olympic cravings until the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics roll around. In a couple of years I can look back on this post and remember the high and low points of the greatest Olympics to date. I'm sure I've left out a lot from both lists.

Worst Moments

Here's a brief list of what I found to be the worst moments in the Olympics.

  • Taiwan – It's complete bullshit that Taiwan had to participate under a different name (Chinese Taipei), couldn't use their own flag and instead competed under the "Taiwanese Olympic Flag", and would not be allowed to play their national anthem in the event of winning a gold medal (which they didn't).
  • Brazilian Soccer – In one of the early games against an over-matched opponent, one of the Brazilian soccer players scored a goal. Right after the ball rolled out of the goal another Brazilian player kicked the living shit out of the ball, sending it into the back of the net again. What a dick move.
  • Underage Chinese Gymnasts – Screw innocent until proven guilty. Those female Chinese gymnasts are too young to compete. You can make the argument that the rule itself should be removed (I disagree), but until then it is a rule. I think the Chinese government is involved in falsifying documents in order to allow them to compete. I honestly hope the truth comes out and the Chinese are stripped of the team gold as well as the affected individual medals.
  • Gymnastics Judging – An Olympics cannot seem to happen without there being several incidents of questionable judging in a gymnastic event. The worst this time was probably the women's vault finals and the women's uneven parallel bar finals. The vault was a blatant overscore for a vault with many faults, not the least of which was the attempted landing. The uneven bars was a low score that led to a poorly understood tie breaker. I'd prefer to see the days where athletes had to share medal positions in the event of a tie.
  • Women's Softball at an End – Unless something happens, this is the last Olympics for Women's Softball. Ironically, the dominance of the American women is cited as the reason for dropping the event (as well as an incorrect association with baseball). It's ironic because the U.S. women failed to win the gold medal this time, losing to Japan (a team they beat in the semi-finals). It's not our fault that other countries oppress their women (more than we do). Are we advocating canceling any event in which a country is dominant? Kiss diving good-bye (China won 7 out of the total 8 diving gold medals available and only one Chinese diver failed to earn a medal of any color). But diving is nothing compared to women's table tennis. 35 or the 86 women competing in table tennis in Beijing were born, raised, and trained in China and for all of table tennis the figure is 55 out of 155. They're so dominant that no one else has any hope of winning unless they import a Chinese player. Cancel it!
  • Fernando Gonzalez's Lack of Sportsmanship – Although the outcome of the match may not have been changed, James Blake's ball hit Fernando Gonzalez's racket and Gonzalez knew it in my opinion. He's just too much of a gutless pussy to admit it.
  • Women's Fencing is Unwatchable – Despite the fact that the U.S. women swept the medals in individual sabre, I can't watch that crap. It looks like a school yard slap fight with tent poles. But, what makes it completely unwatchable is the banshee-like scream the competitors let out at the end of every point.
  • Olympic Boxing Needs an Overhaul – Besides the looming controversy about attempted scoring manipulation by one or more countries, the scoring system and its execution are deeply flawed. The scoring in the Paddy Barnes versus Zou Shiming fight was outrageous. Body shots are never scored. The current score is readily available to each corner. This encourages late fight running by the leader who is assured a win if he can just stay out of scoring range. One of the things I have always liked about boxing is that it's one of the few sports in which you don't even know the score. Oh, and the rounds are too short. The rules of amateur boxing cheapen an already declining sport.
  • Lisa Leslie Wearing All Her Medals from Past Olympics – Sure, she's very accomplished being the only athlete to win team gold in 4 Olympics, but wearing all your past medals to the current medal ceremony was tacky.
  • Olympic Racewalking – The fact that NBC showed Olympic Racewalking not once but twice in late night coverage instead of showing other events with more mass appeal is moronic. Archery didn't appear once in televised coverage. Even though racewalking has been an official event since the 1908 Olympics, the "sport" is ridiculous. It should be dropped from the roster. At the very least, show something better than an hour and twenty minutes of hip wiggling mall walkers.
  • Microsoft Ruined Online Coverage of the Olympics – I couldn't/wouldn't view any of the online coverage (which sucked anyway because there was no audio commentary) because, inexplicably, someone cut a deal with Microsoft so that viewing required Silverlight. As much as I appreciate someone trying to cram their, arguably beta, technology down my throat I would have liked a more widely adopted, relatively platform independent, working browser-based video playback option. Is something suddenly wrong with Flash? Way to drastically cut your online viewership numbers. I hope whatever check Microsoft cut for them was a big one.

Best Moments

There were so many great moments. Here are some that really stuck out for me.

  • Opening Ceremony – Despite a terrible accident during rehearsals and other inevitable controversies, it was easily the best opening ceremony in history. The whole thing was amazing. The 897 human powered movable type blocks routine was jaw-dropping.
  • Women's Soccer U.S. versus NorwayTwo early misplays by the U.S. led to two goals for Norway within the first four minutes of the game. They were the only goals scored in the game, but I enjoyed the fact that nothing is certain. The heavily favored U.S. team screwed up and Norway beautifully capitalized on it. Good stuff.
  • Michael Phelps – Some people grew tired of it, but I never did. I watched every heat, every race. I thought the men's 4×100 freestyle relay was the most exciting Olympic moment I had ever seen. That is until I saw the men's 100m butterfly a couple of nights later. For me those are the two most amazing races in Olympic history, swimming or otherwise. I wish they would stretch out the swimming competitions to allow swimmers the possibility of competing in even more events. As it stands, the required turnaround time between heats and events makes it next to impossible even though a swimmer may be a competitive threat in numerous events. This picture of Phelps with a mustache is another favorite of mine.
  • Mark Spitz – It's related to Phelps, but I think it deserves a separate mention. The interview Spitz gave with Phelps on NBC was very satisfying. Spitz was incredibly gracious and well spoken. It's very refreshing to see someone whose amazing record has fallen be so incredibly respectful of the next guy, especially after hearing so many cry babies claiming they were better in their time. Let someone else sing your praises. Spitz did it right.
  • Dara Torres – She's a great story in general (competing at that level at 41 years old is awe inspiring), but I was even more impressed when she worked to delay the start of a qualifying heat so the Swedish swimmer could finish changing out of her ripped suit. Nice sportsmanship. I wish she had won a gold, but she was still amazing to watch.
  • Usain Bolt – Dominance in sports is sometimes extremely entertaining. Watching Usain Bolt prematurely celebrate in the 100m dash and still set a world record was awesome. I don't fault him for showboating. He's young (he turned 22 during the games) and is at the top of his sport. At least he got serious in the 200m when he again broke the world record with a head wind. It was also good to see him and Asafa Powell dancing in the finish area after again breaking a world record in the 4x100m relay. It's too bad the Americans are such butterfingers at baton passing (both the women and men were disqualified in the heats for dropped batons), but they honestly didn't stand a chance anyway.
  • Volleyball – All of the volleyball was outstanding. Men's and women's beach and indoor were extremely entertaining to watch. Lloyd Ball and Logan Tom emerged as two of my favorite players for the indoor men's and women's teams respectively. It's a terrible shame that the men's indoor team had to labor under such tragedy.
  • India vs Spain Men's Table Tennis Singles – The Sharath Kamal Achanta (India) versus Alfredo Carneros (Spain) match happened in round 1 and wasn't for a medal. What made the match interesting is that the two train together and had the misfortune of meeting in the first round. The two were as friendly as possible given the circumstances, giving each other plenty of time, warning one another when their play surface or paddle became damp with sweat, and apologizing profusely for net or edge balls. At the end of the match it was even hard to tell that Achanta had won because he refused to celebrate in front of his training partner whose Olympics had just ended.

Thoughts on the "China Problem"

China's fucked up, there's no doubt about it. No one likes their human rights abuses, the number of people forced from their homes to make the Olympics happen, their record on the environment, their totalitarian government, and a plethora of other problems and issues the country faces. Should we have boycotted the Olympics? I don't think so. Once they were given the Olympics it wouldn't be fair the the athletes to support a boycott. You could make the argument that they shouldn't have been given the Olympics in the first place, but I would still have to disagree. Even though every success economic or otherwise only makes the current government look better I think that cutting off China from the world isn't the answer. They've proven their ability and willingness to remain isolationists for centuries. I like to think engaging them culturally and economically can help open them up and hopefully turn many of their current problems around. If it happens it'll happen slowly. Only time will tell, but I don't think boycotting the Olympics would make the difference.

Looking Ahead to Vancouver

The next big Olympics will be in Vancouver in 2010. I'm hoping there's no talk of a boycott because of Canada's well documented maple syrup abuses. I'm giddy with excitement that those winter games will kickoff on February 12th, 2010. That means it's only a year and a half away rather than a full two years. Plus, since they're in North America, I'm toying with the idea of attending. Unfortunately, that would mean giving up my 24×7 television coverage. Would being there live make up for the loss? I'll have to think about it.


One Response to “Beijing Olympics”

  1. amanda Says:

    I really liked the way they came off

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