Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 7:38 PM
Over the next 16 days, Olympic competition will be held in 32 sports – from Archery to Wrestling. But even though I shall be indiscriminate in my viewing (on TV and the Internet), I shall be very discriminating in my commenting here. (Incidentally, can somebody explain the appeal of Badminton, which seems to defy gravity by having players use what looks like a squash racket to swat at what looks like a cluster of chicken feathers over what looks like a mini Volleyball net?)
That said, I’m already irritated: Why the hell are there so many empty seats at so many venues?! This has become a quadrennial farce.
I find it more than a little difficult to reconcile all of the Chinese hype about these Olympic Games being such a source of national pride with all of the empty seats at so many events.
(“Beijing Olympics,” The iPINIONS Journal, August 15, 2008)
The fact is that government agencies and big corporations invariably gobble up the lion’s share of tickets to all Olympic events to dole out as perks or to curry business favors. This makes it virtually impossible for ordinary folks to get them … even if they could afford them. Then, because it was no money out of their pockets, many who get these tickets think nothing of blowing off the less popular events like Badminton. But Swimming – even when Michael Phelps is being featured? Gymnastics?
Again, it’s not as if the London organizers were not aware that this might be the case. It boggles the mind, therefore, that they did not enlist tens of thousands of volunteers (from pensioners to school kids) to show up at a moment’s notice to fill seats if ticket holders do not show up. They could have warned in print on all tickets that the holder forfeits the seat if it is not occupied by 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the event.
Instead, shots of the stands at some venues give the dispiriting impression that, unless it’s Soccer or Cricket, Britons don’t give a damn, which would clearly make a mockery of the Olympic spirit. Whereas, in fact, the millions of ordinary Britons who lined the 156 miles of the Men’s Road Race in Cycling belie this impression and demonstrate that their spirits are thriving and eager to be on display.
No doubt Britons wanted nothing more than for phenom Mark Cavendish to deliver the first gold medal of these Games on this first (official) day of competition for Team GB by winning the 156-mile Men’s Road Race. And expectations were understandably great in light of Bradley Wiggins becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France just last weekend.
Unfortunately, Cavendish’s British teammates, who included Wiggins and Tour runner-up Chris Froome, could not keep him in contention for the final sprint that is his trademark (i.e., the way Cavendish and Froome did for Wiggins over the long haul of the Tour).
In any case, it only reinforced my cynical view that cycling is replete with cheats when formerly-banned doper Alexandr Vinokurov of Kazakhstan (aka the country Borat put on the map) won gold. Rigoberto Uran Uran of Columbia won silver; Alexander Kristoff of Norway, bronze. Cavendish ended up 29th. (Perhaps you’re aware that no less an authority than U.S anti-doping authorities are now accusing Lance Armstrong of being a doping fiend throughout his entire career.) Truthfully, the only thing noteworthy about this race was the sight of so many iconic London landmarks along the route.
Who knew archery could be so competitive and exciting?! I saw the Americans take on the South Koreans to qualify for the gold-medal round in the Men’s Team event. The Americans won; and, because the South Koreans are reigning world champions, this gave the Americans a great shot at winning gold.
Never mind that the South Koreans looked in shape more for the German beerfest than the London Olympics. To be fair though, it’s a good thing none of these latter-day Robin Hoods were … men in tights.
Anyway, the Americans blew their golden opportunity and lost to the Italians. The Americans won silver; the South Koreans, bronze.
Since being defeated at the outset in this energy-sapping and potentially ego-deflating event [the 400m IM] could ruin his chance at gold in every other event, it would not surprise me if Phelps decides to withdraw.
(“Olympic Trials: Preview of Exciting Feats to Come,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 2, 2012)
I suspect he fears, and I predict, that if he were to lose this first head-to-head matchup with team rival Ryan Lochte, his confidence and aura of invincibility would be so sapped that he’d be lucky to win gold in half of his remaining events.
(“London Olympics Opening Ceremony,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)
It was clearly a bad omen when Phelps barely qualified for the final in this event the way he barely won two of his gold medals in 2008: one can only achieve glory by a fingertip on so many occasions. But, as the above quotes indicate, I think he would have been better off not swimming this event at all.
The TV commentators insisted that he was just saving energy for tonight’s final. Well, a lot of good that did him: this defending Olympic champion in the 400m IM did not even make the podium; he placed a humiliating fourth.
Lochte won in seemingly invincible fashion – leading from start to finish and besting Phelps’s 2008 Olympic record. Thiago Pereira of Brazil won silver; Kosuke Hagino of Japan, bronze.
So save the cheers, Mr. Morgan Freeman, lightening will not strike twice for Phelps…. Now we’ll see if he has the mental toughness to recover - more psychologically than physically – to return to his winning form in his next event.
And so much for Missy Franklin becoming the female Michael Phelps by winning seven gold medals: In the women’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay, the USA won bronze, losing to Australia (gold) and the Netherlands (silver). I warned in my commentary on the U.S. trials about the precedent Katie Hoff set when she was touted as the female Michael Phelps in 2008: she did not win a single event. But I think Missy will fare better….
Meanwhile, thoughts of juiced-up East Germans came to mind when Sun Yang’s first-ever win for a Chinese male swimmer in the men’s 400m freestyle (shattering the Olympic record) was followed in short order by Yi Shiwen’s win in the women’s 400 IM (shattering the world record).
The lithe-bodied Chinese dominating the world in the graceful sport of Diving is one thing; but in the grueling sport of Swimming? Something smells … fishy.
I honestly do not get why soccer is reportedly the most watched sport in the world. Because watching the grass they were playing on grow was more exciting than watching women from Japan and Sweden play an opening-round match to a 90-minute 0-0 tie . And, alas, the quality of the T & A on display provided no diversion from the quality of play.
Notwithstanding my cheeky comments, though, I am truly dismayed that the IOC allows these Volleyball players to compete dressed (or undressed) more like pole dancers than athletes. I don’t see why women Beach Volleyball players should not be required to dress the way their hard-court sisters do. And, for what it’s worth, the hard-court players are not only every bit as attractive, their game is even more exciting to watch.
Unfortunately, the sexualizing of female athletes, by female athletes themselves no less, is becoming so pervasive that instead of beach players dressing to look more like hard-court players, hard-court players are dressing to look more like pole dancers too.
I wonder what self-respecting female sports fan would watch male athletes playing Beach Volleyball at the Olympics dressed in speedos? And women wonder why some of us treat them all as sex objects—no matter the context?
MEDAL COUNT: China: 6; Italy: 5, USA 5