Wednesday, August 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM
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?
(“London Olympics: Day 1,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 28, 2012)
I was actually flattered by the number of Badminton fans who took the time to chastise me for dissing their sport in this fashion; except that I suspect they were all swallowing their pride today. Because four teams were summarily disqualified for purportedly disgracing the Olympics by throwing matches to receive more favorable seating in the medal rounds.
According to the International Badminton Federation and the IOC, the disgrace was made worse by this sport’s best players, including world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China as well as medal contenders from South Korea and Indonesia, being involved.
But, given my opening quote, it might surprise you to learn that I disagree with the decision to disqualify these Olympians, finding it demonstrably hypocritical. After all, if all athletes were disqualified for failing to extend their best efforts to win every time they competed, London’s two most-celebrated Olympians (namely, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt) would be the first to go. For it is routine for swimmers and runners to “throw” qualifying heats to conserve energy for the all-important medal rounds – even if only to get a better lane. What’s the friggin’ difference?!
One of the most glaring anomalies of these Olympics is the extent to which Martial Arts have replaced Boxing as the premier contact sport. And after watching a few of boxing matches I understood why: there is clearly no Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Oscar de la Hoya, or even Leon Spinks among the fighters participating. In fact, I did not recognize a single fighter, and I doubt any of them will become household names after these Games.
But you know something’s wrong when a fighter from Kazakhstan is beating the crap out of one from the USA – as happened in a welterweight match yesterday. Not to mention that the most exciting thing in all of boxing these days is Mike Tyson’s one-man show on Broadway about his messed-up life as a heavyweight fighter.
Incidentally, women are competing in Boxing for the first time, and I watched a few bouts. Alas, these bear no resemblance to the thrilling catfights that are all the rage on YouTube. Which is why watching women box according to the Marquess of Queensberry Rules was about as exciting as I imagine watching men compete in Synchronized Swimming would be—ewww!
Perhaps it was expecting too much for host nation Great Britain to win the first gold medal of these Games, which was awarded for the men’s road race in cycling on Day 1. But after failing to do so, surely nobody thought it would be days before Team GB struck gold.
Well, its national drought was finally broken today when Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won gold in women’s pairs. This also happened to be the first-ever gold for Great Britain in Women’s Rowing.
The London Sun borrowed the Aussie term “Oarsome!” to herald their victory. Interestingly enough, Aussie (i.e., Australian) pairs won silver and bronze.
Not only did the women rowers upstage Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins by winning the first gold for Team GB today, but 39-year-old American Kristin Armstrong upstaged him in his own sport by becoming the oldest winner of a gold medal in the women’s individual time trial. Judith Arndt of Germany won silver; Olga Zabelinskaya of Russia, the bronze medalist in the women’s road race, won bronze here as well.
It is also worth noting that Armstrong came out of retirement last year – after winning this event in Beijing – to defend her title. And she’d probably want you to know that she is not related in any way to indicted dope fiend Lance Armstrong.
All the same, Wiggins lived up to billing by winning the men’s individual time trial 42 seconds ahead of the second place finisher. This makes him the most decorated British Olympian in history with seven medals – dethroning Sir Steve Redgrave who helped light the Olympic flame at the Opening Ceremony. Tony Martin of Germany won Silver; Chris Froome of Great Britain, bronze.
To be honest, after the USA’s spectacular meltdown in the team competition, nobody expected any of its members to do much in the men’s individual all-around. But Dannel Leyva rose above expectations by capturing bronze. Unfortunately, John Orozco, who led the team in the qualifying rounds, finished eight. Three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan won gold; Marcel Nguyen of Germany, silver.
Alas, the intrigue, drama, and excitement surrounding the women’s events are such that the men’s simply cannot compete for media attention … or for any more of mine.
I seized my first opportunity to shout jingoistic cheers when Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace of The Bahamas blew away the field in the sixth heat of the women’s 100m freestyle, clocking a time of 53.73. I went horse racing her along. Unfortunately, Arianna was so spent she ended up swimming a slower time (54.12) in the semifinals and failed to make it into tomorrow’s final. (This, by the way, is why Olympians throw heats….)
In the only other race of note, Nathan Adrian of the USA won the men’s 100m freestyle by the very closest of margins over heavily favored James Magnussen of Australia. Brent Hayden of Canada won bronze.
The Greatest Olympian
I am truly stupefied that anybody would even question Phelps’s right to be crowned the greatest Olympian of all time. After all, with 19 medals (and the very likelihood of winning three more before the end of these Games), there really is no room for objective debate.
Yet, evidently not content that preparations for these Games have made him look like a royal fool, Lord Coe, chairman of the London organizing committee, made an even bigger fool of himself today by offering three Britons (rower Sir Steve Redgrave, decathlete Daley Thompson, and runner Sebastian Coe – yes, himself) as worthy contenders. Never mind that all three combined do not have as many medals of any type (12) as Phelps alone has in gold (15 … and counting). Idiot!
In my commentary on the Opening Ceremony, I warned that, with all of the focus on London, terrorists might consider this an ideal time to launch strikes elsewhere. Well, Texas was duly spooked today when a bomb scare forced the evacuation of the San Antonio International Airport – with all of the logistical challenges and passenger disruptions that entailed.
But, surprise, there was no bomb. Which begs the question. Is it not prima facie only a scare and not a serious threat if terrorists call in to chat with authorities about their bomb? Do you think, for example, that al-Qaeda gave authorities in New York City or Washington, DC a heads up on 9/11?
Meanwhile, all it takes is a crank call to get an entire city to act like chickens with their heads chopped off. Is there really any doubt who is winning this so-called war on terrorism…?
MEDAL COUNT: China: 30; USA 29, Japan 17