Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The 2008 Olympics Part One


The Olympic Games from Beijing have come and gone. Several have even wondered when I would comment about them. With all due consideration toward brevity and a salient overview, I decided to wait until everything was finished before vomiting my usual arcane thoughts. As such, the time has come. I've ingested the Clorox, and it's time to induce vomiting. Where is Mister Yuck! Some of the more ardent readers might expect a verbose tirade about all that had transpired, and I'll be sanguine enough to say that it wasn't all that bad. On with the show...

Upon the Games' commencement, multiple NBC commentators noted that this was the first Olympic Games on the Asian Mainland. I knew this was an incredible inaccuracy, but recently cited the Moscow Games of 1980 as a predecessor. A devoted, yet occasionally irksome reader correctly noted that Moscow was actually part of the continent of Europe, being west of the Ural mountains. I won't whine, but a continent was traditionally defined, in the archaic sense, as a "continuous tract of land", and that technically speaking, there were four continents : North/South America, Europe/Asia, Africa, and Antarctica. They were significant land masses defined by cartographers as being unique entities, even though, geologically speaking, Asia and the Americas are connected by a land bridge (submerged by shallow water) and that Africa is barely connected to the Eurasian land mass. Per the University of California Press: "Continents are understood to be large, continuous, discrete masses of land, ideally separated by expanses of water."
Continents shouldn't be divided by arbitrary means, like mountains. So technically speaking, Europe and Asia share a common land mass and Greece hosted Olympic games ages ago, but I won't complain any further. Bottom line is that NBC was wrong, since Seoul hosted the Olympics back in 1988. I'm right, and can happily call "foul" on NBC's inept researchers, despite my past references.

There couldn't have been a more frightening, intimidating, anarchonistic place to host a world event than China. This place has developed itself into a different planet for thousands of years; arbitrarily cut off from the rest of the world, and historically intent upon defining its own laws, religions, languages, regimes, and subcultures. The wizards from the International Olympic Committee may as well have held this year's games in the Amazonian jungle. At least the air quality would have been better. Anthropologically speaking, it seems like the Chinese people (all 390 trillion of them) were ridiculously sweet and hospitable, and I'll even wager that their wonderful nature wasn't at the forceful behest of their totalitarian leadership. Oddly, thousands and thousands of Chinese people volunteered for the Olympic ditch digging, and most of them cited national pride as the reason for doing so. Plenty of stories (that made it past the censors) revealed how commoners like cab drivers and Olympic volunteers spent years learning basic English in anticipation of the Games. Their zeal seemed sad and wonderful at the same time - full of warmth and hospitality, but (cynically speaking) under the forceful insistence of the omnipotent and frightening government. The government clearly wanted to show that China is a warm, humanistic nation, but one can only assume that the citizens were bullied into "playing nice" to fulfill national jingoistic ideals. Again, without question, the Chinese people seem to be a wonderful bunch, but the overlords were always manipulating their strings. I'm not one to speak about political topics, but this entire fortnight was a well planned, ten billion dollar propaganda bomb, detonated to the "real" people of planet earth. China wants us to leave them alone, but still trade with them, and give them plenty of our money.

I have to admit, I did not bother to watch the opening or closing ceremonies. I'm sure they were incredible and likely to overshadow any future Olympic spectacles, but then again, when a government has over a billion people at its disposal, I'm sure the show would be flashy. Eventually, China admitted to doctoring up some of the apparent pyrotechnics with computerized effects, and it was a miracle that such a stoic bunch could even own up to such falsification. China's sleight of hand continued with debates that members of their powerful gymnastics team were under the age of sixteen, the minimum age for participation. The jury is still out on this simmering controversy, and likely will never be put to rest. I'm sure a brutal government can hunt down a few fake IDs for some girls...who of us hasn't back in our college days? I heard that Jimmy Page appeared for London's part of the closing ceremonies (in anticipation of the 2012 games), which is very cool, being a Led Zeppelin connoiseur and afficionado. The mere notion of "Whole Lotta Love" echoing into the China sky brings ironic joy to this poor soul.

As for the Games themselves - of course, I'm happy for Michael Phelps.


Who isn't? I watched all of his races, and, not being a swimming fan, still found much excitement and gratification in his achievements. The best had to have come early on - prior to the 4 X 100 relay event, the French team said they would "smash" the American team. The anchor swimmer, Jason Lezak, came from behind to beat those jerks. A wonderful moment, and another medal for Phelps. Phelps seems to be a bit of a dork, with bad teeth and a dumpy mother, but his medal record deserves special note. Mark Spitz was ticked off that he wasn't invited to the Games, and he just seemed like a bitter has-been from days past. It was all about him not being there, not the support of other swimmers.
I rather enjoyed the swimming races, perhaps mostly for our country's dominance. As I mentioned before, some of the dramatic clips aired by NBC were longer than the races themselves, but I suppose it's understandable. I noticed that 1988 Olympic swimming hero Janet Evans was going to be appearing on some weird reality show. Yet another reality show. I was her grade school classmate in 1982, and everyone picked on her because she was allowed to leave school early every day to practice swimming. Poor kid, well, she did fine for herself, I suppose.

A North Korean athlete was disqualified because he failed a test for doping (a nice way of saying "steroids"). While not surprised that somebody would fail such a test, this guy was competing in shooting. Shooting? Who the hell needs "juice" for shooting? That's like taking steroids for a chess match. For that matter, I'm sure it's happened before. Put an asterisk by Kasparov's name....he hit that chess time clock a little too hard some times.

Stay tuned for the next installment. Only TWO (2) more articles to go until #100!

1 comment:

evrafter said...

I am surprised after all that long wait you missed one of your favorite idols perform at the Olympic Games closing "the show". You didn't miss much except for when an iconic tour bus made its quasi-exorbitant entrance, and exit.