Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympic Breakdown

So the games of the XXIX Summer Olympiad have finally come to a close, and it's safe to look back and do some analysis. I've already talked about my feelings on the structure of the medals in an earlier post, but I think there's a lot more to talk about.

China: It just goes to show you what a totalitarian state can do when it puts its mind to it. From the effortless, flawless, diving robots the Chinese produced (the Chinese put together perfect dive after perfect dive, with the exception of their very last dive of the games, in which Zhou Lu Xin faltered ever so slightly, proving at the last moment that the Chinese were human after all, and allowing Matthew Mitcham of Australia to pull off a miracle dive to snatch the all-important 8th gold and diving sweep away), to the graceful gymnasts that seemed like they were literally born to compete, to the eight weightlifting golds they collected, the Chinese were a gold medal minting machine. An impressive display of national spirit, but also a scary one, as there was more than one story of a world-champion athlete who it seems would rather have been something else.

The Coverage: Good, if predictably ethnocentric. In fact, too good. Four years ago I would have been limited to the coverage I might be able to catch during four hours of primetime during the week and eight or so on the weekends. This year, between the Internet, multiple cable stations and TiVo, I felt obligated to pursue round the clock coverage, coming home each night to find 17 hours or so of acton waiting for me. Of course, TiVo helps as much as it hurts, allowing me to zip past Mary Carillo puff pieces on eating scorpions and pregnant pauses between gymnastics scores and the like, but still, I think I'll need the two years between now and Vancouver to recover.

The Decathlon: This is a huge mystery to me. The country that won the Decathlon this year? You'll never guess. That's right, the USA! Bryan Clay was your decathlon winner, the "world's greatest athlete." Clay has a pretty good story, since he fell just short of winning the decathlon in 2004 in Athens, taking home a silver medal, and this time went for, and got, the gold. So why no coverage? The last American to win the decathlon, Dan O'Brien, did so to much fanfare. You also may have heard of the last American to win before him, a fellow by the name of Bruce Jenner. So why no hoopla for Clay? Why did we not follow his journey? Was it because he was the first Afro-Asian American to win the title of World's Greatest Athlete? I hope not, but I'm waiting for a better explanation.

Boxing: Much controversy over the scoring and allegations of either favoritism or incompetence. I believe the technology exists to make boxing better. I'm for computer chips in the gloves themselves to help record hits. Professional boxing is always under the shadow of corruption, it would be nice not to have amateur boxing suffer the same stigma.

Moving on in this non-stop action summer, we have the Democratic National Convention. Stay tuned to this space for analysis.

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