The Obligatory Olympics Post

19Aug08

Despite pledging to avoid it, I have found myself tuned into the Olympics nearly constantly whenever I am home and I have the chance. There’s something that bothers me about the Olympics, and I am not sure what I can really attribute it to. It just seems so…disposable. That isn’t at all a slight against the Olympic athletes; they definitely deserve the highest praise for essentially giving their lives to represent their country.

Let’s be honest, though. Just about 2 weeks from now, football season will be alive and well, and baseball season will just start to get interesting. Hell, NBA training will be starting soon. Michael Phelps will move back to Baltimore, driving even bigger cars than I used to see him driving around in (Personally, I’ve sighted him in an H2 and an Escalade, but that was 2004. Maybe Phelps will follow the credo of Bishop Don Magic Juan and add some Green to his Gold), Misty May and Kerri Walsh will probably start families as has been reported, and the members of the USA basketball team will go back to playing the selfish basketball they have uncharacteristically avoided over the past week. A U.S. sprinter will spend about 3 years doping, and break the 100m world record; depending on our technology, he/she will be caught, and banned, taking away our initial excitement. We love impossible accomplishments, but as long as we believe they are impossible for the unaltered human. Brazil may have even given up on Ronaldinho by that time, as AC Milan probably will in about a month.

That’s all well and good when it comes to Olympian buzzkill. But what I feel really bad about is how the US gymnasts will feel. Whether it be Nastia Liukin’s defeat in a tie to an athlete who has been all but confirmed to be underage, or Alicia Sacramone missing out on the bronze in the vault to someone who fell during their routine, or to some extent even the men’s gymnastics team who seemed to conspicuously post low numbers despite occasionally near flawless routines, it’s pretty clear that there has been bias in these games, shockingly in favor of host China.

I’m not going to get into the whole “switching in the cuter kid” move that China pulled–lord knows that image and looks are worth a lot more in America, and hey, Denise Richards has an acting career after all. Nor am I going to get into the fireworks display; what a silly controversy for a ceremony that was supposed to dazzle the viewer beyond what is conceivable. That’s just standard special effects.

I have to confess that while I definitely noticed the bias in my own viewing of the games, this post is somewhat sparked by a Yahoo! blog I recently read. Chris Chase isn’t quite as convinced as I am that the fix was in for some events, but he does raise a good point. In what he called “the REAL medal count,” in other words, sports that are decided through objective criteria and not by judges, the results bring the US much closer to China. Here’s Chase’s breakdown:

The Real 2008 Medal Count

China: 22 gold; 11 silver; 11 bronze

United States: 21 gold; 19 silver; 21 bronze

As you can see, in the events where medals are determined by competitors rather than judges, the gold medal gap between China and the U.S. is greatly narrowed, and the total medal count is an American runaway. Counting the judged events, China has a commanding lead in golds. Hmmm… Nope, nothing fishy about that!

Of course there will be many who call skeptics out for sour grapes, but just remember, our concerns aren’t unfounded. Firstly, China has tried to control everything it possibly can about these games to work in their favor; whether it be lying about the ages of their gymnasts, squashing dissent against the communist party, or restricting internet access, China has gone to great lengths to look good at the games. Secondly, this isn’t the first time a team who performed better was denied by the judges of the gold medal. In 2002 at the Salt Lake Games, a French judge knowingly graded a Canadian figure skating duo unfairly, giving Russia the win. When a conspiracy was eventually unraveled, the Canadians were awarded Gold, sharing the title with the flawed Russian team.

I can’t even imagine the dedication it takes to be an Olympian. Most of the athletes won’t receive big endorsement deals. One injury could ruin a life’s work. Your genius is only admired once every four years, giving most athletes at most two chances at glory. In the face of all of these challenges, I can’t imagine such hard work and determination being denied glory because of a government agenda. But…

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2 Responses to “The Obligatory Olympics Post”

  1. I totally agree! I have said on many occasions that we should just eliminate all “sports” from the Olympics that require judging. We often spend more time talking about that than the performances themselves. It’s a pipe-dream of course – it will never happen, so I am optimistic that the judging rules are getting better and the ability to manipulate the winners will eventually be impossible, which it seems the IOC has spent a great deal of time trying to accomplish. I actually feel that the gymnastics judging was pretty fair for the most part, pre-pubescent Chinese girls not withstanding.

  2. 2 Franky

    wahhhhhhhh!!! quit whining.


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