Monday, August 25, 2008

Random Thoughts on the Beijing Olympics (2)

Sat through the VERY...interesting...closing ceremony last night complete with riotous children leaping about the house as well as the "Bird's Nest" (at 8:30pm which is what happens when little girls have three-hour naps - be warned!) and had several thoughts about the past couple of weeks:1. The Ancient Greeks probably would be appalled by the monster spectacle of corporate wealth and national chest-beating that is the modern Olympics. Mind you, being Greek, hardheaded, and avaricious, they probably would have lept right in: the ancient Games weren't exactly a model of childish innocence.2. If you really want a hell of a show, always award this thing to a populous, insecure dictatorship. When the NBC commentators talked about the "4 million volunteers" (many of whom, I suspect, were volunteered in the way I used to "volunteer" my troops for details when I was a drill sergeant and Lord of All I Surveyed) and the 40 billion (not sure if this was yuan or dollars, but either is a LOT of lucre for a country with poverty as dire as China's) spent on this two-week sportfest, I kept thinking of the decrepit apartment blocks I saw in Guangzhou. I'm sure if you asked them the apartment dwellers would tell you of the pride that the Games afforded them and how that made the cost worthwhile. There are times our government is supposed to be smarter than we are. This would be one.

3. Water polo is still the MOST boring sport ever televised. Although I have to add that if I ever see another game of beach volleyball (or regular volleyball), swimming race or diving competition it will be one too many. I don't care how many Americans medal.4. And while we're on the subject, I have to admit rooting for the Brazilians in the men's volleyball final (to the extent I gave an actual shit) just because I was SO sick of NBC's undisguised "USA! USA!" attitude. Hey, guys? I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy, a Yankee Doodle-do-or-die, and I wanted to see more Estonian discus hurlers, Malawian runners and Japanese badminton players. I can see Americans play any day I go to the park. This is supposed to be the World's Games. Let's see more of the world, OK.

5. OK, I admit it: Mike Phelps can freakin' swim. But I STILL think that Croatian came in first, or at least tied. Whatever.

6. Speaking of swimmers, I was fascinated by the Mysterious Disappearance of Dara Torres until I read that she had "only" "snagged two silvers". Well, so much for you, Missus "Miracle on Chlorine" old bag lady swimming no-hoper! No wonder NBC stopped talking about you, you big, old, LOSER!! Why don't you take your sad little silvers and stomp home to your baby all dripping wet, you raddled harridan...?!

7. The little feature that NBC did on doping had the drug control people talking about how their fear was that the next level of cheating would be "genetic manipulation", and they said it like the swimmers would show up with gills or the cyclists with wheels instead of legs. But what I couldn't help thinking was of the teeny little gymnasts, the impossibly tall volleyballers,slender gracile east African distance runners, troll-like shotputters and think that "genetic manipulation" was right there for us to see. Anything more would simply be the 21st Century equivalent of selective breeding...

8. And speaking of selective breeding AND Dara Torres, I couldn't help noticing that Ms. Torres has among the largest feet I've ever seen on a woman and I say that as a man with size 13 dogs. I mean, she's a big gal and her feet are shapely and not out of proportion, exactly.But then, it makes perfect sense; what better way to swim fast than have Nature's swim fins at the end of your legs? To help alleviate the sameness of the sleek-suited swimmers all seemingly swimming the same race over and over again I started focusing on hands and feet, and, you know what? Most of the swimmers have great big, fin-like appendages. Huh. How 'bout that? Genetic manipulation? Or natural selection? We report. You decide.

9. For all that NBC drove me nuts with their bias (my friend L asked "This is the Olympic Games - why don't we see the discus, the javelin, any of the ancient sports?" and, just for laughs I checked: not a Yank in the top 12. Sorry, L, no Yankees? No TV.) CCTV, the official Chinese TV agency, was worse. Here's Jim Fallows from Beijing:
"...CCTV is showing instead: a ping-pong match between a Chinese player and a Swede, a diving contest involving two Chinese stars, interviews with a foreign coach of a Chinese team, and replays of week-old swimming events in which Chinese athletes did well. These are at the very instant that the men's 5000m is underway. Same thing during men's 800m. Will this apply to the men's and women's 4x400 relays?? Arggh! One world! One dream!"
OK. Even NBC wasn't quite that biased...

10. For all the hype, the nationalism and the disgusting orgy of corporate remoras feeding off this thing,

I still find the idea of all these young people coming from all over to try and do their best, for whatever reasons; hope, competitive fire, greed, obsession...strangely compelling.

Who couldn't love that adorable nut, Andreas Thorkildsen, with his laurel-crown hairdo,winning the javelin? Here's a guy who's never gonna be on a cereal box, ever have his own VISA card, never be anything more than a footnote in an immense record book, a long-forgotten addendum to history in 8-point agate type.

And yet, you can hope that one day, long hence, his kids and their kids will find that gold disk and its faded ribbon in its dusty box, and race into the kitchen shouting in Norwegian.

And Grandpa Torkildsen can grin that same goofy grin he's got in his picture today and tell them of the day when all the world met in Beijing and he was young, and strong, and brave, and the world was, too.


sheerahkahn said...

I dunno Chief, I was watching mens diving with my wife, and nothing shuts down the local cheering squad hoping for #8 gold than watching the home town boy choke, and some Aussie dipping the drop like a teflon coated stone with nary a wave, much less a splash.
The place went from pandemonium to dead silence as the thunder from down under took the gold.
But yeah, wife fast forward through beach volleyball.
If we want to watch beach volleyball...we'll go to the beach.

bigbird said...

To help alleviate the sameness of the sleek-suited swimmers all seemingly swimming the same race over and over again...

Two of my kids, (adopted Koreans, incidentally), were involved in swimming. The swim team parents understood the concept of eternity, as in sitting through multi-day swim meets.