24 August 2008

Beijing 2008

Well, I know that I have disappointed you all - I certainly have disappointed myself with a lackluster performance of blogging. I guess I was too busy watching the Olympics to blog about them. Ok, that is a horrible excuse, would you believe that the Tamil Tigers took me hostage?

For me, the Olympics were a huge success, at least from the organizers standpoint of view. There were very few if any criticism of the games, safe for the refereeing, which a certain athlete from Cuba has seen to resolve on his own. Yes, the judging was poor, but we tend to forget that in subjective sports are prone to "poor" judging. We watch these sports once every 4 years and we suddenly become experts in landing a back 2 1/2 somersault with a twist. Then when the athlete score 8.7 instead of 9.5 as we had figured, we call it bad judging. Listen, for the most part, we know nothing - we should just follow what the judges say as they are faultless. Oops, I have been reading too much Chinese literature of late, you will forgive my leniency towards authority figures. In any case, Vancouver and London have a near impossible task of duplicating the success of these Olympics - after all, neither Canada nor the U.K.'s citizenry will tolerate massive government expenditure on what many see as a tax burden. The Chinese are able to levy hundreds of millions of dollars simply for the opening and closing ceremonies. When will people learn, democracy doesn't work and lots can get done in a authoritarian/enslaving culture. I mean, how do you think the pyramids were built people!

From a Canadian standpoint of view, the Games ended up as a big success. A week ago, you would not have thought this possible. It was a veritable Iraq war fiasco north of the 49 parallel. The public was divided between calls for "support our athletes (troops)" in one camp and "what a disaster, we should have never sent the athletes (troops) if we knew it was going to be this bad." With 332 athletes and no medals after 1 week of competition, it looked pretty bleak. But with a little call to Stella, we got our groove back. An inspiring second generation Canadian showed us the way in women's wrestling and we were off and running. Swimming and Athletics each earned medals for the first time in several Games. We excelled in non-swimming but water related sports (diving, rowing, canoe, kayak). Finally a 61 year old and former cocaine addict rode their merry steeds to multiple medals. Yes, with 18 medals, Canada had the 3 most successful Olympics. If we exclude the 1984 boycotted Games (hey look, there are actually "women" on the podium and not hairy steroid Easter bloc "women"), it was the second most medals after Atlanta, where we won 22. More importantly, it stopped a huge downward trend since 1996. With a young contingent and increased funding, Canadians can only hope for a similar showing in our "motherland" in 2012.

Finally, here is a random list of the top 10 moments at the 2008 Olympics for me (in no particular order) - I'll try not to limit myself to the Bird's Nest stadium!

1. Usain Bolt's 19.30 seconds in the 200m - I truly did not think it was possible.

2. Australian "interior designer" Mathew Mitcham defeats the Chinese to take the 10m platform gold in men's diving - wow, what a final dive! I won't be surprised if he is detained at customs by Chinese officials for screwing up their sweep of the diving gold medals.

3. USA team sports - so many stories here. I think the Men's Basketball team were truly great ambassadors for their sport and for once, it was their opponents displaying a lack of tact (re: Spanish slanting eye incident). The women's softball team finally lost to Japan. The men's volleyball team, following the murder of their coach's father in law, won Gold by knocking off the might Russians and Brazilians. And of course, the 4x100 teams both dropped the baton!

4. Lesak - Rather than stating the obvious - Phelps - for me the most rousing moment was when Lesak came back to win the relay on the last leg for the USA. He out-touched the French and in so doing, we got to see how awesome Phelps' 16 pack is!


5 - Adam Van Koeverdan winning silver in the men's K-1 500m. Our flag bearer finished 8th the 1000m - for 24 hours the very essence of Canadians spirit was utterly broken. The outspoken Captain Canada came back in truly remarkable fashion to win silver. His determination and passion can be a lesson for us all.

6 - The German weightlifter whose wife died a few months prior to the Olympics. He then proceeded to take her photo on the podium with him. I am not embarrassed to say that I cried. The Olympics are full of these stories, it is a shame we have to wait 2 years between hearing them.

7 - Sultana Frizell from Perth, Ontario. She finished 33rd in the women's Hammer, but I couldn't have been more proud of her! She has come so far in 12 months and I know she will be a definite medal hopeful in 2012.

8 - Men's marathon. Once again, the hypnotics of this legendary event befuddled me. Many wonder how good Olympians truly are. We should have a "normal" guy run beside the marathoners, and when he keels over after 1 mile, we will know how machine like these runners are. To run 26 miles at 5 minute pace is just beyond comprehension for me.

9 - Men's 110m Hurdles. Liu Xiang, the face of the Games for the Chinese was meant to bring home a Gold on the track for the host country but it was not to be. The Chinese dominated these Olympics in Gold medal wins, but they went winless in Athletics. Track & field is the face of the Olympics, I don't care what those water dwelling mammals have to say. For the Chinese to win over 100 medals and 50+ Gold medals, but have merely 2 Bronzes in Athletics, demonstrate how important Xiang was to the Chinese. His injury and attempt to compete is more than a sad story for 1.3 Billion Chinese, it is a misfortune for the rest of us who miss out on the chance to see the celebration that could have been.

10 - Usain Bolt in the 100m - what more will this man do!