I'm taking a break from my vacation to immerse myself in the 2008 Summer Olympics. I am a total non-athlete, yet I love the Olympics. My sleep/wake cycle has been disrupted as I try to follow the late-night/all-night broadcasts.
This year's opening ceremony was the most fabulous ever--amazing, beautiful, enchanting, overwhelming--with such creativity in its different elements. And, wow, what a way to show off China's huge population: over 15,000 individuals performed in the spectacle. I did wonder, while watching the segment of 2008 drummers beating huge drums, whether this wasn't meant to remind all of us that China has one-fifth of the world's population.
I always enjoy watching the Parade of Nations, when the athletes from the various countries make a circuit around the stadium. I particularly like seeing the native costumes some of them wear.
I prefer the individual sports such as swimming, diving, and gymnastics to the team sports such as volleyball and baseball--although I will watch the basketball finals if the USA ends up in them.
The TV coverage in the U.S. is limited to whatever NBC wants us to see. I wish I could pick and choose what I see. NBC shows different sports on various cable channels it owns, but I don't have access to several of them. If I had a newer computer, I could view video of other sports I'd like to see (such as archery and equestrienne events) on NBC's Olympics website. My computer, however, is aging and temperamental and it limits my online activities. It no longer will play videos.
Ah, the same old story: an info junkie who either can't get enough info, or is inundated with so much info it's overwhelming.
I have enjoyed watching Michael Phelps achieve his record number of gold medals in swimming, and the US gymnastics teams win silver and bronze medals.
A different type of entertainment is hearing the sniping and petty politics, such as:
- The press discovered that the little Chinese girl who sang at the opening ceremony was in fact lip-synching to the voice of another little girl whom the Chinese government deemed insufficiently pretty to represent their country publicly. (Stewart Sternberg posted a good blog entry on that.)
- Famous gymnastic coach Bela Karolyi complained that the members of the Chinese women's gymnastics team surely are underage. The rule of the international gymnastics organization is that they must be 16 years old.
To me, almost all of the Chinese team look younger than 16--one looked to be no more than 10 or 11. I don't know a lot about gymnastics (except the bits I pick up every four years while watching the Olympics), but it's obvious that child-size gymnasts are lighter and more flexible, and can do better contortions, leaps and flips than adult-size bodies. On the other hand, since the age limit presumably is there to protect the very young gymnasts, I don't agree with Karolyi's solution of doing away with age limits.
International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) officials have accepted the passports of the Chinese women, which indicate all are old enough to compete. Karolyi is originally from Romania, and he says falsifying documents is a common practice in totalitarian regimes such as Romania, Russia and other former Soviet bloc nations.
The solution, he said, is to not have any age limit. He believes if a gymnast is good enough to earn a spot at the Olympics or world championships, that athlete deserves to go. He said some juniors today are just as proficient as the age-eligble competitors.