Saturday, August 30, 2008

Olympic thoughts!

Whew...the Olympics are over and no major catastrophe accompanied them! I was so nervous some extremist group would try something and I'm glad nothing happened. The Olympics themselves seemed to go pretty well, not only the physical aspect, but the performance aspect as well. I was particularly proud of the performance of Team USA in these games, as they came away with 110 medals. China didn't do too badly either with 100 total medals, 51 of which were gold. I thought it was interesting how the Chinese looked more at the gold medal tally, while Americans were more concerned with the overall medal tally. I guess each country can say they achieved their goals then and was "best" according to their standard of excellence. I got the impression that the Chinese placed a much higher priority on winning as opposed to just placing, while as Americans we definitely like to win, but we also recognize and celebrate best efforts even if doesn't result in a win. That's probably why Americans were more concerned with the overall medal count instead of just looking at the golds. In the end, as I've mentioned to several people, most Americans don't really care about the medal totals if they pay attention to the Olympics at all. So really, even if the US didn't win any medals, most Americans wouldn't find their patriotism bruised or go into a national depression. I see some countries that go into collective mourning when their national team loses (especially in international soccer). I'll never forget when I was on my mission in the Tucson area in 2002 when the US beat Mexico in the World Cup. The Mexican reaction was the collective shock and mourning I mentioned previously. One quote I remember was a Mexican who basically said the US wasn't "supposed to" beat them in soccer since we beat them in every other sport. The typical US reaction: "we're in the World Cup?" I rest my case. We definitely have pride for our national teams, but it is nowhere near the fanaticism other countries have for their national teams. I think it's more because of the many strong pro-leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) we have here that dominate the sports scene. Most Americans seem a lot more concerned about their local teams than the national teams. I think I enjoyed watching Michael Phelps win the eight gold medals the most, though the Men's Volleyball Team winning the gold after that horrific start (their coach's father-in-law was murdered in China) as well as the golds in both men's and women's beach volleyball among many others. It was a great time watching and I was proud to be an American! U-S-A! U-S-A!!

As for the Olympics themselves I thought they went pretty much as planned. Sure, China put on a great show with excellent facilities and planning, but as far as I could see, it was the same old China underneath all that glitz and glamor. The same China that represses free speech and dissent. The same China that really doesn't care about the poor and "undesirables" in their country. I'm sure there are those that would say we do the same in this country. To a degree, yes. Of course as a host country you want to put your best face forward and present as positive an image as possible. But when the US has hosted the Olympics (most recently in 2002 and 1996), did we have mass movings of poor people to make way for the stadium and building projects? Did we divert water supplies and even electricity from outlying villages to make sure the host city had enough? Did we have to mandate no or limited driving to attempt to clean the polluted air of Atlanta or Salt Lake City (or even Los Angeles in 1984!)? Did the US government have to compromise with IOC officials to allow places to protest (but only with a permit) and then not issue any protest permits? We know the answers to all these questions. The saddest thing to me is that there are enough people in China who have seemingly bought into the idea that they are "sacrificing" for their country when they could easily still have their water and electricity and Beijing would be fine. This article pretty much summed up what I figured would happen. Of course, most of the media who coevered the Olympics saw the grand side of things: the shining new facilities (I did like most of their designs!), the smiling, friendly volunteers, the cleaned streets. How ironic that a country which functions under a communist/socialist form of economics and government has such a gap between the haves and the have nots. The have-nots are far more numerous and have virtually no voice. Granted, we have a gap here too, but this is a capitalist country! Gaps happen in capitalism, but are theoritically not supposed to happen in communism or socialism. Funny how this form of government and economics still gets support even from many Americans despite all the evidence against its functionality and its history of failure to close the gap and to provide real opportunities for more people.

I did want to say something about the whole age controversy surrounding the Chinese women's gymnastics team. Most people seem to not be aware that younger gymnasts actually do have an advantage, which is the reason that countries have lied about ages in the past. Younger gymnasts are more flexible and agile as well as smaller, so are therefore more able to do things older gymnasts can't do as well if at all. That's why you rarely see the same women's gymnastic team from one Olympics to the next. It'd different from most other sports from the standpoint that age and experience usually means a better team (like the difference between a college and a high school basketball team or between a college and a pro team). In gymnastics, however, experience is very important, but age is a major enemy, even the difference between ages 14 and 16. And no, the US did not call for an investigation because they won the silver...they and many others alleged an age scandal while it was going on. I hope the Chinese gymnastics federation and the government didn't use those girls as pawns to pad their egos, but things sure do look fishy based on several media reports before the Olympics as well as alleged government pages that were all removed as soon as the story broke. I honestly don't expect anything to come of this. It would be too bad as the Chinese team did a wonderful job, but rules are rules.

Oh, P.S. I'm not at all happy about the IOC dropping baseball and softball from the sports, especially after having to endure watching such exciting sports as trampoline. Baseball is especially popular in Japan and Latin American countries besides the US and softball also has a growing popularity in Australia, Japan, and Canada. It just goes to show the European bias and dominance that exists in the IOC; since it isn't popular in Europe, then it isn't popular. BRING BACK OLYMPIC BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL FOR 2016!


Krissy said...

so i was at alltel the other day and one guy working there did mention that the u.s. gymnasts were babies about getting the silver ... i asked him if he really thought it was because we didn't win the gold and then (in the same breath) said that it was the principle of the situation. i can't stand liars. so there.

oh, and i am in major agreement about the softball thing. i actually did witness the trampoline and ping-pong wonders. i know ping-pong is bigger in other countries than here, but COME ON. next they'll be taking out basketball ... :(

Krissy said...

oh, i forgot. as someone who lived in europe, i can attest that they aren't all over the trampoline thing. frankly, you don't really even see them in backyards, not like you do here ... (at least in england you don't!)