Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympic Highlights, Amazements, and a Lowlight

Well, the Olympics are pretty much over. Seeing as we were spending a lot of time in the house packing for our move this weekend we had the TV on a lot and caught a fair amount of the competition. Here are some notable moments:


- Michael Phelps ended up swimming to 8 golds and 7 World records. But back before his dominance became old hat we had gold medal #3, which was the 4x100m freestyle relay. With two of his swims as relays, Phelps knows he needs his team's help to make this incredible feat. He swims an amazing third leg but is behind the French swimmer when he hands control over to the anchor swimmer, Lezak. Lezak is still a half-body length behind with only half the pool left to swim, and the French swimmer mistakenly swims so close to the buoys that Lezak is able to draft on him, catch up, and pass him for the gold at, literally, the last second. Perhaps the most dramatic victory of the Olympic games.

- Usain Bolt is a phenom. This Jamaican sprinter broke the world record in the 100 meter dash, and was coasting the last 30 meters, pumping his arms in joy as he continued to tear away from the field. He danced his way around the victory lap in absolute joy, but took some heat for his sauntering finish. So in the 200 meter race he runs like the dickens all the way past the finish line, breaking another record and capturing another gold. The delight and exuberance of his victory dance is even more joyful. This guy is only in his early 20s and he coasted to the fastest sprint of all time. Who knows what he can do?

- We happened to catch the final lift by a German weight lifter whose wife had died recently. Before her death he had promised her he'd become a German citizen and win a gold medal at the Olympics. At the event, his competition was not making it easy for him. Sitting in second, having already lifted his personal best, he knew he had to lift more than he'd ever lifted in order to fulfill his vow; his life dream. Gone seem to be the day of stone-faced stoic tough guy weightlifters. The emotion in this final was palpable. And the jubilance and relief on this young man's face upon winning was a truly wonderful moment to witness. Lifting a picture of his wife up on the podium as he received his medal was a moving sight.

- Canada got rolling on medals on day eight. We needed a 100 pound female wrestler to break the ice for us. In our house we were very touched to watch her win, and to see how much it meant to her as she heard her own anthem with gold around her neck, and sang the final stanza while a tear slowly dripped down her cheek. I know, it sounds really typical and cheesy, but something about it seemed very genuine and beautiful.


- Gymnastics. More specifically, the Chinese men on the rings. Have you ever tried to do anything on the monkey-bars lately? With two boys under 6 I tend to spend a fair amount of time at the playground, and once in awhile try my hand doing chin-ups and rings. I can't believe what these guys can do. It is simply incredible.

- Triathalon. Running and biking long distances I can imagine. But swimming? Before running and biking? You've got to be kidding me.

- Ron McLean. I don't know if sportscasting realizes what it has here. He can spout of so many interesting anecdotes and athletic information in such a short span of time. Sure there are a few bad puns to put up with, but he is everything a sports anchor should be. When he went home because his mother passed away it was fairly clear right away that watching the Olympics was not going to be as enjoyable. Donovan Bailey was a delight to watch when he was on as well. I seriously think that the CBC should consider replacing Don Cherry with Bailey. I don't care if he likes or knows anything about hockey at all, I might watch it again.


- The cute little girl who sings the Olympic anthem at the opening ceremonies turns out to be lip-syncing for the real little girl whose voice captivates the world. Apparently the real singer wasn't cute enough. It gave me pause. I don't want to make too much of it, but I did wonder what would come of this glimpse into communist China. Frankly, there were a lot of smiling faces amongst the Chinese, but moments like this one made one wonder how many were pasted on. In one sense I find communism attractive. Self gives for the group. But when it is forced, and the happy ones are the ones benefiting from the communism, there is an underlying dark cloud beneath the whole thing that a person just can't shake. Still, a fairly impressive showing put on by the city of Beijing, far as I could tell anyway.


Bryce Ashlin-Mayo said...

There were some pretty cool stories at this Olympics and I too was taken aback by story of the girl who actually sang at the opening ceremonies. However, I wonder, in the midst of my outrage, would we in Canada or the US have even considered the girl given her appearance? In China they abandoned her appearance but kept her voice, in Canada/US would we have just abandoned her all together? It is an interesting thought to ponder.

jon said...

i think you are right, that's probably the case. i thought of that after too. probably the same thing would have happened here. although i hadn't thought about the notion that the singer may never have had the chance at all.

if the olympics were here they'd have had "Olympic Idol" and the "less cute" girl would not have won on account that she "doesn't have what we're looking for in this competition".

anyway, good point, it is probably best to take my comments regarding communism as ponderings triggered by that story rather than as a statement about that story as indicating something unique about communism.

Tony Tanti said...

I think Bryce is exactly right. Though the rejected singer wasn't exactly ugly or anything.

Besides, every year at the Super Bowl they digitally perfect the recorded performance and then the performer comes out after 6 hours of hair and makeup to lip sync. Is there really that big of a difference?

My biggest fear is that Beijing just pulled off the best run Olympics ever and used it as a two week propaganda campaign. I was disgusted by the news stories about how China's not as bad as they thought. Newsflash CBC; China let you see what they wanted you to see.

There's a guy in jail right now for posting pictures online of damage to a school from the recent earthquake in China. He didn't alter them and it wasn't an attack he was publicizing, this is a natural disaster. He's in jail for telling people about the damage from a natural disaster. Think about what that says about China's obsession with their image.

But those Olympics were amazing, at least what they let us see was.