Posted by: Michelle Mitton | August 21, 2008

Olympic Observations

KorfballWe have a thick orange electrical cord winding from a surge protector in the family room past the bathroom, through the hall, up the stairs, through the living room and into the kitchen wall JUST so the guys can get their nightly Olympic fix.

I kind of like watching with them but the hours and hours of footage have spawned some interesting thoughts. There’s just so much material to poke fun of it’s hard to know where to start.

1. If you want to succeed at the Olympics get a really great name. On Team America alone there is Damu Cherry, Rafeeq Curry, Beezie Madden and Deontay Wilder. With a name like Deedee Trotter she was absolutely, entirely, contractually bound to have an Olympic career. It’s on her birth certificate. However, I wondered if Porntip Buranapraseatsuk representing the lovely country of Thailand found that “Porntip” gave her the edge she needed to bring home the gold.

But the award for Best Olympic Women’s Name Ever? Goes to Libby Trickett. I could say that over and over and over to myself in this chunky Techno beat while I’m watching stupid Target commercials during the breaks, “Libby Trickett . . . Libby Trickett . . . Libby Trickett . . . YEA!” Best men’s name? This one is too easy. Usain Bolt. Andrew, as a former track man, is definitely in love and keeps saying, “Did you see him run? Did you SEE the way he just glided along it was like he was flying! Did you see that?” Apparently he thinks I need glasses.

2. Olympic “sports” are getting completely out of control. What do boules, buda, glima, kaatsen, savate, longue paume and (no lie) korfball have in common? They have all been demonstration sports at past Olympic games. It’s really too bad that the IOC hasn’t added Korfball permanently to the venue because darn it but I love me a good game of korfball–where they throw that korf around and go korfing about in all their korfy awesomeness.

But whatever korfball is it can’t be any more ridiculous than some of the sports on the current Olympic agenda. I’d love to meet the person responsible for creating the synchronized diving competition–as if the synchronized swimming weren’t mocked enough as it is. Forgive me if I’m wrong but is there any sort of a point to synchronized anything? If you’re participating in a sport isn’t the objective to be better than everyone else? Apparently not, synchronized diving is the activity where you desperately strive to be just like the guy next to you. The better you blend in the better your score–the Rockettes should form their own Olympic team. Crazy.

Or what about beach volleyball? I’d really like to hear the reason beach volleyball was given it’s own status separate and complete from regular volleyball. Oh, nevermind. I just got it–d’uh it’s the bikinis.

3. I’m in training for the London 2012 Olympics. Yes, you read that right. I’m on a very rigorous Olympic training schedule because I’m going to make the 2012 rowing team. I plan on earning the spot as the coxswain. Don’t know what a coxswain is? It’s the person who sits in the stern and yells at everyone to row faster. Yup, I’m eminently qualified because that’s pretty much what I do here–yell at everyone to go faster.

Can you possibly get a better Olympic gig? I submit that you cannot. I’m a natural coxswain, just ask the kids how I can turn around in the minivan and call them into order, and when I heard that they actually pass out medals for this skill I was all over it. All I need is a fancy uniform and I’m on my way to Olympic victory.

Cher4. Olympic outfits are getting sillier and sillier. Speaking of snappy Olympic uniforms am I the only one who wonders why they’ve apparently got Cher designing the uniforms nowadays? Not that I’d want to go back to the super tight men’s basketball shorts of the 1970s (delete that mental picture quick) but boy the stuff seems to get smaller and smaller.

I just don’t get why it’s a good idea to wear a bikini to run a race or play volleyball. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should–seems to focus on women in a way that detracts from their skills and puts the focus back on skin. Because we need more of that.

The ONLY sport that might be able to get away with tiny coverage is swimming based on the theory that small is more aerodynamic (or would that be hydrodynamic? Not sure) but ironically enough swimming is the only sport that has actually increased the fabric production–and hats off to the swim team because I for one think the new look is fabulous. Anything to rid the men of those horrid Speedos. Anything.

I was watching Sanya Richars run the 400 meter finals and noticed she had this skimpy little boy-shorts number that made her look like backup for MC Hammer. If you’re an Olympic star perhaps the argument could be made that watertight spandex is more aerodynamic and shaves bits of seconds off of your time but then the woman had all of her gorgeous long flowing hair rippling about her shoulders in a way that totally blows that theory out of the stadium.

And then there were her gauntlets. Did you notice those shiny light blue spandex thingies she had on her lower arms? They were slightly ambiguous as to purpose I can only imagine they were for overall effect and an attempt to intimidate her rivals with her bold fashion moves or else as a safety measure reminiscent of Wonder Woman’s golden bracelets to stop random bullets. Or maybe they were bug screens because she’s so darn fast she doesn’t want bug guts cluttering up her beautiful arms? It was odd. All she needed were some huge puffy sleeves on her uniform and she’d have looked like she stepped out of an 80s prom picture.

5. Warm up moves can be misinterpreted. Lillian was watching that same 400 meter final with me and watched as the runners stood at the blocks, waiting for the race to begin. The women were pacing around, shaking out their leg muscles, shifting from foot to foot and dancing around in anticipation. Lillian looked at me kind of funny and said, “They all have to go to the bathroom!”

Maybe that helps with their times.

6. Olympic commercials have raised interesting questions. My children don’t watch much prime time television (videos? Yes, Spongebob? Yes, 6 o’clock news? No) and suddenly with their new Olympic interest a whole new world of information has been opened up to them.

“Dad–What’s a prostate?”

“Mom–What’s depression?”

“Dad–Why are they selling diapers for grownups?”

Ah my son, that is the beauty of being nine years old. Complete innocence about the wonders of aging.

7. Some people don’t age. Speaking of aging, I have to say that Bob Costas is amazing. The man has hosted–What? Like thirty or forty Olympic games? And he still looks amazing, he’s the Dick Clark of sports. Maybe they’ve got him hermetically sealed in a room there behind the desk and just bring him out every four years. May I age as gracefully as he hath.

I wish I could say the same for Tim Daggett.

8. What happened to sportsmanship? Was anyone else a little embarrassed at Valeri Liukin’s behavior when his daughter Nastia Liukin won the silver medal? Xe Kexin and she were tied but because of a new tie-breaking procedure Xe Kexin was declared the gold medalist. Disappointing for Nastia I’m sure but that’s the game, someone had to win and the rules are there to pick a winner.

Well it’s pretty obvious that neither father nor daughter were pleased with this development and I suppose that’s understandable but forget a good-will handshake, a smile to the crowd, a thank you to the judges for doing their jobs, instead while his daughter was making her way to the platform to receive her–WOW!–silver medal where was he? He was wrapped up in argument with the judges to argue their decision. Odd priorities my friends, odd priorities.

I guess silver isn’t worth what it once was.

9. I’m confused about where the Olympics are being held. I kept hearing that they’re being held in Beijing or did they switch things over to Branson, Missouri at the last minute? Because I have yet to see one non-English word anywhere. All the team uniforms are in English, does this seem odd? Surely we’re not the only country broadcasting the games? Do the French find this irritating? Heh. I bet they do.

Every team uniform, every sign, every banner is in English. Has this always been like this? I remember the Turin/Turino debate a couple years ago so maybe this has all been diced out before but it’s the first time I’ve noticed that NBC thinks we’re the only guest at this party. This must chap the Chinese something fierce.

10. Maybe the language barrier explains other issues. Now that I think about it, perhaps the English-only conundrum explains quite a bit. If everyone’s going around using English maybe that’s why there was that crazy mix-up at the Passport Office–both the lines for “children” and “adults” were in English and the Chinese gymnasts merely got in the wrong line. Total accident–could happen to anyone.

11. I don’t know that the Olympics are doing much for Chinese world relations. There has been a lot of talk that China sees the games as an opportunity for a better world image but after all the stink about human rights violations leading up to the games followed by gymnasts who haven’t even got their permanent teeth and the Milli Vanilli move at the opening ceremonies where they let the little six year old know she wasn’t pretty enough to show her face in public regardless of her other talents I don’t know that the “Let’s be friends, you can trust us” message is getting through.

I have to say though that the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest are the most beautiful buildings ever made for any Olympic event and the opening ceremonies were impressive. But has anyone measured the pool at the Water Cube? I’ve got this theory–stick with me here–that the pool must be a yard shorter than it’s supposed to be–why else have there been a crazy number of world records set during the swimming competitions? It’s as if world records have become so common there that they hardly attract attention anymore. Yup, get out the measuring tape because I bet the pool’s short a couple feet. Either that or there’s something in the water.

12. Women’s sporting events bring out another side of my husband. He loves track and field, watched every moment of the marathon and cheered every race but when it came to the women’s sprints he got the teeniest bit cocky.

“You know,” he says with the slightest trace of effort to impress me “the world’s record for the women’s 400 meter is about 48 seconds.”

“Really?” I said, having no clue what the numbers really meant.

“You know what this means don’t you?”

“Nope. Enlighten me.”

“That I could run faster than all those women.”

“Your fastest time was better than that?”

“Yup, I could beat all of them.”

“Wow. You should have that put on a t-shirt: ‘I’m faster than the girls’.”

But would he get to wear the cute little outfit with spandex arm protectors?

13. The IOC is missing some great publicity opportunities. Maybe having a race like that would be a great move for the IOC, instead of just having straight legitimate races maybe they could do kind of a Million Dollar Halftime move where they call up random members of the audience to join the race and take their shot against the greatest athletes on earth. That would be cool. You know, “Come on guys, take your best shot and race against the fastest women in the world–can YOU run faster than a GIRL?? Take the Pepsi Halftime Challenge!”

OR . . . even better they could do a mixer where they take athletes from each field and mix things up by having them compete in another totally different event. You know, watch Michael Phelps on the uneven bars, see Dara Torres try her legs at cycling, really shake things up. Oh! I know! They could call it a Chinese Firedrill Olympics.

Or how about this? You could have Celebrity Day at the Olympics where various guest celebrities get to match muscles against the best of the best. I know I’d totally watch to see Jackie Chan on the rings. That would be cool. Heh. Cool in ANY language.

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