16 August 2008

Wild things I've been saying about the Olympics

So today, I was talking to my maths-literate younger sister and said some pretty dumb things about Olympics.

They follow, and also my own rebuttal to my false assumption.
  • Phelps has GOT to be doping. Apparently, he is not. Has given eight blood samples so far, according to the NY Times.
  • The pool is short. This is actually Yoko's idea, but I think we all know this is probably not true.
  • The finish today was total bullshit. He clearly lost. Again, the Times says it was reviewed and Phelps clearly won.
  • Those Chinese gymnasts ain't 16. No way. Okay so I still believe this one. No way they're 16.
If you hang around with Japanese people enough (or watch Japanese TV), you get a sense that the Japanese think that the Chinese like to cheat. I have to say too (only from my experience) that cheating and lying seem like a much different thing in Chinese culture than it is in Japanese culture (indeed, American culture as well).

I was never into the Olympics much, but not working and packing lends itself to having the TV on. Basically, the Japanese TV coverage is all about the Olympics. Three channels at once (for a country that only has 6 channels). Anything a Japanese person is competing in is shown too, so I've watched hours of judo, some ping pong, the hammer toss, more judo, wrestling, the steeplechase (which I'm not really sure made any sense: why the hell to they have to run through a puddle for?), baseball, softball, lots of swimming, sprinting. No rowing, thank god.

It also made me realize that there is something univerisally exciting about a race, when two (or ten) people are going head to head. The winners and losers are quite obvious, you don't have to understand anything really, and people compete against each other in real time. Compare this to a lot of the winter sports (like skiing and snowboarding and bobsledding and figure skating) where people compete seperately. I like the race atmosphere.

Finally, Michael Phelps does not make me proud to be an American. Look, your athletic team's ability or your country's athletes have nothing to do with whether you have a good country or not. It just means that you have the strongest guy (or girl). I was thinking about this and what would be legitimate reasons to feel patriotic while watching your country's athletes do well.
  1. Your country has the resources to produce good athletes. This is okay, I guess, but it only reflects on one really small part of your country and, like in the case of China, pouring tons of money into athletics might be better spent elsewhere, like, say, cleaning up the air or building an infrastructure to get people out of poverty. Not that they're not doing this, but it seems sort of shallow to point to money spent on athletics as anything great.
  2. Your people are stronger than other people. I think George Bush made very clear this week that this is the 21st century, not the 17th.
  3. Your country has the diversity to produce good athletes in diverse fields. Let's face it, different cultures generally are into different sports. That's why Japan's basketball team sucks, but they have great ping-pong players. One of the things I love about the US is that the folks competing for us are diverse and you see a lot of different people carrying the flag. So I think this makes me proud to be an American.
  4. Your people show good sportsmanship. Well, I guess this is only highlighted when people show bad sportsmanship, like this wicked fat Cuban judo coach screaming for a whole round about god knows what. I think there are probably good sports(wo)men in every country.

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