Saturday, 16 August 2008

Olympic Games observations - week 1

Being an avid sports fan I've been taking in a lot of the Olympics.

Here are my observations after week one.


Leaving aside the terrific efforts of the Australians, especially the girls in the pool here are my highlights.

Undoubtedly, the highlight has been the facile win in the 100m final by Jamaica's Usain Bolt. Up against the fastest field ever assembled at an Olympic Games he treated his rivals with contempt breaking his own world record in the process running a mind-boggling 9.69 seconds. The way he eased down over the last 20m shows he can go faster yet. In doing what he is, Bolt is redefining the way sprinters are developed. Normally, a sprinter is of average height and muscle bound. Bolt has shown that stride length (I counted 42 strides in his victory) is an equally important factor in sprinting and I expect sports institutes around the world to reassess their formula for what it takes to be a sprinter. That will lead to even faster times and I predict that the world record will be reduced to under 9.55 by the 2016 Olympic Games.

Benjamin Boukpeti, ranked 56th in the world, won the first ever medal for the African nation of Togo in the canoe slalom. When he finished and it was clear he'd won bronze he broke his oar in two, thrust the parts into the air and let out a large roar. Terrific stuff. What is little known is that he was born in France, lives there and has only been to Togo once - when he was a little tacker. Given that he is now a national hero he figures it's probably a good time to visit.

Michael Phelps. What a legend. Winning seven gold medals so far is an amazing achievement but it was his win in the 100m butterfly that showed what a true champion the bloke is. Seventh at the turn and having to make up a lot of water Phelps did what champions do and swam down the leader in the last stroke. People criticise his enthusiastic celebrations but they're just sporting curmudgeons. Celebrate an extraordinary performance.


I must admit that these Olympics lack atmosphere. Everything is so staged, so fake that I don't know whether the crowd's enthusiasm is due to Chinese organisation or appreciation for the performance.

These Olympics have backfired completely on the Chinese regime. Giving the Olympics to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union failed spectacularly to improve freedom in those countries and it was always wishful thinking to suggest that it would do so in authoritarian China.

Ironically, the decision to award the games to China has not only not led to increasing freedom but has actually led to less.

Over the last few years those people who could 'embarrass' the regime have been rounded up and detained. China had agreed to allow protesters to stage protests in a park specially set aside for this activity. In order to stage a protest, people were required to fill in documentation stating what they were intending to protest about.

The result?

People who filled in the paperwork were arrested and charged with crimes against the state. That would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad.

To date no protests have been held in the park.

The facade that is the Chinese regime (and it's no different to any other totalitarian regime) has been propped up with a lip-syncing cute kid because the real singer was too ugly, faked fireworks displays for TV, showing off children from all 56 cultural minorities in China until it was revealed that they were all, in fact, from the Han majority (90% of China) and were simply dressed up to look like minorities, and censorship of the Internet when they'd repeatedly told Olympics officials that access would be free and unfettered.

China intended to showcase what it's about to the world. Unfortunately for the Chinese regime the message received is not what the Chinese thought they were sending.

The issue of performance enhancing drugs has again raised its ugly head at an Olympics. The Greeks have taken the gold medal lead for most athletes sent home (or not allowed to compete) due to positive drugs tests - 15. The number of medals that China has won and especially in power sports such as weightlifting makes one wonder about the validity of their efforts though it has been an impressive spectacle watching their women lift such huge weights.

(Nothing Follows)


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