Tuesday, August 12, 2008

2008 Olympics: Impressions

I don't know how I've managed to get through four days of the Olympics without posting about it. I've been busy with two jobs, so that's probably part of it. Despite my silence, however, I am very excited about the Games; I was more excited on August 7 than I was on Christmas Eve when I was a kid. So imagine my disappointment when I found out the viewing schedule in America for the rowing events. If I remember correctly, they showed every rowing final on television in 2004. I only think that because I have a number of the finals on tape somewhere in the basement. This is only the second Games in which I have been interested in anything other than what was on TV and in the news, so it's not as exciting as Athens was, especially with the way the US 8+'s tore through their heats.

There was an editorial I read online (probably something I found on Row2k) that bemoaned the rampant professionalism of the games, mostly in the "big" sports (i.e. basketball, track and field, gymnastics, swimming). Most of his beef had to do with the fact that in the "smaller" sports (i.e. rowing, canoe/kayak, shooting) only get one chance every quadrennial to make international headlines, so they should get the lion's share of coverage during the Games. While I sympathize with his point of view and I absolutely loathe the number of McDonalds and Coca-Cola commercials each break, the money from these sponsors has made the Olympics what it is today. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I could almost guarantee that if you asked any US Olympians in the smaller sports if they would give up their spots to protest the commercialism of the Games, they would laugh right in your face.

Coincidentally, most of the coverage I've seen (after 9PM EST) has been of swimming and gymnastics. Honestly, I'm not really a huge fan of events where the results are based on the scores of a panel of judges. This is not to detract from the individual athletes; I wish I had the upper body strength of a gymnast. However, there's nothing subjective about getting to the finish line with your bow ball ahead of another boat. All this being said, as I type, I'm watching the women's gymnastics team final, and I saw something awesome. I tuned in just as the US team was about to begin the vault, and they showed Bridget Sloan at the runway. When she started her sprint, the camera zoomed in on her face, and she had The Look. It spooked me a little bit; this tiny 16-year old who doesn't even have her driver's license with eyes that had a killer instinct. It was great, and it's great to draw inspiration from other sports. Since rowing hasn't really been viewable for me, other sports have been all that I've seen. The other great inspirational moment so far has been the men's swimming 4x100 freestyle relay; I put a photo of Michael Phelps screaming at the starting block on my desktop to remind me of reasons to train.

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