The case against the Olympics

The Winter Olympics begin February 7 in Sochi, Russia, and people are getting nervous over terrorism threats, anti-gay laws, the toilet situation, and whatever Vladimir Putin might do.

Columnist Charles Lane argues that the Olympics have gotten too politicized, too expensive, too drug-saturated, too corrupt, and too corporate.  We should just end them.  Read his case against the Olympics here.

Does he have a point?  Or is there still value in having virtually all of the countries of the world come together in a huge athletic event?  Might the Olympics be reformed rather than killed?

Olympics choose Tokyo & wrestling

Tokyo won the 2020 Olympics, beating out Istanbul and Madrid.  I’d say that was a good choice.  Also, the International Olympics committee voted to re-instate wrestling as an Olympics sport, beating out baseball, softball, and squash. [Read more...]

Olympics post-mortem

The Olympics are over.  The United States took the most medals (104), including the most golds (46).  China came in second, with 87, 38 being golds.  The television ratings were huge.  I resisted at first, but every time I would surf by, I would be drawn in.  What were the high points?  What were the low points?  Any other observations about the games and their significance?

Pride vs. Gratitude

When Gabby Douglas won the gold medal for individual women’s gymnastics, the first thing she did was shift the glory:

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” These are the first words 16-year-old gymnast Gabrielle Douglas tweeted after she won the all around gold medal at the London Olympics yesterday. On the stadium floor, Douglas also told a reporter that ”the glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on me.”

via Gabby Douglas Wins Gold, Gives Glory to God | Urban Faith.

It seems to me that this is not saying God made me win, as some athletes seem to, but a perfectly appropriate expression of faith at a moment of great personal joy that could easily be a celebration of one’s self.  That strikes me as a valuable spiritual discipline, the ability to do that.   When a person achieves something great–in sports, in a profession, in life–it is possible to respond with pride or one with gratitude.

HT:  Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Losing on purpose at the Olympics

Badminton players from China, South Korea, and Indonesia, were expelled from the Olympics for intentionally losing–they just hit the birdie into the net over and over–so that they would draw easier opponents and avoid competing against another national team in the tournament:

Eight badminton players at the London Olympics were kicked out of competition Wednesday for trying to lose — a display that drew outrage from fans and organizers who said the women had violated the most sacred stage in sports.

After an unexpected loss by a powerful Chinese doubles team, the eight women appeared to play poorly on purpose to secure a more favorable position in the next phase of the event.

The feeble play was obvious to fans who attended the matches Tuesday night at Wembley Arena — they chanted, “Off! Off! Off!” — and to incredulous television broadcasters and viewers watching around the world.

“They’re serving fault and fault! They are just hitting the ball into the net!” the BBC’s David Mercer said in disbelief. “They are both trying to lose, and that is unforgivable. This is the Olympic Games.”

The eight doubles players from China, South Korea and Indonesia were cited by the Badminton World Federation for “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport.”

[+] EnlargeBadminton

AP Photo/Andres LeightonReferee Torsten Berg, second from right, talks to South Korean coach Sung Han-kook, right, after Berg issued a black card to the players in the women’s doubles match between South Korea and Indonesia.

The players are world doubles champions Wang Xiaoli and Yu Yang of China and their South Korean opponents, Jung Kyun-eun and Kim Ha-na, along with South Korea’s Ha Jung-eun and Kim Min-jung and Indonesia’s Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii. They were disqualified from competition but allowed to stay at the Games — a step lighter than expulsion, the penalty for positive drug tests.

“We have to be clear: There has been a problem here and we have to take that problem very seriously,” BWF secretary general Thomas Lund said. “There are things we can improve on and look at after this competition.”

Teams blamed the introduction of a round-robin stage rather than a straight knockout tournament as the main cause of the problem. The round-robin format can allow results to be manipulated to earn an easier matchup in the knockout round.

The Chinese players tried to rig the draw after China’s second-seeded pair unexpectedly lost to a Danish team in the morning. That placed the No. 2 pair on course for a semifinal meeting with Wang and Yu, instead of the final.

Wang and Yu then deliberately set out to lose so they would go into the bottom half of the draw. They hardly exerted themselves, and neither did the South Koreans, drawing jeers of derision from the crowd and warnings from the umpire and tournament referee Torsten Berg. Wang and Yu eventually got what they wanted by losing.

After the match, Yu said his team was only trying to save energy for the knockout rounds, which start Wednesday.

Later, Yu said he was quitting the sport.

A comment on a verified account for Yu on the Tencent microblogging service late Wednesday read: “This is my last game. Farewell Badminton World Federation. Farewell my dear badminton.”

An hour later, the South Korean team of Ha and Kim took to the court and decided also to try to lose to the Indonesians to avoid meeting Wang and Yu in the quarterfinals. Early on, all four players were warned by the umpire for not trying hard, and Berg returned and produced black cards to disqualify both pairs, but the cards were rescinded on a promise of better play.

In the third game, Berg reappeared to urge them to finish, and the Indonesians ended up being better at losing than Ha and Kim, who fell into the playoff they didn’t want with the world champions.

South Korea and Indonesia appealed the disqualification, but the BWF rejected the South Korean appeal and Indonesia’s challenge was withdrawn. China had accepted the federation’s earlier decision.

via 2012 London Olympics — Eight badminton players disqualified for trying to lose matches – ESPN.

Mitt Romney’s Olympic event

Mitt Romney not only organized the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, he has a horse in this year’s game.  He and his wife are part owners of a horse that will compete in the dressage competition.   Comedians, satirists, and Democrats in general are having a field day with this, calling it “ballet for horses” and an example of the effete decadence of  very wealthy people like the Romneys.  For example, this from a snarky column by Dana Milbank:

Rafalca, a 15-year-old Oldenburg mare owned in part by the Romneys, qualified as a member of the U.S. Olympic team and will compete in London in the dressage competition — a form of ballet for horses and their riders in which the animals do pirouettes and serpentines. They also do piaffes, which, according to the International Equestrian Federation, is a “highly collected, cadenced, elevated diagonal movement” in which “the haunches with active hocks are well engaged.” Rafalca, after qualifying, flew across the Atlantic on a FedEx jet (no, they didn’t strap her to the roof) and reportedly dined on an in-flight meal of watermelon.

Understandably, Romney was wary about discussing dressage when NBC’s Brian Williams asked him in London on Wednesday about his equine Olympian. “You actually have a horse in the race. What’s that gonna be like?”

“Well,” Romney replied. “It’s — a big — exciting experience for my wife and — and for the person that she’s worked with, the trainer of the horse who’s riding the horse. And — obviously, it’s fun to be part of the Olympics in any way you can be part of them.”

Williams followed up: “When is the event, and for those of us who don’t follow the sport, what happens? Are there rounds that — of competition? Is there just one chance? What happens?”

Romney pleaded ignorance. “I have to tell you, this is Ann’s sport. I’m not even sure which day the sport goes on. She will get the chance to see it, I will not — be — watching — the event. I hope — her horse does well.”

It was arguably Romney’s worst interview since Chris Wallace asked him about Seamus. The flustered candidate went on to disparage the British preparation for the Olympics, setting off an international incident.

It’s understandable that Romney would be reluctant to discuss dressage. Seamus may have made him look odd, or insensitive. Rafalca makes him look like a super-rich playboy.

John Kerry was made to look effete in 2004 by Republican mockery of his windsurfing, his Turnbull & Asser shirts and his French fluency. Now Democrats have a chance to do something similar to Romney, with his Swiss bank account, his Grand Cayman and Bermuda tax havens, his multiple homes, his $10,000 bet, his friends who own NASCAR teams, and now the six-figure horses his wife imports from Europe. Nothing says “man of the people” quite like horse ballet.

Ann Romney takes umbrage at the criticism, saying that dressage has helped with her multiple sclerosis. That was enough to get the Democratic National Committee to back away from a video campaign showing Rafalca spliced with Mitt Romney “dancing around” questions about his tax returns.

While it’s heartening that Ann Romney has been helped by the horses, most MS sufferers don’t have the luxury of importing $100,000 horses from Europe. And the candidate’s disavowal of dressage as “Ann’s sport” isn’t quite right.

In an interview with the Web site Chronicle of the Horse, Rafalca’s trainer, Jan Ebeling, said Mitt Romney selected the music for the horse’s routine at an international competition; Ebeling, in another interview, said the former Massachusetts governor, inspired by his wife, “really enjoys the horses.” Romney joined his wife at an Olympic qualifying dressage event in April 2008, and the couple declared a $77,731 loss on their 2010 tax returns for their share of Rafalca’s care.

via Dana Milbank: Prancing around dressage – The Washington Post.

Very funny, I admit.  But there is nothing wrong with the Romneys owning this horse!  Gymnastic floor exercises to music are very difficult.  Imagine getting a horse to do that.  Actually, dressage is described as gymnastics for horses.  And it isn’t effete. The word means “training,” and the sport grew directly out of the different moves,  motions, and maneuvers that cavalrymen taught their mounts.  Like other sports and other human endeavors, if you don’t know anything about it, it may seem silly, but the more you know about it, the more you can appreciate it.  Here is a good explanation.

I hope Rafalca, her rider, and her owners win a gold medal!  The dressage competition begins today.

Here is a video of the Romney’s horse and her rider Jan Ebeling:


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X