Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympic et ceteras

A few days into the London Olympics, I should not have too many complaints about the results since the U.S. is tied for first in the overall medal count. But I can not lie: I wish we had more golds, not so much because we are second in that category but because at least one golden opportunity (no pun intended) was squandered when Ryan Lochte lost the sizeable lead his teammates handed him when he swam the anchor leg of the men’s 4x100 freestyle relay.

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The new rule in gymnastics -- which holds that no more than two gymnasts from a given country may advance to the medal round, even if that means lower-scoring, less-deserving gymnasts from other countries advance in their stead -- has already claimed a victim.

I hate to sound womanish by saying “my heart broke” watching Jordyn Weiber, arguably the best female gymnast on the planet, get denied her rightful place in the all-around individual final. But break it did. She has busted her ass all her life to win the all-around gold, and now is forced to watch twenty athletes she beat advance to the final while she does not, all because of the geographical location where she was born. This is w-r-o-n-g.

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On the other hand, Kim Rhode’s accomplishment yesterday is the kind of thing that truly captures the Olympics’ meritorious spirit. This is the fifth consecutive Olympics in which the shootist from California has medaled, and not only did she win a medal yesterday -- she won gold while setting a world record by gunning down 99 of the 100 clays that were flung across her field of vision. Hers is the kind of achievement that makes me get misty-eyed (sorry to sound womanish again) when I see her standing atop the podium while the flag rises and the “Star Spangled Banner” plays.

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For what it’s worth, for the first time in my life I watched an entire water polo match, and found it to be much more exciting that I ever would have expected. My love for hockey may have played a role, because every time the U.S. scored en route to its 8-7 win over Montenegro, I yelled “he scooores!” as if I was doing radio play-by-play for an NHL playoff game.

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I have always found Olympic opening ceremonies to be overdone and annoyingly sentimental, much like the Oscars, and I wish everyone would focus solely on sports as soon as the ceremony is over. But I feel compelled to comment on this year’s ceremony because when I went to a five-year-old’s birthday party on Saturday, all of my fellow adults kept talking about how much they hated it.

Well, here is what I liked: The fast-forward-style sequence that followed the River Thames from its headwaters to its passage through London…The arresting visual depiction of Britain’s agrarian era followed by its Industrial Revolution era…The nod to Britain’s tradition of children’s literature…The never-gets-old image of Paul McCartney playing “Hey Jude” while the crowd sings along...And the fact that homage was paid to the victims who were killed and maimed by Islamic terrorists in the attack that took place in London on July 7, 2005.

Here is what I did not like: The boy-girl-lost-smart-phone sequence that incongruously included the 1960’s through 1990’s in addition to the 2000’s. As Erika pointed out, it seemed very high schoolish…Plus, I am not pleased that NBC chose not to show the homage to the July 7th terror victims

And, lastly, here is what I found weird: The fawning salute to Britain’s national health care system. I understand there is a political side to the Olympics, and am not entirely opposed to that, but doesn’t it seem odd to glorify a system that ranks 16th out of the EU’s 20 nations when it comes to cancer survival rate? And that forces more than one-third of its patients who are in need of surgery to wait more than four months to have it?

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