Mon. Aug 11, 2008
First Olympic Weekend
If you missed the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics on Friday night, well, there are no words that can convey what you missed. There are some photos, like the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony via The Big Picture at Boston.com, and Best Picks Of Beijing Olympic 2008 Opening Ceremony Images. But, stunning as the photos are, they still do not do the event justice.
As I watched it, on twitter I said “China’s five star display tonight made preceding Opening Ceremonies look like something put on by your local Little Theater.” And probably scared the pants off those responsible for planned the ceremonies for London’s Games in 2012. After what I witnessed Friday night, if I were them, I’d be tempted just to build the world’s largest video screen (oops, China already did that!), and just show a video of China’s ceremony.
It was that good.
I spent Saturday and Sunday catching a huge variety of sports. NBC has 5 or 6 channels carrying events at one time or another during the day and night. And three of them are in high definition. These are the first Olympics broadcast in high definition (hard to believe, but at the age of ten I saw the first games broadcast live via satellite), and for me it’s been a real pleasure.
I watched women’s team handball last night, a sport I did not even know existed, simply because it was in HD. The equestrian events were particularly interesting in HD. In all cases, you get a much sharper view of the faces of the athletes, and the intensity is definitely high def.
I’ve tried to watch boxing, but in these Olympics, it’s just too bizarre. It’s more like a combination of wrestling, pawing, and occasional punching, interrupted every 10 seconds by some preening barker using sign language. The scoring system sounds simple, but in practice is incomprehensible in the way it is applied. I dare say they have sanitized the sport out of that one.
On the other hand, I watched Sweden … Sweden … finish with a time in the 4×100 relay that broke the world record.
They came in 5th.
The 4×100 relay was a remarkable display, with five teams finishing with a time that eclipsed the previous world record. This was the excellence of competition bringing out the best performances of 20 athletes lives, in about a little over 3 minutes.
It’s also clear China has really placed a lot of emphasis on providing “best in the world” venues for these competitions. They spent $1.3 million importing, filtering, and washing the best sand they could find, before it was placed in the beach volleyball courts. The players have raved about it, saying it doesn’t even get hot in the sun.
Even the color palettes are unique. The indoor volleyball court is a peachy flesh tone, contrasted with a lighter tone of teal at courtside. Not a common combo, but damned if it doesn’t work very well on TV. Just judging by what I’ve seen so far, the “art direction” of these Games has been top notch.
One unfortunate aspect of these events over which China offered the illusion of control is the vast pollution levels seen so far. The women’s road race this morning was particularly bad, and it doesn’t help that the bike riders are surrounded by cars and motorcycles that are part of the event as well (team support and TV cameras).
China supposedly had a “solution,” involving shutting down factories in the area for five weeks beforehand, going to an odd/even driving system to cut down on the number of cars on the roads, even seeding clouds to bring down rain in hopes of clearing the air. It clearly didn’t work, and when we get to events like the marathon, one can only hope the impact won’t be too severe.
Then we also had those incidents that happen when politics and the Olympics mix, like the President being asked on a visit if he’d like to slap a bikini-clad butt:
“Mr. President,” she said, “want to?”
Want to has nothing to do with it in public life.
As the son of a president, a husband of nearly 37 years, the father of two daughters, the subject of some attempted tabloid exposes and a seasoned political veteran, who is not a female athlete but knows that every camera for a half-mile is trained on him, Bush wisely chose instead to brush his hand across the small of May-Treanor’s back.Pres. Bush declines to slap Misty May-Treanor’s bikinied butt | Top of the Ticket | Los Angeles Times
Smartest choice he’s made in some time, I’d say. And then there’s a more serious mix of the Olympics and politics:
Nino Salukvadze took bronze for Georgia in the women’s 10m air pistol, with Russia’s Natalia Paderina collecting silver. After the medal ceremony the two posed together for photographers, their arms on each others’ shoulders, and Paderina gave Salukvadze a kiss on the cheek.
“As far as the hugging and kissing goes, I do that with many friends. I have many friends around the world and will always do that. There should be no hatred among athletes and people,” she said. “Politicians should straighten out the situation today and if they don’t, we’ll have to get involved.”Olympics Beijing 2008: The Russian Natalia Paderina and Georgia’s Nino Salukvadze share a podium
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the Olympics are supposed to be about.