The big “O”: What are you looking forward to?

Andy R [A new guest blogger - entries from others are welcome as I go into 6 weeks of hibernation]

With the Olympics (finally) just around the corner I thought it might be interesting (and perhaps a welcome break) to hear what everybody is looking forward to in the upcoming games. I’m more of a winter games guy myself having become quite a fan of sitting back with a few beers and trying to figure out the rules of curling by observation (using Wikipedia would take all the fun out of it). That being said, I would have to say that watching Michael Phelps try to tie/break Mark Spitz’s record, and the “Redeem team” try to win back American bragging rights in hoops are top draws on my list for Beijing. The (potential) showdown between Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles (Cuba) will probably be classic as well. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to NBC over here, but it would be extremely interesting to watch CCTV and NBC coverage side by side. I guess I’ll have to wait for the inevitable flood of academic papers on the subject. How about everybody else? What are you most excited to see in August, sports-related or otherwise?

Note: This being my first post, I’d like to introduce myself. Out of love for the Duck, I’ve offered to help out Richard during his upcoming hiatus. I’m originally from Ohio and currently live in Hangzhou with my wife where I represent an US-based company. I graduated in 2007 with an MA in East Asian Studies from Duke University (and I’m well aware of all the controversy my alma mater seems to stir up-Lacrosse scandal, Grace Wang, and the general hatred of Duke basketball, so if you have to, please get it out of your system as quickly as possible). Anyway, along with all the other great contributors here, I’ll try my best to keep things interesting for you folks while Richard is MIA.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 30 Comments

A tough choice: Winter Olympics curling or Summer Olympics synchronized swimming team competitions?

July 20, 2008 @ 12:07 pm | Comment

Damn, Scott. I can’t figure that one out. Maybe you should throw in trampoline gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics — I guess the latter is like acrobatics + contraception or something.

Me? I’m psyched for the hoopla and the controversies — doping, sex, and politics.

Michael

July 20, 2008 @ 12:41 pm | Comment

Women’s curling or men’s? I have to say as silly as synchronized swimming looks you have to give it up to those ladies who can A. Hold their breath for that long and B. Continually surface with huge cheese-eating grins on their faces.

July 20, 2008 @ 12:48 pm | Comment

I’m sorry but I think most people here are not interested in the sporting events in the Olympics. They are much more interested in the pollution, the arrests, the people driving out of their homes, the dissidents, the Tibetans during the Olympics. This is the real excitement of the Olympics for them. This is their true Olympics. Their gold medal would be if a bomb explodes during the opening ceremony killing tens of thousands. Then they and the BBC would really be excited.

By the way, do you know what is the favorite phrase of a BBC reporter in China? The phrase phrase is: “Millions die”

July 20, 2008 @ 12:52 pm | Comment

@Hongxing

So what would interest you Hongxing? Maybe foreign guests getting pummeled by angry mobs of Chinese xenophobes? Hu Jintao busting Sarkozy’s head wide open with the butt of a giant Chinese flag at the opening ceremony? Mao rising from his crystal coffin, strapping on a red speedo, and heroically beating Micheal Phelps in all his events?

July 20, 2008 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

Not at all. Just hope to see a peaceful and harmonious Olympics, a politics-free Olympics. But if BBC sends their reporters to China with quotas on how many stories of “public grievance” they must write about. Then it really is sick.

And the reporter of the South Morning China Post who wrote about that banning blacks from bar story has admitted that he made up the story. When asked why he did it. He said: “If it were on any other country, I wouldn’t even think about doing a piece like this without solid evidence. But China is a safe target, given the current political climate, anything on China is fair game, evidence or not. And if I get caught, I can always use the classic ‘well-the-Chinese-government-is-not-transparent-therefore-I-Am-Allowed-To-Make-Up-Stuff’ defense”

July 20, 2008 @ 1:47 pm | Comment

I’m looking forward to the opening ceremonies. I admit, though, I’m only looking forward to it because I’m interested to see just how awful it will be. I have a feeling that Zhang Yimou is going to outdo himself. It is going to be cringe-tastic!

Other than that, I hope China wins all of the track and field medals, just because I like to see upsets. By the same token, I want to see Japan win gold in ping pong and badminton…mainly to see if the athletes would get out of the stadium alive.

July 20, 2008 @ 2:19 pm | Comment

@Hongxing

I would hope that contrary to your opinion most people on here would also want a peaceful and harmonious Olympics, as far as politics free goes…well that’s another story.

Could you provide a link to the “BBC quotas on public grievance” and the “SCMP reporter making the story up”. I’m sure everybody would appreciate it. Thanks!

July 20, 2008 @ 2:21 pm | Comment

@Hongxing…

I give up. You are one of these people for whom this phrase was invented: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Look, buddy, the Olympics have ALWAYS involved politics and protest. Always. Name ONE Game that hasn’t. There isn’t one. I am honestly flabbergasted by the way the protests caught the Chinese Central government so flat-footed. They were completely predictable, and if you want to host the Games, you ought to know this is a part of what you’ll get. The reactions of the government remind me of China 15 years ago. Opening the door and then slamming it shut while the guests are entering.

I for one am looking forward to seeing Beijing in yet another transition. This will be my, uh, 9th trip there? 10th? I’ve sort of lost track. My first time was in ’79, and needless to say, things are a little different now.

I have tickets to a bunch of events. I have never been to an Olympics anywhere before, so I’m looking forward to that too.

And as usual, I am looking forward to seeing friends, speaking Chinese and visiting a country that I truly love, and want the best for.

July 20, 2008 @ 2:32 pm | Comment

I hope that the whole thing will be a miserable embarrassment to China and IOC. I hope that the CCP’s worst fear come to fruition. What a great opportunity for another revolution to finally destroy the CCP and new ultra-wealthy class at the same time. I would love to see the heads of the Beijing real estate developers displayed on pikes for all the world to see on international TV and for Zhongnanhai to burn to the ground.

July 20, 2008 @ 2:46 pm | Comment

Thanks to Hongxing we now know how the BBC and the SCMP really work. Come on, Red Star, you accuse others of making up stories? Seems to me to be a case of 贼喊捉贼 (zei han zhuo zei; A thief is shouting: “Catch the thief!”).

July 20, 2008 @ 2:57 pm | Comment

@HongXing
“They are much more interested in the pollution, the arrests, the people driving out of their homes, the dissidents, the Tibetans during the Olympics.”
Well… You see also to be much fixated on that too, to the point of being offtopic in this post. ;-)

Just consider this post a truce. OK? ;-)

So, just for a change, what would you be interested to see in the olympic games on the sport side? Any special interest, or fan of any specific sport?

July 20, 2008 @ 4:22 pm | Comment

I’m always excited for the basketball. I think FIBA basketball is a nice change of pace from NBA style and it’s good to check out all the up and coming international players. Also the US is sending an actual team to the games as opposed to a contingent of underprepared all-star malcontents. Should make for some decent games.

Today was also the first traffic enforcement day here in Beijing, and while it’s too early to see any effect on the air quality, even for a Sunday the roads were unusually and blissfully quiet. By contrast, yesterday was bedlam as the highways were jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, with gridlock at almost every major on ramp/off ramp.

It was a smart move on the part of the Beijing municipal government to limit private and government passenger vehicles, and I’d like to see the restrictions extended past the games as well, it would be a nice improvement to the quality of life here.

July 20, 2008 @ 6:58 pm | Comment

On the Unfairness of the Olympics Events

Why do we often see a swimmer winning many golds in an olympics, like four or five? I think there’s a point of unfairness, and I am going to lay it out and discuss it with you guys.

As we know, the swimming events are categorized according to the posture of the swimmer and not to the distances. 50M, 100, 200, 400, 800M, those are not considered very long distances, but every distance has four events (freestyle, butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke), plus a medley. Furthermore, there are a whole bunch 4x’s. To illustrate my point, lets take 200M for example. THere are 200M butterfuly, 200M breaststroke, 200M backstroke, 200M Freestyle, 200M Medley, 4x200M Freestyle, 4x200M Medley. And that’s 200M alone!

Granted, the postures are different. But there are common principles in swimming that are independent of postures. So, if you are a world-class swimmer, it’s rare that you’ll be too poor in any particular posture (just look at Michael Phelps). Now, in track and field, there are also many events, but that’s justified: 100M dash is very different from 400M run. Long jump is very different from high jump, therefore an athlete getting multi-golds is less frequent in track and field than in swimming.

So in swimming, as long as your country has only one power-horse swimmer, it’s entirely possible that that one single person can bring home many golds. If your country has many swimmers but no powerhorse, then your hopes are only at events where the powerhorses chose not to participate due to scheduling or energy. If you doubt me, then think of this scenario: if there’s no scheduling problem and Phelps have the energy to participate in ALL male swimming events, it would not be a surprise that he alone can try to win 10 golds.

Now, you may say: well why don’t you be better at swimming? You can’t blame others for being good. I can counter this argument from two aspects. First, let’s talk about track and field for a moment. Imagine for a moment that Track and Field has these events: 100M “Single Hand Fist” run (where you must open one fist and tighten another, let’s say that’s considered a “posture” by experts) , 100M “Double Hand Fist Run”, 100M “Double Open Palm Run” (You must open both of your palms), 100M “Freestyle Run”, 4x100M “Free Style Run”, 4x100M “Medley Run”, and the same events apply to 200M as well. Now, just imagine how many golds could Carl Lewis have won in a single olympics when he was at his career peak. Second, I can make the argument that the spirit of the Olympics is to spread the sports and participation as widely as possible so many different countries can win golds. Now, the Olympic Committee has indeed taken steps to realize those principles. For example, China’s weightlifting is a world power-horse, therefore the recent rule change says one country can only participate in 4 of the 7 events in weightlifting, even though China has the ability to win gold in all 7 events. (But they did not do the same to swimming, otherwise it’d be mathematically impossible for Phelps to even attempt 8 golds). China’s Pingpong is also of world-class. So, in order to let other countries have some chances too, the Committee’s new rule change says the players from one country must be placed in the same big bracket, which makes it impossible for 2 Chinese to be competing for gold in the final, because one of them will be eliminated in that bracket. (But they did not do the same to tennis, where Americans dominate. Or to archery, where Koreans dominate, etc.) Other rule changes to PingPong include reducing the number of points from 21 to 11 in each set, thus increasing the chance of “upsets”. (But there’s no similar changes to say, shotput, where you can say each player can only have one throw instead of five). Another new rule says the pingpong ball is a few millimeters bigger in diameter, greatly reducing speed during gameplay and reducing spin on the ball. Speed and spin allow more nuanced, skilled gameplay, which the Chinese players are known for. (But there’s no similar rule change to basketball, such as, say, making the hoop bigger, so a player can shoot with less accuracy than before and still get the basket).

Honestly speaking, I don’t mind 3 or 4 americans swimming in a 7 lane pool (I am exaggerating here), because those are indeed the 3 or 4 fastest swimmers. I don’t think the game is any less interesting because there are 3 or 4 americans. What I do want to ask, is why do those “new rules” were only created on sports in which the Chinese are very strong at? Why is it ok to deny the 3 strongest weightlifters from even participating in all the events they want to? Why is it that many of our Olympians are denied a chance at golds in many events just because of these “new rules”, which were created almost exclusively on China’s strong sports. Our sports officials need to think hard: The Olympics is not just a competition between athletes, it has become a contest of comprehensive national strength and political skills. If we don’t have enough political influence muscle to change back the new rules, so that our weightlifters can participate in all 7 events instead of only 4, so that our pingpong players don’t have to face each other in the same bracket, and we can, say, increase the number of events in pingpong (like adding an event where the players can only use left hand with no spin, another with right hand upper spin, another event with 21 points a set , another with 30 points a set, another with 30 points but 15 played by a man and 15 played by a woman, etc. etc. etc. imagine how many golds we would win in pingpong alone!) If we are unable to push through those rule changes, then I must say that the political efforts of our athletic department is a failure.

July 20, 2008 @ 11:01 pm | Comment

To be quite honest I have lost a lot of interest in the Olympics. I used to be quite enthused about it, but over the years it has seemed increasingly over-hyped. Plus all the drug cheats being exposed, you just really don’t know who is winning down to personal skill and natural ability. I’m not sure that many people suspected Marion Jones of being a cheat, but there you go.

When I was encouraged to go to Beijing this year by Chinese friends I flatly said “no” because I knew that everything would cost a lot more, be even more crowded and the weather would be unpleasant (as it always is in summer – wrong time of year to visit).

I will doubtless be impressed by various performances, but you won’t see me blogging on it (at most chipping in with comments).

July 21, 2008 @ 4:31 am | Comment

Being Canadian, I’m much more partial to the Winter Olympics (hockey fever, anyone?). Nothing against Beijing, but the summer events just don’t interest my northern blood that much. I got my fill of non-snow/ice sports spectacle watching the Turkish team in Euro 2008 while in Turkey. Now THAT was a feel-good story!

Of course, maybe my reticence is because of the memorable Canadian story in summer Olympic lore that was the Ben Johnson scandal in ’88. That left a sour taste in my childhood mouth. A few years back, a cabbie in Hangzhou started going on about Mr. Johnson the second I told him my nationality. Like Other Lisa said, the Chinese shouldn’t feel so singled out- controversy has long been part of the Olympic fun!

July 21, 2008 @ 5:42 am | Comment

OhMyDollar/Moneyball is out.

July 21, 2008 @ 8:18 am | Comment

I’ve always liked the cycling; cheats, doping and all. May even blog about it if I can see good coverage (not going in person). That will interest me, and then there will be the inevitable journalism about journalism in China;-) That might get interesting. Otherwise, I’m staying as far away as possible. It’s plenty crowded enough for me already.

July 21, 2008 @ 10:18 am | Comment

Africans consider boycott of Beijing Olympics – “China’s Strict Visa Conditions Threaten Olympics”

http://www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=117382

July 21, 2008 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

I’m really looking forward to seeing China to win the most medal, it’s not because as a Chinese I’ll be proud of it, I just think that will be very embarrassing for the military-style medal winning system operated by Chinese government. it’s a shame that there is a kind of gold medal machine in China, it’s even worse than the drug issue, in my eye it’s not sports spirit .

July 21, 2008 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

@HongXing
“Not at all. Just hope to see a peaceful and harmonious Olympics, a politics-free Olympics”

Some do not have short-term memories. Can you elaborate more on why the PRC boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics? Are you sure that your pontification of a “politics-free” Olympics is not an outrageous case of hypocrisy?

July 21, 2008 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

I mean “do have”

July 21, 2008 @ 2:11 pm | Comment

@Math

Good argument. I was not aware of these new rule changes. Being a former swimmer I don’t necessarily agree that the differences between the strokes are as minimal as you imply. And I think professional swimmers would also say that there is a big difference between the 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 freestyle swims for example.

There has also been a big change in the way swimmers train in the last 30 years. After Spitz set the mark in the 1970s, USA swimming started training more specialists that would concentrate on 1 stroke/event. However, recently they have gone back to training the all-around swimmer who can dominate in multiple events than 1 event. However, whether we were using many specialists or one powerhouse we still took home a lot of gold.

That being said, it does suck that some competitions are set up so that a country cannot win multiple golds in the same event. It seems that they are trying to awkwardly establish a balance between allowing more countries to participate and having the best athletes on the field. What do you think a good solution might be? Cut down the number of distances in swimming? Limit the allowed qualifier per event to 1 per country? (now it is 2) Do you think that swimming is the only problem, or are there other similar sports that lend themselves to huge medal halls for the country with a powerhouse? How about gymnastics?

To take the you should just get better approach, China military type Olympics training system (mentioned above) certainly must have known that swimming was a key to getting big medal counts at the Olympics. Why then did they not concentrate on developing China swimming along with all the other obscure sports that they have spent so much money on (i.e. women’s weight lifting)?

July 21, 2008 @ 10:15 pm | Comment

@Sean

Unfortunately, if China does win the most medals, I don’t think it will be viewed as an embarrassment to the militarized system. More likely, it will ensure the prolongation of this strategy well into the future.

July 21, 2008 @ 11:35 pm | Comment

I believe I heard NBC coverage will be available online; you might be able to watch it yet. Oh I take that back… I think I heard they’ll be using the technology used by MLB and others to make sure only viewers in certain geographic regions (as in, the United States) can watch their footage. Big dollars involved.

But if you really want to, go download TV Ants or any other number of P2P TV viewers. Many Chinese watch American network TV regularly, and the streaming quality should be very good.

As far as actual events, I’ll say gymnastics and basketball. (Small brag, I’ll be at team USA/team China’s men’s basketball game.)

@Sean,

I think your attitude is as disturbing as those who want China to come in first because it would demonstrate China’s greatness. It’s a sporting event, enjoy it for what it is.

July 22, 2008 @ 12:41 am | Comment

Gymnastics is always entertaining. I enjoy watching the pole vaulting and hurdles.

Curious to see if any of the national ethnic minority peoples are on any PRC teams.

July 22, 2008 @ 4:22 am | Comment

A few on top of my head:

First, NBC’s coverage sucks. It rarely shows live events, its anchors talk too much, and it caters too much to casual fans (albeit understandably) with its melodramatic stories.

Second, top priority: sports babes. Some of the less known babes, such as Kana Oyama (volleyball, back injury), and Emi Yoshida (basketball, failed to qualify) won’t make it to Beijing.

Third, basketball and football. Both sports are stacked with professional superstars.

Forth, volleyball. Can China women’s team or Brazil men’s team repeat?

Fifth, how will Russia or Brazil fare — not just how many medals they will take home but also how their athletes carry themselves. Russia is in a period of revival and Brazil is in ascendant. Investing in those two countries in the past few years have done fantastically well. Often athletes from the relevant countries can give you clues about the future of those countries.

Sixth, Liu Xiang and Jeremy Wariner — two of the only non-blacks have legit chance to win a men’s track gold.

Seventh, Lin Dan. When he is on, his game is head and shoulder above his peers.

Eighth, how low will those f**kers go to disrupt the beautiful games?

July 22, 2008 @ 12:08 pm | Comment

Speaking of basketball, Ricky Rubio (17, PG) of Spain will be interested to watch, if he gets some minutes. He is projected to the #1 NBA pick in 2009 or 2010 draft. Brazil’s football team will be great to watch with Ronaldinho and Robinho as 2 of the allowed overage players.

July 22, 2008 @ 12:17 pm | Comment

@Andy R
yes, I totally agree with you, but this system will never change unless China keeps winning the most medals and finally someday most Chinese realize it makes little sense.

@Tangbuxi
It’s not a sports event but totally a politic thing now in Beijing, there are even guideline about “how to watch a game” now.. I don’t know how to enjoy it ..

July 22, 2008 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

Math posts yet another completely stupid argument for the purpose of spouting volumes with no meaning. The track and field events are the original Olympic events, the swimming events have only recently seen athletes be able to achieve multiple medals in multiple events due to modern conditioning practices. To say that events should be “tailored” to Chinese specific physical abilities smacks of more cowardly kowtowing to the worlds’ greatest threat to peace and prosperity for the sake of fragile Chinese feelings.

I am looking forward to watching Japan and S. Korea humiliate China in multiple events.

July 22, 2008 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

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