Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Hardest Job

You have to feel for Brendan Nelson. All the guy has done is take over leadership of the Liberal Party at a time when its stocks were at their lowest, and tried his best to hold it together during these lean times. And for this he has been rewarded with a plethora of calls for him to be replaced by a man who didn't want the job back in November; who has essentially been AWOL all year; and who cares so little about the party that he is not announcing his future intentions until he gets a chance to sell copies of his book.

Nelson was dealt a pretty awful hand, but he has at least struggled on. He seems to genuinely care (though he often seems too much at pains to show he cares) and while he hasn't done great (ok that's an understatement) I doubt anyone would have done much better in the last nine months.

Any gratitude? Nope. He wakes up and reads that some MPs in his party will quit if Peter Costello doesn't take over the leadership. He has to put up with a member of his shadow cabinet, Tony Abbott, saying "Peter Costello is our best political asset". (But then Abbott also this week said of Malcolm Turnbull: He "seems destined for great things".)

Now being Leader of the Opposition is often referred to as the hardest job in politics, but Nelson is having a harder time than most.

His position is almost untenable and all because of Peter Costello. If Costello does go, he will leave having wrecked any chance for Nelson's leadership to have any power, because Costello's dithering about whether he was leaving has resulted in Liberal Party MPs essentially saying Nelson is not up to the task. How can Tony Abbott remain on the front bench if he doesn't believe Nelson is the best man for the job?

If Costello stays and doesn't challenge, Nelson is dead - and Costello will mark himself as the most selfish man in politics - wanting to become leader but not wanting to do so until the election is in sight - yes please Brendan, eat that sh*t sandwich for me will you.

And if he does stay and does take over; this is presumably how he is going to do it:
Some Liberals close to Mr Costello predicted he would use an interview with Channel 9's 60 Minutes on September 14, the day before his book launch, to announce his plans.

Can you comprehend that? The leadership of the Liberal Party has become a marketing exercise for a book launch. And they still want this guy? Talk about hubris. Talk about desperation.

When Keating challenged and went on the back bench he left no one in any doubt that he still wanted to be leader, and that he thought he was the best person to lead. I still don't know if Costello does want to lead.

A few weeks back I said that Costello would sell his book then waltz off into the sunset; now I'm not so sure. Part of me thinks he will stay on but not take the leadership until the middle/end of next year, because that would be the easiest thing personally for him to do, and I have no sense that Costello is one for taking the hard option of taking the leadership over two years before the next election.

But the messages are pretty mixed, and must make for much mirth in the Government offices. On August 25 in The Australian comes this headline: Malcolm Turnbull anointed but warned on temper. Then on August 29 in The Australian (which has been driving the 'let's get Costello back' bandwagon) an article has the headline: Tony Abbott Backs Costello To Lead. Later, on the same day comes the headline in The Daily Telegraph: Costello Backs Nelson's Leadership.

Nothing like a good consistent message.

Karen Middleton in today's Canberra Times writes:

Increasing numbers [of Liberal Party MPs] are also expecting that when the decision comes, it will be to go. Nick Minchin, one of those who's been pressing Costello, has begun advancing the prospect of his departure and Nelson has been referring to Costello's contribution, apparently inadvertently, in the past tense.

This the odd thing about the whole Costello issue - Nelson seems pretty relaxed, as though he knows something... For mine I can think Nelson's lack of concern means one of three things:
  • Costello has told him he's going once he's sold a few copies of his book,
  • Costello has told him he's staying but won't challenge, and will give Nelson another 12 months or so to see if he can improve his position (and will protect him from Turnbull), or
  • Costello has told him he's staying and will challenge, and Nelson is happy because he's actually relieved to know the pain will soon be over.

Ok maybe I'm a little bit cynical with the last one.

I guess we shall wait and see. The Liberals wait for the book launch so they will know (maybe) who will be their leader; the ALP waits for the book launch so they can highlight every single line that will be used against him and the Liberal Party, as the saying goes, Oh that my enemy would write a book.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

On the QT: Liberal Heights High

The Liberals (as they always do) today came up with another standard way of phrasing their questions. This time it was "why has [insert something] happened since the election of the Rudd Government?"

The repetitive manner of these questions are such that one can imagine the senior Libs in the QT tactics committee in the morning laughing to themselves thinking "we've got them now" in the same manner that high school kids get together at lunch time to talk about the latest "totally so unfair" rule the teachers have set down, before coming up with what they are sure is a totally, like, so brilliant argument to defeat it - you know, like "If I don't want to do it, you can't make me".

All that would be missing from the Lib's tactics committee would be Ja'mie King coming up with an idea to organise the school formal (but then of course the Libs have their own Ja'mie...).

And so QT started with Nelson to Rudd from the right wing end. I missed the actual question but it can't have been too great, because when I tuned in Rudd was banging on about workchoices and keeping election promises, and no one on the Libs side was even bothering to shout at him to answer the question (which suggests there wasn't much to answer).

Peter Dutton then came off the long run with the following: "Why has the cost of petrol and groceries increased since the Rudd Government came to Office?" Now Dutton is shadow Finance, and it says something that he gets to ask a question before Turnbull. The word in the Libs is that Dutton is a comer. He's only 37 so he certainly is one for their future; but this pedestrian effort does not auger well. When given the new ball its best not to bowl a long hop; which this question most certainly was.

The cost of petrol and groceries go up and down for a number of reasons - most of them have little (if any) to do with government. Dutton might as well have asked why has the drought continued since the election of the the Rudd Government for all the logic it had. Nowhere in his question did it require Rudd to admit responsibility; nowhere did it require him to renege on something he has previously said. All it did was allow Rudd to score some quick runs in the early overs.

Rudd spent the next 7-8 minutes or so leaning on the dispatch box talking about the world economy, the pressures of inflation, the need for a strong surplus etc etc (it was pretty dull, but mostly because like watching Australia verses Bangladesh they were all easy runs). One aspect I think Rudd needs to stop is his leaning on the dispatch box with his side to the camera. Not because it is disrespectful, but it just doesn't play well on the news - he needs to give the news more things to take a 5 second grab from.

After a Dorothy Dixer to Julia on education policy, rather aptly, Ju'lie Bishop was up next; displaying to all why she is the biggest dead weight on the Lib's front bench.

She asked Rudd a fairly decent question on business confidence in the standard manner (ie why has it gone down since the election of the Rudd Government). But she ended her question by holding up a big sheet of paper of presumably a graph of the latest Sensis Report on business confidence.

She showed it around to all with a look of utter smarminess on her face that is usually reserved for vacuous Year 11 girls who believe the fact that their project looks the prettiest, they have a boyfriend in Year 12, their Dad is rich, and they go to a private school means they should get a top mark.

Rudd responded by talking about interest rate rises, the fact that confidence is down around the world (he reeled off a number of stats which makes it sound like nowhere is it fun being in government at the moment), finished with a swipe at Costello - "the smiling predator waiting for events to unfold" - and sat down no doubt sure that Ju'lie B would make a fool of herself with her big sheet of paper in a vain attempt to have it tabled.

Which she did; and showing an even greater level of the "my Dad's rich and yours isn't" attitude that comes so easily to her, she turned away from the Speaker who was telling her to sit down, and held up the big piece of paper to the back benches and the public gallery.

She sat down with a look that suggests she obviously thought she had just won the day (Ju'lie is a big one for thinking that because she and all her friends think something is so then it must be so - I mean doesn't everyone know how totally random she is? Obviously the Speaker is a fool for questioning Ju'lie's hotness).

I love Ju'lie: the greater prominence she gets, the greater my confidence that the ALP will never lose office. "Sorry, no offence but it's true."

After this excitement, Wayne Swan then took some net practice and proceeded to spend the time blocking balls. I would like to be able to say what he said about education costs but my mind drifted about 5 seconds into his answer.

I awoke to find the medium pacer from Wentworth ready to send one down to Rudd. He asked why the latest Sensis Report revealed business had less confidence in the Rudd Government that it did in state governments.

It was one of his better efforts; the best Rudd could do was point out the report's author had also stated that:
"We're finding that basically the current economic downturn is related to consumer factors, it's consumer driven."

This confidence issue is, I think, the only one the Libs can really throw at the Government, but they'll have to do better than just asking why it's gone down - better to ask if Rudd or Swan think the drop in business confidence will lead to higher unemployment - because to be honest Rudd wasn't all that troubled; though it was good to see Turnbull not getting hit to the boundary for once.

From that point on the questions were dull and easy: Stuart Robert even asked Julia, "How many more Australians will lose their jobs over the next 12 months?" - What an exact figure? A seriously pointless question; honestly why even bother? Did he expect Julia to stand up and say "errr, 50,000.. no wait, I think maybe 51,.. 49.. look I'm not sure... oh boy you've got me stumped on that one". Julia certainly didn't bother giving it any respect, though I believe she could have scored a few more runs off it - as it was it seemed like she couldn't be bothered.

The only bit of excitement after that was in answer to a rather long but somewhat enjoyable question from Wilson Tuckey on grocery choices and fuel watch. Rudd got stuck into the Libs about not doing anything on petrol or grocery prices for 12 years so it was a bit late in the game to complain about them now (to be honest what he said was hardly riveting).

As he sat down, Dutton was about to make a point of order; but instead he decided to yell across the dispatch box without being given the call, and was thus thrown out for an hour; Steve Robert then called the Speaker "a joke" - he got an hour's rest as well; and to finish, Mr People Skills himself, Tony Abbott, got up to protest the rulings, and because he was his usual frivolous self he was also given an hour off. No doubt he would have been tempted to tell the Speaker "Puck you" as he left.

The final question was a Dorothy Dixer to Julia on literacy week. She stated that in preparation for the week she had looked at some of the websites of Australian publishers and was pleased to discover that Melbourne University Press - publishers of Costello's soon to be released memoirs - has the motto "Books with Spine". She wagered his was the exception, and that it would likely go straight to (spineless) paperback. She also went on to mention the tribute dinner in Costello's honour in Melbourne on Friday night. She surmised the menu would be prawns for entree (no spine there), chicken for main course, and jelly for dessert.

It wasn't her best stuff, but it produced the desired result of Joe Hockey bouncing to the floor demanding a point of order. Unfortunately Julia had already finished, which brought an abrupt end to QT that drew the ire of the Libs, who got up and stormed out.

Ju'lie, obviously not appreciating one of the povo public school girls showing so little respect to the object of her schoolgirl crush, lashed out at Julia on the way out and pointed her finger at her in a manner that suggested Ju'lie thought Julia was so totally not random.

No doubt she quickly went to phone her Mum to demand she come in and talk to the principal about it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On the QT: Nelson beggars belief

Unfortunately due to a stack of meetings, I wasn't able to catch today's QT - though apparently Nelson kept going with the "why are Australians worse off" line. And Rudd in turn responded by asking how the Libs could talk about economic management while blocking $6 billion of tax revenue from alcopos and condensate in the Senate.

This morning on Fran Kelly Nelson denied the LNP was blocking the budget, he also said the reason the LNP was voting against the alcopos excise rise and the condensate rise was that "we believe in low taxes; we're Liberals". So it is good to know he believes in something. Because he obviously doesn't believe in logic.

Let's quickly look at the alcopos excise. Nelson's position is that premixed alcohol should have a lower excise than straight spirits. Why? Well he doesn't really know, other than he suggests raising the price of alcopops will raise inflation, and it isn't reducing alcohol consumption. Which suggests the good doctor must been having a fair few bottles of alcopops before he decided on his policy.

Consider if there was tax on food - would you expect the tax on lettuce, carrots and tomatoes to be the same as that on those prepackaged salads you can buy from Woolies or Coles? Of course you would - and you certainly wouldn't think the pre-made salads would get less tax. But apparently such lack of logic is fine when applied to alcohol (at least for Nelson it is).

Now the alcohol companies are against it. Gee I wonder why? Probably for the same reason Coles and Woolies want you to buy pre-made salads (and the reason you don't) - the mark-up on them is huge and you're better off buying the lettuce, carrot and tomato and making it all yourself. The alcohol companies are making out like bandits with alcopos - not only is their mark-up higher than with straight spirits, they're paying less excise on them. Are you still wondering why they're against the rise in excise?

Look don't believe me; read this rather perceptive article by Laurie Oakes. In it he also points out that the raise in excise is reducing alcohol consumption:

According to the tax office, sales of RTDs (ready-to-drinks) fell by 54 per cent in the three months, and - while full-strength spirit sales did rise by 7per cent - there was a fall of 23 per cent in overall alcohol sales.

But look, let's put the health argument to one side; Nelson has told us he is against tax (he's a Liberal remember). Well if he is so against tax, why doesn't he argue the straight spirit excise be brought down to be equal with that levied on alcopops? Riddle me that one.

Now on the condensate issue, one would think Nelson could not be less logical. But yes he can. (The guy just continues to surprise me!) What is the issue? Well condensate (a form of light crude oil) is exempted from the excise that is charged on other crude oils (gee that sounds familiar... if you're confused just think of condensate as the alcopos of crude oil).

So what did Dr Nelson think of the idea of raising the excise of condensate? Here's him on 19 August:

"It will clearly have a significant and negative impact on Woodside [Petroleum]," he told reporters. "I'm advised that, in part, that it's not likely to have any impact on domestic gas prices."

So eight days ago he's not so worried about the ability of Woodside Petroleum to absorb the cost, and he thinks it's an appropriate policy. How long do you think he maintained that position? Not long?'s him today:

"It beggars belief that you can take $2.5 billion off the bottom line of a company like Woodside and not have that passed onto Australians in other ways."

So I guess what he's saying is what he said 8 days ago "beggars belief".

Yes poor, struggling Woodside Petroleum, it needs our sympathy... Oh wait, what's this news you're announcing today? Your profits have increased by 67 percent?!

Yep; get this:

"Australia's second largest oil and gas producer posted a first half net profit of $1.016 billion, 67 per cent higher than the $610.1 million reported in the corresponding period of 2007."

Gee I wonder if the fact they don't have to pay any excise on one of their products (could that be condensate) has anything to do with the size of their profit??

And yet this is what the Chief Financial Officer of Woodside Petroleum had to say 2 days ago:

the oil and gas giant could not simply absorb the cost of such a massive tax increase without a potential impost to customers. “In order to stay competitive, businesses seek to pass cost increases on to their customers,” he said.

Can't absorb the cost... 6 months profit of $1.016 billion... yep they obviously need our help. Please take a gift from the Australian people (which is what not paying excise on condensate is for them); we can see you're struggling to make ends meet; I'm sure we can find $2.5 billion from some other industry that isn't doing it so tough.

It reminds me of a favourite quote by JFK:

My father always told me that all businessmen were sons of bitches, but I never believed it till now.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On the QT: Nelson - against expensive Bacardi Breezers; for Channel 7 incompetence.

It's not often a leader of the opposition loses Question Time before it even starts, but today Brendan Nelson did. After a couple condolence motions, Kevin Rudd welcomed home the Australian Olympic team, and offered his congratulations. Rudd's speech was full of the usual blather and included his tendency to mangle phrases as he searches for the right expression - when referring to how Australia would respond to the challenge of Great Britain, he said of London 2012 that "our athletes will be there with spades on", which is perhaps not quite what he meant to say...

As is the case with such matters, the leader of the opposition gets his chance to mouth the same blather; which Nelson duly did (in his usual overwrought manner). But he ended off by congratulating Channel 7 on its wonderful coverage. Why on earth did he do this? Obviously he's a man who thinks sport is best when watched two hours after it has occurred. Bizarre. Any skerrick of respect I had for the man departed at that point.

After that, I thought he could only improve, but just to prove me wrong, he got worse.

As it was the first QT since June, one would expect Nelson has worked hard on his bowling in the off-season, and McGrath-like would have Rudd playing and missing from the first delivery. But no, like Steve Harmison in the last Ashes series, his first delivery was wide and harmless.

His first question was to ask Rudd "why are Australians worse off since the election of the Rudd Government". Now obviously he has been reading Andrew Bolt's blog, as Bolt keeps repeating this statement (with reference to Peter Costello) as though sooner or later it will become fact and the populous will rise up and vote out the ALP.

But what may sound nice on a blog, does not do well as a question in QT. So general was Nelson's question that Rudd was able to talk about everything and anything he wanted. In fact he seemed to run out of things to say as he realised he was going into the material he had saved for the first Dorothy Dixer.

Next up Julie Bishop asked a question of Rudd in what would become the common delivery of the day; namely the opposition picking a tax from the budget and asking how the raising of it would help fight inflation.

Now you have to love Julie B - she's a trier. She doesn't have skill, but she makes up for it with blind self belief. She always thinks she has stumped the Government; whereas in reality the ball has gone well down leg side and passed the keeper for four byes.

Rudd laughed and wondered how taking $6 billion off the surplus would help fight inflation (this would be the common response from the Government to the common delivery of the opposition).

The LNP are pretty much stuffed at the moment if they want to argue that raising a tax on alcopops and luxury cars is going to increase inflationary pressures. For a start they obviously think the RBA live in a vacuum and would look at the CPI figure and be wondering to themselves, "Gee why has the price of alcopos gone up so much? It must be inflation! Raise interest rates!" Tax increases do not affect the underlying inflation rate. The GST increased prices, but the RBA didn't need to raise interest rate in response because it was a one off.

Next up Swan was asked how increasing the cost of motor vehicles (no mention of "luxury") would help fight inflation. Swan swatted it away with ease (and there's a phrase the LNP should shudder to read - Swan; ease? what the hell's going on?).

Swan was then answering a Dorothy Dixer on the budget when he delivered an obviously over-rehearsed joke (the big problem with Swan is the delivery - he has some good lines, but has no real sense of timing): he referred to Nelson, Turnbull and Costello as "the three stooges - one can't do the job, one can't get the job, and one won't take the job".

It was quite good, and it obviously annoyed the LNP because up popped Julie B with a point of order. Unfortunately for Julie she demanded Swan be relevant to the question of fighting inflation, forgetting that that was actually the previous question.

Let's just say her gaffe elicited a fair bit of laughter and scorn from the Government. At this point, the brave avuncular one, Joe Hockey, jumped to his feet to defend the honour of the fair princess from the West. He protested the point of order, the Speaker sat him down, and the knight from North Sydney, in a fit of petulance that has been growing ever since Nov 24, snapped back at the speaker, who thereupon threw him out for an hour.

The rest of QT was as before - questions about how does [insert tax] help fight inflation; the Government replying that blowing a $6 billion hole in the budget by blocking [insert tax] and [insert tax] was no way to help fight inflation.

The opposition, now denied the gallant Sir Joe were left to only bicker from the back benches - Barry Haase got bounced for calling Swan a dud (or more accurately he got bounced for refusing the Speaker's request to withdraw the phrase - note to LNP, you can call Swan all the names you like, but defying the Speaker doesn't work when you're in opposition).

The remaining time was pretty uneventful - but it is some measure of Turnbull's standing (and Nelson's confidence that he has the numbers on him) that he only got to ask the 6th question. It was to Swan, and such a poor effort was it that Turnbull is quickly becoming the Simon O'Donnell of the Liberal Party - likes to chat up his chances, and he looks the goods, but when you have a squiz at his figures, you see he averages 29 with the bat and 84 with the ball.

Turnbull asked about tax, and why taxes have in fact gone up? This effort allowed Swan to look like Ponting at the crease. I'm worried about Turnbull, he obviously knows the questions he asks are stupid - of course total taxes have gone up (the economy is getting bigger), but they've gone down as a percentage of GDP - but he keeps asking them.

His next question to Swan was about how Swan in February talked up interest rates but was now talking them down. How easy was this? Swan was laughing as he got to his feet. Now you can argue Swan isn't that great at QT (no argument here), but you don't want the supposed worst performer in the Government to be so comfortable that he is laughing at you. That is not how a shadow treasurer convinces back benchers he should be given the new ball.

From then on nothing of note happened, other than Rudd ripping the LNP a new one on a question about infrastructure (a phrase about fish and a barrel comes to mind), and Kate Ellis taking some net practice with a Dorothy Dixer on the Olympics.

She rabbited on a fair bit, but in between reading her brief in a nice orthodox manner she flashed at some shots fired at her from the other side with a confidence that suggests she should forget the notes and try out her footwork. As Sports Minister it's unlikely she'll get a chance to score many runs, but she showed she is starting to warm to the role and is unlikely to be the first one dropped when messes McKew, Combet or Shorten are elevated to the Seniors.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Day Sixteen: Or Time to do a final lap.

Great run in the marathon this morning. Twenty-one year old Kenyan, Samuel Wansiru in a great front running performance becomes the first Kenya to win the marathon, and in doing so absolutely smashes the Olympic Record. One can only wonder what would have happened if Gebrselassie had decided to run the marathon instead of the10,000m, but I doubt he would have beaten Wansiru. Look to him to go for Grebr's WR in the big city marathons (Boston, Chicago, Berlin, New York and London) or possibly the Fukuoka marathon in Japan (where he lives) in December.
The Opals last night were never really in the hunt. And of course the Americans decided to act magnanimously in victory. Lisa Leslie wore the three gold medals she had won at the last three Olympics around her neck on the podium, in a completely Olympic spirited up yours to the Opals. (and they wonder why the rest of the world hates them...). I wonder if she wore the hair piece that Jackson ripped from her head in Sydney?
Matthew Mitcham's win in the diving was a pure 'stepping up when he needed to' effort. But am I the only one who thinks he looks like Ian Thorpe's younger brother?
Ok, cue the Andrea Bocelli music; it's time for the Grog's Gamut Montage and to hand out some Olympic Awards:

The Let's Miss the Whole Point Award: The media covering the women's gymnastics. Amid all the ongoing hubbub about whether or not the Chinese gymnasts are 14 years old instead of 16, not one media commentator has pointed out that Nadia Comaneci was 14 when she wowed the world in Montreal in 1976, and we don't seem to look back on her with any feelings of concern; and also that if you have a sport where there is an inherent advantage to be 14 instead of 16, the problem isn't with the rules being disobeyed, it's with the sport.

If the gymnastics world wants to get rid of such controversies it need only do 2 things: (1) replace the asymmetrical bars with the high bar, and (2) replace the beam with either the pommel horse or the rings. Over night we would be rid of children (or women with child-like bodies) doing gymnastics, with them replaced by women with bodies similar to swimmers - and where being an adult would be advantage.

The How are the House Repayments Going Award: To whoever was the guy who suggested betting everything on Leisel Jones to win the 200m breaststroke, who locked in Australia to win the women's 4x100m freestyle relay; who said Australia was no chance for gold in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay; the person who said put your superannuation on Sanya Richards to win the women's 400m; and the dope who blathered on and on about Blanka Vlasic only to see her come second.

Yep 'twas I.

The That's Why We keep Watching Sport Award: Geez, there's a lot, but I'm going with Sally McLellan for her celebration and post race interview with Pat Welsh. Anytime someone asks a commentator who is at the track "Did you see me?" and says "You've got to be kidding me! Is this real?" is obviously in a bit of shock, and is a hell of a lot more entertaining than those who say "wow, this is so surreal".

The My Veins Have Ice not Blood Flowing Through Them Award: A tie between Steve Hooker and diver Matthew Mitcham.

With one dive remaining, Mitcham needed a dive of 100 points just to keep second place (his best dive in the final up to that point had scored 91.80 points); a dive of less than 82 points (which he had done twice in his previous five dives) would have had him finishing outside the medals; to win the gold he needed to score a dive of more than 107.3 points (5 points better than any dive done by anyone in the final).

And so he lets rip a Back 2-1/2 Somersault 2-1/2 Twist-Pike that scores 112.10 points, and he becomes the first non Chinese diver to win Gold. (All done in less time than it took to read that last sentence). Brilliant.

With the bar at 5.80m, Hooker misses twice, and gets over on his last vault. With the bar at 5.85m, Hooker misses twice and gets over on his last vault. With the bar at 5.90m, Hooker misses twice and gets over on his last vault. After winning gold he raises the bar to the Olympics Record setting height of 5.96m - he misses twice and gets over on his last vault.

If he had missed at 5.80m, he would have finished 6th. Such is the margin of error between also ran and champion at the Olympics.

The So All I have to Do is Restore People's Faith in my Sport and Do it While Running Faster Than Anyone in History Award: Usain Bolt. He did it, and not only that, he had fun doing it.

The All I can Remember is He Won Eight Golds Award: Michael Phelps. Seriously now, list off his Gold medals, can you name them all? Even better, can you remember any of the actual swims he did? All I can remember is the last 5 metres of the 100m Butterfly, and that's because I thought he lost.

On the other hand, I don't think I'll ever be able to forget the sight of Usain Bolt celebrating with 40m still to go in the 100m final.

The Ironic Montage Award: The one which showed the men's 20km walk. It talked about friendship between combatants (ignoring the fact most of the field thinks the winner is a drug-cheat who should be banned from the sport for life); it slowed down vision of people walking (because presumably they were not going slow enough); and by having the montage run over 2 minutes long, it meant that the montage went longer than the amount of time Channel 7 devoted to showing the actual race.

The When Did We Start Caring About Fencing Award: Velentina Vezzali of Italy won the Individual Foil, making it three in a row for her. She got pretty excited; she's Italian; it's fencing. So what better way to show it than in slow motion backed by some Italian Opera. And because it was early on in the week, why not show it again, and again, and again. And each time cross back to Johanna Griggs or Matt White so they could shake their head and say, "wow, how amazing is that?", and conveniently ignore that Channel 7 hadn't shown any of the event, except in montage. It was a harbinger of things to come.

The I am Now About to Lie Award: Matt White, at 11:32pm last Friday night, looked down the camera and told the Australian public that Steve Hooker had yet to do any jumps. In reality his first jump had occurred about 30 minutes earlier, and since then had missed twice at 5.80m.

The I Wonder If I've Updated My CV Award: To whoever was the producer of the Games. Yeah they won the rating, and so Kerry Stokes is saying he's happy. But they're the Olympics, they always win the ratings (helps when all they have to beat is a fourth-time repeat of Bert Newton doing 20 to 1); but not only did they miss Hooker winning the Gold live; the very next night they missed Mitcham winning the diving.

The best things about it? They missed out on Hooker because they were showing a delay of Mitcham doing the qualifying section of the 10m diving competition.

The Living up to All Expectations Award: Tamsyn Lewis came into the Games declaring she was no chance to win a medal. She didn't. And as usual she got run out after a poor run in a time much slower than she has run all season. (You could've written that sentence after every Commonwealth Games, Olympics or World Championships over the past 7 years.)

The Nathan Deakes Who Award: Australia was meant to be suffering due to the loss of medals Nathan Deakes was supposed to win before he got injured. Up steps Jared Tallent to win bronze in the 20km, and then silver in the 50km. OK, I think race-walking is a bit dumb, but still great effort (and even better result).

The Doing Everything She Can to Be on the Cover of Who Weekly Award: Stephanie Rice. The word around the Athlete's village was that once the swimming finished an eruption occurred. The hottest amount of lava getting exploded around seems to have been coming from Rice's room (or so the media would like us to believe). After breaking up with Eamon Sullivan a week before the Games, afterwards she was rumoured to be back with him, then getting it on with Michael Phelps, and now seen to have been "getting cudly" with Katie Hoff (straight from the mouth of rival network Channel 9 - not that they'd want to damage the reputation of Channel 7's latest $700,000 recruit). Wow, one would almost think she's a 20 year old having fun.

The Maybe We'll Leave This off the CV Award: The PR firm (if any) hired by the organisers. Let's see: fake opening ceremony [check]; protesters being arrested [check], media being arrested for seeing protesters arrested [check]; no one turning up to events [check]; no one being able to watch events [check]; controversy involving fake passports of host country [check]; humorless media spokesperson [check].

Hmmm to be honest, the whole Games could have been held anywhere for all we actually saw of China. There was, for eg, no live set at Tiananmen Square, or views of any local 'colour' - mostly it was studio sets. The cycling road race showed the Great Wall quite well, but it all looked cold and desolate. I doubt many would be rushing to buy tickets to visit China after seeing these Games.

The Gee Thanks for Making Life Easy For Us: Seb Coe, and all the organisers of London 2012. All they have to do is not suppress a vocal minority in a bloody pogram, and they'll be streets ahead of Beijing. After these Games, so long as no one in the Opening Ceremony lip-syncs people will be calling them the greatest ever.
Well that's it for me. I don't think I'll bother with the Closing Ceremony; after all Australia Idol has started and after watching the lot of cat strangling performers they had on tonight, I am in the mood to give any singing and dancing event a wide berth.

Oh and my Top Five moments of the Games:
  • Usain Bolt 100m - Unforgettable.
  • Sally McLellan - Ecstatic with silver, but by the time of the medal ceremony was already planning to win gold next time.
  • Youcef Abdi - Runs two PBs in his races and comes 6th in the 3km steeple - Craig Mottram and all other Australian runners take note - that's how you do it.
  • Steve Hooker - Just an incredible performance - should inspire every budding Australian athlete to know that we can win Gold in athletics.
  • Kenisia Bekele 5,000 and 10,000m double. He won the 10k by sitting and kicking, in the 5k he took the lead with a mile to go and ran away from the field. The greatest.

Obviously there were others - the women's 4x200m freestyle relay was great, but I missed it, so it won't live with me - but for me the Olympics happen in the main stadium; the rest are just events to disassociate the Olympics from the Athletics World Championships; and you know what, everyone agrees with me. Take away any other sport (including swimming) and the Games would survive. Take away athletics and the whole thing dies.

On that note; Goodbye, and see you in London.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day Fifteen: Or we're nearly there.

I was out most of today so I missed Ken Wallace's gold medal Kayak paddle. And I have to say, I didn't really care.

I think I'm over these games; over the coverage, over the bloated program and number of sports that I have to care about for two weeks, and promptly forget about. Bring on the World Athletics Championships next year in Berlin, which will be telecast by SBS, and not include anything but sport.

Tonight's athletics is all finals; and they're some of the big events of the program:

The women's high jump. Should be all Blanka all the time.

The men's javelin. Australian Jarrod Bannister is a big show for a medal, and a realistic chance for Gold. He actually has the best throw of the year. This would be an astonishing victory for a nation that has no history of javelin throwing (at least in the men's). So be sure to stay up for Channel 7's recap.

The Men's 800m Final: Perhaps the hardest event on the track. 800m runners must have the endurance of a 1500m runner, but need the speed of a 400m sprinter. I think Wilfred Bungei has look ed the best through the 2 rounds, and it would be great to see him get over the line for a win on the big stage after a long run of missing out when it most matters.

The women's 1500m final. No Australian runner, which is greatly disappointing. Sarah Jameison is certainly good enough to be here, but wasn't good enough in the semi final. I'll tip Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain.

The men's 5000m final. Again no Australian; as above for Craig Mottram. Can;t see anyone getting past Kenenisa Bekele to replicate the performance of countrywomen Tirunesh Dibaba and take out the 10k 5k double (and become the first man to achieve the feet since Miruts (the Shifter) Yifter in Moscow).

The 4x400m finals. Men - USA to win. Australia to either bronze or 4th depending on baton drops. The women will also be won by the USA.

The women's basketball final. I am prepared to bet this will be shown live. I haven;t seen any of the USA women's matches so I have no idea how they are going. I really don't follow basketball at all, so my tip either way would be based on nothing except an unrestrained need to pick a winner in everything and anything. So go Australia. Hope the Opals kill them.
9:37pm: I love Channel 7, they don't show the actual competition live, but they make sure the medal ceremony is. Bravo.

The Javelin comp is already underway; Bannister is 4th after the first round.
Men's 800m final. At the Olympics this can sometimes be run in a dawdle and it comes down to who can run the last 150m the quickest. I think though there are enough in this field who would prefer a fast pace. Here's hoping.

My late mail: Kenya to go 1-2. Yego to come second... (this has actually already been run, (of course it has! but I'm not going to look).

Oh yes! Great strong run front running by Bungei. Yego third (so my late mail wasn't too bad).
The highpoint of the coverage occurred today at around 5pm: both SBS and Channel 7 had the synchronized swimming going - SBS of course had it live; Channel 7 delayed. sigh.
9:50pm: Bannister is still 4th after the second round.

The women's high jump is up to 1.93m - 9 women are clear (Blanka is one of them).

Women's 1500m final (it truly is a great night of athletics). Is it live? (if you have to ask...) Listen to ABC radio if you want live. TV is up to that level of technology yet.

9:53pm: Bannister back to 5th after 3 rounds. The leader if Thorkildsen (the favourite) from Norway, then 3 throwers from Finland. (You might have gathered the Scandinavians like the javelin).

Great run by Lagat to win the 1500m. Amazingly it's the first female Kenyan to win the 1500m. My tip Jamal just went 100m to early and blew up in the straight.
As we get ready for the men's 5000m, check out this pic of Michael Phelps on the cover of Sport Illustrated. I make no comment, other than if the rumours are true, my God, Stephanie, you can do better!
10:08pm: Channel 7 are showing us Bannister's first throw. In the real world he has just fouled his 4th. (stays in 5th).
10:10pm: The 5k is off to a slow start... in the background you can see the high jumpers, and also hear the crowd getting excited about someone's javelin throw... sigh.

Bekele really needs to make sure he doesn't have to beat Lagat over the last 200m. He tried that in Athens against El Guerrouj and failed (though Lagat isn't in his class, but a miler will always beat a 10k runner in a sprint)..

Bannister fouled his 5th throw.. on e more to go (he's still in 5th place).

Wow. Just wow. Bekele is the greatest 5k and 10k runner of all time. Put down your glasses no need to look any further. He ran the last mile in under 4 minutes. Just brilliant.

He now equals Zatopek who won gold in the 10k and silver in the 5k in London, and then gold in both in Helsinki. (So all Bekele has to do now is front up tomorrow morning and win the marathon....)

In the high jump 4 women are clear at 1.96 with no misses (Blanka among them), and 5 more have cleared it with a miss or two.

In the javelin, Bannister fouled his last throw, and finishes 6th. (so don't expect to see any of it).
10:30pm: Let's go live to the diving! Well no, but hey, it's only delayed by a bit 20 minutes or so. And look, I realise they can't possibly show everything live. But that's the bloody point. Either go in with another channel, or at the very least stream everything live on the web.

Wow, a Stephanie Rice memorabilia photograph, beautifully framed and signed. Guaranteed to halve in value by the end of the week, get in while stocks last (remember it's a limited edition... limited to the number they can flog off to gullible fools).
10:38pm: Channel 7 are obviously worried the athletes will have multiple wardrobe malfunctions, it's the only reason I can think of them showing everything delayed by at least a minute.

Good run by the USA women, especially my favourite, Allyson Felix. Have to agree with Raelene Bolye - Felix should run 400m, and give up trying to run 100m .

In the high jump Blanka has taken the lead - the only one to clear 1.99m on the first attempt. Six women are left in the field....

10:53pm: 4 clear at 2.01m (Blanka did it without a miss). Oh please Channel 7, answer my prayers; show us some rhythmic gymnastics.... yes!!! I mean geez, yes it looks lovely, and is probably bloody hard... but it's not live, there aren't any Australians in take us to the athletics.

10:58pm: Well if they aren't going to show Blanka, I will.

Over at the diving, Matthew Mitcham is in 3rd place after 4 rounds (5 points behind 2nd, and 26 points behind 1st - but both 1str and 2nd are Chinese, so don't expect him to get in front of them...)

11:01pm: Men's 4x400m final is actually being shown live. Praise be, the last track event of the program and they finally get it right! C'mon Aussies...

Australia run the second fastest time ever for us, but are way back (the world has moved on and we haven't...and boy doesn't Raelene Boyle have it in for Steffensen and Hill...).

Over at the high jump, only three women are left. Blanka went clear at 2.03m; Anna Chicherova of Russia also went over without a miss (but she has had 3 misses along the way); Belgium Hellebaut took two jumps to clear 2.03m. Blanka is the only one of the 3 to have ever jumped higher...

11:15pm: In the diving, Mitcham is now in 2nd with one dive to go!!! (one of the Chinese stuffed up!)

Oh wow! Hellebaut cleared 2.05 on her first go!!! and Blanka needed 2 jumps. So Hellebaut goes into the lead. The Russian misses so it's down to two.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Blanka misses at 2.07m and thus Hellebaut wins. How crappy is that. They both jump 2.05m; Blanka only has 1 miss up till that point - Hellebaut has 3. Neither clear 2.07m and yet Hellebaut takes gold. I am seriously p*ssed off.

11:34pm: Mitchum could win the diving!!!!!! He has!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! His last dive scored 112.10 to take the lead form the Chinese diver who had a shocker of a last dive (74.80); and the other Chinese diver could only muster an 85.50. WOW Mitchum becomes the only non Chinese winner in the diving competition!!!! WOOOOO HOOOO Thank you ABC radio!!!!!

You ripper! Takes Australia to 14 Gold.. . here's hoping the Opals get it to 15.

Top work Channel 7; that's 2 Golds in 2 days that you've totally missed showing live.

That's a good note to end on (Blanka not withstanding, but I'll cope... eventually...). Tomorrow is the men's marathon, and my montage blog of these great slow motion Games.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Day Fourteen: Or, we need more walking events!

Things are really winding down now. I spent the whole day in meetings, and wasn't the slightest bit concerned that i might have missed a result. As it was Jared Tallent became the first Australian male since Edwin Flack to win two track and field medals. 102 years... wow... If that isn't pathetic, I don't know what is.

But still, that is not to diminish Tallent for having the (ok gotta say it) talent to win silver in the 20km walk and 50km walk; but what have Australian men (myself included) been doing for 102 years??? Get off the damn couch, put down the footy and the cricket bat, get out of the bloody pool and do some running!

You mean to tell me even during the 20s and 30s when no one outside of Europe, America and Australia so much as knew the right way to run around a track let alone know how many laps there are in 800m, that we couldn't even muster up one journeyman miler or distance runner to grab a bronze in say the 5000m and the 10000m? No one? Not even Ron Clarke??? The greatest distance runner of the 1960s, and he could only muster up one lousy bronze? Herb Elliott? Greatest mile runner in history, and decides after winning one gold to up sticks and go home???!

Hang your heads in shame Australian men. And be thankful that one male has finally risen out of the primordial soup that is Australian athletics, and in that great and proud discipline of race walking has reclaimed the manhood of this great, brown, big, flat, brown, big, flat great land.
Speaking of primordial soup, the Liberal Party is apparently going great guns now. According to Dennis Shanahan of The Australian "Brendan Nelson is fighting back". This is based on nothing except... well actually it's based on nothing; not even Shanahan is able to sustain the belief throughout the article - by the 7th paragraph "fighting back" has become "Nelson has tried to reassert his authority"; and by the end it's merely Nelson (and Costello) making "a lot of noise"; but hey it makes a nice headline, and certainly is an interesting compliment to Christian Kerr's argument also in The Australian that the mainstream media (unlike frivolous blogs) requires "balance and fact".

Oh and today's Morgan Poll has the ALP over the LNP 57-43.

There was one interesting sentence in Shanahan's opinion piece:

"Of course, Costello was not asked and did not comment on whether he would take over if Nelson stepped down. That's the point: Costello will not challenge Nelson, never intended to, continues to hope Nelson can survive and will head off anyone who does challenge."

And why does he want Nelson to survive? Because Costello hates Turnbull. What a great party man. He would rather the Libs go to the election and lose with Nelson, than win with Turnbull. And people wonder why I think the ALP prays that Costello will stay in parliament.
6:35pm: Watching Today Tonight preempting 60 Minutes by interviewing a stack of athletes in the same way that Channel 9 will on Sunday. (Of course 7 has signed up the more well-known athletes to ensure we won't see them on 9). Apparently Anna Coren is going to CNN in America. Please let this news be true.

Great comment by Eamon Sullivan to say that at the time getting silver hurts (and it should) but then you need to reassess and realise it's still pretty damn good (but still hurts).

But does having to read stories that Stephanie Rice is linked with Michael Phelps hurt more?? Yeah right; they're an item and Ian Thorpe's overseas' girlfriend is just media shy and they want to be kept secret...
7:02pm: We see a delay of the last 500m of the Men's K1 1000m, Ken Wallace gets bronze (another Gold to Great Britain - they're beating us 18 Gold to 11!).

Have to say tonight's athletics events are not in my remit, but that didn't stop me last night and I picked Gold in the women's Javelin and Men's 110m Hurdles and silver in the men's 400m and triple jump.

The men's pole vault is always an absolute lottery. I was in the stadium the night Sergei Bubka no heighted in the qualifying at the Sydney Olympics; so the one thing you can predict is that for someone nothing will go to plan. Here's hoping Steve Hooker can get thing to click.

The women's long jump is up in the air as world leader Naide Gomez of Portugal didn't make the final, so I'm tipping Maureen Higa Maggi of Brazil. But there aren't any real stand outs this year - in fact in athletics in general this year it's been a hard one to pick - the Americans have mostly stayed home to prepare for the trials, and those competing in Europe have been looking more at the Olympics than the Golden League - next year before the wrold Championships everyone will be competing and going for it before hand on the European season, and so it becomes easier to judge.

The women's 5000m will be won by Tirunesh Dibaba (yes she of the put your house, my house, your neighbour's house on her for the 10,000m fame). She broke the WR over the distance in June, so you could say she knows how to run the 12 and a half laps.

The big question of the night will be if Jamaica can break the 13 year old WR in the 4x100m... I'm going to say yes.

The women's 4x100m... hmmm the Jamaicans came first and tied for second in the 100m; gee who will win this one? Can they break one of the most infamous WRs - the one set in Canberra in 1985 by the East Germans? Here's hoping.
A fantastic article from The Times by a former English Table Tennis player on those rumours about the athletes' village being a hot-bed of sex. Is it true? Let him tell you:

"too right it is"

Yes it sounds like everything you may have dreamed about.

He also makes this interesting observation: Male gold medallists become hot property, but female gold medallists are no more desired than those that bomb out. Make of that what you will. (Most likely that women are picky, and men are just desperate).

Says an Australian table tennis player of the vibe:
It is unbelievable in there; everyone is totally crazy once they are out of their competitions. God knows what it is going to be like this weekend. It is like a world within a world.”

And from a British runner on the bloody swimmers having all the fun:
The swimmers finished earlier in the week and it was like there was an eruption.

Which is also why male marathon runners look so haggard - not only do they have to run 42km, as theirs is always the last event it also means they've missed out on all the fun (or perhaps haven't missed out, thus explaining their looking haggard!).
9:56pm: After 2 rounds of the lung jump the website tells me that Maggi is in the lead...
I'm going to say it: there is nothing more stupid than showing highlights of the 20km walk in slow-motion. C'mon!! They're walking!! You want them to go slower?? Speed them up; put some Benny Hill type music; then at least we might get a laugh, and ignore the fact that most of them are actually running (just running slowly).

Once again, kudos to Jared Tallent; kudos.
I'm going to change my position on basketball being in the Olympics. Yes the NBA is the high point for a basketball player, but the Olympics does mean a hell of a lot. And the fact is when it comes to international competition, the Olympics is the pinnacle. Tennis remains really no different from a below Grand Slam level tournament (why isn't it a mini Davis Cup tournament? Why the singles and double comps? Shouldn't it be Australia versus USA etc?) and should go, but basketball can stay.
10:12pm: Men's 4x400m... bad run by Hill in the last leg up the straight - didn't really seem to be putting everything on the line... I think we'll miss out... bugger by 1 hundredth of a second. Damn! (And geez, doesn't Raelene Boyle lay the boots in!!!)

The time is actually the third fastest by an Australian team (so Raelene admits they did run ok... though not Steffensen or Hill!!).
We see an incredibly long montage backed by (I think) Placido Domingo belting out some operatic aria. I can remember at the Barcelona Olympics they did a montage with "Time to Say Goodbye" playing as background. It was fantastic. The reason why I can remember it? Because it was the only one they did!!!!!! Less is more, people!
This is getting funnny now. I flicked over to catch the end of the footy on foxtel, and when I came back another montage is on... at least I think it's another one... it might actually be the same one!
Australia get through as a lucky loser in the 4x400m... which means we get to hear Raelene have another go at Steffensen and Hill!
After 4 rounds of the long jump Haggi remains in the lead (she went in the lead with her first jump, and has fouled every jump since).
The women's 5000m is at a walk-pace. How slow? My best time over 3000m as a 14 year old was 45 seconds faster than the pace they went through 3000m. If you are woman in this field and you can't kick then it's time to start worrying...

Tirunesh Dibaba is not one of those who had to worry. What a run. The final lap done in under 60 secs. So Dibaba does the 5k, 10k double and becomes the first woman to do so, and takes the title of greatest ever female distance runner.
The women's long jump is over - Maggi won with her first jump of 7.04m. Boring? Well Lebedeva with the second last jump of the competition jumped 7.03m. Would've been great to watch the reactions... oh well I guess that doesn't compare to the sensation of hitting refresh on a web page...
The pole vault is going, but I have to say this about the pole vault - it take bloody ages, and only get interesting once the chaff has been sorted out from the wheat. Still it is frustrating while watching the 5000m runner going past the pole vault to see that the competition is on, and yet Channel 7 don't even acknowledge it.
11:07pm: Pole vault update, Hooker clears 5.60m on his first attempt, and thereby goes into the lead as the only vaulter to have not had any misses. (Kinda time to start showing it wouldn't you think?)...

The women's 4x100m aaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuugggggggggggghhh! What a stuff up by the Jamaicans! The Nigerians are ecstatic, as are the Belgium team.

Stewart for the Jamaicans took off about an hour early for the 2nd change. Bizarre. High School standard error.
11:21pm: Oh geez, give me a break, Hooker is in the lead in the pole vault final, and instead we go to a qualifying session of the diving? Disgraceful. (And even better is that the diving is delayed... I wish this was a one off mistake, but as we all know, Channel 7 have done this over and over this week). In protest I shall continue to not watch Dancing with the Stars and instead watch Australian Idol. (Apparently they're going head to head).

Matt White tells us the men's pole vault is coming up soon. lol. No doubt next White will let us know that up soon Carl Lewis will be going for gold in the 100m.

11:31pm: Matt White tells us the bar is at 5.60m and Hooker is yet to jump. So that's just a blatant lie.

Steve Hooker's "first jump" at 5.60m ...oooh will he make it??!

11:36pm: So Hooker makes the jump.. do they now jump to the live action (only 5 men left in the competition? No instead they show a montage of the German weightlifter whose wife died last year and he promised to win a gold for her (and did). Now I love a good story like that as much as anyone. But I have seen that montage a good 10 times now, and Channel 7 have sucked the life out of anything remotely heartening. No one is up at 11:30pm to watch montages. Show the bloody sport!

AUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHH, they go back to the diving. I'll tell you what happened - the Australian qualifies 2nd, and the other one qualifies 5th. It happened 2 hours ago!!

11:52pm: From the website I see that Hooker has cleared 5.80m on his last attempt. Now that is drama!

11:56pm: Matt White tells us Steve Hooker has just made his first jump. Another nice lie. He has cleared it, but he has also cleared his next. White's next update will be that Jesse Owens has just taken the lead in the long jump.

11:59pm: Hooker is guaranteed a silver. He has missed twice at 5.85m.....

12:00am: Matt White just says "Let's hope Steve Hooker can keep on jumping"

12:04am: Hooker going for his last attempt at 5.85m... He cleared it!!!! (Channel 7 goes with the men's 4x100m. Ok the pole vault probably stops during this, but geez talk about missing a highlight of the games - and remember we saw all 15 minutes of Craig Stevens swimming a 15oom heat live (and he came 5th)

12:09am: The Jamaicans just slaughtered the relay WR. From 37.40secs to 37.10secs. Wow. Bolt - 3 events 3 WRs.

12:10am: The pole vault is down to 2 men: Hooker and Russian, Lukyanenko. ... Both miss at 5.90m

12:13am: Matt White tells us the pole vault is down to 2 men, both have missed at 5.85m... liar.

This is how Channel 7 would do the moon landing.

Matt White: Welcome back from that classic repeat episode of Get Smart. Neil Armstong has just landed on the moon, but here's Buzz Aldrin coming down the ladder.

12:18am: Both have missed twice at 5.90m... (Channel 7 is having 5 minutes of adverts instead of quickly getting the competition up to live - which would be easy to do given the amount of time they take in between jumps).

12:20am: The Russian has now missed three times. If Hooker clears he wins. If he misses, they have a jump off... geez this is great stuff I can't believe Channel 7 could score such a bad own goal...

12:22am: HOOKER WINS!!!!!!!!! He clears 5.90m!!!!!!!!! (Channel 7 meanwhile are showing his first attempt!)

12:26am: Hooker on Channel 7 is going for his 2nd attempt.. don't think he'll make it... nope. What a shock, I must be psychic.

12:28am: Another advert. The ABC radio is live at least - Hooker is going for the Olympic Record.

12:32am: On Channel 7, Hooker is going for his third attempt. 10 minutes behind reality....

It's still amazing, and should have been even better. David Culbert is close to tears I think. (He says Hooker's sister went out tonight because she couldn't bear to stay home and watch - well she needn't have worried about that!)

12:39am: After another long ad break Matt White tried to make it sound like Channel 7 were right there. Sorry Matt, I don't know what you actually do on Channel 7 in non-Olympics time, but be sure I shall never watch it.

He breaks the Olympic record!

12:45am: White says "Something quite unique has happened out there at the Olympic stadium tonight". He is bloody well right: an Australian won gold, and the broadcaster missed it. (But remember we did see Craig Stevens come 5th live).

Well that's it for me: Athletics A+. Coverage F-.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day Thirteen: Or, I backed my ability and it bit me on the ar-e.

Craig Mottram wasn't concerned about what time was required to be one of the 3 non-automatic qualifiers in the 5000m last night, He should have been. He ended up finishing 5th and missed out by about a second from advancing through to the final. Now he was in a hot heat, but at the Olympics they all are. His reaction after the race however, was a model of truth and self-assessment:

"I felt good believe it or not for 11 laps, it was actually my turn to break out but the Qatari beat me to it and I thought that was OK, I'll just follow him."

"After about 50 or 60 metres of that I couldn't go anymore. I don't know why, it just wasn't good enough. I've got no excuses, every heat was just as hard as the other. If I was concerned about not being in the top four I'd have taken the pace up myself, I backed my ability and it bit me on the ar-e."

"The Olympics is where everyone's at their best and I believed I was. It's not as easy as it looks, you can be comfortable running 66s or 67s which I was, then the injection of pace it stung me. I've got no excuses, I just didn't have it."

It must be incredibly tough for a guy who knows he is good enough, but knows he wasn't good enough when it mattered. He was amazingly honest.

Mottram I think should have a look at going up to the 10k. His speed at the end isn't up to the likes of Bekele and Lagat - who ran away from him over the last lap. Perhaps he should look at Youcef Abdi and think about running the steeplechase: Mottram is tall and would have no problems with the steeples, and the steeplechase is more about running good constant pace than the sitting and kicking of the flat races.

He should be able to stick around till London; but I can't see him ever medaling again at the world level in the 5000m.
Jerry Seinfeld once said that most major achievements done throughout history are examples of men doing something stupid to impress women. Mostly it fails.

Billions of dollars are ploughed into the space program in the 1960s, Neil Armstrong steps on the moon; and what does it get us? Lot's of "a man can walk on the moon, but he can't work out how to replace an empty toilet roll".

Women for the most part, see men doing amazing things and curl their lips and think "yeah, good on yer". So it is with Michael Phelps.

Now I have no idea if Phelps was out to impress women, but if it was he failed miserably.
Check out US swimmer Amanda Beard's reaction to being asked if she and Phelps were an item:

"Come on, I have really good taste,"

Ouch; but it gets worse. When asked if she had ever kissed him:

"Eww, no".

So there you go: eight gold medals, 7 world records, and 1 "eww no".

Unless the phrase is followed with "he's my brother", no guy ever wants to hear an "eww no" when a girl is asked what it would be like to kiss him; even if it is followed by "he's such a good friend that he's like a brother to me" the guy would think, yeah but did you have to say "eww no"???!!

I'm betting Phelps is now thinking, geez, guess I'll have to go for 10 gold next time!

This story also reinforces my Phelps won't make a billion dollars in endorsements. White, non-basketball playing swimmers need a reaction better than 'eww, no', if they want to be the face of an company's advertising campaign.
Another quote from Sally McLellan about her reaction to coming second when she and bronze medal winner Lopes-Schliep celebrated together:
"She was the first person I saw, I was excited for her as well as myself, I screamed, she screamed, no words came out, but we understood each other, it was just so magic."

As good as it gets.
I have been a big fan of high jumper, Blanka Vlasic since around 2003 when she came 7th in the World Championships. She is another woman who probably wouldn't hold back in handing out the odd "eww no". She is 6'4" and is built like she was made to be a high jumper - which in some ways she was - her father was a decathlete, her mother a basketballer. She was world junior champion, is current world champion, and has also won the last 34 high lump competitions she has competed in.

She is also an outrageous extrovert who loves to celebrate after a big jump with a little dance. She poses, struts around, flirts with the crowd, and generally has as much fun as she possibly can. And she does it in a way which only eastern European women seem to be able - she has an air of "I am better than every single one of you" that would put Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova in the shade (which is a lot easier when you have won 34 competitions in a row).

She didn't have a great qualifying jump this morning. She actually missed once at 1.93m (to put this into context, she has jumped higher than 2m in her last 16 competitions).

But today was wet and generally horrible conditions for high jumping; I still back her to win - and should it be dry, you can guarantee she'll raise the bar to 2.09m and try to break the 21 year old world record. And if she does it, expect a pose even Usain Bolt wouldn't be able to match.
Usain Bolt loves cricket, and used to be a handy fast bowler. He is a huge fan of Matthew Hayden - which no doubt pleases Hayden, if only because Hayden knows he'll never have to face Bolt charging in off the long run.

Bolt's 200m win was (again) otherworldy. I was off by 3 hundredths of a second - but he did run into a head win of 0.9m/s. His time of 19.30secs is even more amazing because of that fact - Michael Johnson's previous WR of 19.32 was run with a tail win of 0.4m/s. But this guy is amazing, and has been for a while - did you hear he won the Under 20 200m world championship when he was 15 year old?

He becomes the first man ever to win the 100m and 200m at an Olympics in WR time; and is the first man since Ray Norton in 1960 to hold both world records. Michale Johnson thinks he would be able to run 400m in world record time as well. At the very least he should become the first man to run under 10secs in the 100m, under 20secs in the 200m and under 45 secs in the 400m (Johnson's PB for 100m was 10.09secs).

Only one man in Olympic history has made the final in the 100m, 200m and 400m at the Olympics - Jamaican Herb McKenley (Silver 100m, 1952; 4th 200m 1948; silver 400m 1948 & 1952.). And Betty Cuthbert is the only person to have won the 100m, 200m, and 400m (she won the 400m in 1964). One person has won the 100m and 400m at the same Olympics - the first Olympics in 1896 when American Thomas Burke won both.

Now Bolt won't win all three at London - the program would be absurd. But he has run a 45.27sec 400m, so it would scare the willies out of 400m runners everywhere if he decided to take the distance seriously. And the fact that this discussion would even take place shows how unique this guy is. Forget worries about steroids, this guy is the Tiger Woods of running. He is so good, I'm betting long jumpers get nervous when he watches them for fear he'll think about giving it a go.
9:04pm: Well a good start to the night - ino a penalty shoot out the Aussie women's won bronze in the water polo, and then straight over to the athletics to show the women's 1500m heats with Sarah Jamieson and Lisa Corrigan.

Jamieson comes 5th. It's a fast time, but she'll be sweating on the next 2 heats to see if she gets through...

A few highlights of tonight's athletics - the women's 200m - my favourite is Allyson Felix, but I suspect the Jamaican runner, Campbell-Brown will be the one to beat. The Americans may need to rethink having their trials only a month before the Games. It seems like the American sprinters have all had to peak too early, and are a bit off the boil here.

I'm not a big women's javelin so I won't even bother tipping a winner (oh yes I will - Barbora Spotakova).

9:20pm: Lisa Corrigan comes 8th or 9th in a slow time - so Jamieson now only has to hope the last heat is also slow.

The men's 400m final is always a big one for the Americans, and this year is no different. It'll be between LaShwan Merritt and defending Olympic (and current World) champion, Jeremy Wariner. Merritt won the USA trials, but I'm still going with Wariner.

The men's 110m hurdles should be won by current world record holder Daryon Robles, though I don't think a world record will be set.

The men's triple jump is fun to watch - but Channel 7 hate field events so don't bother waiting up for it. I'll go for Philips Idowu of Great Britain to add to their gold medal tally.
9:27pm: Women's 200m up now... Great run by Campbell-Brown. So strong off the blocks. Just blew Felix away. (And as an aside, does Raelene Boyle love Jamaican runners or what?).

So Campbell-Brown and Felix go Gold and Silver for the second Olympics in a row; which by my recollection has only happen three times before in the Olympics - the 1948 and 1952 men's 800m; the 1948 and 1953 men's 10,000m and the 1996 and 2000 men's 10,000m.
9:41pm: The third women's' 1500m heat is fast - too fast for Jamieson, she misses out on the final.
9:46pm: Men's 800m semis. Borzakovskiy I think will win (and be the first man since Peter Snell in 1960 and '64) to win two Olympics in a row.
9:48pm: Wow, can I edit that last comment?! Bungei of Kenya looked great, but Borzakovskiy was shocking. He comes third and now has to wait (and it was a slow heat...)
The Opals are up against the Chinese in the semis of the basketball tonight - but with a start time of 12:15am, I'll have to give it a miss. In fact, I've got an early start tomorrow, so it's time to hit the record button and go off and dream about winning gold medals (and hopefully not accompanied by someone saying "ewww no").