Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Day Five – Or Michael Phelps: Great swimmer or Gold hog who hates to share?

Have to admit I’m starting to struggle. Day finals, night nothings, make it hard to keep enthusiastic. Also Channel 7's coverage is pretty woeful. There isn’t much of a sense of knowing what is coming up, nor whether what you are watching is live or if it’s delayed, or even if it’s a repeat.

Now fair enough managing coverage of the games must be like being a flight controller; but I’m thinking Channel 7 would have planes crashing into each other. Too often we see an event “live” and then find out it is delayed because straight afterwards we have an interview with the athlete or we quickly skip somehow to the next dive or next heat in a way that reveals without Channel 7 saying so, that we are not seeing it live.

Case in point – the women’s team gymnastics final. If you saw it on the TV this afternoon you would have thought it was live – it certainly was presented as such. But if you then went back to your computer and logged onto the Beijing Olympics website, you would have found that the event was long over when Channel 7 was announcing the Australians are coming 5th after the 2nd rotation – in fact the final rotations started at 1:46pm, after Channel 7 even first crossed out to the “National Indoor Stadium where the women’s gymnastics team final is underway”.

The problem I think is that the Olympics are too big for one channel, but you’ll never get two channels prepared to split the good events – so you get SBS showing the handball and a soccer match between Japan and Norway, and Channel 7 trying to show the diving, gymnastics, rowing and repeats of the swimming finals. It looks like the London 2012 (Channel 9 and foxtel have got the rights) will be a lot better as the free-to-air will be able to make use of its various channels, plus foxtel will have channel’s devoted to the games (does suck you have to pay for them, but so long as it’s not pay extra if you’re a subscriber I won’t mind), and also the rights include the internet.

Apparently there is streaming on the internet for these games, but I have a suspicion it’s not authorised – and is mostly aimed at the yanks whose NBC is infamous for delaying coverage of events until peak watching times.
On the gymnastics, China won both the men’s and women’s team events (gotta love that home town support to help those objective judges know how to score). The age spread of the 5 Chinese in its women’s team is from 15 to 20 (with 3 aged 16). In the men’s team the age spread of the 5 men was from 20 to 29. In fact out of the top 3 men’s teams only 1 gymnast (from Japan) out of the 18 was under 20 years old. In the women’s version, in the 3 top teams there were only 3 of the 18 gymnasts over 20 (well not over, they all 3 are 20). Any sport where you are over the hill at 21 has something seriously wrong with it.

Yes women’s swimming does have young swimmers. But there is nothing inherently advantageous by being a teenager. Consider the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay. Of the top 5 teams, the age spread was from 15 (a Chinese swimmer) to 41 (Torres from the USA). The average age of the 20 swimmers is 23 ½ years old (which, incidentally is the exact age of Libby Trickett). Even if we take out Torres, the average age is still 22 years and 7 months.
Phelps is also 23 years old. Will he be still the best when he is 27? Obviously he is an amazing swimmer. He destroyed the field in the 200m free in much the same way that Thorpe used to. And the USA men’s 200m free relay team destroyed the field in much the same way as the Australian team used to. What goes around...

Phelps now has 11 Gold, meaning he has heard his national anthem more times than any other athlete ever at the Olympics. Which means that he has stood there on the dais with his hand on heart in that manner that makes Australians cringe at its overt God Bless Americaness more times than any other American. Aussies on the other hand stand there, try to sing the anthem, shed a tear maybe (usually not) and then give their mum the flowers. Love it.
The drug claims made by Tamsyn “I had no idea it would be such big a deal” Lewis have been somewhat backed up by Sally McClelland who pointed out that one of the US athletes she will be competing against in the 100m Hurdles, Damu Cherry, was done for steroids in 2003 and suspended for 2 years. I had a squiz at some articles on her, and apparently she didn’t take them on purpose – they were in some vitamin supplements. It reminded me of a great article I read a couple years ago on the espn web site. Check it out to read some of the excuses used by drug cheats.

Tamsyn Lewis’s interview which you can see in full on the abc web site actually contains some of the most intelligent things I’ve ever heard her say. She points out that she is not a medal chance, and just hopes to beat her PB. All true. I will be shocked if she makes the final; surprised if she makes the semis. Quite wisely she says she has faith in the drug testing because they are starting to catch them.

She was actually quite measured (no doubt someone had had a word in her ear), but it doesn’t really matter. Here’s how has run it: I will run against drug cheats: runner Tamsyn Lewis. And people wonder why most sport stars only talk in clichésclichés are safe. Next time you hear some talking head bemoaning the lack of personalities in sport, listen to hear if he blames his own industry. I bet he won’t.
First we find out the Opening Ceremony fireworks were digitally enhanced, now we discover the little girl who sang the “Hymn to the Motherland” at the ceremony, lip synched another girl’s voice. Why wasn’t the real singer there? Because, according to the music director (on advice from a member of the politburo): “The child on camera had to be flawless in looks, in her feelings and in her expression”, and the actual singer has crooked teeth.

But before we get too outraged, let’s realise it’s not really a Chinese-only trait. It won’t happen in London because any parent worth their salt would have got their precocious little singer some expensive dental work. In America she probably would also have had a nose-job. In fact in either country this wouldn’t possibly be a problem because an “ugly” child would have been knocked out in the first round of try-outs. So while it’s easy to jump up and down about how disgraceful those commies are in Red China; the fact is China just hasn’t worked out the subtleties of presenting flawless beauty while simultaneously pretending that looks don’t matter that we in the west have mastered.

Still, one can only hope the London 2012 organisers don’t feel the need to use a Spiritual Civilisation Development Office that is being used in Beijing to come up with spontaneous chants to cheer at events. Seriously – didn’t these guys read 1984? Oh, whoops they did, but thought it was an instruction manual: it’s satire, dear boys, satire!
7:10pm: Stephanie Rice's achievements are pretty damn amazing. Will she make millions of dollars in endorsements like people are suggesting? After Athens I thought Jodie Henry would be on every cereal packet; but I just don't think she could be bothered going down that route. Stephanie on the other hand I have a feeling not only will be on every cereal packet, but she has probably got her eyes on being the next Johanna Griggs. (Though she'll have to knock over Giaan Rooney first!)

Channel 7 are doing it again. Griggs crosses us to the rowing to see the men's four, which actually were on 20 minutes ago...

Well if it works once, do it again. Now we're seeing the men's pairs rowing semi. It was actually on before the men's four (over an hour ago). They're half way, but a quick look on the Beijing website reveals they will win.
Praise be SBS - their coverage of the men's time trial was, as usual, excellent. Cadel Evans finished a fading 5th. I think he needs a bit of a rest, and given he's a professional cyclist, "a rest" will probably be the flight back to Europe.
7:45pm: Delayed or not, we seem to be kicking arse and taking names in the rowing.

More delayed action with the canoeing. Have to say Tom Williams is doing well. I have no idea if he actually does know anything about canoeing but he sounds like he does, which all you can ask for a guy who according to wikipedia first appeared on TV in the video Melissa Tkautz's song "Read My Lips". (had a look, couldn't pick him out).
Johanna Griggs lets us know that coming up next will be the Women's team gymnastics. Oh good, I wonder who will win.

First up though some more rowing... and now to see the men's 100m freestyle semis again. I really don't like Bruce saying "Hoogie" when he refers to van den Hoogenband.

Eamon Sullivan breaks the WR again. Obviously due to the herogram my daughter sent him.

"Do to me what your eyes say you want to do, do it, read my lips..." Great now I got that going through my head...
This highlights package of the women's gymnastics is utter shite. Channel 7 obviously believe sports fans enjoys bite size pieces of the action. We see one Chinese beam exercise, and then Griggs gives us the "it's now the final rotation" and we see another Chinese gymnast do the floor... then another Chinese floor exercise. Do they realise we might like to see the Australians? or perhaps the Americans? The highest score was done by an American on the bars. Do we get to see it? Nope of course not, we need to rush through this so we can get to the heats of the fricken swimming.

The competition takes place over about an hour and a half and involves 96 different exercises. Channel 7 got it down to 10 minutes and 3 exercises. (Course they left out everything that makes it worth watching, but you know you can't have everything.)

They also showed a montage of the Italian fencer winning gold. Griggs ends by saying that is a true highlight for any Italian sports fan. I think she is referring to the montage rather than the actual event, because as far as I can gather Channel 7 thinks the Olympics is a mass of athletes moving in slow motion with classical music playing in the background. Bring on London (and Channel 9)

8:29pm: Finally, something decent! Spicks and Specks.
Swimming finals for tomorrow:

  • Men's 200m Breaststroke - Look for Japan's Kitajima to be the fastest of the slowest.
  • Women's 200m Butterfly - Jess Shipper is the WR holder, but seems to be a bit off the boil, here's hoping she can pull something together.
  • Men's 100m Freestyle. The race of the swim meet. I'm thinking the winner will go under 47 secs for the first time. Sullivan looks better every time he gets in the pool, so I'm sticking with him to do it.
  • Women's 4x200m free relay: Australia a chance for a bronze. France and the USA to battle for gold.

Here's hoping someone gives Bruce some pep pills before hand so he can get more excited than he was for his call of Rice's 200mIM... "Will she do it? Yes she does." (Major lack of exclamation points - Ray Warren would have needed to be administered oxygen after such a swim - bring on London 2012!)

No comments: