Recently I tuned into a replay of parts of the Olympics for a few minutes. The games are not something that really interests me simply because I’m neither an athlete nor sports fan. The contest that was being televised was synchronized diving. Two divers tried to do the exact same dive at the exact same time. The better they dove together, and the higher the score.
How is this an Olympic level sport? The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius (faster, higher, stronger). Synchronized anything doesn’t fit. There must have been some generous bribes given to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) members to get this sport included. Next we’ll probably see synchronized pole vaulting, or synchronized power walking.
And speaking of judging, how can judging this or any sport be accurate? It is true the judges are divers themselves and have been trained and tested to become Olympic caliber judges. But a dive lasts a second or two. What if a judge has an unintentional eye blink while the divers are flying through the air and misses a tiny mistake? Also it seems, that each judge has a different perspective, even if they are sitting next to each other. Isn’t it possible that a judge sitting to the right or left of another judge will see something, good or bad, that the judge next to him may miss?
If judging was even close to an exact science, each judge would score each performance, dive, or synchronized swimming event exactly the same, or nearly so. Instead there are often major differences. During the synchronized diving there were as many as 3 points different between the high and low scores awarded.
The Olympic motto is violated when a sport has to be judged to determine a winner. This includes gymnastics, non-speed ice skating, and dressage. There may be others. Recently there has been a push to include X-Sports in the Olympics. All of these sports, including half-pipe skateboarding, skiing, and bicycling, must be judged. They should not be allowed into the Olympics. Remember, Citius, Altius, Fortius.
From time to time there are accusations that judges are bribed, intimidated, corrupted, or otherwise let outside influences such as nationalism effect their scoring. This was especially true during the Cold War when national pride seemed as important as the performance of the athletes. In 2012 there were two supposedly bad calls during the boxing matches.
This leads into the subject of drugs and drug testing,. For some reason taking performance enhancing drugs has been judged to be unsportsmanlike, and therefore banned. In ancient times athletes ate raw testicles to help enhance their performance. In the early days of the modern Olympics athletes used cocoa leaves, alcohol, raw eggs, stimulants, strychnine, and other things to enhance their performance. These things were considered acceptable.
Now things have changed. There are some 240 performance enhancing drugs that have been banned from the Olympics. Why? Somehow using these drugs has been judged to be unfair. That is as illogical as saying all competitors must eat exactly the same food because it is unfair for one to have a better diet than another. Or all athletes must wear the same shoes because the superior shoe may give the wearer an unfair advantage. This logic is silly to the extreme. Anything an athlete can do to enhance his ability to go faster, higher, or be stronger should be allowed.
Other arbitrary judging was the decision to let no more than two athletes for any one country compete in the all-around match. For example, this silly rule means that if China had the five best 100 meter sprinters, only two could compete for a medal. How does this fit in with Citius, Altius, Fortius? Of course the answer is, it doesn’t. It was some mistaken attempt at egalitarianism.
Another misguided attempt at judging was the disqualification of four women’s doubles pairs from the badminton competition because they intentionally lost their matches against weaker opponents so they could play against better teams in the next round. This was perverse consequence of the round robin rules. It was not illegal in any way. Still it arbitrarily was judged to be un-sportsmanlike and the women were banned from further competition. There is no doubt the women’s strategy was shaped by using the rules to help them win, nothing else.
The closing ceremony of the London Olympics was re-broadcast on TV. It got generally good reviews, but was a downer in many ways. Much of the music was from the 1970s or 1980, before most of the Olympians were even born. Having what’s left of The Who sing “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” was surreal, considering that both Townsend and Daltry are in their 60s, and singing their hits about teenage angst from the 70s. Watching a bloated old Pete Townsend trying to do his signature windmill guitar strum and his jumps was depressing. It could be argued, they were trying to fool the younger generation into thinking they are relevant today.
The reason the closing ceremony left me feeling melancholy was it’s emphasis on past achievements of England, not its present nor its future. The old Beatles, Kate Bush, Queen with a fake Freddy Mercury, and other songs were from the past were played. There was little about the England of today other than that silly “Big Wheel” decoration on the set. There were ugly flatbed trucks carrying 1980s one hit wonders lip-synching their one hits. There were take offs on campy plays from the last Century. What about the England of today? Ray Davies of the once mighty Kinks sang a solo ballad I’ve never heard before while Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits waved from a fake chimney. Does this represent England? What of the England of tomorrow?
The overall quality of the presentation was amateurish, if not poor. One of the acts from the ceremony was people banging on garbage pails, brooms and metal lids. It might have been based on the play “Rent,” but again, playing music by banging trash bins was sad. Many, if most most of the acts were poorly conceived and poorly presented. They looked more like a high school production than a world class program. Perhaps it was because of a lack of money. Or maybe this was the presenters intention. The question is why?
Was England at it’s greatest in the 1970 when the Beatles were making music and Elton John was at his prime? Of course not. But that time it was England’s last gasp of greatness before it sank into the morass of near bankruptcy and statism where it is today. There was a 3-D map of John Lennon’s face that was assembled during the closing ceremony while some of his songs were played. Was Lennon the best England had to offer? What about Churchill, Elizabeth I, Wellington, Victoria, Disraeli, Nelson? Maybe no one would have recognized their images.
That is where the Beijing games differed from London. Beijing emphasized the China of today and what the China of tomorrow promises. The architecture of the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube was innovative and dynamic. They didn’t look like typical stadiums and swimming pools like the London venues. The Beijing Olympics did not dwell on the past, it promised a bright future.