Olympics over

[Note: if you don't care about sports, just skip this post]

Another Olympic games over, and, as always, I enjoyed them a lot, even though now I miss a lot having top level sport events all day on TV. But good things always last too little. So, here are the things I’d like to highlight:

  • As always, coverage on the public TV was a not as good as I expected, since they just follow competitions where there are Spaniards (fortunately with some exceptions, like the athletics and gymnastics). While this is good for some sports (ie, live coverage of all Spain’s basketball games), it sucks for others. Luckily, I got Eurosport, which had a better coverage of some sports, like swimming, gymnastics and volleyball.
  • While there are lots of bad things around professional sports (dopping, corruption, etc), there are many more good things about it, like the case of Aelemayehu Bezabeh, a guy from Africa (sorry, can’t remember the country) who came to Spain, like thousands of other poor and desperate people, in a little boat, risking his life, and ended up in an inmigrants’ detention center where someone from the Spanish Athletics Federation saw him running and got him to get into the Spanish Athletics team (after being naturalised) and to an 11th place in the 5000 meters final of the Olympic Games. Sport helps a lot in integrating cultures, and this is a very good example.
  • Depending on how you look at the medal table, China has won the Olympic Games, with an insulting superiority in some sports, like Gymnastics (9 golds out of 14 events), table tennis (100%), weighlifting and diving (7 golds in 8 events). They have indeed prepared very well the games, even though they did win very few medals in the most important sports, like athletics and swimming.
  • Spain’s performance (18 medals, 5 golds, 9 silvers and 3 bronzes) was good IMO, even though the big media here are talking about total failures in some sports (0 medals in athletics and swimming). But, let’s be serious, in Spain 90% of the money and media attention goes to football, so it’s quite funny to see people, who don’t care about other sports the rest of the year, demand medals on those sports, and talk about total failure when there are no medals. It’s true though that the performance in athletics and swimming has been quite inferior to what was expected, but at the end, except for a few surprise medals, medals were won in the sports that get some attention here, like cycling (4 medals), team sports (3 medals) and tennis (2 medals, with the gold for Rafael Nadal). Of course, we would all have liked to have a performance like countries similar to us (economically), like Italy, France and Great Britain (great improvement by the Britains, btw), but in those countries, it seems to me, much more money is spent in sports, and thus the different results, I think.
  • I’ve read lots of comments and articles about some Chinese gymnasts having fake passports for being able to participate in the games. While I’m not an expert and can’t really comment on whether having a child (or teenager) prepare for top level competitions is good or not, I really think the Olympic games should have the best in each sport, and if some child is the best, why can’t he/she participate? Also, it’s funny to see all the attention to this case because it was a Chinese athlete, but I saw nobody complain about the youngest athlete in these games, Thomas Daley, an English diver (very good by the way, a pleasure to watch him) who is 14 years old, and who became European champion a few months ago, when he was 13. If the English can have 14 years old athletes, I guess the Chinese should be able to also :-)
  • Even though basketball is clearly my favorite sport, I never have really enjoyed women’s basketball, mainly because even though women are usually smaller than men, they play with the same baskets (3.05 meters height), which make them play totally different when playing inside the paint than what I’m used to. Why the hell don’t they use a smaller height for the baskets? There are a few women that can slam dunk, but just a few, so the women’s games lose that part of the game, which is, IMO, a very needed thing for this sport. When shooting from outside, I see no differences, the women score as good as men, but the inside the paint playing makes it look a bit more boring.

And now for some stars of these games:

  • The Spanish basketball team have done, once again, a perfect performance, even putting the USA team under some problems during the final (118-107). As the Eurosport commentators said, we changed from being happy about the silver medal before the game to feel sad for having lost the gold medal. And this was because Spain played at the same level, face-to-face, against one of the best basketball teams in history (still eons behind of the 1992 USA dream team, of course), demonstrating, once again, the good health of Spanish basketball (with followers like myself, how can it not be healthy :-) ). European media even said this Spanish team was the best European team in history. But anyway, I’m a bit happy about the USA team winning the gold medal, because Kobe Bryant said he would not come back to the US if they didn’t win the gold medal, which would have been a very bad thing, provided we want him back at Los Angeles Lakers, with Pau Gasol.
  • Nastia Lukin is one of the stars, IMO, of these games. She’s one of the best gymnastics I’ve ever seen (along my favorite Svetlana Boginskaia), and it was a real pleasure to watch her performing awesome things. The same for some of the Chinese gymnasts, although, I think, in some cases, they got higher points than what they deserved. In most cases they didn’t need any help from the judges, they were simply the best, but there were a couple of gold medals that, I think, were not deserved by the Chinese. But this always happens in gymnastics, even after having found a quite good scoring system, there are always this kind of things for helping the local athletes.
  • What to say about Michael Phelps that hasn’t been said? I’ll just mention how he does the turns. He was, in some races, a few meters behind the leader, and after the turn, he was the leader, with a few meters distance between him and the 2nd one, just amazing! I’ll also mention the 4×100 freestyle relays, one of the best (if not the best) swimming races I’ve seen in my life, with 5 teams swimming under the previous world record. It’s been amazing to see so many world records (26!) in the swimming competitions.
  • Britta Steffen was another amazing performer, she won 2 gold medals (50 and 100 m freestyle) at the very last millisecond, in one of them she didn’t even know she had won, since she was behind the leaders by a few meters.
  • Kenenisa Bekele and the Ethiopians and Kenyans in athletics are just amazing also. And made me think about a good way of convincing racist people about the white people not being superior. On the contrary, the black people are the ones that are superior, at least in sports (and music, I might add :-) ), and specially in Athletics. It’s quite unusual to see some white athlete in the first places in some events, and the medals won by European countries in those events are from naturalised Africans.
  • The Jamaicans did a great performance in the speed races (100, 200 and 4×100 relays), both men and women, and specially worth mentioning is Usain Bolt, who won 3 gold medals with 3 world records. Worth mentioning also is the case of the 4×100 relays USA team, who, year after year, even though they have some of the best athletes, they end up dropping the relay and losing all chances to win a medal. After watching the replays and hearing the commentators, it was clear that they don’t train passing the relay, which is a very basic and needed thing if you want to do something in this event :-)

Now, just looking back to London 2012, which, I hope, I might be able to feel live, since my sister lives in the UK, so a visit to her during the Olympics is a must.

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13 Responses to “Olympics over”

  1. David says:

    Not all events have age requirements. Gymnatics is one of them however. I really hope that their ages wern’t faked, if they were then china should never be able to hold the olympics again. A half trained 14 year old could beat the best 16 year old because at 14 years of age they have a better center of gravity, also their size / muscle ratio gives them an advantage.

  2. man88soccer says:

    On the Chinese gymnast comment. Different sports have different age restrictions. So, diving, which doesn’t have an age limit, it is okay to have 14 year old diver. Gymnastics on the other hand which has an age limit of 16 years, no one should be granted exception due to faked information. The reason they have the restriction is because even though the younger gymnasts have more flexibility, they are a little too fearless and tend to do very dangerous routines and a lot of the skills at that age prevent or are harmful to complete bone development. So, in order to discourage that, they placed in the age limit.

  3. That’s a nice summary, thanks.
    The Jamaicans did amazingly well at the sprinting events,
    and there is a lot more to com from Usain Bolt at least:
    http://www.pixelbeat.org/misc/usain_bolt.html

  4. John Drinkwater says:

    It wasn’t so much their ages, but the fact they had fake passports so they could compete in events they were not allowed to. Different events, different age restrictions.

  5. pachi says:

    To be fair, spain has half the population of France or Britain and 60% of that of Italy, and a recent history with less tradition of sports&leisure… so, IMHO, it has performed quite well, even if we’d like to see more medals.

  6. mschaef says:

    I don’t think the issue is with the ages themselves. The issue is more with the fact that one of the rules of the specific sport might have been broken. Let’s just say that you do believe that sub-16yo gymnasts are an advantage. If you honor the rule prohibiting young gymnasts, and I don’t, then I have an unfair advantage. That’s the core of the problem more than the ages. I don’t think anybody would argue that the Chinese gymnasts did not outperform the rest of the field.

  7. rodrigo says:

    I didn’t know about the advantage in gymnastics, so yeah, you all convinced me on that :-)

  8. Danilo says:

    Not saying that this Spanish basketball team is not good, it’s one hell of a team!

    But… :)

    As far as the best European team in basketball, I’d still keep that to the Serbian (then Yugoslavia, but only of Serbia and Montenegro) team of Djordjevic, Danilovic, Bodiroga, Paspalj and Divac era (including guys like Zoran Savic, Sasa Obradovic, Zeljko Rebraca and Dejan Tomasevic).

    If Yugoslavia didn’t break up, and if there were not unfortunate cases like the death of Drazen Petrovic, a team combined from Croatia (Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja as prime examples, apart from Petrovic) and Serbia would be one which might even be a match for the NBA Dream Team in 1992 (Croatia did play the final against them, just like Serbia & Montenegro did in Atlanta 1996 against a different “Dream Team” after we were allowed to participate again in competitions in 1995, and they both did a good job for at least one half of the game, with Serbia leading for the entire first half).

    For example, Divac was already a well respected center in NBA in 1992 (in Lakers), Petrovic easily had 20ppg in NBA, just like Danilovic did a few years later. We all know that Kukoc was an important part to Michael Jordan-Pippen Bulls, and Djordjevic was one of the fastest playmakers in the world. And this has been a Yugoslavian team until 1991, when the final break up happened. I would have loved to have seen that team matched up against the real Dream Team.

    The Serbia & Montenegro teams that won the two world championships (1998 and 2002) are not nearly a match for the 1995-1997 team (which basically descends from the 1992 Euroleague champion Partizan, with Djordjevic scoring a last-second three-pointer over Joventut in the final for the win :).

  9. opentiss says:

    It seems that some guys don’t know China really and they usually look at any things that happen in China with bias aspect. To be frankly, it is not fair. My friends and me believe that CHINA will show its more and more abilities to all the world in the near future; CHINA will be more beautiful, more lovely, because CHINA is doing its best to improve itself all the time.

    very useful:
    Prejudice goes hand in hand with ignorance.
    Old prejudices die hard.
    Don’t let your prejudice take over.

  10. Vytas says:

    Spanish basketball team was brilliant indeed.

    Sad thing for me though, as I’m from Lithuania :)

  11. rodrigo says:

    Danilo, that was indeed a great team, probably the best European team ever. As I wrote on the post, it’s the European media that said it, not me :-) But probably in favor of the Spanish team is that they almost win, not only at half time, but at the end of the game. But yes, would have been great to have that Yugoslavia team around in 1992, although I don’t think they would have beaten the dream team, that’s still the best team in history.

    Djordjevic is, btw, one of my favorite players, he was many years playing in Spain

  12. Interesting post Rodrigo, and a nice summing up. Always interesting to read about an event I have an interest in from a different perspective. Particularly to hear how the Spanish media have portrayed whether the Spanish team were successful or not. I’m not sure how funding is done within Spain – although as you say 90% of money in sport in Spain is directed to football. It’s probably not all that different in the UK, in terms of percentages. Football, rugby, cricket, and tennis will receive a lot of money in the UK from commercial sponsors etc. The remaining sports (and I’m generalising a lot here) will typically be funded, or at least partially funded, from public money (I include the lottery monies here).

    What the UK Sport seem to have finally realised is that if they are to be measured on medals won, then funding will need to be directed at elite athletes, and that total amounts of money will be dependent upon performance. This has clearly worked in the case of cycling, sailing, and rowing. (Or as the Aussies put it, sports that involve a lot of sitting down)

    These Olympics would seem to prove that medal table position will largely be determined by money and population available. Statistically China should have more elite capable athletes than other countries, they just need the systems in place to locate and train them. As compared to, say, India…

    Can you really be surprised that Spanish TV would concentrate on Spanish athletes? I must admit to missing the BBC coverage, although I did fully enjoy being in a host venue. If you’re suitably interested you can read my Olympic blog entry to see how our experiences compared.

  13. rodrigo says:

    No, not suprised about the Spanish TV focus on Spanish athletes, just a bit upset that because of that you lose some other sports I like, like some swimming finals, some athletics and, for the 2 team finals, gymnastics. But as I said, I had Eurosport which had a live coverage always of those 3 sports, without interruptions. Of course, for people liking other minor sports (like shooting, fencing, fighting sports, etc), they just get to see the few combats where a Spaniard is involved, so it’s much worse for them. Fortunately I don’t miss much those sports :-)

    As per the funding here in Spain, it’s also done with public money (ADO plan) and some investment from private corporations, which seems similar to what you say about the UK, so either the amount of money is different, or someone is spending badly the money here, because the difference between UK and Spain in these latest Olympics has been enormous, and the UK improvement from Atlanta 1996 (I remember those Olympics because I was living in the UK then, it was 8 or 9 medals IIRC, less than Spain, who had 16/17) is just amazing. But at the end, to keep having medals in all olympics, you really need to have good local (and European and world-level) competitions, like the Spanish and European basketball leagues, they’re so good and competitive that in the last 10 years, nothing but good players come out of them to the NBA, so funding just elite athletes doesn’t work really for some sports. You really need to have first lots of medium-level athletes, so that some top-level ones come out of that. Not sure what would happen in the UK after 2012, but in Spain, money was reduced a lot after Barcelona 1992, and some sports don’t get any more money since then. Fortunately since then medal count is always around 20, much better than in the pre-1992 era, where the record was, IIRC, 5 medals.

    And yes, already read your post :-)