Sunday, July 29, 2012

Ah, the Olympics

First, the positives about the Olympics.  Just getting to see top-class competition in many, many sports that rarely get air time, at least in the U.S., is fantastic, even if you have to find some out-of-the-way cable channel at 3:00 A.M.  Second, the Brits managed to rescue that mastodon of TV programming--a show that every four years makes you wish the Oscars show was put on a quadrennial schedule--the opening ceremonies. Now, maybe you didn't find Rowan Atkinson taking out the lead runners in Chariots of Fire or hamming it up while Sir Simon Rattle--only the world's best living conductor--had the London Philharmonic playing the Chariots theme. I, however, was in stitches.

The negatives--which are always many but not very varied--begin with the International Olympic Committee. Remember those wonderful folks who brought you the Nazi Olympics of 1936?  To them, that was the crowning moment never yet repeated--and they sure tried, since the next two Olympics--the ill-fated schedules for '40 and '44 were planned for Tokyo and Rome, in case you wondered where their hearts were.  And the spirit of Avery Brundage--who learned his trade from seeing his ancestors in 1912 strip Jim Thorpe of his medals for playing a semipro ball game--returned for an encore when the IOC grandly told the Israelis and their ilk to get lost when it came to having a memorial minute for the Munich horrot.

I've often thought that it's amazing that serious competition does indeed occur at the Olympics, amid all the posturing and bad attitudes, but what can you expect from a council made up of quasi-defrocked royalty, old friends of Franco--yes that was Juan Antonio Whateverhisface--and other mostly Euro but also Afro and Asian rich trash?

Oh yes, they banished baseball because ostensibly too few countries played it, despite some of those being ones that don't always get along on other issues, such as Japan, Cuba, and the U.S.  Softball went down for the ride, too.  And if you're an old champion, don't expect too much respect. Hope Solo gave Brandi Chastain, now a commentator, the back of her hand, just as some German lout did to Jesse Owens in the 60s, and Jesse had only turned up to say something nice.

I watched women's air rifle competition and men's archery and was amazed at how technology now dominates those ancient sports, so that I wonder how, except for politics, they can stay on the schedule. Gymnastics is always amazing--but now the performers, and that's what they are, have actually replaced both vaudeville and Barnum & Bailey in getting and deserving prime time for acrobatic stunts that it would seem no human could pull off.  The TV clowns fill that role, too, with the ballyhoo. Costas or Lauer put the Paris Olympics in 1928 (that was Amsterdam) instead of 1924. So much for making use of their potted research.

Take a good look at sports like fencing, though, because in the U.S., many colleges don't have it any more, especially for men, because of Title IX. Yes, it's great that women get equal or even higher billing but yes, too, a lot of it at the college level has come at the expense of men's sports. And I agree with them that the one that costs the most and costs men their other sports--football, American variety--probably should bite the dust on many campuses.  The Southeastern Conference should just turn pro.

But the Brits saved the opening ceremonies with a show that made the Chinese and Nazi spectaculars look like the inflated crapola that they were.  The Brits were funny--Atkinson, and grandly dramatic--Kenneth Branagh reading from The Tempest, and willing to boast about stuff Americans criticize but would wish they had if they knew what it was about--such as the National Health Service, for all its foibles.

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