Monday, August 25, 2008

Zai Jian, Beijing

Well, the ’08 Summer Olympics are over. Michael Phelps broke records, the Chinese broke the bank, and Morgan Freeman broke my tear ducts with those cloying-yet-you’d-have-to-be-made-of-Terracotta-not-to-cry-at-them Visa ads.

Here are a few observations/highlights to wrap up the Games as we put them in our rearview mirror and prepare for a life blissfully ignorant of water polo, archery and men’s field hockey.

1) Please, God, don’t ever let us go to war with China. I watched the awe-inspiring opening ceremonies at a bar with a few friends, and as we watched thousands of drummers pounding in determined unison, one of my friends leaned over to me and said, with an almost frightened quaver in her voice, “We could never do this.” She wasn’t wrong. The people of Beijing, and China in general, pulled off a jaw dropping display when it was only really a matter of national pride. Imagine what they could do if it was a matter of national security. ::Shudder::

2) You proved me wrong, US men’s basketball. Congratulations. Count me among the joyless sports purists who get really annoyed with the selfish showboating that the NBA has become famous for, and which was partially blamed for the US team’s (relatively) poor showing in Athens in 2004. This year’s team kept claiming it was different and that it wanted to prove itself in a sport it should own. In the final game, the US played with a lot of heart, and whooped it up like schoolboys when they pulled off the gold. It was something men’s Olympic basketball hasn’t been for a while – fun to watch.

3) Jacques Rogge is kind of a d-bag. The president of the International Olympic Committee couldn’t be bothered to call out China for some its human rights abuses, but he could take the time to wag his finger at Usain Bolt for celebrating his 100m win before it was technically over. Admittedly, it would have been cool if Bolt kept his head down, only because he would have had an even lower world record, but at that point he had locked up the race and he was excited. He’s entitled to his fun. Why do you hate fun, Mr. Rogge? Why?

4) The Dutch really love orange. Yet there is no orange in their flag. Discuss.

5) Not all American Olympic athletes are rich and/or have token jobs at Home Depot. One of my favorite stories out of Beijing was Stephanie Brown Trafton’s unexpected discus gold medal – the first for an American woman since 1932. When she’s not throwing, Brown Trafton works as a computer-assisted designer for an environmental consulting firm. Hope for desk monkeys everywhere!

6) Last but not least, my favorite moment of the games. With barrels full of all due respect to Michael Phelps, Debbie Phelps, Jason Lezak, Usain Bolt, Nastia Liukin, the US women’s soccer team, Dara Torres, Bryan Clay, the female shooters from Georgia and Russia who symbolically hugged during their medal ceremony, the little Chinese boy who rescued his classmates in that earthquake and walked out with Yao Ming in the opening ceremonies, the openly gay diver from Australia who won gold, the German weight lifter’s tribute to his late wife, and that fox Ryan Lochte, my favorite Olympic moment came on the last day, when the US men’s volleyball team beat Brazil for the gold.

This wasn’t my favorite because the US won (though I’ll admit most of my fav moments came from US wins) or because I'm a huge volleyball fan (I'm not), but because their coach overcame so much to make it happen. On only the second day of the games, Coach Hugh McCutcheon’s father-in-law was killed and his mother-in-law seriously injured when they were stabbed while site seeing in Beijing. McCutcheon’s wife went home with her mother, but he stayed and coached the team to victory. His face after the win said it all. It was really something.

I don't "get" your sport, but well done men's volleyball. Well done.

OK, that about does it. Now, who’s ready for some football?


Dave H said...

Yeah, no kidding, why DO the Netherlands like orange so much?

Red said...

Excellent post, Liz. Add the Olympics to the argument that 2008 is the best year ever for sports.