If there's one thing I like about the Olympics, it's the chance to see a lot of sports that we (or at least I) never get to see in the years between the games. If there's something I don't like, it's the horrible pressure that manages to transform someone who has just made a spectacular effort, even achieved a personal best, into a loser for not having finished ahead of all the others.
Let's start with the negative so we can leave on a happy note, shall we?
The BBC is being criticized by British viewers for being insensitive toward their own athletes when they have not won gold. People are actually filing complaints about the coverage, which is a nice push back from the usual reactions. If you're as old as I am, you probably remember that Canada, more specifically the CBC, had this problem a few years ago, with an interviewer descending upon someone whose race had just finished to ask: "What went wrong for you in the race?" Not the time, not the question to ask.
Now, I am not above inappropriate humour or the smug know-it-allness of the casual viewer. Calling the silver medallist the "first loser" or the bronze medal "Canadian gold" might make me laugh — with some degree of guilt, mind you — but I totally recognize that the people who are competing in the games have made huge sacrifices in their lives to focus on their athletic careers. If all of our attention is focused on the win, and not on the effort and the improvement, is it any wonder that people will try for any advantage, like doping or other underhanded techniques to get ahead?
So what sports do I like to watch? Highly predictable here: diving, swimming, water polo, gymnastics, maybe Greco-roman wrestling… I can't imagine why those sports in particular would rise to the top for me, can you? ;-) I also discovered that the principal object of judo was to pull open your opponent's top: if I had known this earlier, I might have followed this sport more closely.
Cool sports we don't get to see enough of outside the Olympics: track cycling events (the kooky helmets, disc wheels, position changes in the pursuit and that other strange event where it's all about strategy and they are sometimes almost stationary during the race), canoe/kayak slalom and, of course, all my favourites listed above.
Sports I'm a little more iffy on: shooting (What? Guns in this peaceful event, even if they are air guns?!), and then to be fair I would really have to include some of those other weapon sports, like fencing and archery; equestrian events (Who is the athlete here, the horse or the rider? If we have moved past animals in our circuses, ought we not do the same in our sporting events?!)
Some funny and remarkable things from the Olympics so far:
• American gymnast Danell Leyva's towel. Omnipresent before and after his performances, the towel actually started tweeting on its own.
• The first ever women athletes from Saudi Arabia and the only woman athlete from Afghanistan. They didn't do well measured against the other competitors in their sports, but they really achieved something big and against the odds.
• American swimmer Ryan Lochte. Okay, he can swim, and he's pretty, but he really needs some coaching for his interviews.
• The big badminton scandal! What? I'm glad the teams who were throwing their games to get an advantage in subsequent rounds were expelled, but how wacky was this?!
• A man making pewter medals for the athletes finishing in fourth place, which you can see here
• This video (se below) of the Olympics worker's dry humour a few hours before the opening ceremonies. She will have you in stitches.
I can't wait to see what week two will bring me.