Category:Olympic Games
Posted on: August 18, 2008 8:29 pm
 

NBC Bob Costas Rips Usain Bolt, Live

Bob Costas, of NBC, said that Jamaica's Usain Bolt showed no respect for his competitors, the Olympics and the entire audience for breaking the 100m dash world record, his own world record, by just 300th of a second in the final on Saturday.

I totally understand Mr. Costas. It is exactly how I felt Saturday morning when NBC refused to show the 100m dash final live in the USA. It was broadcast more than 12 hours later.

NBC showed no respect for the competitors, the Olympics and its entire audience.

At least Bolt had a very good reason to showboat. He is an Olympic champion, the fastest man on earth. I can only imagine how it feels to dominate the most important race of the Olympic Games in front of the entire world. Well almost the entire world...

Costas' argument is that Bolt could have done better. Sometimes I wonder if people think before talking. 100m in 9:69 is not good enough for Mr. Costas. It must be that high standards apply only to others.

Category: Olympic Games
Posted on: August 17, 2008 8:08 pm
 

Hey NBC, where is Mark Spitz?

You must all know by now that Michael Phelps won eight swimming gold medals in the Beijing Olympic Games. That’s an all-time record.

The previous record was seven golds, set by American Mark Spitz in Munich in 1972. Numbers don’t lie, Phelps broke Spitz’s record, by 1 medal.

On August 16, Phelps beat Serbia’s Milorad Cavic by 100th of a second in the 100-meter butterfly final to claim his 7th gold medal, which means that Phelps broke Spitz’s record by 100th of a second, the smallest margin possible in the pool.

I don’t mean to minimize Phelps’ record. The man won 16 Olympic medals in his life, including 14 golds. He is probably the greatest swimmer of all time. What he did in Beijing is one the greatest feats in sport history. No question. No discussion.

But, even though what Phelps did had never been done before –he attempted it four years ago in Athens but failed--, it is barely better than Spitz.

Phelps broke seven world records in Beijing, so did Spitz in Munich.

As much as Phelps deserves to be praised and his achievement celebrated, part of what he did was to remind us how fantastic a swimmer Spitz was.

It could have been a nice gesture for somebody to invite him to Beijing. USA Swimming. FINA The IOC. NBC. Somebody.

 

Category: Olympic Games
Tags: Phelps, Spitz
 
Posted on: August 12, 2008 8:45 pm
 

Thank You China

It has become quite popular, in the now much heralded blogosphere as well as in the old media of the Western world, to criticize, often harshly, the Chinese and the decision to grant them the rights to host the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Some of those critics are definitely legitimate. The Chinese government is not better than other governments across the world, and no one could be happier than me to see socialist regimes collapse, as they all do eventually. We could all use more freedom and respect for differences.

But, it is also legitimate to praise the Chinese will to please us, in the United States, when they do.

I guess that if you made it to this page, it is because you enjoy the Games and probably watch the swimming finals every night. And, you will agree, they have been pretty fantastic so far. Who would have thought that a swimming relay could generate so much excitement? Beating the French is always a source of great pride, that’s understandable.

But have you thought about the fact that the race took place at 5 in the morning in France and 11, that same morning, in Beijing? The only reason why you had the chance and pleasure to enjoy it “live on prime time,” (at least on the east coast) is because the IOC and the BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad) agreed to schedule the swimming finals in the morning.

They also moved the gymnastic finals and that is a bigger deal. Gymnastic is a major sport in China. Li Ning, who won six medals at the Los Angeles Olympic games in 1984, was chosen to ignite the cauldron during the Opening Ceremony. The men’s Chinese team claimed the gold medal yesterday, at the end of a competition that started at 10 in the morning. And trust me, 10 am is no prime time in China.

But this sets a precedent. A dangerous precedent? Only time will tell. All we can do for now is imagine what it could be like in the future when China has become the true commercial superpower that many fear today.

The NBA is big in China. Yao Ming doesn’t receive all his All-Star votes from Houston Rockets fans. Most of them come straight from China, over the internet, after all. A few years from now, CCTV, promising 900 million viewers, may ask the NBA commissioner to have the All-Star Game played at 9 in the morning in New York, on Saturday. Who would refuse to expose its product to nearly 1 billion people? (It would be 3 in the afternoon in Western Europe). Certainly not the NBA. You imagine the Garden going crazy at 9 in the morning?

But it would be very ungrateful of us to even think about complaining.

But don’t worry too much. It is very unlikely to happen. The NBA All-Star Game will be played in Shanghai, China before Lakers fans have to get up at 6 in the morning to watch it live from New York.

Anyway, for now, I say thank you China.

Category: Olympic Games
Posted on: August 10, 2008 9:15 pm
 

Iran, Israel, Russia, Georgia

Iranian swimmer Mohammad Alirezaei has pulled out of the Olympic Games on Saturday because of illness.
The 100-meter breaststroke swimmer was carried to a hospital in Beijing, according to the Iranian Swimming Federation officials.
Alirezaei was the first Iranian swimmer to book a spot in the Olympics.

That’s the Iranian official story. You can read it at here.

Others have suggested he wouldn’t compete because Tom Beeri of Israel was in the same heat.

That was on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, David Blatt and the captain of the Iran basketball team Mohammadsamad Nikkhah spoke and embraced moments after Russia defeated Iran 71-49. The level of basketball was horrible. Iran scored 5 points in the first quarter. But it doesn't matter here.

What matters is that Blatt, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and is now the coach of the Russian team, is Israeli. He visited the Israeli delegation in the Olympic Village twice, including a meeting and photo-op with President Shimon Peres.

Blatt declared that the Olympics are above politics. "Only in the Olympics can an Israeli coach shake the hand of an Iranian player," he said.

Russia's Natalia Paderina and Georgia's Nino Salukvadze must agree with Blatt. Paderina and Salukvadze hugged and kissed after the women’s 10-meter air pistol competition on Sunday. Paderina won the silver medal, Salukvadze took the bronze.

Their countries are at war in South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia that has support from Moscow.

"This is the beauty of sport," Blatt said after the basketball game. "As soon as you start running you forget everything and remember that we are all the same. Unfortunately, politics is not in the hands of the regular people and the athletes."

Unfortunately, politics is not in the hands of the regular people and the athletes.

Category: Olympic Games
Posted on: August 9, 2008 4:26 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2008 10:37 pm
 

Are you sure you don't like the Olympics?

I hear that some people, who usually like sports and competition, don’t care much about the Olympics. To be honest, that doesn’t make sense to me. But I won’t attempt to change anybody’s mind. What would be the point of that? I can only tell you why I like the Olympic Games.

On Sunday, August 10, 2008, four of the greatest athletes of all time, Michael Phelps, Roger Federer, Ronaldinho and Kobe Bryant will all be in action on the world’s greatest stage.

American Michael Phelps may be the greatest swimmer off all time. He won eight medals in Athens four years ago, six gold and two bronze. On Sunday, he attempts to win the first of the eight races he’ll compete in, in Beijing, the 400-meter individual medley.

Switzerland’s Roger Federer has been atop the tennis world rankings for 236 consecutive weeks. He has won 12 Grand Slam titles. Only Pete Sampras bests that with 14. He is one of the greatest tennis players in history, but has never won an olympic medal. He’s made the gold in Beijing one of his goals for 2008.

Brazil’s Ronaldinho (full name: Ronaldo de Assis Moreira) has won the soccer FIFA World Cup in 2002, the Copa America in 1999 and the Confederation Cup in 2005. He has been named FIFA player of the year twice, in 2004 and 2005. He is in Beijing to help his country win the only soccer trophy it has never won, the Olympic title.

And finally, Kobe Bryant, will make his Olympic debut with the American basketball team. Bryant was named NBA MVP for the 2007-08 season. He is a 10-time NBA All-Star and won three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. The USA was upset in Athens and couldn't do better than third.

Now, if you don’t like the Olympics, it may be that you don’t really like sports and competition after all.

On a side note, I only wish golf was an Olympic sport. Add Tiger to that list and you have yet another great Nike commercial.

Category: Olympic Games
Posted on: August 9, 2008 3:43 pm
 

Zagunis, Jacobson and Ward Forever

Two weeks from now, when the Beijing Games are over and it is time to see if the US olympic team has managed to top the medal count for the 4th consecutive time, I hope no one will forget those names: Mariel Zagunis, Sada Jacobson and Becca Ward.

The three young women won the first U.S. medals of the Beijing Games, leading an American sweep in women's saber fencing. Zagunis took the gold over Jacobson, who won the silver. Ward took the bronze.

Fencing has been an Olympic sport since the Athens Games in 1896. And never before had one country put three fencers on one podium. For the first time ever, the same flag was raised for all three athletes on the medal platform. 26 Games, 0 sweeps. Zagunis, Jacobson and Ward will forever be the first athletes to accomplish that feat.

To be fair, the women’s saber event was added to the Olympic program for the Athens Games, in 2004. Zagunis won the gold that year, to become the first American in a century to win a fencing gold. Jacobson claimed the bronze. Silver went to China’s Tan Xue. The U.S. women have now captured 5 of the 6 saber medals.

Category: Olympic Games
Posted on: August 8, 2008 1:39 pm
Edited on: August 8, 2008 10:42 pm
 

Media Black-Out in the U.S. not in China

The Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony is over. The media black-out in the U.S. is somewhat ironic. It will be hard for U.S. officials to complain about China withholding information when their own citizens are not allowed to watch the Ceremony before it’s edited and shown with a 12-hour delay on TV. I wish all those people who want to change China had asked NBC to show it live too. But for some reasons, it’s always easier to ask others to do things you're not willing to do yourself.

Also, the Youtube olympic channel is unavailable in the U.S. (and in several other countries where the rights have been sold). I feel like a journalist from the Olympic media centre in Beijing who cannot access the sites he wants to on the internet. This is trully frustrating.

The IOC said the Olympic Broadcasting Services will produce the YouTube channel content and will include highlights, news clips, and daily videos of the international games. YouTube, and parent company Google, will also help pull videos that violate the IOC copyrights on Olympics content. If nothing else, the Olympic Committee has managed to make Google care about copyrights. It may not have changed China just yet, but it did accomplish something.

Based on what I hear from people over the world, the ceremony was “fantastic, outstanding, modern, well-done.” I can’t wait to see it.

And for those who care about Olympic sports. The women’s sabre competition, that's fencing, starts at 10 pm ET on Friday. U.S. Rebecca Ward is ranked 2nd in the world is the favorite. U.S. Mariel Zagunis is the defending champion. And Sada Jacobson, the third American in the field, won bronze in Athens and is the world No. 1. The medals bouts are scheduled around 8:00 Saturday morning.

The men’s cycling road race also starts Friday night. It features many Tour de France’s riders, including George Hincapie and Levy Leipheimer.

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Watching the Opening Ceremony on NBC is painful. The show is great, inspiring and moving, but the coverage is lame and weak.

First, too many commercial breaks. I understand that GE spent a fortune to acquire the rights not to show the Olympics live and need a return on this massive investment, but that's not a reason to cut parts of the ceremony.

Second, I don't know if Matt Lauer was too busy or too lazy to read the media guide, or if NBC's China specialist fell asleep, but there is no symbol in the fact that the armed forces raised the Chinese flag. It is simply the rule in China. Only military people in uniforms can raise flags. It was also the case in Sydney, Australia.

Third, they managed to link Tai Chi and global warming. I was expecting a little plug for GE green products there.

Fourth, it would be nice if NBC hired somebody who knows something about sport to comment the parade of nation and tell the viewers who is being shown on the screen. They seem to know only American athletes.

Category: Olympic Games
Posted on: August 6, 2008 3:39 pm
 

Beijing is hosting the Olympics, like it or not

The Games of the XXIX Olympiad started today in China with six women’s soccer games, two days before the Opening Ceremony, set to take place Friday night in Beijing.

As much as I like soccer, I don’t know if it really belongs to the Olympics. If you can’t fit your schedule between the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, you don’t belong. If the top players in your sport can’t compete in the Games, you definitely don’t belong. The latter point is only true for the men, then maybe they should just remove the men’s competition from the Olympic program. The FIFA World Cup is much bigger anyway.

A few hours later, the US announced that Lopez Lomong, former Lost Boy of Sudan, will carry the U.S. flag during the Ceremony. Some have said that China backed the Sudanese government despite its involvement in the “Darfur genocide.” A genocide that Lomong survived. He will compete in the 1,500 meter race on the track.

In related news, former Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek, who won a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, learned his visa was revoked by Chinese authorities today, hours before he was set to travel to Beijing to urge the Chinese government to help make peace in the war-torn Darfur section of Sudan.

Politics or social protests and the Olympics have always been intertwined. Giving the opportunity to Lomond to lead the U.S.team during the Opening Ceremony may not be a political statement, but if it is, it is definitely one of the smartest ever.

Awarding the Games to Beijing, China was, I think, a good idea. I am not saying that Toronto, Canada, Paris, France or Osaka, Japan would have been bad hosts, but so far, Beijing has done a very good job.

The venues look stunning and have been completed on time. The U.S. didn’t have to position an aircraft carrier off the coast of China for security reasons during the Games like it did four years ago in Athens, Greece.

Furthermore, China has become a powerful country on the sport’s map. It was the third best nation at the three previous Summer Olympics in the medal count, claiming 51 of them in 1996, 59 in 2000 and 63 in 2004.

China is still a communist despotic State. There is no denying this fact. We should feel bad for the Chinese people, but I don’t think that not giving them the Games would have changed that. Au contraire.

In 1980, the U.S. decided not to partake in the Summer Games in Moscow, Russia, because the soviet army was occupying Afghanistan. Not only did the boycott made no difference in Afghanistan, but situation is rather ironic today, isn’t it?

Category: Olympic Games
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com