Friday, August 6, 2021

Olympic Thoughts

I’ve been trying to pay attention to the Olympics this week, though I’ll be honest sometimes that can be hard. On the one hand, the athletes are doing amazing things and can be a joy to watch, but on the other hand the powers that be who are running this have made some brutally stupid decisions and clearly lack the intelligence to figure out when they should just shut up and get out of their own way.

There’s been a lot of those decisions actually (why are they testing for performance-decreasing drugs?) but my personal favorite is their insistence that the women’s beach volleyball teams have to wear bikini bottoms in order to participate in their games, which is a decision I would expect coming from a committee of drunken frat boys at a rush kegger but which is an unwelcome surprise coming from an international body in charge of one of the most prestigious events in the modern world. Maybe they’re all just older drunken frat boys in better suits. It would explain a lot.

If that’s the way things are headed, I say we cut to the chase and just go back to the original Olympic games were all of the athletes were required to compete naked. Every one of them, from the gymnasts and sprinters to the soccer players and rowers to the shot putters and weightlifters. Men, women, and nonbinary. Let’s also include the scorers, referees, camera crews, commentators, and every single member of the organizing and rules committees as well, all of whom would be required to attend a minimum of three medal ceremonies per day. The entire Olympics would have clothing of any sort banned, and everyone connected to the Games in any way should be given a gallon of olive oil a day to rub on their skin as well as a wreath to put on their head if they win anything.

Watch how quickly those stupid rules get forgotten and the women’s beach volleyball teams are allowed to compete in actual uniforms instead of lingerie when that proposal starts to gain traction.

Also, as a side note, all of those dim-witted keyboard warriors who get winded rummaging through their fridge for third breakfast yet still feel a need to complain about Simone Biles pulling out of some events in order to protect her mental and physical health should take their randomly capitalized tweets (containing several correctly spelled words!), print them out on 100% linen-fiber paper, cut the printouts into small pieces, mulch them into golf-ball-sized spheres, and insert them one at a time into whatever orifice is closest until their eyes bulge.

Seriously people. Enough of that nonsense.

I’m not even going to go into the whole “COVID Superspreader Event” aspect of this. There aren’t enough electrons in the internet for that discussion.

But you try to focus on the athletes and the events themselves, and if you can do that then the Olympics are both great fun and a triumph of human achievement. You always have to make the separation between the athletes and the corruption surrounding the athletes, and I refuse to let the latter ruin the former.

In a twenty-four-hour span I saw two hurdlers break the world records in their event by significant margins and win silver medals for their efforts – an astonishing thing, really. Those were races for the ages. Three cheers for the 400m hurdlers, both men and women.

Why they had the women’s 100m hurdlers run in a downpour is an interesting question, though. That’s how people get hurt.

I watched a Qatari and an Italian decide to share a gold medal rather than engage in a tie-breaker contest in the men’s high jump. The deliriously happy response – particularly from the Italian – was just the most wonderful thing I’ve seen in a long time.

The Mexico/South Korea men’s soccer game was a highlight reel of goals. I haven’t seen as much of the men’s or women’s soccer as I would like to have seen, but what I have seen has been a lot of fun to watch.

The three medalists in women’s skateboarding had a combined age of 42. Can you imagine winning an Olympic medal at 13? When I was 13 my crowning athletic achievement was successfully riding my bike with no hands most of the time.

I spent a happy evening watching the kayakers and the 2-person canoe races, the latter being the most ridiculous thing I have seen in ages but an astonishing feat of athletic strength and endurance nonetheless. Those poor people must have collapsed into quivering heaps when the cameras turned away.

I will confess that one of the things I found most fascinating about those events is that the river where they’re held runs alongside a highway of some kind and you can see the traffic going by in the background. No matter who wins the gold medal, those appliances aren’t going to deliver themselves. It’s those little slices of daily life that make the world interesting.

Last night was the women’s 10m platform diving event, and sweet dancing monkeys on a stick but the Chinese woman who won put on a clinic. I know zip point nothing about diving and even I knew enough to be deeply impressed.

So overall I’d say the Olympics have been a success as far as I am concerned, despite the best efforts of the folks at the top to sabotage their own event. The athletes are what make this, and I will focus on them and be glad of it.

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