Recently in Olympics Category
Unless you were living under a rock this weekend, I'm sure you saw or heard that Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic Champion of all time. NBC's already hawking products with his new title. Its almost as tempting as a late-night infomercial to order one, and I can't even figure out if it is going to be a video or book. Though I'm thinking that whatever it is it will be in DVD format. No one likes to read, right? So in honor of Phelps's eight gold medals in one Olympics, I decided he's worthy of his very own post instead of being lumped in with the rest of the weekend's adventures. Aside from the nail-biting races, here's what I thought was cool:
The big deal from last night is that Nastia (pronounced Nah-stee-ah, not Nasty-ah, like I first thought. Stupid name.) Liukin won the women's gymnastics all around gold medal. Apparently she's only the third American woman to do this... blah... blah... blah. I'm happy for her (how could I not like someone who was in Stick It?). I actually think she's a pretty great gymnast and her balance beam performance during the team competition really wowed me. But I feel bad for Shawn Johnson. Not because she got the silver medal. But just because they did this whole segment on her earlier in the evening where it was about how she copes with the hype and the product-placements and the adoration of her hometown (if you go to the museum in Des Moines you can see all sorts of Shawn memorabilia. And the local fair even made a statue of her out of butter. Golden butter, I bet.) She seemed pretty down to earth about it all, but the pressure must be enormous when like everything you see about the team USA gymnastics is about her and how she'll do. So she came in second. Not such a bad thing at all. Second in the world is damned good. But now she's going to have to answer a billion interviewers who want to know if she cracked under the pressure, if she hates Nastia, if she considers herself a failure. However, she got a shout out from Mary Lou Retton from the stands after she nailed her floor routine, so that's something to be excited about.
Here are the highlights from yesterday. (I was going to come up with a more clever intro, and theme, but I was up past 2 AM watching the men's gymnastics all-around final and that wasn't even me just padding on my DVR. That was for real. So I'm exhausted and lacking in cleverness. So highlights it is.)
She's Out! She's In! We're Just Really Excited!
I absolutely adore the unnatural enthusiasm of the announcers. When viewing last night's Women's 100 Freestyle, favorite Australian Lisbeth Trickett was seemingly shut out of the competition (someone in the second semifinal crushed her time) and the sideline guys just went wild. Shouting, "Trickett is out! Trickett is out!" repeatedly in utter disbelief. But then about the fourth time they said this, the winner of the second race, Jaiying Pang was disqualified and somehow Trickett was back in. They were slightly more subdued. "Trickett is in," just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Trying to have a life and watch as much Olympics primetime coverage as possible don't really work together. Last night I attempted to see a Broadway show and be social with a friend and then go home and watch the Olympics. Let's just say this didn't exactly work out. Not just because I was up until two o'clock in the morning trying to watch the entire primetime broadcast. Not just because I had to skip over a qualifying round of men's beach volleyball in order to finish at a "reasonable" time. But because by the time I got to the end of the airing that I had DVR'd, I discovered that it ran over and into the time slotted for the "news" and I didn't get to watch the Chinese or American Women's Gymnastics team compete in the majority of the floor exercises. TiVo cut off right after Alicia Sacramone fell on her butt, and when I switched to live TV the Team USA girls were all being interviewed about their Olympic silver medal win. Sigh. I try so hard to avoid Olympic "spoilers."
The 29 footprint fireworks that lead up to the Bird's Nest Stadium and really kicked off the most spectacular Opening Ceremonies ever weren't exactly real. Well, they did actually have footprint shaped fireworks that tromped through Beijing up to the stadium, but they were hard to capture on film so they went with computer imagery for viewers on the TV for the sake of prettiness. It was really all about the aesthetics for us at home. Isn't that the most important thing? Who cares if it is real? When I heard this news I actually kind of shrugged it off. Big deal. If they can get 2008 people to hide underneath boxes and move in sequence, they should have been able to find a way to make this work, but I was willing to let it slide. But then...
I know you think I'm joking when I talk about how much Olympics I watch... but I'm not... here's a sampling of what I did yesterday. It should be mentioned, for the sake of my job, that I was only "half watching" the sports during the day while I was doing other work.
Woke up and at 6:30 turned on my local NBC affiliates to get any highlights (OK, just wanted to rewatch the men's relay)
Got to work about 8:30 (bus was late, and don't think I didn't yell at the driver that I had Olympics to be watching). Turned on the Today show to see what was happening over in Beijing. After watching the gang do a lame job of making noodles with Martin Yan (he can cook, you know), they finally showed an interview with Cullen Jones (member of the aforementioned men's relay). But then I had to sit through an interview with Sarah Brightman about how much fun she had on top of the world at the opening ceremonies. Gag.
I didn't sleep much this weekend. All I did was watch Olympics and obsessively read the Twilight saga of books. I think I was equally balanced between them (enjoyment wise and time spent wise), but if you are going to watch the Olympics, especially "live" (meaning without taping and fast-forwarding through commercials) you are going to need to have some reading material, or have a computer handy. I mean, between the never-ending breaks touting NBC's new shows and their other sponsors (who I could probably name by heart now) compounded with the repetitive little segments about spotlighted athletes, it is nice to have something to do during the down time. And it helps keep my mind alert at 1 AM when I just can't make myself turn the TV off.
I've been watching the Olympics opening ceremonies since I was a little kid and I don't ever remember seeing one that was as spectacular and breathtaking as this one. Seriously. They are usually some wacky combination of over-the-top wire work and some trippy Cirque du Soleil shit that just doesn't make any sense, even to the people who live in the host countries (I'm still trying to figure out what the hell that Atlanta ones were trying to say). Even without the help of NBC's expert on all things Chinese Culture, Joshua Cooper-Ramos, I was able to kind of get what was going on, or at least I was amazed by what was happening. I could have done without Matt Lauer and Bob Costas take on the costumes throughout, but whatever. Those two took this on as if they were covering the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, but at least they had the sense to let Cooper-Ramos take the lead when he had something insightful to say.
The U.S. athletes won't miss some of their favorite shows, despite their busy Olympic training schedule. So what shows do they choose to watch between the gym and practice? Television Without Pity got the dirt. If you had to guess, you'd probably say the younger athletes watch MTV, BET, HBO, American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, etc. and well you'd guess right. Perhaps they are taking a little advice from the infamous Tila Tequila or the Real World cast members (hopefully not) or falling head-over-heels for one of Idol's now famous David's.
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