Preview: Games of the XXXI Olympiad

rio olympics

Airs: 8/5/16-8/21/16 on NBC, NBC Sports, USA, Bravo, CNBC [technically they start on 8/3, but opening ceremonies are on 8/5]

I love the Olympics.  The last time around, I recorded over 24 hours a day (dual tuners, FTW!) – at one point my DVR got so tired that it just stopped working for a couple hours because the unit was so overheated.  I might try to record that much this time, but it is doubtful that I will be able to watch that much, unless I give up on that sleep thing, and with USMS Nationals in the middle of the Olympics, I will also lose a ton of viewing time.

As much as I love the Olympics, these Games are already severely tainted, they are the dirtiest Games ever.  Let’s start with the most overblown aspect – Zika.  Yes, it would suck to get it, but it really only seems to be a problem for pregnant women, and I am willing to guess that the percentage of pregnant women competing in the Games is really, really small [pregnant spectators on the other hand, might want to stay away.]

Next, some of the venues are not suitable for humans.  The Open Water swimming events and Triathlon will be contested at Copacabana Beach – not great, but certainly better than the sailing venue.  I have seen a picture of the sailing venue.  I think I would rather be in the trash compactor on the detention level of the Death Star than go anywhere near that venue.

Finally, the worst of all is the doping.  Russia should totally and completely be banned from the competition.  The McLaren Report was pretty damning, but I understand why they were allowed to compete at this Games – the report was issued just too close to the start of the Games.  The Russian athletes should have been completely banned six months ago, and then individuals allowed back in on a case-by-case basis.  That said, I feel bad for the clean Russian athletes – they’re in, they’re out, they’re back in again.  Even if they are competing, if they win, there will forever be whispers about whether or not they are clean.  Imagine working that hard, getting the ultimate achievement, and then having everyone thinking you cheated.  I don’t feel bad for the dopers, they have tainted the Games.  Swimmer Yulia Efimova, who may yet be allowed in, shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Games after a second doping offense.  And lest you think that I am picking on Russia, I am not crazy that Park Tae Hwan (South Korea) and Sun Yang (China) will compete.  And lest you think that I am being a homer, Justin Gatlin has a history, and I don’t like Galen Rupp’s association with Alberto Salazar.  I just hope they catch the cheats quickly (as opposed to four to eight years later, as we’re learning from recent London and Beijing retests).

Enough negativity, I will attempt to watch as much of the Olympics as I possibly can.  How do I prioritize what I watch?  I bucket the events into groups.  Now some events from the lower groups are higher than events in higher groups, but by and large this is how I prioritize what to watch.

Citius – Altius – Fortius. 

The Olympic motto.  Swifter, Higher, Stronger.  These events are determined in the most objective way possible – either with a stop watch, a yard stick, or just pure weight.

Swimming.  Obviously number one for me as a swimmer. The Olympics are the only time when other people pay attention to swimming.  For a full preview check out swimswam.com – I don’t necessarily agree with their predictions, but they will definitely talk about all the players.

Athletics, aka Track & Field.  Nearly as good as the swimming, but I admit to being one of those people who only follow every four years.

Cycling.  Road and Time Trial are good, the Track cycling is fascinating, and I love watching that crazy BMX thing – not even entirely certain what I am watching.

Canoeing/Kayaking /Rowing – I love the whitewater kayaking the best; the flatwater and rowing are fun, but they do get repetitive after a while.

Triathlon.  As a former triathlete and coach, this is obviously near and dear to my heart.  That said, triathlon isn’t a great spectator sport, and I am not a fan of the drafting format – it essentially boils down to a running competition, which is still great, but it is called a TRIathlon.

Weightlifting.  Simple – lift more weight than anyone else, you win. Also gets a bit repetitive though.

Sailing.  I can’t say I’ve ever watched sailing – I never know when it is on, not even certain of the format.  Plus, this year, no sane person would agree to compete.

The Team, The Team, The Team

These are all about the team sports.  You’ll notice a few are missing.

Volleyball.  The real kind.  It is so much higher and faster than its beach cousin.  I don’t think I have ever fully embraced the rally scoring, but it does make more sense than the side out scoring for the Olympics.  It is incredibly impressive.

Water Polo.  It is a brutal sport, I should know, I played in high school.

Rugby.  For the first time ever, it’s an Olympic event.  I am actually really looking forward to it.

Handball.  When the Olympics were held in Atlanta, my uncle and aunt went to some events, and Team Handball, ranked near their top of “most fun.”  It is like a cross between basketball and soccer, and actually fun to watch. I am surprised every year that USA doesn’t do well – it seems like a sport that we should be really, really good at.

Field Hockey – I always wonder why they don’t get longer sticks; they have to bend over so far.  Not as much fun as its cousin on ice, but still interesting to catch a moment or two.

My Name is Inigo Montoya…

The combat sports.  Probably the truest of Olympic events, these are events that would have been in the original Olympics (the ones in ancient Greece not the 1896 Games).

Wrestling.  It is utterly shameful that they IOC tried to drop this.  This actually is an event from the original Games and should never ever, ever be dropped.

Boxing/Taekwondo/Judo.  Hand to hand combat at its finest, sort of.  It is admittedly tamed down to prevent injuries, but again, I find these to be closer to the Olympic ideal than some other events.

Fencing.  See the heading of this section.  I wonder if anyone switches hands if they start to lose.

Archery/Shooting.  Truly deadly, fortunately they aren’t actually aiming at each other.  Though from a morbid perspective, that would be fascinating to watch.

Modern Pentathlon.  A combat sport?  Hear me out.  I have heard that it is similar to escaping from prison.  You break out of your cell and have to fence a guard to get free.  Then, you need to swim away (across a river or bay).  Then you need to shoot your pursuers.  You find a horse and ride to get away, finally after your horse is tired you need to run back across enemy lines to get to safety.  Makes some sense now, right?  Otherwise it is just a random collection of events.

Backyard BBQ

Events that could be held at your house.  And I have as much interest in watching them.

Beach Volleyball.  If the women wore more clothes, I doubt this would be as popular as it is.  As I said before, the hard court is higher, faster, and far more exciting.

Ping Pong/Badminton.  Like I said, someone’s backyard.  It doesn’t help that the Americans are terrible at this.

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged Yourself

These sports are by definition not objective.  Someone else is judging you.  I personally think the Americans are better; there now we don’t have to compete in these.

Equestrian.  They actually have some objective events (the cross country is actually pretty interesting), but the dressage is strange at best.

Gymnastics.  It is always frustrating to watch a sport like this and have no frame of reference for what is better than something else.  Someone can fall off an apparatus and still beat someone who doesn’t.  Don’t even get me started on Rhythmic Gymnastics

Diving.  Not only is this sport judged, it has possibly the worst commentator of the Games – Cynthia Potter.

Synchronized Swimming.  I am wise enough to know how difficult this is – I can’t even hold my breath for a 20 second sprint much less for like 80% of a multiple minute routine.  That said, it feels like it boils down to who’s routine is “prettier” and as we all know beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Trampoline.  Seriously? That isn’t a thing.

Quit Hogging the Spotlight, You Have Your Own Thing

The IOC is always looking to rid themselves of some events to reduce the numbers, they should start with these. These events have their own bigger events and shouldn’t be competed in the Olympics.

Golf/Tennis.  These two sports have their own Grand Slam and each of these is arguably a bigger deal than the Olympics.  Not completely sure why they added Golf in the first place.  Is it a tournament or match play?  Both?

Soccer.  This is a terrible, watered-down version of the World Cup, which no one really cares about.  The World Cup is orders of magnitude bigger than the Olympics and shouldn’t even bother being contested here.

And last and least:

Basketball.  It doesn’t help that I don’t even like the good version of this sport (the NBA championships), but it is the least competitive of all the sports. The Americans win every game by 40 points; a close game is 20 points – and the women’s game is even less competitive.  I am fairly certain that other teams are asking for autographs while playing.  The Washington Generals have a better chance.  They will never ever get rid of this because apparently other countries like getting their ass kicked and it makes a ton of money for the IOC.  [Hopefully, I have jinxed the Americans and they end up losing – that would be more interesting.]

There you have it, the ranking of all the events.  NBC will, as always, do a horrible job of covering all these events.  Less talking, way less commercials and way more sports.  I will probably end up streaming a lot of these so I can actually watch.  I really wish ABC still had the rights, but I’ll still watch as much as I can, dopers and all.

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Book Review: Elantris

Elantris_cover

Published: 5/1/2005

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Democracy is the worst form of government, especially this election.  Wait, sorry the actual quote is “democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”  I think what is interesting about Elantris is its exploration of different forms of government.  Most fantasy novels are pretty much monarchies.  In Elantris, however, the main forms of government are a theocracy and a corporatocracy.  There is a third – a scientocracy, for lack of a better word.  Though it isn’t really, it is a system that is ruled by magicians, but the magic has died.  Or is mostly dead.

Elantris was once a proud city – it was literally magic.  Some would even say it glowed (like a light bulb).  Its inhabitants were godlike – they could heal the sick and feed the poor.  Then the magic stopped, but no one knows why.  The city was covered in slime and those that had magical abilities became diseased.  When Elantris fell, the merchant class rose in its place – the “king” (the richest man) structured the new society based on who made the most money.  Those who made more money were given more land and better titles.  The employees who did all the work were little more than slaves [those who are cynical might draw parallels to our society].  Seeing an opportunity after the fall of Elantris, the religion of Shu-Dureth is determined to spread its faith to every country on the planet.

The king’s son, Raoden, succumbs to the disease of Elantris.  Raoden, like all who contract the disease, is locked in the city with no food.  The disease doesn’t allow the body to heal itself, so every cut and scrape is agony for eternity.  Elantrians don’t need to eat, but they are practically consumed by hunger.  Raoden is determined to give the people of Elantris hope, to feed them, to give them a purpose and maybe, just maybe he can cure them all.

Elantris is a fascinating war of science (or magic, since any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic) and religion.  The only downside was that the ending was a bit too well foreshadowed (i.e. predictable), not entirely original, and unexplainable – no really, the characters didn’t have an explanation for what happened.  It was a bit disappointing for a book this good, otherwise.

WWYT Rating: 8.3/10

Goodreads: 4.2/5