O is for Olympics

You thought that when the closing ceremonies took place in Vancouver, BC at the end of February, the high-caliber athletes had almost all left town. But there would be, in March, a parallel “Olympics”, he Paralympics, coming to the Canadian city. This involves a number of athletes who compete at the highest levels despite their physical disabilities.

The Paralympics started in 1960 (summer) and 1976 (winter), and has its own governing board, separate from the IOC. Yet, since the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, the location of these games have paralleled the locations of the Summer and Winter Olympics. At least for the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Olympics and the Paralympics share a common organizing committee. I called the U.S. folks in the Paralympic movement to clarify the relationship between the two groups, but the public relations person was not available.

The summer and winter games include the following sports, governed by the IPC: Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, Powerlifting, Shooting, Swimming, Wheelchair Dance Sport, plus several sports regulated by international federations, and a handful of others under the jurisdiction of International Organization of Sport for the Disabled.

The Paralympics are not to be confused with the Special Olympics, founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. “For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves.”

Not incidentally, this year is the premiere of the Youth Olympic Games;you can find more here.

Of course, there are the Olympics, which ran for about 1000 years, then was canceled for over a millennium, with a few furtive attempts to restart during that time. I’m not going to talk about the modern Games, which started in 1896, except for three things:
1) if I ever get to Switzerland, I MUST go to the Olympic museum
2) a really cool feature on the olympic.org site is feature that can retrieve all the Olympic results from 1896 through 2008; Vancouver is not yet represented.
3)Juan Antonio Samaranch, former IOC head, recently died. Got to say that he really modernized the financing of the games, though there were some issues over the Salt Lake City Games. And, except for American Avery Brundidge, he was the only IOC head I could name.

Sumi, the Paralympics mascot

ABC Wednesday


Are you watching the Olympics? I turned on the TV for the opening ceremonies, only to see how luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili of the Republic of Georgia died. In case I missed it, NBC kindly showed it a couple more times.

(Sidebar: before I saw the accident, I was talking on the bus yesterday with some of the regulars. We found it an interesting sociological phenomenon that ABC Wide World of Sports showed Slovian ski jumper Vinko Bogataj as the Agony of Defeat for 20+ years; the guy fortunately only suffered a concussion.)

But I’m not a big Winter Olympics fan. The newish extreme sports (halfpipe, etc.) look interesting, but I have no sense of how they score them. I learned a while ago that hockey is more interesting live than on TV, but if the US is in the match and not being trounced, I’ll probably watch some.

I figured out only yesterday why skiing, as inherently appealing as it should be, bores me silly. It’s one guy going down the hill. Then another guy going down the hill. And another. And another. And it all looks the same unless someone makes a mistake, and falls. Are we supposed to wait for a tumble, and hope it’s of the Vinko Bogataj variety rather than the Nodar Kumaritashvili type?

I realized that skiing is like the Kentucky Derby, except that only one horse and jockey go around the track. Then another. Then another. Substitute your favorite race (auto racing, track and field, swimming). Whereas the luge is so intense, not just fast but claustrophobic, it’s generally more watchable. Are we waiting for the (non-fatal) wipeout there as well?

The only thing I’ll truly see, though, is figure skating. The one thing my ex and my wife have in common is a love for the sport. I’ve been watching since 1992 and even have a basic understanding for the scoring in the men’s and women’s events, less so in the pairs, and hardly at all in ice dancing.


THREE QUESTIONS: Did you watch? Will you watch?

I hear the Olympics were on a couple weeks ago. I was so busy that I FORGOT to watch the Opening Ceremonies, and watched very little of it until the next weekend when my wife and daughter were watching female divers. Then the Monday of my wife’s jaw surgery, I caught three hours, mostly men’s volleyball vs. Japan. That Wednesday evening, my wife taped some programming we watched a little on Friday.

1. How many hours of the Olympics did you watch? I’d say I did about six, all told.

I realized that I seem to have lost the ability to watch television in real time. A nest of commercials come on and I grab the DVR remote to zap through them, all in vain.

The next spectacle was the Democratic convention. No, I did not watch.
OK, I did watch, but none of it in real time. I saw John Kerry show a lot more moxie on behalf of Obama than anything he said on his own behalf four years ago. I saw Hillary Clinton’s good speech, but oddly, I was more affected by the theater of the roll call vote. Finally, on Monday, I finally saw Obama’s speech, which said what it needed to say, outlined specific positions that comforted me , specifically regarding the rights of gays, and took some velvet glove shots at McCain. I’ll probably seek out speeches by Michelle Obama, Joe Biden and especially Dennis Kucinich, who apparently gave a real barn-burner.

After that, the Republican convention, which I also did not watch. But I will see Sarah Palin and John McCain’s speeches in due course..

2. How much of the conventions did you see? So far, Dems about 3 hours, GOP zero, but that’ll change.

Besides, I was busy getting ready to go to Chicago for a different convention, that of the Association of Small Business Development Centers where a colleague and I gave a presentation this past Thursday on “Blogging with the SBDC – Implementing Web 2.0 Technologies at Your Center”. We rehearsed it the previous Friday in front of the other librarians, which my colleague liked but I hated, because it makes it seem more stale to me. How did it go? I’ll tell you later.

This fall’s new programs are coming up. What I’ll watch its what I watched last year: various news programs, JEOPARDY!, Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, The Office, and in the vain hope they’ll kill off the Izzie Stevens character, Grey’s Anatomy. I may try 30 Rock again, if only to placate a couple people. My wife will watch Dancing with the Stars, and inevitably I’ll get sucked into it, if only to find out what this Misty May person looks like in ballroom attire.

3. What will you watch this fall?



Happy New Year!

This is a leap year, being divisible by four. (There are exceptions; 2100, 2200, and 2300 are NOT leap years, but most of us don’t have to worry about that.) Next month (February), there are five Fridays. Three of them are paydays for me. The chance of that happening is about one in 56.

The Beijing Olympics will start on 08-08-08, eight apparently being a lucky number in the Chinese culture. I wonder if the air quality will be an issue for some athletics. I’ll go out on a limb and guess that at least one medal-contending athlete from the United States or western Europe will withdraw for that reason. Feelings will be hurt.

Rumor has it that there’s a Presidential election this year. The Iowa caucus is in TWO days; the New Hampshire primary is in a week. Super Duper Tuesday, when several states vote is February 5. The Democratic and Republican candidates are supposed to be all but selected by then, but I’m not sure, though the only states of any size that AREN’T having their primaries/caucuses by mid-February are Ohio and Texas, on March 4. The United States is holding its first Presidential election with no incumbent president or vice-president running since 1952 (unless Dick Cheney accepts a draft from the Republican convention – horrors!) It’ll be interesting. I have NO idea who the nominees of either party will be.