Friday, August 15, 2008

Guilty Pleasures--Olympic Version

Yes, I know China has a horrid human rights record. I know that they are trying to destroy the people and the culture of Tibet. I know their environmental record is abysmal. I also know that winning is a cultural obsession.

Still, I'm enjoying the Olympics.

The Olympics is the only time women's sports get significant air time. The first set last night between the U.S. Beach Volleyball team and the underdog team from Belgium was a nailbiter. Would Misty and Kerri actually lose? The set went to 24 points before the American team won.

(By the way, has anyone else noticed that, with the exception of swimming, the women's competitive uniforms seem to be getting smaller? While the men wear big, floppy shirts and shorts?)

DD#2, just returned home from Japan, was watching the women's volleyball match between the U.S. and Japan. She was at an International Jamboree in Japan during the opening days of the Olympics, so had some catching up. She was able to watch some events with her Japanese host family--like the volleyball match between Japan and Argentina. Oddly enough (!), the Japanese Olympic broadcast was not all Michael Phelps all the time. (Not to detract from Mr. Phelps--he is truly amazing to watch. But I do want to stuff a Speedo in the mouth of the commentators.)

She cheered when the U.S. team missed a difficult shot. "I'm rooting for the Japanese," she stated matter-of-factly.

"I thought you would," I answered.

I rooted for the Korean who won that country's first gold in swimming. I enjoy watching talented athletes from smaller countries pull off upsets. There's something so... I don't know... American about rooting for the underdog. And I enjoyed watching the women's individual saber fencing finals. We had a lively family discussion about what the scoring rules were.

I still want Michael Phelps to break records. :)

My favorite moment of the Olympics is the Parade of Nations at the Opening and the Closing. Because I've worked in the shipping business, I've got a pretty fair idea of where most of the countries are geographically and I've worked with citizens of several of them. I especially enjoy looking at the native dress. And the fact that, for a change, the U.S. women did not have the most tacky attire--that award goes to Hungary. (Sorry, Hungary!)

Am I surprised there is controversy? No. Olympics and controversy seem to be synonymous. Am I surprised that the IOC and the various international sporting federations are doing nothing? No. I mean, really, this is the body who accused the U.S. women swimmers of being "bad sports" when they complained there was something odd about the East German women back in the '70's. And has not apologized when it was revealed that the East Germans were using steroids.

The Swiss are the premier men's beach volleyball team in the world? Really? Who would have thunk it?

And then there are the personal stories. Lopez Lomong, the flag bearer for the U.S., was one of the "lost boys" from Sudan, kidnapped from his family, adopted from a refugee camp. He watched the Olympics in Sydney and became inspired.

And now he's an Olympic athlete. In Beijing. Capital of the country that helped bankroll the strife in Lopez's native country. The irony makes me smile. No overt protest. Just a subtle dig.

And I just heard that Lopez has been reunited with his birth parents who had no idea he was still alive. That's really good news.

So I'm addicted. The T.V. is tuned to NBC and I'm watching whatever they're showing. I have my favorites--swimming, crew, gymnastics, volleyball--but I'll watch anything that's on. Really.

And, yes, I'm the same way about the Winter Olympics