The kids didn’t cooperate. They were rather whiny and annoying tonight, so I don’t have any cute stories to tell. So, contrary to the earlier post, this won’t be about the kids.
I’m going back to the Olympics. 🙂
Now, remember, I am NOT an athlete. I pick sports that nobody else does so hardly anyone will know whether or not I look right doing it. If anyone saw me trying to play volleyball, they’d know right off that sports just aren’t my strong point. However, tapping someone in the chest suddenly from six feet away with a fencing lunge tends to impress people. So, keeping my non-athlete status in mind (to explain the almost complete absence of actual sports performance comments), here’s my list of what I’ve loved about the Olympics so far.
10. The sepia-tone Visa commercials narrated by Morgan Freeman. Yeah, “If the light is just right and you squint a bit…” Michael Phelps does look like a dolphin. And I remember watching Kerri Strug hurt her ankle, turn around, and do the second vault that put the U.S. team over the top for the team gymnastics gold. Wow. The Olympic history ones are neat, too. And Freeman just has one of those really great voices that you could listen to for hours.
9. The scenery around the commercial breaks. This would rank higher on the list if it weren’t for the fact that the sponsors’ logos keep blocking the scenery! Honestly, people, couldn’t you have put the box with the logo (“The Olympics on NBC are brought to you by Visa….”) in the corner? I’m trying to admire the Great Wall, the mountains, the pagoda on the island, etc.
8. The GE medical commercial with the street vendor flirting with the pretty girl who just arrived in his small town. It opens with a young woman getting out of one of those van-taxis. A guy working a little street kiosk looks up, and it’s love at first sight. She glances at him. He works his way down the other side of the street, trying to get her attention. He pops out from behind some baskets, holding some blooming bok choi or something. She finally smiles, and he’s ecstatic… until he almost gets hit by a bike, stumbles backwards and causes a chain reaction that wrecks the marketplace. Long distance shot of peaceful, picturesque village among steep green hills… with a cloud of dust billowing up from the market. (Ha ha! Love it!) Last shot: guy in village medical clinic, with the new x-ray equipment and… ta da! the new doctor who is, of course, the pretty new girl. Both smile shyly and romance blooms. Voice over starts talking about getting medical equipment, even to remote rural China, as the shot pans back through the crowd of villagers with slings and scrapes piled up in the waiting room.
7. The scenery around the marathon, bike races, and triathalon. The bike race went up to the Great Wall at Badaling, after circling around Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City. The marathon went through the park around the Temple of Heaven and around the other major sites in Beijing again. The triathalon had a beautiful padoga complex perched on an island in the middle of a lake, which the swimming leg went right past. Very cool.
6. The seal script games and event symbols. I liked the running guy on the main symbol from the start. The seal script is the oldest type of Chinese writing, back when things were closer to pictograms. For a long time now, that script has been used almost exclusively to carve seals, while the written language has evolved. (Seals are the red stamps you see as part of the artist’s signature on brush paintings.) I also learned during the olympics coverage that the running guy is a twist on the character for “jing” which is “capital”. (Beijing is “North Capital”, just as “Nanjing” is “South Capital” and Hubei (the province my youngest daughter is from) is “North of the Lake”) I thought it was a neat way to incorporate more Chinese culture into the Games.
5. The experts getting proved wrong. “Shawn Johnson is going to get the gold. Nastia Liukin just doesn’t have the start scores.” Oops. Yeah, they went one-two in the all-around… but not in the order the experts so confidently predicted.
4. The details on the steeplechase event. Usually, the horse jumping events have these cute little very English details. Of course, that was how the steeplechase started: fox hunts through the English countryside. So, normally, the jumps are pretty predictable: white and red poles, brick walls, bushes trimmed into boxes, etc. Not this time! The topiaries were trimmed into long, sinuous dragons. The gazebo wasn’t white and gingerbready… it was a bright red pagoda with the curved eaves. The pilings holding up the bars for the “fence” jumps had brush calligraphy. One jump was a dragon boat, with the front and back ends in little pools, with the bars in between. I spent more time trying to get a good look at the jumps instead of the horses.
3. Watching the outfits in the parade of nations. Grass skirts and bark cloth from various Pacific island nations. Graphic prints and big headwraps from Africa. Europe is usually boring (or trying too hard to be haute couture), but I liked Sweden’s outfit: it was in the pale blue and yellow of the Swedish flag, but it was a traditional Chinese tunic and pants outfit.
2. The history packed into the opening ceremonies. Good grief, where to start? The drummers. Zheng He with the compass. The movable type that made patterns and characters by raising and lowering… with pure people power, not hydraulics. The dancers who, while doing a very modern looking dance, also created a pretty traditional brush painting. The hundreds of women in Tang dynasty dresses. Tai chi. It sure beat the bungee-cord dancers and walking snow globes the last time France had the Games.
1. Happy silver and bronze medalists. Yes, of course, the gold medalist is the one who had the best performance, and they deserve to be proud and elated and everybody else wanted to be on that top tier, too. But I’m sick and tired of pouty skaters or whoever grumping as they stand on the silver podium. Yes, it isn’t gold. Someone else was better today; live with being second in the world. The U.S. men’s gymnastics team looked like they were on Cloud 9 just to get bronze, and it was great to see. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson have looked genuinely excited for each other getting gold, even though that meant the other one of them got silver.
And isn’t that ultimately what it’s about? “I did my best. I can be proud of that, even if I wasn’t THE best.” Especially, as was pointed out during the opening ceremonies, for the thousands of athletes who will never make it past their first elimination round. They come anyways, knowing they have absolutely no chance at a medal, just to be part of the Olympics, to cheer on those who will shine in their respective sports.
We could use more sportsmanship like that.