Saturday, August 25, 2012

Olympic Hang Over

Now that the Olympics are over and there’s been some time to digest, I feel a little disappointed about the Olympics. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to be proud of if you follow American women sports.

What has C and R so rankled was NBC and their coverage. Their choice to not show events live really dampened the experience that we were all watching together. Isn’t the Olympics supposed to be a global experience? When we started watching previous Olympics years before the Internet, the events were not broadcast live, but we didn’t have any outlet to get advanced results. Now with the Internet and social media in particular, you could know the results before they happened. Yes, one could stay off the Internet, but the fact they showed the East Coast the events first and then the West Coast later made it really maddening. Couldn’t the USA at least share in the experience like Monday night Football shown in all time zones at once? Plus the “Prime Time” viewing of 8 PM to 12 Midnight made for bleary-eyed hours the next day at work. Couldn’t NBC have cut their crappy syndicated reruns at 7 PM and let us go to bed at 11? And…and, the coverage was so scant for most events. Pole vaulting and long jump maybe got 10 minutes each. Plus, each extended moment was sliced and packaged with commercials at just the right spot to draw out the “drama”, that it made us sick. Sports do not need any more help with drama from you, NBC, thank you very much. Let them run as they unfold.

Don’t get us wrong and paint us as a Gloomy Gus, there was a lot to cheer about, such as:

American women outnumber their male counterparts for the first time in like, forever, and out-medalled them, too, winning 59 medals, 29 of them gold to US men’s 45 overall, 17 Golds. If the America women were their own country they would have come in third on Gold globally, and fifth overall for medals.

And it is not just the statistics, it’s the way they dominated. Women’s gymnasts, track and field, and swimmers were outstanding. Women’s Soccer gave us thrilling come-from-behind wins and avengied their World Cup loss to Japan. US Women won a water polo Gold for the first time ever, behind a 19 year old who has yet to play in college!! (Maggie Steffans, and yeah, she’s going to Stanford!). Women’s basketball won a record fifth-straight Gold Medal, something never before accomplished by any women team sports in the Olympics. Women’s beach volleyball, a team of two, and the same two, Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, won three Golds in a row. Do you know how hard that is to stay on top for 12 years?

Women got to participate in the sport of Boxing for the first time in the Olympics, yay! C and R hate boxing as a sport as the winner is the one who inflicts more physical punishing and bruising of their opponent. What other sport can claim that? Boo. Plus the building evidence that it greatly contributes to later brain damage of the participating athletes men or women, further makes us not be able to get behind the sport.

At first it was announced that for the first time ever, all attending nations were sending women athletes. Then it turns out after the Olympics that tiny Nauru did not, so much for that hyperbole. But, everyone else will point out, international pressure got Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei to send women for the first time. Yay! They had to wear heavy attire that covered their whole bodies and heads, could not walk unescorted without a male escort and could not talk to other men. This is progress? By “allowing” these women athletes, these countries want you to forget that women back home are heavily oppressed, and in Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive, walk freely, or legally exercise, let alone play on sports teams. Boo. Think about that as you grab your ball and water bottle and head out in your shorts and tank top to go do your sport.

Saudi Arabia in particular did not support, nor want, or even acknowledge their two women athletes, one who was an American college track athlete, Sarah Attar. Attar runs track for Pepperdine University in California. It really galls C and R that when Saudi Arabia announced Sarah Attar as one of their athletes, at the same time the International Olympic Committee pressured Pepperdine to take photos of Attar competing in shorts and tank top off of their school website. Why did they give in? This is America, not Saudi Arabia? It’s okay to show your skin here.

It was reported the Saudi Arabian women received death threats from their own countrymen, and a twitter hashtag described the two athletes as “Prostitutes of the Olympics.” Other Internet articles stated that the hard-line clerics of that country are more resolved than ever to keep women from participating in sports, and have effectively made things worse (don’t know how much worse it can get). Still, the flip side of the coin is "every step forward counts,” says one Saudi journalist.

So it was a bit of a mixed bag for C and R to “watch” heavily edited, taped-delayed, prepackaged, heavily commercialized, pro-American Olympic events, even if it usually resulted in an American woman getting a medal draped around her neck.

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