Thursday, August 07, 2008

what does the olympics mean to you?

i haven't written a purple post in close to a year, so i thought that i will say a few things about the Beijing Olympics. (National Day? what National Day?)

for me, most of my attention about the Olympics is focused on basketball. can the NBA-star studded Team USA win back a gold medal on the international stage after humiliating losses in 2002 (finishing 6th), 2004 (losing to Argentina, finishing 3rd) and 2006 (losing to Greece, finishing 3rd)? this year's team is considered the most talented USA team since the "Dream Teams" of 1992 and 1996. the media has called this the "Redeem Team" as it seeks to redeem USA back to basketball glory. however, in the last practice game USA had before the tournament begins, USA barely scratched out a win over Australia, which is not even considered to be a medal contender. how will USA fare? i will follow every game closely.

a good many of us follow soccer. but soccer at the Olympics is not as exciting as it is an under-23 tournament, and most of the big names will not be there. the biggest name there will be the fallen-from-grace Ronaldino (who is not under 23, but each team is allowed 3 players above 23). but perhaps, what everybody is concerned about is not soccer per se, but the "club vs country" debate that has kept Lionel Messi (arguably the most talented player eligible) out of the Olympics so far. fearing injury to their stars, a few clubs are reluctant to release their players for international duty, much to the chagrin of FIFA.

[Addendum 8/8/08: Barcelona has released Lionel Messi at the last minute to play. FIFA president vows never to let this happen again in the next Olympics.]

how about the other events? traditionally, some of the more popular spectator events are those with aesthetic components: diving and gymnastics. we will follow swimming and athletics because we are fascinated by the fastest swimmers and runners of the human race. we will watch weightlifting, because we want to witness the strongest men in the world, but perhaps also because weightlifting brings back the glorious memories of Tan Howe Liang.
sailing, table tennis, badminton and shooting would also be prominently featured on TV, since that is where our athletes will be competing in.

talking about Team Singapore, did anybody have as much difficulty as i had in trying to find out who the members of the contingent are? i can't find the names on either the SNOC or the SSC website. in the end, i had to rely on trusty wikipedia for the info. it didn't fail to escape my notice that the SSC website has a "medal tally" and a "our medallists" section (but no "our contingent" section). a little optimistic, don't you think? that is not to say that Team Singapore stands no chance of acquiring medals; Ronaldo Susilo and (the bored) Li Jiawei stand an outside chance at their respective sports but maybe you are more interested in their love life than their chances. (anyone notice how we all got tired and stopped talking their non-local origins?) i think the best medal chance lies not in the Olympics but the Paralympics, where swimmer Theresa Goh previously earned 5th placing in Athens. [i also found it a little ironic that our best medal chance does not even have her own wikipedia page.]

maybe, in an ironic way, the Olympics is not about sports. Singapore's recent (successful) bid for the youth Olympics brought back some memories of Beijing's bid back in 2001. i remembered how disappointed my mother was upon reading that Beijing won the bid. "they will disgrace themselves on the world stage" i remembered her saying. prophetic? we will need to wait and see. sure enough, China currently has to deal with a quagmire of issues surrounding the Olympics, including unfulfilled promises made back in 2001, as well as natural disasters (just another earthquake 2 days ago). (i also find this a little disappointing, especially since Beijing's air quality obviously isn't that great).

but historically, the Olympics have always been political. (and some argue, they should be). maybe Beijing is no different? perhaps after all the noise has been made, people start to watch the actual sporting events, and 2 few weeks later, everyone has forgotten about all the nasty stuff that was said. maybe. but there is a growing concern that the unhappiness over this Olympics may go beyond verbal spats. the Xinjiang explosions just a few days ago unnerved many (some are more sympathetic than others). there has not been any major violence in the Olympics post-9/11 (maybe because there has only been one Olympic Games, Athens, post-9/11), but a repeat of something similar to the Munich Massacre or the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing would cause very serious damage to China's international reputation.

we are not surprised when the Olympic torch brings out sentiments of nationalism among the Chinese both in and outside of China. however, what i personally find most disturbing is that levels of nationalism are so high that university students are lynching each other (in a school like Duke no less). are these ominous signs of things to come in countries that have a significant PRC population (like a little red dot you know)? Taiwan has been relatively quiet of late, imagine what it would be like if things don't work out well with Taiwan.

what's the Olympics to you? the burden of Kobe Bryant? Lionel Messi's no-show? girls in leotards spinning ribbons? crossing your fingers that Singapore wins a medal? crossing your fingers that no more explosions occur? Tibet, Darfur and Myammar?
Chinese chio bu? a brewing storm?

2 weeks after the Olympics are over, would you continue to care?

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