Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Long March - Olympic Underestimates

Shawn Johnson - When first seen, the plastic hair and non-stop smile made this 16 year old look artificial to me, a little too tough for her age. Then she kept smiling, stayed poised and cheered her teammates throughout Alicia Sacramone's tough night in the team competition and some incompetent judging in the all-around and early apparatus events. By the time she finally captured a well-deserved gold on the balance beam, she seemed just tough enough.

Swimming - Jason Lezak's miracle close on the fading French takes the 4x100 freestyle, kicking off the Michael Phelp's mini-series. Phelp's and Dara Torres swim races decided by .01 seconds (are we really sure the pool lanes are all exactly the same length?), star power and better underwater camerawork make swimming more watchable than ever before and more fun than As Good As News expected.

The People's Republic of China built first class venues, stopped traffic and even avoided really serious smog - impressive, but expected. The underestimate was how blatantly the Chinese government would ignore rules, agreements and public opinion. Need a couple of last minute additions to the gymnastics team - presto - two thirteen year olds are instantly aged (despite a documented contradictory history) when China issues new passports, so that they are suddenly old enough to compete as Olympic gymnasts. Chinese officials must realize the entire world will know what happened, they just don't care. China promises the IOC more openness to snare the Olympics for Beijing, then follows through with creation of official protest zones. Protest zones turn out to be a sting operation for "dissidents". Would-be protester's don't get permits, they get reeducation, including hard labor for two ladies in their 70's who wanted to complain that they didn't get fair value when their homes were confiscated. China is demonstrating first world power and capability, but a second rate approach to honoring the kind of commitments needed to participate in international treaties and organizations - a second rate approach that other nations should remember.

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