Wow, the Olympics are a lot *nicer* now.

Here, in (kinda sorta) condensed form, with no attempt at any order whatsoever, is what I remember from past Olympiads:

  • The USSR doing everything short of welding a lid on the basket to fraudulently take the 1972 men’s basketball gold medal game, the most sickeningly brazen robbery ever, which later gets blown off as “controversy”.
  • Jimmy Carter and company pulling America out of the 1980 Summer Games due to the USSR invading a rinky-dink desert nation we could not possibly give less of a crap about, followed by the USSR pulling the same stunt in 1984 because, hey, tit for tat and whatnot.
  • A vault being set to a non-regulation height, the kind of thing that in a real sport invalidates the entire contest, but for gymnastics is simply “controversy” and which no corrective action whatsoever is needed.
  • Boxing corruption getting so completely out of control that a flippin’ Korean eventually got a gift win.
  • The “solution” to the Chernobyl meltdown that boxing had become being to keep the exact same bought-and-paid-for judges but make them push little buttons, because everyone knows crackpot video game remedies solve everything.
  • East Germany. All of it. The Onion article of international sports.
  • Atlanta unveiling a weird-looking mascot for the heck of it and an entire nation acting like it’s the freaking apocalypse.
  • A whiny, entitled brat figure skater giving the most bizarre response to being attacked imaginable and nobody at all finding anything really weird about that, followed by the unbelievably wrongheaded elevation of said whiny, entitled brat into sainthood, during which commentators get to spew out crap like “madonna/whore” and the false dichotomy of one Good Guy and one Bad Guy with a straight face without ever being called on it, leading to the most loaded, scripted, heavy-handed, plastic reality figure skating coverage ever (and that’s saying a lot), to the point where the talking heads were genuinely surprised when the whiny, entitled brat acted like a whiny, entitled brat during her victory parade.
  • A mind-blowing smoking gun tape of the ice dancing judges conspiring to fix the contest (leagues have been destroyed by scandals like this) and the “sport” surviving this piffling little “controversy”.
  • A Russian figure skating pair doing a more difficult long program than the Canadian pair but making a few little mistakes, being granted the win regardless, and this somehow erupting into the hugest figure skating scandal ever, then the French judge discovered to be crooked (wow, a crooked Olympic judge, stop the presses!), and this somehow translating into both pairs deserving the gold despite the Russians winning the short program, and it’s a beautiful medal ceremony and all smiles and this erases the last 90 brazenly unjust figure skating results.
  • CBS getting the rights to the Winter Olympics, listening to the wrong people, and proceeding to completely lose their collective minds.
  • An American volleyball player (admittedly something of a loudmouth jerk) not getting called for a penalty point he should have which would’ve cost the American squad the match, the officials blithely allowing the match to go on, the opponents later protesting and getting the penalty point and the victory, meaning that either the IOC was absolutely hellbent on screwing the American side both ways, or that the officials made two teams sweat through an additional two sets for nothing because they have the competence and decisiveness of sandpaper.
  • An FBI agent responding competently and courageously to a terrorist bombing and being rewarded with a tidal wave completely unfounded, bogus, groundless, baseless, dishonest, wrongful, off-base, false, false, false accusations for absolutely no goddam reason, costing him his career and ultimately his life, and not a single person ever being punished for this horrifying injustice…pardon, “controversy”.

Now? Nothing. Beijing came and went peacefully, for crying out loud. My biggest impressions from London were Michael Phelps tearing the swimming pool a new drain valve and America finally dominating the medal count top-to-bottom and freeing us to talk about other things. Michelle Kwan looked like she was going to muscle out a more deserving younger competitor but eventually bowed out gracefully, and that was the last time figure skating threatened to become a national embarrassment.

Even the coverage has regained its sanity. Yeah, I’ve heard all the gripes about NBC, but compare what you’re seeing now to CBS’s coverage, or American Ninja Warrior, or the NFL playoffs. The impression I’m getting? They’re actually treating it like sports now. No more smothering human interest stories, no foaming-at-the-mouth jingoism, no tedious interviews. I’ve seen a grand total of one profile so far, Tina Maze. The commentators actually sound like they have functioning brains (okay, the ones who covered the men’s figure skating short program were pretty bad, but that’s the only letdown I’ve seen), and even the infamous Bob Costas manages to keep it fairly cool. My gosh, it’s like they’ve accepted the reality that there are other nations better than us at winter sports! Norway will dominate, Canada and Holland and Russia will slug it out for second, and yoo-es-ay will be an ay-el-es-oh ar-ay-en, so give up this stupid fantasy of American dominance and just enjoy the spectacle. Yes. I like this. I like this a lot.

None of the sources of “controversy” exist anymore. There are college graduates for whom the USSR has not existed for a single day of their lives. East German judge jokes are old hat. China, although it will never be a nice place to live until the end of time, has grudgingly embraced free markets, diplomacy, and youth culture. Hell, ask a young person what the “Communist” country is and the most likely response you’ll get is “Norway”. Korea got a Santa Claus bag of gifts at the the 1988 Olympics and World Cup, discovered that this boon ran out when Apolo Ohno was inexplicably not robbed, and fell right back into sporting irrelevance.

Sochi? There was a call for a boycott for like five minutes, then it ended and everyone showed up. The biggest flap so far has been Shaun White pulling out of slopestyle after citing safety issues, which is apparently a crime against humanity in the snowboarding community and a great big BFD for the rest of the planet. The skating competitions have barely made any noise at all; I can’t even name a single figure skater. Heck, Bode Miller is just another competitor now. There have been terrorist concerns, but Russia has been fighting these no-accounts for a long time now, and it’s safe to say that if they dare try anything, they’ll be the ones getting the worst of it. And not one whisper about a mascot anywhere.

No more horror stories. No more bitterness and hatred and loathing. No more brazen corruption. No more suffocating politics. The Olympics have become…well…okay.


See, while there’s no doubt that this is a hugely positive development, I can’t help but feel more than a little…weird. Dangeresque 3, Chinese Democracy, and Duke Nukem Forever all being released weird. Gay marriage being legalized and non-whackjob America being fine with it weird. Red Sox being one out away from being swept by the Yankees in the ALCS and The Curse, a more powerful and immortal force than the Zeus, Odin, Pelor, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Yukari Yakumo put together just ending right then and there and the Red Sox pulling a comeback for the ages weird. Seahawks going up against an AFC team led by a beloved media darling and not only not getting robbed, but winning in a blowout weird. National retail juggernauts Tower Records, CompUSA, Circuit City, Borders Books and Music, and Blockbuster Video all ceasing to exist in the span of a decade weird.

Things change. I just didn’t expect this change to hit this drastically. It’s gonna take some getting used to.

I assume you’re referring to Nancy Kerrigan saying, “Why me?” when she was attacked. The problem is that she didn’t say that - she said, “Why? Why?” This seems to me to be a reasonable thing to say under the circumstances.

Salute for your wry acknowledgement of how, during the games, Olympics organizers chose to more or less ignore the slaughter of nearly a dozen Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972. Quite meta of you.

Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats, living together. MASS HYSTERIA

Call me crazy, but when one competitor has another one literally kneecapped, it does make one the bad guy and the other by default the good guy.

When the Olympic games, supposedly the epitome of international peace and good will, are hosted in a nation that invaded another for no particular reason, it might be seen as hypocritical to attend. Yes, I would not blame any other nation for refusing to attend games hosted by the US following Bush’s Iraq misadventure.

Yes, ice dancing was corrupt. The medals were decided in advance. They were given a chance to clean up their act. Although the rumor is that the US and Russia have agreed to stiff the Canadians this time around.

I am still seeing the human interest stories and the heavily edited coverage showing American competitors and the medalists only in sports like luge and skeleton. I’m still seeing only medal ceremonies featuring Americans. Granted, the advent of cable sister stations has improved coverage tremendously, but if all you can watch is the prime time NBC coverage I don’t think much has improved at all.

Maybe it’s just you. I’m not seeing many human interest stories at all, and what gets on the air seems to be shorter and less frequent with every passing Olympiad. I’m seeing medal ceremonies that don’t include any American athletes. Besides, do you expect NBC to pass up the opportunity to air medal ceremonies that featured American medalists, in favor of those where Americans are absent? Why do the CBC and BBC get a pass for their focus on athletes and teams from Canada and the UK?

The USA is a big country with a very large pool of athletes, who are competing in almost every sport. There’s simply more medal contenders for an American broadcaster to focus on than broadcasters from countries like … oh, Latvia, Iceland, or Slovenia.

Do people really think other countries enjoy Olympic broadcasts with zero sappy human interest stories, zero commentary, and zero events with athletes from their country? CBC broadcasts are hardly the raw feeds so many Americans think they are, and the cheerleading makes NBC broadcasts from the 1990s seem downright treasonous in comparison.

The only thing that bothers me about NBC coverage for this Olympiad is that the sister channels aren’t being used to their full potential. There’s still too much Premier League soccer on NBC Sports, prison shows on MSNBC, Car Chasers and Shark Tank on CNBC, and Law and Order reruns on USA, considering what those channels could be airing. They’re airing every Team USA men’s and women’s curling draw, and some Team Canada draws, in their entirety, and IMHO that’s a good thing. :slight_smile:

OP neglected to mention the badminton controversy from a few years back. Slacking in an Olympic game of badminton just seems so odd to me.

In any case, I’ve been watching it off and on and I haven’t been glued to the coverage or anything. It does seem like there’s less of the cheesy human interest stories and more of the let the competition tell the story. I’ve watched mostly the slopestyle and that freaking amazes me. Although last night it seemed like all the pants of the participants were dropping for some reason. Coincidence… ?

Predictably, I’m going to defend Michelle Kwan here: for much of the late 90s and early 00s, she was the dominant skater. She had a perfectly good argument for the gold in Nagano, but was upset by the upstart. She fell in SLC, no reasonable person quibbles with her bronze. By Turin, she was almost 26, old by figure skating standards, and pulled/tore her groin on the eve of the games.

Seriously, what’s with the clown pants on those skiers?

Heh. That Swiss slopestyler is gunning for an underwear endorsement contract, I think. Seriously, seems like it would get in the way, but that’s why I’m an old man, I guess.

How can you so insensitively forget the coverage of the Jesse Owens controversy of 1936? Honestly, I don’t see how you could have been alive and missed that.

Can you elaborate on this? What did she do?

After winning the silver medal in the Olympics she took part in a parade at Disney World. During the parade she was overheard saying, “This is dumb. I hate it. This is the corniest thing I have ever done.” She was unaware of an open mic nearby, and the resulting publicity tarnished her image as the “nice one.”

The OP has an impressive array of bad moments, or situations, for the Olympics. But there have, all through the history of the modern games, been just as many good things happening.

My favorite three are the following: John Stephen Ahkwari, a Tanzanian marathon runner, last to finish in the 1968 Summer games. Olympic bobsledder Eugenio Monti, first winner of the Pierre de Coubertin medal, at the 1964 Innsruck Winter games Lawrence Lemieux, yachter, also a winner, the fifth, of the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for Sportsmanship at the 1988 games in Korea.

The end of the cold war has definitely taken a lot of the excitement out of the Olympics. I just can’t viscerally hate certain athletes anymore. That was a lot of the fun. :slight_smile:

Another good Olympic story is that of Bill and Frank Havens.

Bill Havens was a rower for Yale University. At the 1924 Paris Olympics his team won gold, but he was not there. His wife was due to deliver their first child, and he stayed home to be with her. At the 1952 games Frank Havens, the baby Bill stayed home to greet, won gold in the 10,000 meter men’s single rowing event. He sent his father a letter, along with his gold medal, telling him it was the one he should have won.

It wasn’t the USSR that did it so much as the president of FIBA, who, IIRC, was from Great Britain. The USSR coach had a legitimate beef - he had asked for a timeout between the two USA free throws, but the timekeeper forgot to signal it to the officials. Also, very few people in the USA were aware that, when the official put the ball in play after the first stoppage, they hadn’t reset the clock properly, and it said 0:25. You could hear the horn go off, but that was from the timekeeper trying to signal to the referee that the clock was wrong. (Why they didn’t just reset everything to right after the first free throw, when the time out should have been called, I don’t know.)

Wrong - everybody who had vaulted on the “short” horse was given the opportunity to vault again. The problem was, one of the favorites was still shaken up by the bad vault and subsequently didn’t do particularly well on uneven bars.

There were also quite a few “hometown decisions” in Los Angeles - in fact, only one fight had a decision go against a USA boxer (not counting Holyfield’s disqualification, but that’s another story).

This is only going to get worse - AIBA is now switching to a professional-style scoring system where the number of punches thrown is not the only factor in deciding who wins the round and by how many points. This is just asking for politics to play a part.

You have to understand that counting punches has pretty much always been the system used. As early as 1972, the way it was supposed to work was, (a) whoever threw the most “effective” punches won the round and 20 points; (b) to determine how many points the other boxer got, divide the difference in the punch counts by 3, round to the nearest number, and subtract from 20. Of course, nobody actually did this, but instead pretty much scored fights “professional style” except that you didn’t get a point on the scorecard for a knockdown.

Do you really want a discourse on figure skating scoring systems? Here’s one from today: Javier Fernandez lost the bronze medal by 2 points - because his second Triple Salchow was scored zero. Normally, a Triple Salchow where you don’t completely fall is worth at least 2.8 points (actually, 3.02, since it was in the second half of the routine), but earlier in the routine, a planned Quadruple Salchow instead became a Triple, and there’s a rule that says that you can’t do the same jump twice unless one of them is in a combination. Even at that, it still would have counted, with a 20% penalty, had he not already done the maximum 3 combinations.

Are we watching the same NBC coverage? Okay, NBC covers more sports than ABC ever did (I can’t remember CBS ever having the rights to the Summer Olympics), but that’s because the concept of showing sports on cable channels didn’t start until NBC started its monopoly on the Summer Olympics (and some of us still remember the horror that was the 1992 TripleCast - and even then, not only were some sports, like judo, left out, but Ahmad Rashad went on The Tonight Show and made the fact that they weren’t showing the “who cares sports” a selling point).

As for lack of jingoism, note that NBC (as opposed to NBC Sports Network or the other channels where you have to be up early in the morning to watch them) has shown three medal ceremonies. Guess which anthem was played at all three?

Here are some other stories about people who finished last. The Abdul Basur Wasiqi story was my favorite from the Atlanta games, and I still have that finish on a VHS tape somewhere.

I also read somewhere about a female Bosnian middle-distance runner who couldn’t train because of the war, but somehow made it to Barcelona for the 1992 games. While running her heat, she fell further and further behind and was lapped again and again, and officials considered pulling her off the track because it might throw the schedule off, but they decided against this because they knew she had overcome some awfully big obstacles to get there. Plus, the crowd was cheering at the approximate volume of a jet engine at takeoff and it probably wouldn’t have gone over well with them.

And as she finished, the other runners in the heat all waited for her at the finish line to congratulate her when she finally made it. :cool:

Grace Kelly’s father was on that team, and her son Albert later represented Monaco in the bobsled.

My favorite moment of London '12 was when Grenada’s Kirani James, immediately after winning Gold in the 400 meters (his country’s first-ever Olympic medal of any hue), reacted by going to swap name tags with one of the defeated finalists, double-amputee Oscar Pistorius of South Africa.

It’s probably too late to make a movie about it, alas.