Sunday, April 6, 2008

Olympiad XXIX Everything but the Athletes

Raise your hand if you think the athletes may not be the primary focus of the XXIX Olympiad in Bejing.

When the International Olympic Committee chose Beijing in 2001 for the XXIX Olympiad, one wonders if the athletes were their main consideration. Or, if it was instead the IOC's stated goal to bring the Olympics to every continent-- with the athletes an afterthought. Consider the news events of the past month:

  • Tibetan riots with over 100 killed.By Permission of Signe Wilkinson

  • Security officials having to snuff out the Olympic Torch in Paris five times and shielding it in the safety of a bus as protestors stop the Torch procession to protest China's record on human rights. The torch was accompanied by 3000 police on motorcycles, in running clothes and in online skates but it still wasn't enough protection to keep the torch lit.

  • The World's best runner Haile Gebrselassie pulling out of the Olympic marathon six months in advance because of air pollution in Beijing: ""The pollution in China is a threat to my health and it would be difficult for me to run 42 kilometres there" record holder Gebrselassie said. Haile Gebrselassie
"The magnitude of the pollution in Beijing is not something we know how to deal with. It’s a foreign environment. It’s like feeding an athlete poison,” said David Martin, a respiratory expert who is helping train U.S. marathoners. Frank Filiberto, a physician for the U.S. boxing team, thought concerns about Beijing’s pollution were exaggerated — until he came to visit.
In November, he accompanied 11 boxers to the Chinese capital for a competition. On their first morning there, Filiberto said, the men returned from their daily 20-minute training run complaining of burning eyes, coughing, congestion and breathing difficulties. Only six of the 11 boxers ended up feeling well enough to compete.
“In my opinion boxers are probably the finest athletes in the world,” Filiberto said. “But they didn’t think they could make it three rounds in Beijing.” Filiberto and the coaches were so alarmed that they ordered the boxers to jog only in hotel hallways thereafter.
Randall L. Wilber, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s senior sports physiologist, has come to Beijing a half-dozen times since March 2006 to study the effects of pollution on athletic performance. He concluded that it could be “huge.” The U.S. (and British) Track and Field team is looking at using face masks even though the protective gear will slow them down during events."
--Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post
  • Finally, the world wide outcry over the attempt to "clean up" Beijing before the Olympics by mass evictions of people and also the round up of thousands of city cats. Estimates have hundreds of thousands of cats being rounded up and transported out of the city.Cats being rounded up in Beijing

This Olympics does look tailor made for one thing-- American televison. American televison coverage of the Olympics has been short on competition and hungry for coverage of athletes hard luck stories and personal misfortune. Unfortunately, it looks like there may be enough of both to go around this summer.

No comments: