Monday, August 11, 2008

The Olympic Games

     Well Company, for those of you who don't know, the 2008 Beijing Olympics kicked off on Friday.  And I have to say that it was a pretty impressive opening ceremony from what I saw.  I was able to catch the very end of it while I was getting ready for the wedding, and the parts I saw were amazing.  I tuned in just as China was making their way into the area.  Since the host nation always enters the arena last, the rest of the ceremonies came next.  There were some speeches; those were boring, as would be expected.  A Chinese Olympic judge for gymnastics or basketball or swimming or something took the official's oath for all the people who are being officials or referees or judges for the games.  That was alright I guess.  But then the torch came in...and that was really cool.
     The torch came in and the place went nuts, as would be expected.  The announcers on the CBC (yeah, I was watching the ceremonies on the Canada channel, because a lot of times I like the way the broadcast events more than I like how the American channels do.  Plus, that is the channel that the TV happened to be on when I turned it on) said that over 22,000 people had carried the Olympic torch on it's worldwide journey from Greece to China.  That was cool.  The last person to carry the torch was a former Chinese Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion.  He was handed the torch, and everyone was waiting for him to start running.  Then he just levitated.  Yeah.  He flew up into the air.  HE FLEW!  They had him suspended by cables and he was lifted up to the rim of the stadium.  Then he began to move.  Suspended from cables, he began to move around the circumference of the stadium.  He was right in front of this gigantic 
video board that had an image of a scroll unrolling on it.  The "scroll" unrolled right in front of the torchbearer, and as he passed pictures from the torch run began to show around him.  And the coolest part?  The torchbearer was making like he was running.  So from afar, on camera, it looked like he was running on the side of the stadium.  It was so awesome!  He went all the way around and lit the torch.  It was super cool; an amazing idea.  I was really impressed.
    The Chinese have also whipped up some pretty cool venues for these games.  The National Stadium features thousands of steel beams that wrap around the stadium, giving it the appearance of a bird's nest.  In fact, that is what they have been calling it.  Right next door is the National Aquatics Center, which they call the Water Cube because, well, it looks like a cube of water.  It's made up of all these innovative plastics and whatnot.  They look really cool situated next to one another.  And they are both technological marvels.
     Another reason that I like the Olympics is because it makes us pay attention to sports that we normally don't care about.  Like fencing.  Or men's volleyball.  Or cycling.  Or the high jump.  Let's be honest, can anyone tell me what events are in the decathlon?  I didn't think so.  But I bet you will be able to tell more by the end of the Games.  Who is the top rifle shooter in your country?  I don't even know if the US has a rifle shooting team.  But we both will know all about Michael Anti, the 44-year old, three-time Olympic rifle shooter from Orange, CA by the time two weeks go by.  That's the cool thing about the Olympics.  There are so many sports on TV that aren't usually broadcast that it's easy to get hooked on gymnastics or rowing or ballroom dancing.  If you live in the United State, flip through the NBC family of networks, in Canada the CBC family, if you live in Italy the Olympics will be shown on, hmmm, probably on one of the RAI channels.  I don't know, I couldn't find it and my Italian is not so good.  But they will be on somewhere.  
     So pay attention for the next couple of weeks because the Olympics are cool.  They have something for everyone.  Water sports.  Team sports.  Politics.  Intrigue.  Tons of pageantry.  Unfortunately, these Games, like many others, have been marred by tragedy, as two American visitors, family members of a volleyball coach, were stabbed at a popular Beijing tourist spot by a Chinese man, who then took his own life.  But the spirit of the Games should and will overcome this tragedy, and that too is part of the wonder of the Olympics.  So tune in and support all the athletes from all the countries who have worked so hard and continue to put forth so much effort.  And go USA!

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