Olympic-Sized Questions

I’m not a sports person. While I know the difference between the teeny white ball (golf), the small white ball (baseball) and the large white ball (volleyball) as well as few of the other kinds but that’s about it. Don’t ask me about drafts or leagues or even what team plays from what city or state. With the exception of the Vikings and the Packers, I’m clueless.

So it surprises me every four years that I love to watch the Olympics. When I was a young married person, we had a little bitty TV in our little bitty apartment and we actually rented a big console job for the 2+ weeks of the Olympics. I usually root for the USA, but if we’re not in a particular heat or contest, then I go for the underdog. Over the weekend, I cheered big time when the Serbian rowers came back after their catastrophic boat sinking the day before and I really want Catalina Ponor (the only Romanian woman gymnast this year) to do well.

But I do have a few questions:

Beach volleyball.  Why do the women’s teams wear what are basically Band-aids as their uniforms but the men’s teams wear big long shorts and tank tops?

Gymnastics.  Why do the women wear leotards that look like they’re painted onto their bodies while the men wear loose baggy shorts or long pants?

Diving.  And reversing the trend, how do men keep on those little tiny speedos when they’re hitting the water at 30 miles per hour?

Grunting. Why do men tense up their arms and shoulders and grunt/yell when they win a point or match like Maori warriors? (I’ve noticed this is a man thing – very little grunting/yelling from women.)

Commentators.  Why don’t they vet the commentators before they go live?  You’d hardly know that Nastia Liukin is there; seems like she doesn’t speak unless asked a question. Why is Ryan Seacrest in Rio? I didn’t realize he had beach volleyball knowledge to impart. And don’t get me started about Al Trautwig and his adoption comment.

Waiting around. Why is so much TV coverage spent watching athletes wait around?  I really don’t need to see 15 minutes a night of Michael Phelps wearing his headphones and scowling off into space.

What questions do you have about the Olympics?

52 thoughts on “Olympic-Sized Questions”

  1. I have a lot of these same questions. Also, why, if NBC is so carefully curating my viewing experience, am I getting hours of swimming preliminary heats and entire beach volleyball matches, but I have to record gymnastics because it comes on so late (and then we only see highlights)? Why is it important to know that the women’s gymnastic team’s leotards cost $1200 each? Why are we only seeing fencing because people are fascinated by a woman fencing with a hijab? (And did no one notice that the Egyptian women’s volleyball manage to play also covered head to toe, and play fairly well, thankyouverymuch, much unlike our USA women who, as noted, are barely covered?) And why are women still treated so *$!!$!!&%! differently then the men in the commentary?

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    1. I agree completely about the things that NBC is “highlighting” for us. Based on their coverage you’d think there were only about five sports in the Olympics this year!

      AND, with so much swimming coverage (can someone say “Michael Phelps Mania” five times quickly), how much more can they say as the swimmers come out from the waiting area before each heat. Since most swimmers swim multiple semis and finals, why do we need commentary on each and every one of them each and every time they walk to their platforms? If they edited all that out, there’s be time for other sports!

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    1. I’ve only watched a little bit of Olympics and watched that because it was spending “family time” with oldest daughter & her husband when they visited here from Missouri this past weekend. I, too, thought there was way too much time spent watching Michael Phelps scowling off into space. Okay, I get that he is a great swimmer, blah, blah, blah, but watching a great athlete wait for his event to start isn’t that fascinating.

      My question is “Why has 30 minutes of the 45 minutes I’ve spent watching the Olympics been commercials? And 10 minutes of the remaining 15 minutes been watching the various swimmers wait for their semifinals to start?”

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  2. Usually I like watching the gymnastics and diving, and I do have many of the same questions, vs. As it happens, we haven’t hooked up our TV yet since the move. Requires at least basic cable – due to the bluffs, no doubt. We need to decide on the details, just hasn’t risen to the top of the list. So we’ll have to sit this Olympics out except for what we see at friends houses.

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  3. The answer to many of your questions, vs, is (as it so often is) “money.” Things are the way they are because NBC made a hideously expensive gamble that covering the Olympics would bring the network money. Following that, they made many decisions intended to maximize profits, decisions like using commentators and background stories that might make these sporting events entertaining to an uninformed audience. (Pandering to national pride pays off.)

    I’d ask a different question. This year the Olympics has a refugee team comprised of poor souls forced to flee their home countries. How, given the demonstrable fact that the organizers of the Olympics are inept clowns with sucky values, could they have done something as positive and joyful as this decision to honor these athletic victims of history?

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    1. Not sure I understand your question correctly, Steve. Are you asking how the organizers of the Olympics, “inept clowns with sucky values” could have done something so right as to allow a team of refugees?

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        1. I admit I haven’t been watching a whole lot of Olympics this year, couldn’t even make it through the opening ceremony, but has anyone actually seen any of those athletes from the refugee team compete, and if so, in what?

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        2. I haven’t, although I did see them at the opening ceremony. I will admit, however that I haven’t been searching out other sports at this point, mostly just watching the NBC coverage every night.

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        3. Is there any other coverage? I’m feeling a little water logged after all the swimming I have been watching. That said, the young American swimmer, Katie Ledecky, is a joy to watch in the pool. What a powerful swimmer she is.

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        4. I saw one of the refugee athletes, PJ. Syrian women, Yusra Mardini, competed in a swimming event as a member of that refugee team. She swam well but was nowhere near winning a medal.

          Her story is moving. With her sister, Yusra was in a dinghy trying to get from Turkey to the island of Lesbos. The boat began to sink in choppy seas. Yusra and her sister jumped into the water and struggled to push the boat to land. They swam for three hours, eventually succeeding in saving 20 lives.

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    2. You nailed it, Steve. It ain’t about the spirit of friendly athletic competition. It’s all about how many eyeballs can NBC keep glued to their TV sets so we’ll watch 1,000 Coca-Cola ads and 2,000 Procter & Gamble ads, and a million other ads for stuff we either don’t need, can’t afford, or already use/own.

      Chris in Owatonna (who watches a fair amount of Olympic coverage but is less enamored by the overhype as the years go by)

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    3. I think you’re partially right about the money, Steve. Ratings are the alpha and omega of television broadcasting, and ratings, of course, translate to advertising revenues. But there’s another insidious force at work. Because white males control a disproportionate amount of American wealth and the media, what we are constantly bombarded with are images that are approved of, and appeal to to them. How else do you explain that a female athlete like Serena Williams has nowhere near the endorsements of Maria Sharapova? Sexism and racism wrapped up in one neat bundle for us all to see.

      I had better remember to take my blood pressure meds before I continue on this thread. 🙂

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    1. Since most viewers see gymnastics once every four years, we forget that these people compete several times a year when the whole world is not watching. Fashions evolve in gymnastics outfit for a variety of reasons. If performers in minimalist outfits win medals, other gymnasts want outfits like that. All those sparkly things catch the eye and make gymnasts interesting to judges. Plus, the athletes themselves love outfits that command attention. It helps them do what they do, which is mighty hard.

      Why do beach volleyball women wear so little? I’m not sure. But it interests me that the outfits worn by Kerri Walsh Jennings and her partner were designed by the athletes. Not by men exploiting women.

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      1. If this is true (and I have no reason to believe it’s not) then my next question is, why do the Olympic rules allow it. There are some pretty strict rules in other places and how much can show or how many inches something must be…..

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        1. And I can personally attest to gymnasts wanting the leos and other r equipment because they are sparkly and because famous gymnasts wear them. When Nastia Liukin was competing, she wore some wrist braces called “Tiger Paws” when she did her floor ex. Child, who was also competing at the time, HAD to have these. And not just any braces, they had to be Tiger Paws. Had to be. I caved. She wore them once in practice.

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        2. I won’t mean defend the people who run the Olympics, but I have a partial answer for you, vs. There is an official organization that runs beach volleyball, just as there are federations controlling other athletic competitions. Beach volleyball owes much of its success to the beauty of its athletes, so the governing body is hardly motivated to come up with rules enforcing modesty. Remember that while some athletes prefer to perform while clothed (like that Muslim fencer), many beautiful young folks–male and female–enjoy competing while wearing very little.

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  4. Competitive sports was once a grand idea. Now it is a travesty except in things like town baseball and the like. There are lots of sports and tournaments we and the media ignore that still seem to have the spirit of friendly competition. like softball, baseball, pond hockey, broom ball, horseshoes, and several others of which I am unaware. Sports we ignore in HS often do it right, like track, tennis, golf–places where the kids talk to each other.

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  5. I love the gymnastics, but mostly I want to see the equestrian games. I thought I surely could stream them this year, but in order to see more than 4 minutes a day, I have to have cable or a satellite dish (to satisfy who?)…and my rabbit ears are not bringing in even the network broadcasts (can only get PBS during the summer, which is not all bad…but.) So, hope to catch at least some of the events/riders on youtube after they are over.

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    1. In the equestrian competition, a small mare named A Little Romance is representing Canada. Sired by a stallion named A Fine Romance, in everyday parlance known as Fred, was owned by Garnet Rogers and his wife, Gail. Unfortunately, Fred died at the end of June of old age, but his gallant heart is pretty evident in A Little Romance.

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  6. My questions about the Olympics is why don’t they work harder to find a good place to hold the Olympics. At least in recent years we always hear that the country that hosts the Olympics has used or is using money and resources for the Olympics that should have been used to serve the needs of their own people. It seems to be a common practice for host countries to displace people in poor communities to make room for the Olympics without doing anything to help the the displaced people.

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    1. I don’t think they should be held. Every event has world championships outside the Olympics. But if we are going to do it, why don’t we pick one place and hold them there every year.

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      1. I agree with you, Clyde. I was a big fan of them in the past. Now it seems to just be a big media event and not a very good one. On the other hand, it does provide a opportunity for many good athletes from around the world to compete with each other so I suppose it should continue.

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  7. I share Sherilee’s disregard for spectator sports. Always have. And I probably wouldn’t have watched any of the olympics except Robin likes to watch them, so I’ve seen a little of the swimming and the women’s gymnastics. I haven’t seen enough to be able to address or add to questions about costume or how the coverage is programmed but I have some meta questions that may not have answers.
    Why are the olympics so jingoistic? Are we supposed to feel a swell of pride when someone from our country wins a medal? Why? How did we participate in their success? How does that achievement reflect anything about us? I feel the same way, incidentally, about professional sports teams.
    Succeeding at the olympic level is the result of hard work and dedication by an individual. I’m sure it’s gratifying and a thrill after all that effort, but to me it also seems like a tragic waste for someone to spend a large part of their youth getting really good at something essentially pointless. It strikes me as a kind of exploitation.

    Personally, I am not able to suspend my disbelief in order to look upon the events as anything other than high-level stunts like jumping out of a plane without a parachute or balancing a chair on your chin. Despite the gloss, they don’t ultimately mean anything. They don’t lead to anything.

    And can’t the commentators just shut up once in a while? Doesn’t what the athletes are trying to do speak for itself?

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    1. Good questions, Bill. If I watched the Olympics more, I would appreciate seeing the great athletes from around the world competing without the emphasis being on the sort of artificial extreme patriotism that compels us to feel proud of our country when one of our athletes wins a medal. Why not honor all winning athletes equally no matter what country they are from?

      As for the commentators…yes, please be quiet once in a while so we can simply enjoy the skill and beauty of an athletic feat well-executed without hearing about how “huge” and important every little thing is. I think if I watch any more Olympics (doubtful), I’ll use the mute button as often as other people will allow it.

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      1. On the radio I just heard Hillary conflate the success of Simone Biles and Michael Phelps with proof of US competitiveness in world markets.

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        1. Yes but one has no bearing on the other. She can’t counter Trump by emulating him. My basic impression of her has been that she is an intelligent person. When she says things like that, it makes me question her powers of ratiocination.

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    2. I always enjoy comments by baboons, especially Bill’s. He thinks for himself and does not toss off unconsidered opinions.

      Bill is puzzled because he doesn’t feel pride when the US does well in competition against other nations. I’d never argue that anyone “should” root for the US athletes. But millions of people do. They enjoy the Olympics because it showcases so many diverse sports (I was just watching archery) and so many fresh athletes. It is better than much TV because it is not scripted. Bill doesn’t identify with athletes from this country or (I suppose) this state, and that’s his choice. Many, many people do identify. For them, watching the Olympics is a special thrill that comes along once in four years.

      Similarly, Bill doesn’t feel the need to compete and does not see meaning in athletics. I’m not competitive either, but I enjoy watching those who are. Many people love doing well in competitive sports in which they have a gift. They aren’t necessarily foolish or exploited or deluded. They simply feel things that Bill doesn’t feel.Those athletes would fiercely argue that what they do does mean something and does lead to something, but those “somethings” are rewards Bill doesn’t feel when he looks at the TV screen. Fair enough. Just say that “I don’t get it.”

      Many people have a drive to identify with larger groups. Professional sports teams and Olympic sports allow people as nonathletic as I am to feel a bit of the thrill of victory (or even the anguish of defeat). My life isn’t particularly rich in activity or consequence, but I’d be poorer still if I couldn’t enjoy the Minnesota Vikings.

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      1. It’s absolutely true that I don’t get “it”, have never gotten it. When I express an opinion, I never expect it will apply to anyone else or be shared by them. That’s what gives me the freedom to express it.

        The circumstances vary from sport to sport, but when you see, for example, female gymnasts who are still in their teens competing at the olympic level, you know that they have been working up to since they were very, very young. Even if they were willing, I contend they were not equipped to make an informed choice or to know the sacrifices they would have to make.

        I understand that what they do means something to the athletes, and it’s obvious that many people feel that it means something to them. Whatever that is, if it stayed in the arena of entertainment or whatever other appropriate arena it might occupy, I could comfortably ignore it. But sport assumes an unnatural importance and influence when it intersects with politics and the economy. I live in a city where two major sports facilities should have been subject to a referendum. If they had, neither would have passed, and so the local politicos and business interests found ways to abrogate their resposibility and bypass the referendum at the expense of taxpayers. These are not schools or research facilities or even public edifices they chose to ramrod. The point is, only a minority supported the issue, yet somehow the will of the majority didn’t matter because it was Sports.

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        1. While I don’t agree overall, I do have to say from personal experience, that some of these young folks are absolutely driving themselves. Child announced at the age of 7 that she wanted to be a Firecracker, the beginning training team for the gym she attended. This was the start of many years of gymnastics that included four to five practices a week, including an 8 a.m. Saturday practice and 5-6 hour meets, almost always on weekends. Believe me when I say that she drove this bus. There was never a time when she said “I don’t want to go to practice tonight/this morning”. She even did gymnastics with a broken wrist for a week before telling me that her wrist hurt. So I think in at least some of these cases, the athletes’ families are probably trying hard not to get left behind!

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        2. You’ve changed to topic, Bill. Your first comment was about how people are doing something without meaning if they identify with sports teams. You went on to say the athletes themselves are foolish for committing so heavily to pursuing sports. I disagree with both positions.

          Now you are saying people who don’t care for sports shouldn’t be obliged to pay for stadiums enjoyed by people who do care. I agree.

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        3. Actually, Steve, I wasn’t accusing anyone of acting without meaning or even that I thought the athletes were foolish. I recognize the limits of my personal opinion. My argument is with the way, when sports are involved, individual and subjective values get expressed as intrinsic and universal values and receive more authority and substance than they deserve.

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        4. I had one daughter who was in both club and high school gymnastics, Sherilee, plus competitive Scottish highland dancing. The other daughter was a swimmer, both in club and high school, plus in college, so I’ve dusted my share of bleachers. They all were in their respective sports because they wanted to be there. But I remember that every gymnast on the school team who was seriously competitive had her own physical therapist to deal with her injuries. In my opinion (my opinion) there’s something out of whack with that. In team sports, kids sometimes feel pressure to do things that are not good for their personal well-being, like hiding an injury. Sports should never feel that important (in my opinion).

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    1. The current way we choose politicians in this country is totally cuckoo. The process is vastly too expensive and it attracts people who want to win office so badly it reflects badly on them as human beings. When I was a wedding photographer I often felt there could hardly be a worse way to launch a marriage than the traditional American wedding. That’s probably harsh. I feel equally strongly that the way we choose our political leaders is stupid, unfair and degrading to everyone involved.

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  8. The only sport I love is gymnastics, but my gripe is that I haven’t figured out when they’re scheduled and missed their gold medal finals. I’m also wondering how rowers and sailors can be in water so toxic that it makes anyone who’s in it very ill?

    OT: The very first Somali/Muslim woman, Ilhan Omar, in the country was just nominated by the DFL for Congress. This is amazing and makes me proud of Minnesota. We also have the only male Muslim, Ellison, in Congress in the country.

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  9. It’s so much easier seeing the problems with all that needs to be fixed than actually coming up with solutions for fixing them. Jim’s suggestion that the Olympics should be held the same place every years strikes me as completely unrealistic. Where would that place be? Knowing how competitive the bidding process is for becoming a host tells me that there are untold profits to be made by a prospective host city. Sure it’s a big gamble, but isn’t that essentially what all of these sports franchises are?

    I appreciate Jim’s concern about the expenditures, and the costs often paid by those who can least afford them, but who should make the decision, and based on what, as to where future Olympics should be held? I’m beginning to realize that the Olympics are making a lot of people very rich, and I’m betting that few of them are athletes.

    I tend to give people and organizations the benefit of the doubt. I think the IOC does a reasonably good job. But much like our own political campaigns, I fear that money plays an inordinate role not just in where the Olympics will be held, but also in who gets to participate. Money is power, and those who have it, wield it.

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    1. I read someplace (now I need to go find that bit) that most cities actually lose money on the games themselves but feel that the “afterglow” makes it eventually worthwhile. Wonder if that’s true.

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  10. Well,Ii am home now and had a good day and am far less churlish than this morning. Our TV is in the basement, a place I rarely go, so I keep up with the Olympics with the paper and the computer. Starting next week, however, I will be in the basement quite a lot. The kitten found in Brookings by son and DIL three weeks ago has had a hiatus in Moorhead with daughter, and is arriving at our house this weekend to take up permanent residence. I have been instructed that I and husband must spend time downstairs with kitten while she gets acclimated to the new hose and resident cat and dog. I suppose the Olympics will be over by then, won’t they?

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  11. Ok, so more swimming is coming up and some “history-making” swim between Phelps and Lochte. Didn’t we do that last night?

    So although I do like to watch the Olympics, I don’t feel my needs are being met by NBC. Does this mean that I am that far off the “typical viewer” template or that an awful lot of us are going with our needs unmet?

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    1. I think that there are a number of us who are not regular sports viewers who like the Olympics who are less than impressed by how NBC is lining up events in prime time. At least tonight I didn’t have to wait until after 9pm for gymnastics…but I could really really be done with anything involving lanes of swimmers. What about fencing and our history-making woman saber fencer? What about archery or shooting? And the only snippet we got (at least that I saw) of the “historic event” that was the woman cyclist winning a third individual gold in the time trial we got…her last minute or so. Sheesh.

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  12. This Old Fogey remembers the days before cable TV and 24/7/365 sports networks – when the Big Three networks (CBS, NBC, and ABC) would actually take the time to cover things like the World Gymnastics Championships.

    Somehow, with more TV, we’ve wound up with LESS of the other sports. We only care about track & field and swimming et al. for a few weeks every four years.

    What happened?

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