Will Dinosaurs be Extinct by 2014?

Sochi, Russia will host the XXII Winter Olympiad in 2014.

While the XXX Olympiad is now over and the Paralymic Games are in full swing, one wonders whether NBC will change the way they cover the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. While Rio de Janeiro is a mere one hour ahead of EST, Sochi is 11 hours ahead so as I’m writing this today it’s actually tomorrow there. Neat trick but as we’ve seen, this should be a cause for concern for NBC.

Being broadcast (taped delayed or otherwise) on at least five cable channels, live streamed for U.S. cable subscribers, and online availability of non-U.S. network coverage through VPN there were more ways to watch the Olympics than ever before. Unfortunately, NBC didn’t change their archaic primetime model, a relic of pre-Internet days, and boy did they hear about it.

#NBCfail was hatched almost immediately after the Games began as a backlash to the network electing not to live stream Opening Ceremonies. The tape delayed broadcast cut the London terror attack memorial segment since “it wouldn’t be of interest to the American audience.” In NBC’s defense, Americans do tend to be rather insular, present company not at all excluded. There was also the flap over journalist Guy Adams being banned from Twitter due to his anti-NBC postings – ultimately turned out to be more of a #Twitterfail than a network fail. And the spoilers…but really, in this age of instant information is it avoidable? For me it wasn’t so much about the spoilers as the anchor commentary. Even if you had been able to avoid hearing results, half of the time Bob Costas & crew deflated your bubble of anticipation with a we-all-know-what-happened-already-wink-wink-nudge-nudge callousness.

There was also the overall stupidity factor. Fact check before you open your mouth and please, don’t try to fill in the blanks if you don’t know the sport. On the other hand, if you are there as an expert, show some of your expertise (that’s directed to you, Tim Daggett and Elfie Schlegel) but don’t talk over an athlete’s whole performance. Go crazy and assume the audience is at least somewhat informed. Educating the audience good, schmaltz bad.

Taking it a step further, can we please approach the Olympics as a news story rather than an entertainment piece? And from an international perspective rather than a jingoistic one? I don’t want to see fluff pieces about James Bond’s watering holes or how important the custom of taking tea is to the Brits. And honestly, I don’t want to hear from Michael Phelps before and after each heat. A bit on him before the swim coverage begins, a piece when he breaks Latynina’s record and a final interview after he won his last race would be enough, really.

I completely understand that NBC is approaching coverage from the business standpoint of maximizing revenue and not from the sports fan standpoint of maximizing coverage. But in the age of social media, they tried to maintain dictation (really more like a canned recording) rather than conversation. It’s true you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but you should have a response prepared for the critics and a plan for changing with the times. And quite frankly, you should at least occasionally take care of your viewers rather than always pandering to your corporate sponsors. This was a failed opportunity for NBC.

Matt Lauer and Al Roker add wrestling to their list of embarrassing Olympic moments. (Image from Today)

In my fantasy world (the one where I ran NBC’s Summer Olympic scheduling not the other ones) everything would be shown live, different sports would be shown on different channels so you’d always know where to go for which sport, and a tape delayed day’s highlights reel being shown from 7-11 PM – your Olympic USA Today as opposed to an Olympic Wall Street Journal. No qualifying heats would be shown during highlights, only medal rounds regardless of whether an American athlete had qualified or not. On late night coverage, bloopers, fluff and stupid things athletes, coaches, sporting associations, and the IOC say or tweet. Morning shows would remain the arena for athlete, family, and coach interviews and Matt Lauer and Al Roker would not be allowed to attempt any sports. Non-cable subscribers could view NBC’s online coverage (lord knows they sold enough ads). For a reasonable fee you could choose the country of origin to watch online coverage, so if you’re a Japanese grad student currently residing in the States or a Canadian expat, you could watch your native country’s feed rather than NBC’s. Since I’m not responsible for revenue, (it’s my fantasy, remember?) that’s how I’d do it.

I hope that NBC learned from London and change their model in time for Sochi. And there’s plenty of time to improve delivery of the Games in Rio without significantly hurting sponsorship and advertising revenues. It’s a new era in media and it seems inconceivable that they wouldn’t change with the times but do you think the network will change how they cover the Olympics? Will television coverage always be tape delayed? Do you think online coverage will or should be expanded to include non-cable subscribers? Can the bar for commentating be raised without disengaging the “average American audience”? How would you program the Olympics?

Rantings of a Former Gymnast

My sport wrapped up coverage yesterday. Which actually is probably a good thing as I’ve been waking up early to follow Twitter feeds and staying up late to watch NBC’s tape delayed coverage. Don’t ask me why I didn’t get my cable company password set up until today, I just didn’t. As a result, I’m pretty lacking in sleep – not that I’m not normally an insomniac but this is self-induced. My doctor might take away my Ambien™ prescription if she knew (Hi Doc! The pills are working great, thanks!) but I’m pretty sure she’s not following this blog.

What have I been following?, you ask. What haven’t I, more like. But the sport nearest and dearest to my heart is and always will be women’s artistic gymnastics. I know it’s a lot of people’s favorite sport to watch, always covered in prime time, and always strong on ratings but since I have buckets – nay, barrels – of blood, sweat, and tears invested in the sport I can get a little crazy every four years or so. Put it this way: this is the first time in 20 years that I have not gone to U.S. Olympic Trials.

I’m a recovered gymnast, coach, and judge but by no means does this make me an expert on the sports current rules. Unlike track or swimming where the fastest individual or team always wins, world without end amen, the sport of gymnastics is ever-evolving with changes in equipment, requirements and rules. “Why, back when I was a gymnast” …the best score possible was a 10.0, we vaulted on a horse, and your bar setting was from your palm to your hip bone so that you could beat/wrap the bar. Only boys wore dowel grips and swung giants, vocals were verboten in floor music, and you’d be deducted for wearing jewelry let alone having a visible tattoo. No one wore glitter in their hair or sparkly leotards, although even back in the day Eastern Europeans, specifically the Soviets (yeah, that long ago) and Romanians had bad makeup. I guess some things don’t change.

Picture taken 23 July 1976 of Rumanian champion Nadia Comaneci, aged 14, during Olympic Games in Montreal where she was awarded with ten points in two exercices and captured 3 gold medals (beam, uneven bars and general competition). Legendary gymnast, during her career Nadia Comaneci captured four Olympic gold medals (1976 :  beam, uneven bars and general competition - 1980, beam) and was the first to score 10 in her discipline.

Nadia Comaneci, Montreal 1976
(Photo: Getty Images)

My SO asked me about “that perfect 10 chick” (sacrilege to not know her name!), “I don’t know anything about gymnastics but her routine didn’t look that hard.” Sigh. Things are different, plain and simple. The BB routine Nadia Comaneci did as an Olympian in 1976 would only have a start value of about 4.3 according to the current FIG Code.  As far as I can tell it’s missing a required dance combination and only gets .1 in connections for the D+B acro combo of an aerial to a back handspring step out. And for all those judge haters out there, freakin’ TRY to memorize the entire Code of Points (revised edition every quadrennium!) and just keep track of what’s in a routine without even taking execution errors or calculating start value. Both BB and FX are 90 seconds max, penalties for overtime. UB and V are over in the blink of an eye or, God forbid, a poorly timed sneeze. How many twists in the air was that? Was that turn a 2½ or a triple? Were those skills connected? And yes, it sucks when an athlete has to wait while they calculate the score of the gymnast before her, and yes, it can mess with her head but guess what? The judges are stressing too! Are you kidding me? I wouldn’t be Nellie Kim if you paid me €1M! (Okay maybe I would if I could go back to my real identity post-Olympics and wouldn’t have to hear all the whining about scores and politics.) The worse the routine the harder the judges are working, trust me. I have, when judging high school gymnastics, come up with negative scores. We never gave them, of course, but you comb your memory banks, you calculate and recalculate and you question your senses, your knowledge, and ability every time there’s a poor performance. It’s not easy and often your knowledge and efforts are unappreciated by athletes, coaches, parents and uneducated spectators.

Oscar Pistorius Runs With Girl

Uncredited Twitter pic of Oscar Pistorius and Ellie Challs

There are some who say it’s not a sport because it’s subjective. To them I say Φ¢kQ: anybody can run*; not anybody can do what an Olympic gymnast can do. Even on a bad day, he or she can do things you can’t even imagine doing. Do you know how wide four inches is? My smart phone is longer than a beam is wide. When Gabby Douglas fell off beam, did you see where it came up to on her body? Almost to her armpits. When I was coaching, some of my little peanut gymnasts were terrified of going from sitting on the low bar to hanging on the high bar, a little pop done by pushing against your hands and upper thighs and springing forward and upward.  I couldn’t understand it. Until I sat on the low bar and saw how far I had to go, that is. Mind you, this was as an experienced 5’0″ 20-something. My babies were anywhere from 6 to 16 years old, some of them just over 3′ tall (granted, also some taller and heavier than me). For them it was the Grand Canyon, a seemingly insurmountable chasm that promised certain death if you failed. And they did it. Sometimes with tears, sometimes after threats of massive quantities of pushups, sometimes only if their favorite trick or event was withheld or if bribed with stickers or rubber stamps. And sometimes they just went for it. The heart of a lion can exist in a child. Don’t tell me it’s not a sport.

I’m proud of how well the Americans did. Sad for Jordan Weiber, McKayla Maroney, and John Orozco but they know it’s the nature of the sport. It doesn’t matter how many times you hit it in practice, if you don’t hit when you’re competing you don’t win. Brutal, heartbreaking, and true. I was happy to see the old guard make a strong stand. I remember seeing Oksana Chusovitina, now 37 and just retired from competing for Germany, win FX at World Championships in 1991 (I got the whole Soviet women’s team’s photo & autographs!); watching Jordan Jovtchev (BUL) on rings when his hair was still dark (7th place on rings – not bad for 39!); Catalina Ponor (the old lady turns 25 in a couple of weeks) medalling on BB & FX and Beth Tweddle (Team GBs most decorated gymnast at 27) medalling on UB at the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim. I am ecstatic that Epke Zonderland won HB (even Samuel L. Jackson loved it – oh wait he muthafqqn luvs everything Olympic) and that Deng Linlin won BB. Ultimately I’m a fan of the sport (ya think?) more than a fan of just the U.S. team.

I could go on and on about gymnastics. As I said, I’m a bit of a zealot about my sport and the Olympics. But women’s artistic gymnastics at the 30th Olympiad is now one for the books. My task now is to bone up on taekwondo so I can have a somewhat intelligent conversation with the SO over the next four days.  It’d be so much easier if he was a swimmer…

Australian Swimming Team on Manly Beach, Sydney

Uncredited photo of the 2012 Australian Olympic Swim Team on Manly Beach, Sydney (more photos on SquareHippie.com just be aware it’s a gay site – not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld).)

*Not saying anybody can run like an Olympic athlete!

5 Reasons London’s Opening Ceremonies Sucked: A Brief Critique in Photos (since I’m too cheap/unsophisticated to embed video)

1. They didn’t show the backstory on how they got the cow from the French delegation.

Cow_catapult

(Uncredited but probably copyrighted still from Monty Python and the Holy Grail – run away!)

2. Bilbo & Frodo Baggins never came out of the Tor.

Hobbiton film set (Photo: Daniel Peckham)

glastonbury tor tree olympic games 610x916 Being different   London 2012 Olympics Games Opening Ceremony Art Show

Uncredited photo from artcocktail.mallforart.com

3. Branaugh’s Lincoln costume lacked a beard.

Kenneth Branagh

Sir Kenneth Branagh as Beardless Abe. (Copyright: PA Images/Dave Thompson/PA Wire)

4. The rest of the Toy Story characters didn’t show up and Babyface was asleep the whole time.

(Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP)

Babyface

5. One word: Security!

Crasher Madhura Nagedra, a graduate student from Bangalore, has gone viral. (Photo: Getty Images)

Oh Danny Boyle…watch and learn (0:00-2:49)!

Sex and Sports

Coverage of the Olympics actually started yesterday with women’s soccer. The scandal of the day was the mix up between the North and South Korean flags which caused the North Koreans to walk off the field. I can’t actually say I blame them. That’s a big slap in the face, accidental or not.

Flags for North Korea (left) and South Korea (right)

Flags for North Korea (left) and South Korea (right)
(Image: AP)

The Americans came from behind to beat France yesterday 4-2. While the game itself was dramatic, I started thinking about soap opera of sex that U.S. goalie Hope Solo* referred to several days ago. Apparently the Olympic Village is a huge orgy with condoms shortages caused by the prolific amount of athletes fornicating. Do I buy it? Yes and no. I think when you’re in a once in a lifetime situation surrounded by like-minded people the odds of a hook up are greatly increased. And look at all those beautiful bodies! (Okay, maybe some aren’t so beautiful.) But I think there’s a little bit of that vacation-fling mentality that hits some athletes, so yeah, I don’t doubt there’s some slap & tickle going on. Epic proportions? Doubt it. They still have to remain focused, represent their countries, sponsors and families – at least until their sport is done competing. But frankly, do I care who’s nailing whom? Not so much.

megan-rapinoe-getty.jpg

Megan Rapinoe
(Photo: Getty)

Also in the sex/soccer arena, U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe came out last month. Uh, okay. Do I care? No, not really. That’s not a slam on the LGBT community, I’m just more interested in how well she plays soccer rather than who she’s dating: I care more about the athletes’ performances than their sex lives. Was I shocked when Johnny Weir came out? Of course not. There are tons of homosexual people be they athletes, politicians, artists or whatever. I understand it has great meaning to closeted individuals and those who are struggling with their sexual identity and perhaps it’s lost on me because I’m not in their shoes. I’m not saying they shouldn’t come out, I’m arguing that it shouldn’t be relevant. More idealistic than realistic, I know.

I think we live in a highly sexualized yet puritanical society. For some reason we expect a higher morality from our leaders and role models, including Olympic athletes. Yet at the same time, we want to be able to identify and connect with them so we love a good scandal that proves that they are every bit as fallible as the rest of us. Look at Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps. Ultimately they were forgiven for their transgressions. If you can’t forgive them, how could you ever forgive yourself?

*I’m sure her statements had nothing to do with her upcoming autobiography…

The Dream

 

My SO’s friend blew out his ACL and meniscus at the US TKD Nationals earlier this month. (The competition had absolutely nothing to do with selecting the 2012 Olympic Team. The Lopez siblings’ berths were secured months ago. Politics.) It’s quite probably an athletic career killer for the 21 yr.-old and it’s a damn shame since he’s a 3x member of the National Team and was aiming for a berth in the 2016 Games. The odds were and are stacked against him for a number of reasons, though.

Cory King - North County Times

(Photo: North County Times)

It’s well known that the U.S. government does not compensate its Olympic athletes. Some come from grassroots programs in obscure sports with poorly funded national governing bodies. Many of them train, travel and compete while going to school, working (sometimes multiple jobs), and even supporting their families. In Cory’s case he went to school part time, worked part time, lived with his grandparents, and trained whenever he could. He had an Olympic-caliber coach in L.A. but when gas went over $4/gal he couldn’t afford to take three days off from work and pay for gas. Then his coach left for an opportunity to coach Team Great Britain. He continued to train using the resources available to him, trying to focus on his goal.

USA's gold medalist Shaun White celebrates after clinching the men's snowboard halfpipe final run. >

(Photo: Dennis/Getty)

If he competed in a glamour sport (we’re talking Olympic, not professional), say for example track, he might have earned an athletic scholarship to a university with a reputable program. If he were a known entity with national or world titles and medals under his belt a lá Shaun White, he’d have tons of corporate sponsors. But he doesn’t.

So here’s a kid with an effed up knee clinging to his dream. He doesn’t have access to sports medicine’s greatest orthopedic knee surgeon, cutting edge kinesiology technology or latest pharmaceutical breakthrough drugs as would a Michael Phelps. He’s got Kaiser HMO. And while Kaiser may want him to “Thrive” they’re not really known for attracting world-renowned specialists. But he’s young. He could potentially get back to peak fighting shape and still attain his goal.

MIchael Phelps - Beijing Olympics: Michael Phelps aiming foreight gold medals

(Photo: AP)

My point is the Olympic dream is a fragile one. It’s not really all about how hard you train, how much you’ve sacrificed, or the amount of grit and determination in your character. Honestly, it starts before you’re even born. Where, when, and who you’re born to are huge factors in your chances of making it. If you’re born in a country that doesn’t have the infrastructure to support national sports programs or doesn’t have the right climate (hello, Jamaican bobsled team) could you still make it? If you’re born during a war, survival takes precedence over all – would you even be exposed to organized sports? Age-wise, could you potentially peak at the right time or would the quadrennial cycle crush your dream? Would your parents and coaches recognize your talent, encourage and nurture it, and provide enough challenges for you at the right times? Can your family afford top-notch training for you? Would you get yourself seen by the right people: the judges, the recruiters, the potential sponsors with deep pockets? Are you lucky enough to be on when your competition is off? Is the wind blowing the right way? Did the refs get enough sleep? How hard can you push yourself? How much physical, mental and emotional pain and stress can you take? How resilient are you? What about your focus? Your drive? And the ultimate piece of equipment: your body. Will it hold up to the repeated abuse of high level sports; the injuries microscopic and repetitive to major and traumatic; the x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans; the NSAIDs, muscle relaxants, and vitamins popped like M&Ms; the ice packs, whirlpools, and TENS units; the tape, braces, rods?

I hope so.

 

IOC unveils new social media hub for London 2012

Gamification of the Games!

I wonder if E!s Fashion Police will do a show on Olympic uniforms. The U.S. Made In China uniforms are definitely better than Spain’s

Vancouver Sun

The International Olympic Committee has unveiled a new social media hub that will let Olympic fans track athletes on social networks from Twitter to Facebook to  Instagram, Google + and others.

And fans will be able to participate in their own Olympic Challenge, competing with friends and other fans in predicting the outcome of the sports events in a game that’s integrated with Facebook and Open Graph.

Social media will  also take fans on a virtual visit Inside the Olympic Village where they can put questions to athletes and former Olympians and get real-time responses.


Foursquare check-ins at off-site venues could win free tickets to the London Games and starting July 26, fans can also win tickets through a photo contest on the Olympic Facebook page.

As part of its new social media initiative, the IOC has also launched a widget to let media websites add athletes’ Twitter and Facebook…

View original post 96 more words

A Logistical Nightmare

As a professional meeting planner, thinking about the Herculean effort of hosting an Olympiad is overwhelming. Even with all the governmental, corporate, and private support; eight years of careful planning; and a crack team of seasoned professionals, things will go inevitably wrong. And when they go wrong at the Olympics, the whole world will know about it – especially in this day and age.

London, like every other host city, has been scrambling as things get down to the wire. Reports of problems with not hiring sufficient security and being forced to bring in the military, bus drivers with a full load of athletes getting lost en route to the Olympic Village, and taxi drivers threatening to strike because of “Olympic-only” traffic lanes make you wonder if the Brits will be able to pull this show off. But, as I heard on an NPR broadcast earlier today, it’s all a matter of expectations. The expectations for Athens were pretty low, so despite the toilet problems, reviews were pretty positive. The Games in Atlanta, however, are considered to be – logistically – one of the worst games in modern times due to repeated failures of key systems like transportation and communication. Hopefully things will get ironed out in time but in my experience, there’s a point where you throw your hands up, knowing you’ve done all that you can do in advance, and go into damage control mode. It’s not a matter of if something will go wrong but when will it go wrong and how are you going to recover from it. That being said, there’s a lot that goes in to planning for disasters at large events. The closest I’ve come was attending a security meeting prior to Superbowl XXXVII – the last (in both senses of the word) time the Superbowl came to San Diego. There were, as to be expected, heads of local law enforcement, fire chiefs, Homeland Security and MTS. Those I hadn’t considered to be important to the process (boy was I wrong) were the SD Water Authority, SDG&E and the FAA, to name a few. It had never occurred to me to worry about securing airspace or water main breaks during the game but that’s what disaster planning is all about.

Aside from security, there are really mundane things to consider like how many miles of toilet paper will be needed over the course of the Games?, will umbrellas be allowed in to venues or are they a security threat?, and if I’m a London mum who runs out of nappies will it be impossible to jump on the tube to get to the store because of the throngs of tourists?

My hat’s off to every logistics and security professional, every cab driver and concierge, and all of those involved who basically won’t sleep for the next month. And then have to do it over for the Paralympic Games at the end of August…

A couple of interesting articles on Olympic logistics. The Russian one made me LOL. (You just know the Kardashians are going to show up since Bruce Jenner is reporting for E!.)

Athlete Body Art

My SO and I were watching bad TV last night (is there any other kind?) when one of the Olympic Visa commercials came up. Use your Visa and you have the opportunity to go to the Olympics for the rest of your life! How cool would that be? As former athletes in two different Olympic sports (I was a gymnast, coach & judge; he’s a 5th degree black belt in Olympic style taekwondo), we both dreamed of going at one time or another. Never made it, obviously, but the commercial led to a discussion about if you’d made it, would you, like so many athletes, get a commemorative tattoo? If you did, what would it be and where would it be?

He already has one on his left upper arm so the right upper arm would be his placement choice. “That’s not one you have to worry about hiding,” he explained, although hardly anybody sees his existing tattoo. “And it would definitely be the Olympic Rings.” Makes perfect sense.

Personally, I am not a tattoo type o’ gal. Never have been, and since I’m not heading off to the Olympics anytime soon, probably never will be. This stems from first-hand viewing of exactly what happens to a tattoo as you age. My late father had one of those drunken Navy adventure tattoos where he woke up in Japan and had a tattoo of an anchor with a ribbon around it – at least that’s what he said it was. It was never recognizable as far back as I can remember and it just got worse as he got older. When my girlfriends started getting tattoos in college I just shook my head. But if I were an Olympian, hell yeah I’d make an exception!

Being very practical, I considered very carefully what and where my tattoos (yes, plural) would be placed. Definitely can’t be in an area where I’d gain significant weight or risk stretch marks, don’t want too much exposure to the sun but needs to be in a visible, although not obvious, area. Something like Alicia Sacramone’s would be nice… (I’d give photo credit but it’s just attributed to Getty Images.)

HUNTSVILLE, TX - JANUARY 26:  Gymnast Alicia Sacramone shows her Olympic logo tattoo on her neck on January 26, 2011 in Huntsville, Texas.

Ultimately I decided on my right inner wrist I’d have the Olympic Rings and year, so anyone shaking my hand would see it, and on my inner left wrist I’d have the Citius, Altius, Fortius motto facing me as a reminder to strive for the best performance possible.

What would you get and where would you put it?

 

Hello world!

Alrighty then. My first blog ever. Just dip in a toe or dive right in? They say no guts, no glory. And this blog will mostly be about guts and glory, sometimes just guts and no glory, and occasionally about neither guts nor glory. For the next few weeks I’ll be blogging about the 2012 Olympics.

I am a huge fan of the Summer Games. Ever since I was a child I’ve followed the Olympics much more closely than any professional or collegiate team sport. There’s something so pure and even primal about the Games that compels me to follow people I’ve never heard of from countries I may or may not know doing incredible things that I’ve never considered doing. The human body is amazing, all technology aside; the human mind is limitless despite the laws of physics; and the human spirit transcends all borders and politics.

Citius, altius, fortius.