Posted in Opinion, Sports

Top 10 worst moments of the Beijing Olympics

CBC’s calling it “a great Olympics” and everyone seems to have forgotten the smog and other hyped-up problems with the Beijing Games now that they went on without a major hitch. As news outlets produce their top 10 Olympic moments, I feel it’s time to counter that with some lowlights (if you’re just interested in athlete failures, CBC has some more national embarassments)

10. CBC commentators

It wasn’t deliberate, but a comment by a CBC commentator during an Olympic synchronized diving competition that the two Chinese divers “even look the same” when they clearly don’t didn’t impress one viewer. CBC’s habit of taking Olympic loser has-beens former athletes and bringing them in as commentators was good-intentioned, but ultimately led to awkward play-by-play as they didn’t have adequate training in broadcasting.

9. Adam van Koeverden, men’s K-1 1,000-metre kayak race

Van Koeverden, a world champion, our opening ceremony flag-bearer and presumed medal shoo-in, spent the first half of the final in a close second, then watched as almost the entire field rowed past him. He ended up eighth out of nine, two seconds slower than his previous heat time, and an embarrassment so great he immediately had to apologize. Of course, he redeemed himself the next day, taking silver in the K-1 500, taking Canada’s final medal of the Games.

8. Marie-Hélène Prémont, women’s mountain biking

Another medal favourite and multiple world champion, Prémont starts hyperventilating inexplicably on her second lap and is forced to withdraw from the race.

7. Janos Baranyai, Hungarian weightlifter (77kg)

Providing the answer to the question “can’t lifting twice your weight over your head hurt you?”, Baranyai’s arm can’t hold up his 148 kg attempt and the weight dislocates his elbow, bending his arm backwards. That was it for show-stopping injuries in weightlifting, which is pretty impressive considering all the men’s and women’s weight classes all trying to break world records in obscene weightlifts. Baranyai is probably out the rest of the year (and that will hurt him financially because of Hungary’s lacking athlete insurance policies), but otherwise he’s expected to recover.

6. U.S. 4×100 relay teams

Expected medal favourites (second perhaps only to Jamaica), the U.S. men’s 4×100-metre relay team fumbles, literally, in a preliminary heat as Darvis Patton and Tyson Gay can’t complete a handoff and the baton is dropped. The team is disqualified and doesn’t make it to the final. That would be bad enough, but mere hours later, Torri Edwards and Lauryn Williams fail to connect on their final pass in a women’s 4×100 relay heat, and both teams leave Beijing humiliated.

5. Liu Xiang, Chinese 110-metre hurdler

A national hero with endorsement deals up the Xiang-Xiang, Liu pulls up with a leg injury in heats and fails to qualify for the final. Not only is the country disappointed, but so are insurance companies and advertisers. The BBC compounds the awfulness with some misleading editing.

4. NBC

The U.S. national broadcaster disappointed many when they decided to embargo Olympic coverage, including the opening and closing ceremonies, until Eastern prime time up to 12 hours later. But it got worse when the network had “LIVE” on broadcasts that were clearly hours old. NBC tried to weasel its way out of it, as if there’s some loophole that allows someone to lie about these things.

3. Opening ceremony

Although it looked great, the opening ceremony took some heat when word got out that the little 9-year-old girl singing, Lin Miaoke, was actually lip-syncing a song by less cute 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, a decision that apparently made its way all the way up the political chain of command. Combined with computer-generated animation of fireworks, it prompted the obvious question: What kind of example are we setting for athletes when we’re cheating in the opening ceremonies?

2. Angel Valodia Matos, Cuban taekwondoer

Some have criticized taekwondo as being a sport that looks like fighting but isn’t. Matos might have helped its tough-guy image, but disgraced himself and his country when he kicked a referee in the face after a match filled with controversial calls. After he failed to apologize, Matos and his coach were banned for life from the Olympics.

1. Ara Abrahamian, Swedish wrestler (84kg greco-roman)

Upset over a semifinal match he thought was badly judged and cost him the gold medal, Abrahamian receives his bronze medal during the ceremony and then promptly walks off, throwing his medal to the ground. The IOC took his medal, disqualified him, and handed it to the next guy in line.

UPDATE (Sept. 11): As just about everyone in the world predicted, he’s asking for his medal back.

4 thoughts on “Top 10 worst moments of the Beijing Olympics

  1. Josh Cuppage

    I actually disagree with your take on a few of these.

    It wasn’t deliberate, but a comment by a CBC commentator during an Olympic synchronized diving competition that the two Chinese divers “even look the same” when they clearly don’t didn’t impress one viewer. CBC’s habit of taking Olympic loser has-beens former athletes and bringing them in as commentators was good-intentioned, but ultimately led to awkward play-by-play as they didn’t have adequate training in broadcasting.

    So then, from where do you suggest the CBC (or CTV, or whoever) take its synchronized diving analysts but the, er, pool of former athletes? You can’t take someone who is a broadcaster first and tell them to analyze a sport they know nothing about.

    He ended up eighth out of nine, two seconds slower than his previous heat time, and an embarrassment so great he immediately had to apologize.

    For me, this was actually a highlight: imagine, an athlete who doesn’t make excuses when he underperforms! How often do we see this? Maybe if the media didn’t pounce anytime an athlete said something that was off-script, it would happen more often.

    What kind of example are we setting for athletes when we’re cheating in the opening ceremonies?

    Cheating? I didn’t know that they gave medals for the best opening ceremonies. It’s a performance – a show. The Chinese certainly weren’t upfront about everything and for that there’s no excuse, but I don’t think we should apply the same standards to athletes as we do to the people who put on the opening and closing ceremonies.

    Upset over a semifinal match he thought was badly judged and cost him the gold medal, Abrahamian receives his bronze medal during the ceremony and then promptly walks off, throwing his medal to the ground. The IOC took his medal, disqualified him, and handed it to the next guy in line.

    All true, except you neglect to mention what came next: the Court of Arbitration for Sport totally vindicated him.

    Reply
  2. Fagstein Post author

    So then, from where do you suggest the CBC (or CTV, or whoever) take its synchronized diving analysts but the, er, pool of former athletes?

    I think taking athletes or coaches from these sports makes sense when there are no regular play-by-play people available (unlike a sport like hockey where being a play-by-play guy can be a career) is a good idea. But they need more training before they go on the air. A crash course on how to use a microphone isn’t sufficient.

    Cheating? I didn’t know that they gave medals for the best opening ceremonies.

    We don’t, but it’s all about the symbol. The Games are already tainted by cheaters and liars. Having a faked opening ceremony suggests that some things are OK to deceive people about.

    the Court of Arbitration for Sport totally vindicated him.

    That justified the formal protest, not the hissy fit during the medal ceremony. If every athlete could act like that when they thought they were the victim of a bad call, the Games would be one giant self-centred drama fest.

    Reply
  3. Josh

    But they need more training before they go on the air. A crash course on how to use a microphone isn’t sufficient.

    Perhaps true – I don’t know what kind of training is the norm now – but I also know that even full-time broadcasters have their moments (28 second-mark or so) and all the training in the world is going to prevent moments like the one described in the letter.

    If every athlete could act like that when they thought they were the victim of a bad call, the Games would be one giant self-centred drama fest.

    Perhaps, but I do think you’re giving him the short end by saying that “he thought” the semifinal was badly judged. Pretty much everyone in wrestling seems to agree that it was badly judged.

    Maybe it’s just because I watched a lot of absolutely atrocious judging in the boxing competitions (to the extent where boxer A would hit boxer B and a point would come up for boxer B – I can’t even count the number of times I saw that), but I’m sympathetic to athletes in the judged sports where the fix might be in. If I felt like my chance at a gold medal was being taken away by a dirty judge, I don’t know what I’d do.

    Reply
  4. princess iveylocks

    As a (far too infrequent) runner girl, I feel the need to point out that smog can kill your airflow. Marie-Hélène Prémont’s withdrawal was completely understandable — if you can’t breathe, you can’t race!

    Reply

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