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.
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.