August 25, 2008

It's a wrap

In a distinct contrast to my reactions after the opening ceremony, which blew me away, I am not raving in awe after the closing ceremony. It was a let down of sorts -- maybe because I expected too much, or maybe I tired of all the traditions (raise this flag, raise that flag, shut the flame, pass this on, pass that on, give some Brit musicians some TV time, etc.), or maybe because of too many ad interruptions (more frequent than any other Olympic coverage or at least felt like it) . Overall, there were some great moments but it just didn't capture my attention and was disappointing in many ways.

However, I'd still like to take this occasion to link to's amazing pictures from the two week extravaganza. London's definitely has a tough act to follow:
We now know what can be accomplished by a nation of 1.3 billion people imbued with nationalistic pride and governed by a no-nonsense leadership.

Such a nation can run the most efficient, if not necessarily the most joyful and spontaneous Olympics yet known. Such a nation can trot out an endless stream of blue-shirted volunteers (at least three people for every one that was needed and three more behind them, just in case). Such a nation can send out battalions of skilled and dedicated athletes in more disciplines than any previous country ever had mastered. Such a nation can justify its presence on this earth to itself, while announcing to everyone else, without specifically saying so, that it is the future and the 21st century will inevitably be theirs.

Presenting itself to the world with a stupendous opening ceremonies that told the story of its honorable and ancient civilization in the most modern of technological ways, China put on an Olympics that will not soon be surpassed. Who else will commit $43 billion to the cause?
And yet, there was something lacking and something lost in all the clockwork efficiency and rigor - more in terms of the performances by the Chinese athletes, which I followed closely on TV across various sports than in the organization of the Olympics, which I have read was exceptional. Until the closing ceremony, I do not think I saw Chinese athletes celebrating and smiling, with not more than a cursory smile or a brief exultation by the Chinese gymnasts after a great routine. The Chinese divers were supreme and so much better than the rest of the competition but perhaps under the pressure and expectation set to win all 8 diving golds (they won 7; with an Australian upsetting them in the last event - the men's 10m platform), they never broke into even the cursory smile we saw in the case of the gymnasts and other athletes after winning medals! I'd take the joie-de-vivre of participating and not winning over the pressures of winning that seemed to bog down many Chinese athletes any day!

Anyways, to wrap it up, here's a list of 36 facts about the Olympic medal count (scrambled out of order by me)

12) India has 17% of the world's population. They won 0.31% of Olympic medals. (ouch! don't rub it in, dude! - sanjeev)

13) China: 19.8% of population, 10.4% of medals.

14) United States: 4.6% of population, 11.5% medals.

15) Jamaica: 0.041% of population, 1.15% medals.

7) Per capita, China won one gold medal for every 25 million people in the country. The United States' per capita rate was one gold for every 8.5 million. The tiny island nation of Jamaica, which won a staggering six golds in Beijing, had a per capita rate of one gold for every 450,000 residents. Had China won at that rate, the country would have earned 2,889 golds.

29) From 1980 to 2008, Jamaica won three Olympic golds. In a span of six days in Beijing, Usain Bolt won three.

16) Iceland was the least populous country to win an Olympic medal.

17) Pakistan was the most populous country not to win an Olympic medal (164 million residents, sixth-largest nation in the world).

18) Michael Phelps would have finished tied for 9th in the gold medal count, ahead of countries including France, Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Argentina, Switzerland, Brazil and Mexico.

19) The rest of the world won seven golds in men's swimming events. Phelps, of course, won eight.

20) The United States won the most golds (7) and most total medals in the track competition (23), despite having what was widely considered a disappointing meet

Later in the list is another PATHETIC attempt to trivialize the Chinese medal wins by discounting and separating out golds at 'judged' events as not being 'real' golds... but let me not get started on that kind of nonsense in the US media. Lets celebrate the winners - from all countries - instead of whining about other people's wins for once! Despite a sub-par track and field performance, the US did very well, I think and ended up with almost a record tally of total US medals. In addition to all the much celebrated swimming and gymnastic wins, there were some great team performances in basketball, volleyball, beach volleyball, softball, and even water polo and women's soccer.

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