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Week One at the 2012 Olympics

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by Greg Enslen, 08/08/12, GregEnslen.com

The 2012 Olympics kicked off in London last week, and LOTS of news has already come out of the big event. Who knew so many people wanted to watch it live?

Opening Ceremonies

Speaking of watching things live, the Opening Ceremonies were broadcast but tape-delayed by NBC, who paid $2.2 billion for the exclusive broadcast rights for the 2010 and 2012 games. NBC chose to record the ceremonies and broadcast them in American prime time to increase viewership and revenue. However, that decision generated a storm of controversy.

I watched the Opening Ceremonies with the kids and found it to alternate between fascinating and boring—we all stared at the screen as those giant smokestacks rose from beneath the stage. But there were other moments of sheer, fast-forward inducing boredom, including the huge “dance number” in the middle of the show that had me asking the kids, “what does this have to do with the Olympics?”

And, I have to confess—after two hours, we gave up and deleted the show without watching the rest. I probably missed out on some of the pageantry, but I’d rather spend my time doing something more productive, like alphabetizing my DVDs. I did hear later than a random woman in jeans and a red sweater made it into the Indian contingent and joined in the team’s triumphant march. Security, anyone?

Tweets R Us!

Over the first week of the games, NBC has been lambasted for choosing to tape-delay many of the largest events. Much of the world’s press is covering the games in real-time, meaning that anyone with access to cable TV or computer can find the results if they like—and in some cases, it’s difficult to AVOID hearing who won which competition. That can be extremely frustrating for fan who want to watch the events—by the time Michael Phelps is swimming for gold or the U.S. Gymnastics team is competing, most people have already learned the results.

Guy Adams, a reporter for the British daily The Independent, was one of the harsher critics of the NBC tape-delay practice and took to Twitter with regular updates on the controversy. He urged his followers to complain to an NBC executive and gave out his NBC email address. NBC filed a complaint with Twitter, who blocked Adams’ account for violating the service’s privacy policy regarding sharing of personal information, even though the email address is easily found on Google.

Adams’ Twitter account was restored several days later, but it goes to prove how sensitive people (and corporations) are to controversy these days. AND how politically correct our society can be: in another incident of sharing personal information, someone tweeted the home address for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of shooting Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

The tweet, from director Spike Lee, said “EVERYBODY REPOST THIS” and gave the home address, which turned out to be wrong. Lee later apologized for this, but his account was not banned or blocked for sharing what is clearly personal information—and, in this case, may have incited more violence. Is that fair?

Tweeting has also gotten two athletes expelled from the Olympics. In both cases, over-excited athletes took to Twitter with offensive and racist remarks that violated the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics. Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella and Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou were expelled for racially-charged comments made on Twitter. In Morganella’s case, his entire Twitter account has been canceled.

Doping Dopes

It happens every Olympics—athletes perform exceptional feats of strength and endurance and are subsequently accused of cheating. Doping seems to be the primary concern this year—Russian cyclist Victoria Baranova (I wonder if she’s related to Natasha Romonova, “Black Widow” from “The Avengers” movie) admitted to taking testosterone ahead of the Olympics and was expelled from the games. Columbian runner Diego Palomeque was provisionally suspended when he tested positive for testosterone as well.

Also expelled were Uzbekistan gymnast Luiza Galiulina (for taking furomsemide) and Albanian weight lifter Hysen Pulaku (for taking a steroid). “We have shown that we take swift action, that cheats are caught and ejected from these games,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said, adding that they have collected over 2,900 blood and urine samples so far.

And, as I’m writing this column Monday morning, USA Today just announced that U.S. Judo athlete Nicholas Delpopolo has tested positive for marijuana and has been disqualified by the IOC. Wow! I’m no expert on marijuana, but how could that improve your judo? Perhaps his 0-wins/4-losses record so far at this year’s Games proves my point. I would think marijuana use would only result in an increased performance in other competitive arenas, such as TV-watching and Dorito-eating.

Blade Runner

It hasn’t been all bad news and controversy at the 2012 Olympics. South African Oscar Pistorius, the 25-year old sprinter, became the first double-amputee to compete in the Olympic games—he wears carbon fiber prosthetic legs after having his legs amputated below the knee as a child. Nicknamed “Blade Runner” because of the unique curved shape of his blade-like metal “feet,” Pistorius competed in the 400-meter, but his time of 46.54 in the semi-finals was not fast enough to let him advance to the medal round. Trinidad’s Lalonde Gordon won the heat with a time of 44.58 seconds—and either time is about 1,000 seconds faster than I could run it.

“I didn’t grow up thinking I had a disability,” Pistorius has said. “I grew up thinking I had different shoes.” He was banned in 2007 by the world track’s governing body when it ruled that the carbon fiber legs proved too much of an advantage over “normal” runners—by some measurements, his leg movements are 11 percent faster than any sprinter ever measured. He later won an appeal, paving tjhe way for his historic 2012 appearance.

It won’t be long before the IOC will have to address the controversy about “improved humans” in-depth. I think, in the future, there will be two Olympics—one for “normal” people and one for “augmented” athletes, where they are allowed to use any equipment, supplements, medication, or prosthetics to gain an advantage.

And those Olympics will be a fascinating glimpse into the future of technology—and one possible future for the human race. Who wouldn’t like to watch people jump farther and run faster than ever before? While it won’t have the nostalgic “purity” of the “Normal Olympics,” I think it would be an interesting, and possibly frightening, spectacle.

Next Time

Ah, there just isn’t enough room on the page for all the stuff I want to mention about the Olympics, so this will have to do for now. For example, I desperately want to talk about the Badminton controversy and Mitt Romney’s comments about security. I’ll hit those topics next week.

Feel free to drop me an email at info@gregenslen.com if you’d like to let me know more about the the Olympics, Twitter account suspensions, carbon fiber legs … or the future of the human race. Talk to you soon!

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