Friday, June 24, 2011

Superhero athletes deny gravity

Australian diver Matthew Mitcham can fly, no problem

Photo from An Honorable German's Flickr feed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy Olympic Day!

Tune in tomorrow for more of our Summer Sports Spectacular. We must put that aside today, however, to contemplate instead the incredible Triumph of the Human Spirit (and no, I don't mean the statue of the same name in New York City). 

It's Olympic Day!
A day to celebrate athleticism and wonder and joy and the games.

(Occasionally sponsored by McDonald's.)

Happy birthday to the original IOC, from which all this amazingness was born. Let's celebrate in style, with a little John Williams pumping:


Feel the fanfariness

True, the Olympics may just be another international sporting event. But it can be and often is so much more than that. At the risk of sounding like an NBC human interest cutaway, the Olympics features the most amazing athletes in the world doing what they do best. It's a love story between an individual and their nation and songs of bodies in the poetry of motion. It can foster peaceful competition between nations in times of international tension. It's about pride and perseverance, and honestly, the the games are the closest we humans will ever get to real super powers.

And yes, cheesy as it sounds, it can be about the triumph of the human spirit.

Tell 'em, Usain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cycling: S^3.2

Yes, that's right. Bicycles have been part of the modern Olympics since the very beginning, even though bicycles themselves weren't very old by the time 1896 rlled around. For goodness sakes, the first practical pneumatic tire wasn't invented until 1888!

What do you think their tires were made of?

Nowadays, the cycles are engineered to perfection, the exact tilt of the velodrome is calculated to within incredible specification, and there's nary a penny-farthing to be found.
One of the biggest changes in the sport came in 1984, when women were finally able to compete in cycling events.


Anna Meares, after setting a world record in the Women's 500 meters.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Athletics: S^3.1

Think with me back to 1896 for just a moment. Utah became a U.S. State, the Philippine Revolution erupted, and, most importantly, the first modern Olympiad took place in Athens, Greece.

On April 6, 1896, the first race was run by the first Olympians the world had seen for more than a millennium. 15 men lined up (not all at once now, the concept of heats is not new) to run 100 meters.

Thomas Burke won with a time of 12.0 seconds.

Thomas Burke probably didn't run in this little hat.

On August 16, 2008 in Beijing, China, Usain Bolt ran the same race in 9.72 seconds.

Usain Bolt celebrates his victory, sans little hat.

In those scant 2.28 seconds lies over a century of feet hitting pavement, discus throwing, and javelins. And sweat. Quite a bit of sweat.

Athletics as an Olympic discipline is also known as Track and Field. It has consisted of 52 different events for men over the years, including Tug of War,* as well as hurdles, the marathon, shot put, javelin, and racewalking.

There are honestly too many events involved to give each one a fair shake. They are all very different from each other, and each has its own set of stars and strategies. What works in an 800m race might not work in a 200m race. It's so important to hold that baton correctly during a relay. Long jumping is distinct from pole vaulting, which is in turn distinct from the high jump. And don't even get me started on the shot put.

Instead of failing at describing them all, I'll just say that I view athletics as an especially beautiful Olympic event, because, for the most part, humans are equally matched for it. Running and throwing are things that are basically innate within us, and it doesn't matter whether or not, for instance, Jamaica has enough snow or funding for a bobsled team. A kid from Kenya who is so inclined can run really, really fast just as well as a kid from America. And they could be beaten by a kid from Argentina, or Azerbaijan, or anywhere else in the world. 

(As an aside, in 1908 Great Britain brought 126 athletes to the Athletics competition, or roughly 42 times more athletes than Austria or Bohemia brought that year. Granted, London was the host in 1908, but still.)

Athletics is one of the few sports in which almost every country can and does participate. And that, my friends, is awesome.

Here is my favorite example of people being awesome:



(If that made you cry, I'm sorry. But not that sorry.)



*Thank you, Wikipedia, for this amazing tidbit:
The events contested have varied widely. From 1900 to 1920, tug of war was considered to be part of the Olympic athletics programme, although the sports of tug of war and athletics are now considered distinct.[1]
Also, please note: we have discussed this before

Further reading:

Wikipedia like WOW.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Big Five

Beginning today, we here at Mount Olympics will be featuring something I like to call the Summer Sports Spectacular.

Sports.

You may have noticed that we're not, generally speaking, the sportiest bunch. After all, we get way more worked up about Canadian superheroesDick Ebersol's sweater (his glorious, glorious sweater), and, let's be real for a second, Quatchi, than I ever get about wrestling. Or water polo. Or marathons. 

Well, all that is about to change.

This week we will cover the sports I'm calling The Big Five. These are sports that have been present at every single modern Olympics in the history of ever. These are sports that Pierre de Coubertin himself sanctioned at the first Olympics, way back in 1896.

Won't you join us for nonstop coverage of:

Athletics!

Cycling!

Fencing!

...and...

Swimming!

I can feel the excitement radiating from here. Join us, then, tomorrow, for more exciting coverage of the world of Athletics. Until then...


Yes, that is Wenlock and Mandeville. Yes, I drew them myself. 
Yes, I'm maybe a little more proud than is strictly necessary. 
What of it?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

AND WE’RE BACK (but Dick Ebersol is not)

Why. Hello there.

This old billboard from Atlanta 1996 is NOT INDICATIVE of the state of this blog.


It's been a bit of a ghost town around these parts recently, but all that's about to change. There are fewer than 500 days until the London 2012 Olympics! And we have so much to talk about!

Let's get started. 

On May 19, Dick Ebersol stepped downed from NBC Sports. This is big news in the American Olympics world-- Mr. Ebersol produced several years of Olympics coverage for NBC and acquired exclusive US media rights of the Olympics. You can thank him for the wall-to-wall non-stop American exceptionalist coverage over the past decade.

It's big news for Mount Olympics mostly because of this:

Aw yeah.

Farewell, "This post has been brought to you by Dick Ebersol's sweater" tag. We will miss you dearly.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Strawberries? Cream?

For somebody like me (i.e. an over-entitled American whiner), of the most challenging things about the 2012 London Olympics is that I can read all of the news about it, but actually understanding it is a completely different matter.

This is especially disturbing because I always thought of myself as somewhat of an anglophile. I routinely misspell traveling with two ls because I read so much British humour. (SEE? DO YOU SEE?) Terry Pratchett is my favorite author. I can do a reasonable BBC accent. I know what stiff upper lip means, I know that in England you gob instead of spitting, that people are gits instead of jerks, that you shouldn't use the term fanny in polite company.

But cor, blimey if I can't figure out what some of these news stories are trying to say. For instance: London 2012 to have strawberries and cream factor.

Strawberries and cream factor?

What?


 London 2012: Sure to be delicious!

The article completely fails to elucidate what in the bloody hell they mean by that. This is as close as they get: "The London 2012 Olympics will have the feel of an English summer event, organisers said Thursday, bringing the strawberries and cream flavour and the open-air festival spirit to the Games."

Oh really? So... everything is going to be flavored of strawberries and cream? Are they taking their design cues from Willy Wonka?
"So when it came to London, the team said: 'What is quintessentially London, what is quintessentially English?' That's the sort of experience we're trying to drive through," he told AFP.
"It's actually a very simple model. It's park, garden, enjoyment, relaxation.
"All of those things speak to having a lot more fun in the Olympics," he said, otherwise "it won't have that fizz".
FIZZY STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM?


So, to our English readers, I implore you to help me out here. What the bleedin' 'ell could this possibly mean?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Russia gave us something beautiful.

Remember that facebook album with all of the pictures of the possible mascots for the Sochi 2014 games? Well, they apparently left one out.

His name is Zoich, and he was created by Russian cartoonist zhgun. I think you'll agree: he is PERFECT:

The text says something like "The committee didn't choose him, but all the same he's better." AGREED.




 You have no idea how excited I am by this. I don't understand ANYTHING in that video, but still I think it's amazing.

 Sochi is choosing their mascot(s) slightly differently than usual. Instead of hiring a boring design firm to make a hideous excuse for a mascot out of thin air (I'm looking at YOU International Mascot Corporation).

From their website:

On September 1, 2010 the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee opened the Russian national competition to design a Mascot, for the Sochi Games. The competition remained open for three months, during which time anyone wishing to get involved could send in their own mascot suggestion (or even several suggestions), take a look at other participants’ suggestions and give their evaluation of others’ sketched designs.
By the time the competition stopped accepting entries (on December 5, 2010), over 24,000 sketches had been sent in to the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee. Entries could be sent in either via the Internet or by post. More than a million people followed the competition online, and each week we received over a thousand new entries.
The Sochi 2014 Partners were all fully supportive of the competition, helping to communicate news about it to the public. Application forms were made available in all of BoscoSPORT’s branches, all of Rosneft’s automobile repair centres, all of Volkswagen Group Rus’s showrooms and in every single MegaFon sales office. The Ingosstrakh insurance company mobilized 323 of its company offices in Russian to disseminate information about the mascot competition, and distributed around 30,000 application forms. Russian Railways gave all passengers on board its Sapsan trains the chance to draw a sketch of their proposed mascot while in transit. Meanwhile, Aeroflot arranged for its flight attendants to hand out application forms to passengers flying between Moscow and Sochi. Sberbank of Russia played an active role in keeping the public informed about the competition, through its corporate literature. And MegaFon even lent its support to a series of television programs entitled “The Star Mascot”, broadcast on the MuzTV channel. The Coca-Cola Company arranged special zone for the guests of Black Sea Day celebration in Sochi in October 2010. At the celebration every guest had a chance to participate in the Contest and propose their Sochi 2014 Mascot.
People from all over the country took part in the mascot ideas competition. All of Russia’s regions, from Kaliningrad to Khabarovsk, participated in it. The top three regions, in terms of participation, were: The Central, North-Western and Privolzhsky Federal Regions. The opinions of Russian citizens living abroad were also taken into consideration. There was no age limit to participation in the competition.
The results of the first round of the poll to select mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic Games were announced by an expert judging panel, which boasted famous names from the fields of culture, education, sport, business and politics. The competition’s judging panel was headed by Director General of the Channel One Russia, Konstantin Ernst.
Yeah. So basically, that "panel of experts," did something other than stab their eyes out after reviewing 30,000 sketches from the general public. They actually decided that your friend and mine, the beautiful and perfect Zoich, was unfit to compete. AND WHO ARE THEY TO JUDGE??? Oh, right. An expert judging panel, with famous people from the fields of culture, education, sport, business, and politics. Silly of me to ask, really.

Also, let me give you a word on what I think Zoich is. I think he's a take on Futurama's hypnotoad. You see, Futurama had the hynotoad as a recurr-- ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD





Special thanks to Russia Travel Log for making this amazing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

OH MY GOODNESS POSSIBLE SOCHI MASCOTS

They are the unknowns: we don't know their names, we don't know their backstories, we don't know where they came from, we don't even know what deeper meaning they are supposed to represent! But we do know that one of the mascots from this facebook album will be the mascot for Sochi 2014. Oh. My. Goodness. I am so excited.

So we don't know anything about them except that this one looks like Santa, this one is apparently a whale...? who skis? and this one is the most hideous thing I've ever seen in my life.

Currently, this is in the lead for Facebook likes. And if that's the way we're deciding this year, more power to the cloud!

I want to know his or her name! I want to wear his or her scarf!

Is the IOC becoming more savvy when it comes to social media? Probably. It's hard to think of an organization that isn't at least a little bit more savvy about social media than the IOC back pre-Beijing, including the current IOC.

What they still haven't improved on is transparency. How is this decision going to be made? Are the facebook likes and tweets going to be taken into account? Are they just going to go for the one that can sell the most plushies? We have no way of knowing.

This guy, though. He knows. After all, he's gone through it once before. It's basically Misha from 1980! And he's waving hello! Hello Misha!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Awesome photo alert!!

SUPERHERO STATUS: CONFIRMED

This photo is brought to you courtesy of the new Mount Olympics twitter account (OMG I KNOW)! It features Ele Opeloge of Samoa being a complete and total phenomenon while competing in the women's +75kg group A weightlifting event on August 16, 2008 in Beijing, China. 

Photo credit: Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images, retrieved off the IOC's Flikr.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sponsorship isn't usually this awesome

Back in the halcyon days of yore, I promised you all a series called "Follow the Money" where we investigated the Olympic sponsorship model and poked fun at things like this:

This is happening.

Or possibly this entire paragraph
With a Chicken McNugget in one hand and his ski poles in the other, U.S. ski team member and defending moguls world champion Patrick Deneen answered the question, "How do you McNugget?" for an upcoming television ad showcasing McDonald's sponsorship as the official restaurant of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. With a broad smile, Deneen dipped his McNugget in one of the restaurant's signature sauces before launching into the powdery snow surrounding him.

Right.

But today I want to talk about a sponsor that is so so SO much cooler than McDonald's. It was just announced that Otto Bock will be a sponsor for the 2012 Paralympic Games. AWESOME.

Otto Bock is awesome in many ways, including its amazing building. Here, look:

Ooooooh.

You see, Otto Bock does something a lot more awesome than processing Chicken McNuggets. Otto Bock is a premier prosthetics company, perhaps the best in the world. 

In sponsoring, they will be charged with keeping the equipment on which Paralympians rely in good working order. When they sponsored the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, they did 2,188 repairs for the 4,000 athletes. Amazing! It's like they're a coach, medic, and mechanic all in one!

A sponsorship deal like this is like the best seamstress in the world agreeing to both sponsor and fix Superman's cape. Or like being the pit crew for the best athletes in the world. It's a phenomenal setup. 

This image is from a blog called Hipster Nascar about biking. You should totally check it out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Does London 2012's Logo give you epilepsy?

Probably not. But it is freaking me out. It's basically an optical illusion that you have to stare at for a while.

DID YOU SEE IT?? DID YOU SEE IT CHANGE??


Yes, it is freaky as all get out.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Jesse Owens and Hitler

As mentioned previously, I can read your mind. Or rather, Google can read your mind, and then gives me your data. Thus, I can tell you that by far the most common search term that lands people on this little piece of bloguette* is "jesse owens and hitler." Mostly because of this picture:


I feel like I owe it to Jesse Owens to tell his story. As always, I owe Hitler nothing.

What makes the story of Hitler and Jesse Owens so resonant? Well, let's get a bit of context.

1936: A little background

1936 was not JUST the year Peter and the Wolf debuted in Moscow. Hitler, who had been elected in 1933, was quickly turning Nazi Germany into a force to be reckoned with. He had rejected the Treaty of Versailles and had begun to re-arm. Nazi Germany took over the Saar, a territory governed by the League of Nations, in 1935.

On March 7, 1936 Germany reoccupied the Rhineland.

On August 1, the Games of the XI Olympiad opened in Berlin.

Hitler and the Nazis only allowed members of the Aryan race to compete in the games.

America, knowing better (but, really, not that much better) chose our best athletes, including Jesse Owens. As an athlete at Ohio State, Jesse Owens had proven his incredible athletic prowess. At one period of 45 minutes in 1935, Owens broke three world records and tied a fourth (some sources say he may have also broken the fourth, but still).

Can you imagine breaking an average of one world record every fifteen minutes? Incredible.

The 1930s was not a decade made up only of fun and sports, however. It was the decade of the Great Depression, and the United States was a shockingly prejudiced nation. Coming out of the 1920s, the KKK's numbers were as high as they'd ever been. Segregation was common and Jim Crow laws were in full effect throughout the South.

Jesse Owens was the grandson of slaves and grew up sharecropping. And he was faster than anyone.

The 1936 Olympics: A Whole Lotta Nazis

 In 1931-- a year before the Nazis began to rise to power and two years before Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany-- only two cities bid for the 1936 Olympics: Barcelona and Berlin. Unlike other bidding wars, this only lasted one round. Berlin basically beat Barcelona to a pulp.** After the first round was counted, Berlin had 43 votes to Barcelona's 16. The Olympics were going to Germany!

Here's where the spoilsport action begins.

The Reichssportf├╝hrer (translated it means the head of the Reich's sports ministry, but it just sounds sinister) decided that the Olympics in specific and sports in general would be a perfect way to "weed out the weak, Jewish, and other undesirables."

The Nazis decided to go all out. As previously discussed, the 1936 Olympics began many of our proudest modern Olympic traditions, like the torch relay and vandalizing ancient Greek artifacts. After all, this would be an incredibly public demonstration of a resurgent German power. Or so he thought?

Hitler and Jesse Owens:

Here's the story that everyone likes to tell: Jesse Owens won the gold medal for the 100m sprint, the long jump, the 200m sprint, and the 4 x 100m relay. And Hitler flat out refused to shake his hand because he was black.

This is one of those stories that's true in that everyone believes it, it makes narrative sense, and it sums up the general emotions of the time in a concise way. It's not true, per se, in terms of what actually happened.

On the first day of the ceremonies, Hitler made a special effort to congratulate all the German gold medalists. The IOC decided that his congratulations were outside the bounds of good sportsmanship and showed favoritism. Hitler either had to congratulate everyone or congratulate no one. 

He chose no one.

FDR: Also Kind of a Spoilsport

Did Hitler snub Jesse Owens? The only answer here is "sorta." Given the chance, he surely would have snubbed Jesse Owens, but he also would have snubbed every other non-German athlete. In his memoirs Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer wrote:
"Each of the German victories, and there were a surprising number of these, made him happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games."
That said, Hitler never snubbed Jesse Owens to his face. The President of the United States, though, that's a different story.

In Owens's own words: "Hitler didn't snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram."

The story of the 1936 Olympics is without a doubt mostly about Hitler and the Nazis. But Jesse Owens's story is more complicated. It gets to the very roots of American discrimination in the 20th Century. And it's a much harder story to tell than the story of Hitler refusing to shake Owens's hand.


It might just be more important. Alas, I am out of time and attention span.




___



*Get it? Like a baguette, only in blog form? No? Hm.
**Which, in retrospect, kind of reads like foreshadowing.

Read more!!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Owens
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1936_Summer_Olympics
http://www.jesseowens.com/about/
And crack a dang book!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wenlock and Mandeville: A whole lotta WTF.

At first, when confronted with the sight of the 2012 London Olympic mascots, I had only one thought. "Oh my good sweet bippy," I said (mostly because Emily's office has an obscenity filter), "they're giving Izzy a RUN for his MONEY." Here, have a picture:


WHAT WHAT WHAT EVEN IS THIS

People, if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. This is what happens when you allow marketing firms to make your mascot decisions for you. 

From the Wikipedia article about them:

The Mascots are the world's first customisable mascots. They were formed from the last two drops of steel poured in a Bolton Steelworks to form the final girder of the 2012 stadium. Their magical skins are highly polished steel allowing them to change to relect the personality and appearances of the people they meet.
So what I'm hearing is that London 2012 is employing SHAPESHIFTERS with tax payer money. Sure, it's all well and good when they're shapeshifting into the Union Jack, but what happens when one of them steals your identity and your family away from you? I don't know if there's an applicable X-Files episode about this, but dang it there should be.

Let's return to the Wikipedia description for a moment:
They have cameras for eyes, taxi headlights, and Wenlock has friendship bracelets in the colour of Olympic rings whereas Mandeville has a pink stopwatch which symbolises that you can always do better, On the watch reads 0:20:12.
...Cameras for eyes? Seriously? I thought one of the greatest controversies in London in the past decade has been the use of CCTV cameras. This is a main topic for Banksy, one of the world's most recognized street artists. And they're HIGHLIGHTING it with the design of their mascots?

"Sure, come to the 2012 Olympic Games!" Wenlock and Mandeville seem to be saying. "We'll be watching you!"

And the rings as friendship bracelets.... just seem a little familiar to someone like me, who has, I admit, spent an unreasonable amount of time contemplating the meaning of Izzy's tail.

His eyes! His eyes are made of stars!

And I haven't even begun to talk about their origin story. Here's a link to a youtube video, but just in case you don't want to spend four minutes watching it, I'll give you the quick and dirty:

OUT OF A RAINBOW:

Voice over: "A great rainbow arcs over Barton and down onto a great steelworks where they're finishing the last girder for the Olympic Stadium."

It's the last day at the plant for George, who signs his name on the final girder and then takes two steel blobs and puts them in his pockets. He goes home, where his grandchildren and awkwardly buxom wife are waiting for him with cake.

That night, he turns the steel blobs into dolls or something. And then he gives them to his children like the lamest toys ever. The children run upstairs with their new toys, place them in the window, and then a RAINBOW comes and gives the blobs life. They frolic, posing like Usain Bolt and chirping oddly the whole time.

Voice Over guy returns: "Then suddenly, the RAINBOW is back. Wenlock and Mandeville know it's time to go, their journey is just beginning. So many adventures to have. So many people to tell. But they will meet again. In London. In 2012. You'll be there. They'll be there. The whole WORLD will be there."

So... the gist of this seems to be that London just released this menace on the world. That last line seems really threatening to me. "The whole WORLD will be there, Wenlock and Mandeville will SEE TO THAT." Thanks, London. Thanks a lot.

From Wikipedia again:
In other quarters their design has been greeted with some disdain. One columnist theorized that the pair were the product of a "drunken one-night stand between a Teletubby and a Dalek".[8] Others have compared the mascots to Izzy, the mascot of the 1996 Summer Olympics, another critically panned mascot.[9] However it has been reported that children of the target audience (5 to 15 years) find the duo enjoyable.[10]


Terrifying? Or enjoyable? You decide.