Category Archives: Olympic Games

Common decency divides two nations

By Calvin Palmer

Two gymnasts entered the North Greenwich Arena at the London Olympics yesterday with the expectation of walking away with a gold medal for an individual event. One was American; the other was British. One was female; the other male.

Mckayla Maroney, one of America’s Fab Five gymnasts who took gold in the team event, was competing in the vault. In the build up to the event, NBC presented her with typical American hype and depicted her in a series of photographs that would not have looked out of place in a men’s glamour magazine. For the record, Maroney is only 16.

In the arena, Maroney strutted around with a look of smug confidence that only Americans can conjure up. The look on her face simply said: “The gold medal is mine. I don’t know why these other girls have bothered turning up.” We saw that look of hubris quite a bit during NBC’s coverage because Maroney was competing seventh out of eight competitors.

Eventually, her turn came. Her first vault was the best in the competition and partly justified that smug look on her face. Her second vault ended in disaster – she landed in a sitting position.

Maroney lands in a sitting position during the vault competition (AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

Occasionally, nemesis has a habit of striking the right person and no one was more deserving of her fate than Maroney.

The final competitor, Sandra Izbasa of Romania, completed two less complex vaults with few errors and outscored the American to take the gold medal.

What followed seemed to reinforce the sense of nemesis. Maroney, like a spoiled brat, failed to congratulate the Romanian girl. In fact, the Romanian girl, with good grace, went to console Maroney with a hug. Maroney was unresponsive, looking over the Romanian girl’s right shoulder with a stony sulky stare, consumed in her own disappointment.

In the men’s pommel horse event, Great Britain’s Louis Smith had high hopes of winning a gold medal event after he recorded the highest score in the qualifying round.

The pressure was on Smith after Hungarian rival Krisztian Berki delivered a flawless routine that earned a score of 16.066. Smith rose to the challenge and matched the Hungarian’s effort. With both men scoring 16.006, the gold medal went to Berki who had a marginally higher execution score – 9.166 to Smith’s 9.066.

Four years ago, Smith suffered a similar fate in Beijing when he tied with Croatia’s Filip Ude for silver but lost out in the tie-break and ended up with bronze.

Once the result had sunk in, Smith – unlike the petulant Maroney – walked over to Berki and warmly congratulated the gold medal winner in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Sportsmanship from Smith and Berki. Picture courtesy of metropol.hu.

Smith will have won a great many admirers for the dignified manner in which he handled his disappointment. Maroney’s behaviour earned her zero points for how to cope with defeat. Her behaviour was anything but fabulous.

The face of a champion: Mckayla Maroney on the medal rostrum after only winning silver in the vault event. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

No one likes a sore loser and Maroney was sore in more senses of the word than one. She did herself, and her country, no favours with her conduct yesterday.

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British athletes create an Olympic night to remember

By Calvin Palmer

Sporting events conjure up many memorable moments but I doubt I will witness anything more moving or memorable than the medal ceremony of Olympic heptathlon winner Jessica Ennis.

The award of her gold medal crowned an evening of great British achievements that started with the Women’s Pursuit Team of Dani King, Laura Trott and Joanna Rowsell burning their American rivals off the track to claim not only Olympic gold but also a new world record, breaking the one they set in the opening round of the competition.

From the Velodrome, the action moved to the Olympic Stadium where Great Britain was in with a chance of claiming three gold medals in one session of an Olympic games for the very first time.

Ennis had the gold medal in her grasp even before she stepped out on the track for the final event of the women’s heptathlon. She surpassed herself in both the long jump and javelin earlier in the day. Ennis just needed to run the 800 metres event in a decent time to ensure the gold medal.

She did more than that.

Ennis led the field from start to finish, winning the race in magnificent style and racking up a total of 6,995 points, 306 points ahead of Germany’s Lilli Schwarzkopf in silver and 327 clear of world champion Tatyana Chernova in bronze.

There was hardly time to draw breath before Great Britain chalked up its second athletics gold medal of the night when Greg Rutherford won the long jump. His fourth round of jump of 8.31metres (27 feet and 3.1 inches for Americans) was enough to give him the gold medal, and for the first time since Lynn Davies won gold in the long jump at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. I hate to say it but I remember that.

The crowning glory to make it a night to remember not only for British athletics but also the whole of Britain came when Mo Farah stormed home to win the 10,000 metres race. Farah made his move just before the sound of the bell for the last lap of the race. He stepped up a gear that left the other competitors trailing behind. They tried to catch him but Farah proved unassailable and supreme.

On this magnificent evening, I doubt there is not an expat anywhere in the world who does not feel immensely proud to be British. I know I certainly do, although times of great British elation are also accompanied here in Northeast Florida by the loneliness of the long-distance runner.

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Did NBC doctor the soundtrack of the women’s team gymnastic event?

By Calvin Palmer

When I watched the live broadcast of the women’s team gymnastic event on BBC One, I was not aware of the North Greenwich Arena erupting in huge roars every time an American gymnast competed. The only loud cheers I heard were when the British girls were performing their exercises and routines.

Several hours elapsed between the end of the event and its broadcast on NBC TV. The technology certainly exists to alter a soundtrack. Did NBC TV doctor the soundtrack of the women’s team gymnastic event?

Watching the evening broadcast by NBC, one would be forgiven for thinking that the women’s team gymnastic event was only contested by three teams – the USA; the Russian Federation; and Romania. It also appeared from the NBC coverage that the Romania team comprised just one competitor.

There is editing and editing. NBC absolutely butchered the live coverage.

In an NBC interview with Michael Phelps, who has become the most decorated Olympic competitor of all time, the American swimmer said that it has been an honour representing the greatest country in the world. America may be great in many things but accurate TV reporting of events does not appear to be one of them.

NBC’s coverage of the women’s team gymnastic event reminded me of the kind of reporting associated with the old Soviet Communist regime, totally biased and a completely inaccurate representation of the actual events that took place in the North Greenwich Arena yesterday afternoon.

It would be an interesting excercise to compare the soundtrack of the BBC’s live coverage of the event with NBC’s edited highlights.

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NBC goes for dollars in TV coverage of London Olympics

By Calvin Palmer

I am beginning to think NBC stands for No Bloody Coverage when it comes to watching the 2012 Olympic Games on TV.

Already we have had the farce of the Opening Ceremony not being broadcast live in America and it appears that decision has set the tone for the entire coverage from London.

The women’s team gymnastics event was scheduled to start at 11:30 am ET. I switched on my TV, only to find that NBC was showing women’s rowing instead. To watch the women’s team gymnastics in HDTV, I have to wait until 8:00 pm ET and then it will be the edited highlights, which basically means America, America and America to the virtual exclusion of everyone else taking part.

As far as NBC is concerned it appears that if Americans are not competing in an event or have no chance of winning, the event simply doesn’t exist, at least on HDTV.

NBC is providing a livestream of events and what a treat it is to view that on the computer.

I was forced to switch to the NBC livestream of the women’s team gymnastics when BBC One’s coverage, I have found a web site that gives an excellent livestream, ended prematurely for the BBC Six O’Clock News.

The BBC coverage showed the women gymnasts from the USA, Russia, China, Romania, Japan, Canada and, of course, Great Britain. I did wonder why no Italian competitor was shown in action. I guess that was payback for England’s defeat at the hands of Italy in the Euro 2012 Championships.

Watching the NBC livestream coverage you would be forgiven for thinking that Great Britain was not even taking part. In America it is all about winners, so the focus was only on those teams in contention for the medals, although they did feature a couple of the Canadian competitors, I suppose as a sop to its northern neighbour.

Any notion of a special relationship existing between the USA and Great Britain apparently does not exist in the minds of TV executives at NBC. I am not even sure it exists in the minds of many Americans.

And whereas the BBC’s coverage was uninterrupted, the NBC livestream was punctuated every couple of minutes with an adverts for Chevrolet cars – the same two adverts repeated ad nauseum.

In his speech at the Opening Ceremony, Lord Coe said:

“There is a truth to sport … a purity , a drama, an intensity.”

NBC is tarnishing and manipulating that truth and purity with its blatant pursuit of maximizing its advertising revenue. In America, it is all about money; truth and purity were sold off during the Nixon era, perhaps even before.

The Los Angeles bureau chief of The Independent, Guy Adams, has been banned from Twitter for voicing his criticism of NBC’s coverage of the Olympic Games in London. Whatever happened to America, land of the free? America, land where nothing is free would be more apt.

Will my criticisms of the broadcasting company result in me being banned from WordPress? We shall see.

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Rio looks favorite to stage 2016 Olympic Games

By Calvin Palmer

Chicago fell at the first hurdle in the race to stage the 2016 Olympic Games.

The U.S. city’s bid had the backing of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and TV’s First Lady Oprah Winfrey.

Alas, all their glad-handing counted for nought. Chicago was eliminated in the first round of the International Olympic Committee ballot heldin Copehagen .

In the second round, it was Tokyo’s turn to be rejected.

The contest is now down to Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

My guess is that Rio will win. South America has never staged the Olympics and the International Olympic Committee will be keen to redress that situation.

It remains to be seen whether samba dancing will become an Olympic sport if Rio’s bid is successful. Stranger things have happened – beach volleyball being a prime example.

[Based on a report by the Associated Press.]

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Phelps regrets smoking cannabis after pictures appear in tabloid press

By Calvin Palmer

Olympic record-breaking swimming champion Michael Phelps has conceded that the picture of him smoking cannabis, published today in a British tabloid newspaper, is authentic.

The picture in the News of the World , under the headline “What A Dope”, shows Phelps using a bong, a glass pipe used to smoke cannabis, at a house party in South Carolina on November 6.

In a statement released to the Associated Press, Phelps said: “I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”

The admission could not only put his swimming career in jeopardy but also threaten the lucrative contracts he has with sponsors and advertisers.

Athletes caught using cannabis, a banned substance under rules set out by the World Anti-Doping Agency, face a ban of up to two years. Authorities have no grounds for taking action and, even if ordered to take a new test, Phelps could still be shown to be drug-free because of the time when the incident took place.

Marketing experts are predicting massive fallout and a quick exit by sponsors who could put an end to Phelps’s dream of cashing in on his Olympic exploits to the tune of $100 million (£68.5 million).

“It will be nothing short of a disaster,” John Taylor, chairman of Sports Impact, one of Britain’s leading sponsorship agencies, said. “Every sponsor has something called a disrepute clause written into their contracts and I will bet a few of them will be running through the small print first thing on Monday morning.

“Big corporate sponsors are very sensitive about any issues involving drugs, particularly if their product is bought by, or directed, at children. You cannot have any doubts about the personality you employ to promote your products.

“Sportsmen and women are naive to think that things like this will not come out and, when it does, it has a massive impact. Phelps was the hero of Beijing and a massive star in the United States. But what happens when America discovers their hero is tarnished? He may not be taking performance-enhancing drugs but this is a terrible stain on his image.”

Phelps, 23, earns at a conservative estimate up to $7.2 million (£5 million) a year from deals with ten major companies, including Hilton Hotels, Omega watches, Kellogg’s cereals and Speedo swimwear. Speedo paid Phelps a $1 million (£690,000) bonus for winning his eight golds in Beijing.

Last month, he signed the biggest deal for a Western personality in China when he became the face of Mazda cars.
 
[Based on reports by The Times.]

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Nobody expects the Republicans!

By Calvin Palmer

When it flashed across the news Web sites that John McCain had chosen Palin as his running-mate in the forthcoming presidential election, my first thought was one of surprise.  Michael Palin had never really struck me as Republican material but with an educational background of Shrewsbury School and Brasenose College, Oxford, perhaps he was.

I am eagerly looking to forward to his first speech on the campaign trail.  No doubt the Republican strategists will advise against Palin wearing the red robes of a cardinal.
 
“Nobody expects the Republicans!  The main issue of this election is the war in Iraq; the war in Iraq and the economy.  The two issues in this election are the war in Iraq and the economy, and health care.  The three issues are the war in Iraq, the economy and health care, and immigration.  The four…  No.  Among our policies in this election are those relating to issues such as the war in Iraq.  Could I start again?”
 
Out in the sticks, a rendition of The Lumberjack Song should go down well in the Republican heartland.  The line, “I put on women’s clothing, and hang around in bars,” will show that he is in the same mold as J. Edgar Hoover, thus establishing his credentials on law and order.


 
To assure the Republican Party has the necessary funds to mount a winning presidential campaign, Palin will host the TV show Blackmail

The dollars are sure to flow in as he threatens to expose those party supporters he used to meet in the bars referred to in The Lumberjack Song.
 
Of course, his role will be subservient to that of John McCain and will mainly involve warming up an audience in readiness for an appearance by the presidential candidate.  Palin will excel at performing this task.  In Robinson Crusoe garb, he can announce, “It’s…” only to be then cut off by the entrance music for McCain and the man himself.
 
His biggest test will come in the televised head-to-head debates with Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s candidate for vice president.  Here, Palin’s skills at argument will come to the fore and ensure that Biden is in for a hard time.


 
That might not have been the case if Palin had found himself up against Barack Obama’s first choice.  Long ago, Obama had penciled in Michael Richards, Kramer from Seinfeld, as his vice-presidential running mate.  But after Richards’ infamous outburst during his stand-up routine, his chances went the same way as the Norwegian Blue parrot.  They passed on.  They were no more.  They ceased to be.  They expired and went to meet their maker.  They became bereft of life.

The selection of Palin rounded off quite a week in terms of Monty Python nostalgia. On Sunday, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, gave a Pythonesque speech in Beijing after the Olympic flag was handed over.  His reference to ping-pong coming home could easily have been written by Eric Idle and Johnson’s delivery was redolent of the late Graham Chapman at his blimpish best.  I half expected Johnson to conclude, “This speech is getting too silly,” the camera to pan to John Cleese and for him to announce, “And now for something completely different.”
 
It was good to see the Python influence in evidence almost 40 years after Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired on the BBC in 1969.  Boris was only five years old at that time, 10 years old when Monty Python came to an end in 1974, but the show’s comedy legacy has endured, helped by feature films such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian and Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life.
 
In 1975, Monty Python’s Flying Circus received its first TV broadcast in the United States, airing on the Dallas PBS station.  It met with such success that it was soon being broadcast by PBS stations throughout the country.  It must have been around that time when McCain spotted Palin’s vice-presidential potential.

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