Well, the Olympics are here again, and I’ll bet you’re thinking the same things I am:
1) Is there any way I can be the prize for the winners of the women’s volleyball competition?
2) Didn’t we just have an Olympics like four years ago?
3) Rhythmic Gymnastics! (Or more precisely, Rhythmic Gymnasts!)
But just in case you don’t think the same things as me, I’ve decided to put my thoughts into this handy article format for you. (This is known as a “color” piece, or, as I like to call it, “being paid to watch TV.”)
The first thing to discuss in our Olympic odyssey is undoubtedly the opening ceremony of the games, which has been universally acclaimed as the greatest in Olympics history. This perfectly choreographed human tribute to the “clone tool” from Adobe Photoshop highlights what is most impressive about the Chinese nation: the ability to throw an ocean of enthusiastic, disciplined and obedient humanity into whatever endeavor the state sees as important. Could be the Korean War, could be a sporting event. But whatever it is, it will doubtless not suffer for lack of headcount.
Two miniscandals have marred the ceremony, however. One is the revelation that all but one of the giant flaming footprints shown in the fireworks display were “digitally inserted.” What? Special effects at an extravaganza? Shocking! Next we might find out that the globe the performers were running around was in fact just a model of the Earth. I am unfazed.
The other miniscandal is more funny… or sad… or something. Anyway, it turns out the adorable little Chinese girl that sang “China uber alles” was in fact just lip-synching. The real voice of an angel that we heard belonged to a much less attractive little girl who was safely hidden away in an air conditioning duct below the feet of the cutie pie girl (I need to check that fact actually) where no one need see her bowl cut bouffant and the “non-traditional” beauty of her orthodontically challenged smile.
Truly, this was China’s “Milli Vanilli” moment. Morally, my position on this blatant lookism is really quite clear: that little girl they actually allowed into the daylight was really, REALLY cute. And besides, thanks to the microphone inside her iron mask, I could HEAR that little homely girl just fine.
Also, I find it interesting that everyone is offended that they didn’t show the average face that went with the beautiful voice, but no one is offended that we didn’t hear the mediocre voice that went with the beautiful face. How is celebrating inborn visual attractiveness shallow, but celebrating inborn vocal attractiveness OK?
There is no Chinese scandal as big as the scandal of the hypercritical American announcers, however. You could hold a nitpickers anonymous meeting in the back of a detox clinic during national smoke out week and not find a group as negative as these people.
The commentary on one women’s swimming event really stood out: “She’s too close to the lane marker! That’s just a huge mental lapse! You can’t compete at this level and make mistakes like that! I think her shoulder actually touched the marker. It did, I saw it move! That will cost her time she can’t spare. Well if she’s going to make that mistake she shouldn’t try to correct back to the middle. Yes, she should just stay there. Can’t she see the lines on the ceiling? Yes, if she were focused she could use those as guides.” This woman was so bad I can only imagine how incompetent the silver medalist must have been.
This commentary was topped, however, by the morally vacuous discussion of Romanian gymnasts that same night. One announcer pointed out that the Romanians just aren’t what they were during the good old days — you know, when the country was ruled by a communist dictatorship that focused huge resources on a mere sporting event to score propaganda points with foreign airheads. Hey, did I mention the opening ceremony already?
Anyway, a discussion ensued in which the announcers seemed to actually mourn that Romanian women aren’t single-minded gymnastic kamikazes anymore. They have lives and no longer take it as a singular national responsibility to beat the world in this one endeavor! HORRID!
Hey, NBC: Romania’s new attitude toward gymnastics is called “normality.” Let’s be frank. Romania is a small country of only 22 million people. It should not be a world power in gymnastics, consistently beating out nations of hundreds of millions. The only way it could ever do so was through the perverse power of a state control apparatus, not through the spontaneous will of the people to flip and twist. The “decline” of Romania as a gymnastics sideshow is a direct result of her rise as a free nation — free to focus on whatever the heck people want.
NBC’s announcers are a sunshine crew, however, compared to Sheikh Muhammad Al-Munajid of Saudi Arabia. Al-Munajid (Arabic for “the-grumpus”) declared on Saudi television this week that the Beijing games were a “satanic,” “bikini Olympics.” Ah yes, I knew there was something good about it.
“No exposure of women’s private parts on a global scale could make Satan happier than Olympic games that include women’s sports.” Al Munajid declared. Well, I’m sure chocolate cake makes Satan happy too, but does that mean the rest of us can’t have a piece now and then? Al-Munajid added, “the world’s worst display of women’s clothing is the women’s Olympics.”
No, actually the world’s worst display of women’s clothing is Sarah Jessica Parker. Relax, Al-Munajid, we’ll all live longer.
Another thing I am struck by is the apparently universal enthusiasm of the Chinese population for “their” Olympics. My hometown (Atlanta) once hosted the Olympics as well, and our reaction was a bit different. We looked around and said, “MAN! What’s this costing us?” Nobody does that in an autocracy.
So all in all, the games have been great so far. What could be more interesting than so many different flavors of humanity all juxtaposed in the surreal environment of Beijing?
Gotta go. Rhythmic gymnasts might be on.