Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Olympics...

Watching the Olympics here in Australia has been quite an eye opening experience for me.

Firstly, I've noticed the coverage here tends to favour sports that the Australians are actually competitive in (ie have a good chance of medalling) and that these are not the same sports that are emphasised in the USA. It makes sense doesn't it that each country would have a handful of sports that are preferred and played with more frequency than others. There are also certain nationalities that seem to dominate particular events. The Australians seem to put a lot of their emphasis on the swimming. The Australian swim team is very competitive and is a tough rival for the USA.

After the swimming, Australia's Olympic performances are pretty hit or miss. They've medaled in a variety of sports, but haven't dominated any. The Australians love their sport so much though that each and every medal is celebrated and cherished. There isn't a single medal that has gone by uncelebrated by the Australian media and public. There have been a few hard fought silver medals that have almost captured more media attention than some of the gold medals.

In fact, the entire Olympic Games coverage here has been pretty Australian-centric. That is to be expected I suppose, but even in the USA, I remember the networks doing profiles of athletes from other nations and really explaining who were the top contenders in each sport. That seems to be missing here. So much so that I'm not even sure who any of the US athletes are. It's all Aussie all the time and as a result, I'm all Aussie all the time. I find myself barracking (that's Aussie for supporting or rooting) for the Australians even in races when they are competing against Americans. I've been questioning this behaviour for two weeks now and have finally come to the conclusion it's because I don't know the stories of the athletes from the USA. I didn't get to experience a media build up to the Olympics that let me know who these people were--I only saw the Aussies. Well, that's not entirely true. Michael Phelps has gotten quite a bit of media coverage here, but I'd say he's the exception to the rule and the exception is made because he's 1. a swimmer 2. EXTREMELY GOOD and 3. 8 GOLD medals are hard to ignore.

Other than Michael though, it's been hard to keep track of Olympic athletes from other countries. This strikes me as very odd because normally I'd say Australians are very outward focused. They are quite interested in what's going on in other parts of the world and are very knowledgable about other places. I guess the Olympics are one of those times when their competitive spirit takes over and they see it as "us against them".

Whatever the motivation, I haven't enjoyed the coverage as much as I used to in the USA. I say, give me Bob Costas and a sappy athlete profile any day...(does he still do that? anyone? anyone?)

7 comments:

Dana said...

Yes, Bob is still there brown hair and all. The Today Program has been there too so there has been another vantage point. Must say that I followed the swimming and some of the gymnastics, a little of the beach volley ball but have been busy and have not much this week.

KLS said...

Thankfully they are not quite as sappy this year. I am kind of tired about hearing how Shawn Johnson's gym flooded, and about the amount of calories Michael Phelps consumes in a day (10,000, if you are interested). I was wondering whether you'd post about the Olympics...

Annelise said...

You are a traitor! I can not believe you publicly posted that you don't cheer (not barrack) for USA! There obviously is some serious brainwashing going on down under and I never thought you would fall subject to it! Mark this day as a sad day for (insert your name here) aka the Handsome Australian's Wife.
Of course there have been profiles on all sorts of athletes from other countries. A lot of interesting stories actually.
I see that your blog mentioned Michael Phelps but you didn't even talk about the dynamic duo of Walsh and May! They are amazing beach volleyball players and would have won 8 Golds like Phelps if there was opportunity but alas there is only one opportunity for Gold for the two of them. Walsh lost her wedding ring in the sand one game and they had all these volunteers comb the sand later and found it. Didn't take as long as a spring thaw to find her ring unlike the Handsome Australian in Colorado.
So down under have they spoken about the suspected underage Chinese gymnasts? The hot girl from (was it Peru?) Peru who didn't even qualify to compete? The men are all over her, she actually is gorgeous.
On a more personal note...what the hell is with the track runners? They are all blinged out. I find it bizarre. They are wearing heavy, thick, long gold chains that slap them in the face when they run. Earrings of the large nature in the ears. And sunglasses at night? What the heck? I just don't get it. Especially the gold chains pelting them in the face as they run.

Okay...I guess I should stop writing a comment that has taken the shape of its own blog.

I love the Olympics!

Anne said...

I completely agree about the change in coverage. In Canada we get both American and Canadian coverage. The Canadian coverage is much more colorful: you'd never hear an announcer calling someone "that old fart" or cursing at a loss in the States. And their "agony of competition" montage included vomiting. From different people. Plus I don't think you'd hear Americans, when asked what people think about them, mention their politeness and friendliness first before their competitiveness. Although the sappy coverage must be leaking up from the States: my husband was wondering if you could make me waking up and stumbling to get breakfast sound like Shakespeare if you just put the olympic "dramatic music" behind it and got a deep voiced announcer. Still, we actually watched more Canadian coverage than US coverage, partly because the Canadians cover a lot of US finals, and partly because it still feels exotic.

KLS said...

I am totally laughing over here at Annelise. Here's a sappy story for you to read. I realize it doesn't have the same impact as if Bob himself were telling the story...

http://tinyurl.com/53hhy3

ibbabs97 said...

KLS
I love that article. It is really good. I watched that heat. It is inspirational that these people finish the race. I was watching one day with a friend and she said that all she could think while watching the games was how embarrassing it was for those people that came in last. I was surprised to hear someone say that. I told her that it is a huge honor to these athletes to even be in the Olympics. Yes, Annelise she has been brain washed. Maybe we should do an intervention.

suzinoz said...

Yes, I think an intervention is defnitely in order. When should I expect you all?