Monday, August 13, 2012

Take The Medals And Run

The London Olympics are over. I was wondering which "surviving band members" would be the closing act -- and prayed over and over, "Please, please, please do not make it Paul McCartney and Ringo doing 'Hey Jude'."

I could also not help but wonder, particularly after the closing ceremonies had an incomprehensible phoenix segment ("Well, so much for the Stravinsky," I said to myself) what the heck the organizers of the Sochi Olympics will inflict upon us:

"And after that performance by an unknown Russian rapper and Nashi vice-president, a tribute to the internal security services!"

As for this blessed land, its athletes, most of whom were quickly flown home, thereby missing all the fun, are carrying either around their necks or safely in overhead luggage bins medals from 38 team or individual placings, more than the athletes of Japan have ever won at a single Olympiad. These results were achieved despite Japanese judoists boring almost everyone to tears with their uninspired performances in the national sport. Congratulations to their opponents for staying awake long enough to outpoint Japan's embarrassing representatives.

Japan finished in a respectable, if not spectacular, sixth place in the overall medals standings, making London second only to the Athens Olympiad in terms of Japan's final rank in the total medal table. This represents a significantly different final tally and ranking, as I had to point out to a commenter after my post of a week ago, from the country's recent performances at non-boycott Summer Olympics.

2012 London 38 medals - 6th place in total medals won

2008 Beijing 25 / 11th

2004 Athens 37 / 5th

2000 Sydney 18 / 15th

1996 Atlanta 14 / 23rd

1992 Barcelona 22 / 17th

1988 Seoul 14 / 14th

Some not so quite so edifying observations reading les Jeux Olympiques de Londres:

- Know when to not win - The last thing that Japan women's soccer coach Sasaki Norio wanted was to have his team in the same half of the knockout round as the United States. So he told his players play for a tie, not a win, in their final round-robin game against South Africa. He sent in his ace striker Kawasumi Naomi as a substitute in the 58th minute with the apology, "I am embarrassed to ask this, but please do not take one of your magnificent cutting-in shots." (J)

One day later, four women's badminton teams, including the favorite from the People's Republic of China, were ejected from their competition for intentionally trying to lose, this in order to win better placings in their knockout round draw. The sports world reacted with horror. Sasaki was suddenly no longer the strategist but the traitor for his admission he had had his players going for the tie.

However, the criticism was ex-post-facto, leaving only a smattering of sports pundits feeling a smug satisfaction at having "said the right thing" about the Japanese women's soccer team's tactics. (E)

Result for this blessed land: a place in the women's soccer final and a silver medal finish.

- If you are trying lose on purpose, make it look good - The Indian badminton coach protested that the Japanese women's doubles pair should have also been ejected from the competition, having lost its final match against an unranked Chinese Taipei team. Since the Japanese team did not do something stupid and obvious like repeatedly serving into the net, however, the protest was rejected. (J).

Result for this blessed land: a place in the final and a silver medal finish.

- Argue that a man falling in an upside-down vertical position is doing a handstand. Really - Men's gymnastics team leader and eventual individual all-around gold medalist Uchimura Kohei had terrible results during the first two days of competition. In his last event in the team competition finals, the pommel horse, he went for his dismount and missed it, spinning wildly splayed leg and out of control but nevertheless landing on both feet. The initial judgment of the move was that it was worthless, leaving the Japanese team out of the medal standings. The team bumrushed the judges podium and browbeat the judges into calling whatever it was that Uchimura did a handstand.

Result for this blessed land: the extra points needed for a silver medal finish.

(Are we seeing a pattern here?)

- It's not how you play the game, it's whether or not the referee is blind - While the United States-Japan final in women's soccer was thing of beauty (with a few unnecessary love hugs and a missed handball inside the U.S. penalty area), the United States-Canada game was unwatchable. Canadian fouling of the U.S. side was criminal. Les Canadiennes may have argued that they were robbed (E). They should be glad to not be right now sitting in a London jail cell, awaiting trial on assault charges.

- Don't be helpful - Handsome, bi-national, English-speaking, well-spoken and well-like retiring hammer thrower Murofushi Koji was a shoo-in for election to an athlete's spot on the International Olympic Committee.

That is until he tried to explain to another athlete how to vote in the IOC athlete's representative election. Using his Ipad, he called up the relevant IOC page.

Zing! Expulsion as a candidate for election rigging! (E)

At the Olympics, The Golden Rule is "You are here for the gold; leave the helping out to the volunteers."

- Taekwondo is not the national sport of Korea. Going bonkers over Dokdo/Takeshima is the national sport of Korea - They'll cheer! They'll cry. You'll kiss your bronze medal goodbye!

South Korean soccer midfielder Park Jong-woo and his ridiculous, "Dokdo is ours!" sign on the pitch after South Korea's 2-0 victory over the Japanese team in the bronze medal match. (E)

One wonders whether he will be a national hero, rather than a national embarrassment.

Later - Oh, I see. They had Sir Paul playing "Hey Jude" at the opening ceremonies. Just could not stop themselves, could they?

So much better to have Roger Daltrey at the end looking out over the athletes singing, "Teenage wasteland/It's only teenage wasteland."

Image courtesy: Mainichi JP


Anonymous said...

haha, yes.. Coach Sasaki's only sin was to publicly admit (very un-Japanese..) what everyone in football does on every level: plays for the outcome which offers his team the greatest advantage under the rules. In fact you could argue that a coach would be derelict in his duty *not* to do it... As it happened, Sasaki's strategy worked brilliantly: he avoided the stronger French team until the semis (leaving them to defeat the Swedes), and the US team until the final.

Anonymous said...

Minor quibble, but the sign actually reads "Dokdo is our land." The last syllable is land.

On a side note, there is a yakiniku restaurant in Seoul called...wait for it... "Dokdo is our land." I ate there. Apparently, all the effort went into the naming.