Uncategorized

So Long, Blog–Hello, Podcast!

Hi Everyone,

Keeping an Olympics blog up-to-date has been a challenge, so instead I’ve started an Olympics podcast called Olympic Fever. Join my host Alison Brown and I every week as we explore stories of the Olympic Games.

We’re having a lot of fun with it — talking with Olympians and Olympic fans and getting some great stories. New episodes drop every Thursday. Find us on our website or on your favorite podcast app.

Hope you’ll listen!

Olympic Sports · Olympics · Uncategorized

Olympic Sports of the Future?

The Olympics–particularly the Summer Olympics–are massive events featuring a ton of sports. So how does a sport get included into the Games?

First off, you can’t just make up a sport and then find it in the Olympics four years later. It’s a lot more complicated than that. Sports have to have certain elements to be considered for inclusion in the Olympics:

  1. The sport has an International Federation. International Federations basically run the events for their sports at the Games, so there’s got to be one overarching international governing body per sport because…
  2. The sport has to be practiced and organized in at least 50 countries in order to be recognized by the IOC.
  3. Federations have to have a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-compliant policy.
  4. Federations have to have regular world and continental championships.
  5. Federations have to be well-governed and also be independent entities.
  6. Sports need to demonstrate commitment to youth because you have to ensure the future existence and growth of the sport.

When you can check off these boxes, you can take the path to becoming an IOC Recognised International Sports Federation and from there you petition the IOC to get into the Games. Alternatively (and this is part of the IOC’s attempt to bring the costs of the Games down), a particular Games can also petition to have new sports included.

There’s an association for this group of International Federations called ARISF, the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federations. It’s kind of like the farm team for Olympic Sports. You hang out there and kibbitz with your fellow sporting associations about issues you have, how to stage good events, etc. You also try your darndest to get into the Olympic Games.

Some groups have been successful, like karate, surfing and climbing sports. They’re three of the five new sports you’ll see at Tokyo 2020–maybe not beyond 2020, but they’ll be in for at least that Games. When Golf got onto the program, it was guaranteed for at least two Olympics, and then it will be up for review again.

But back to the farm team players. ARISF consists of 35 members. Who are the rest of them? What are some of the potential future Olympic sports?

Floorball

Life Saving

Tug-of-War (a former Olympic sport)

Squash

Ski Mountaineering

DanceSport

Roller Sports (FIRS has tried to get inline speed skating into the Olympics, but there are other disciplines, including inline hockey and artistic skating)

Underwater Sports

Chess

Bridge

Motorcycling

Billiards

There are more–many more. And then there are sports that are trying to check off the criteria boxes in order to get into this club, like the International Pole Sports Federation and World Bowls and the International Federation overseeing fishing.

Should these sports be in the Olympics? Inclusion really means a bump in exposure and potentially participation, and increased participation is really a goal for all sports. But does a sport need the Olympics in order to be successful?

 

Know Your Host City · Olympic cities · PyeongChang · PyeongChang 2018 · Uncategorized

PyeongChang: Let’s Get to Know You!

We’ve got a little over a year to go before the next Olympic Games, which take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, and that means we’ve got plenty of time to get to know our next host city.

Each week until the next Olympics, we’re going to write a post about some aspect of the host. If you have suggestions for posts or burning questions, let us know, and we’ll try to address them.

First off, let’s talk about the name itself. The “PyeongChang” that you’re going to see everywhere is a rebranding of the name. Yep. The original spelling was Pyongchang, which is mighty close to Pyongyang, capital of everyone’s favorite dictatorship, North Korea. Add an “e,” capitalize the “c” and voilá! You have a brand-new city that is definitely not the same. Because you know some people are going to make that mistake and wind up in a very wrong place.

[Seriously, though, if North Korea wanted to have a little fun with the world, they should create some sort of plywood Olympic facade to greet people when they got out of the airport so they’d never notice the difference. See our authentic Olympic venues? Go on, go in! There’s no labor camps behind them!]

Back to our real host place. PyeongChang is a county (gun) in Gangwon province (do), so you might hear or see these referred to as PyeongChang-gun and Gangwon-do. That just specifies the county/province.  [To add more confusion, North Korea also has a province pronounced the same way, but its English spelling is Kangwon. And it borders Gangwon-do. The only thing that would make this a more Bizarro World situation is if Pyongyang was in this province, but it’s not. According to Ganwon-do’s provincial website, the two provinces used to be one, but are now divided due to the war.]

Gangwon-do is in the northeast corner of South Korea. It’s got coastal access to the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan), is on the DMZ, and it’s also home to the Taebak Mountains, the Alps of Korea–in fact, many of the Olympic skiing events will be at Alpensia Sports Park, which is in PyeongChang-gun. Ice-related events will be east of this cluster in Gangneung, a separate city that’s closer to the coast of the East Sea . Two other venues hosting skiing events will be west and southwest of Alpensia in Bongpyeong-myeon (a township) and Jeongseon-gun.

PyeongChang 2018 boasts that its events are all within 30 minutes of Alpensia. How far is that from Seoul? It’s 182 km southeast of the country’s capital. According to a CNN article, that’s three and a half hours by car, but the country’s working on a high-speed train line that will make the journey a little under an hour.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of where in the world the Olympics will be in 2018 and what the media are talking about when they talk about PyeongChang.

 

 

IOC · Montreal 1976 · Olympics · Summer Olympics · Uncategorized

Field Trip: Celebrating Montreal 1976’s 40th Anniversary

I was in Montreal a few weeks ago and managed to catch the three exhibits around Montreal’s 40th anniversary of hosting the Olympic Games that are on until the end of September. It’s fascinating to look at how this event truly put the city into a financial crisis–and, one can argue that future cities have never learned, and that no one has challenged the IOC to say, Hey, we know you have a lot of money and want this whole “Olympic standard” atmosphere, but the Olympics ain’t immune to financial difficulties either, so we’re going to cut back a little bit.

To which the IOC generally says, No problem, we completely understand you. Here’s another five sports you need venues for. You can come up with something that’s more world-class than what you have today, right?

But I digress. Montreal’s celebrating its hosting at three museums that are all within proximity of each other:

  1. Souvenirs from 1976 – at Olympic Stadium (Parc Olympique Metro) (stadium tour included; going up in the tower is extra) Here you can walk through each day of the Olympic Games and learn about some of the big events of that day. Thre’s a bit about the building of the stadium as well to prepare you for your tour.
  2. The Builders Behind the Montreal Olympic Games, Exceptional Men and Women – at Maison de la culture Maisonneuve (4200 Ontario Street East) Here you’ll learn how the Olympics could be broken down into 140 different projects (some really quite massive), and how they all came together.
  3. The Olympic Park, Architecture Worth Celebrating – at Musée Dufresne-Nincheri (4040 Sherbrooke Street East) This exhibit is all about the building of the Olympic Stadium and really makes you wonder how anyone ever thought this building was a good idea (thought: blame the 1970s). This exhibit is actually on until January 8, 2017, so you do have a little more time to check it out.

Continue reading “Field Trip: Celebrating Montreal 1976’s 40th Anniversary”

Closing Ceremonies · Olympics · Rio 2016 · Uncategorized

Rio: Tchau e Obrigada

Closing Ceremonies

10:50 PM EDT

The show is over, the Flame is out. Tonight’s Closing Ceremonies was really lovely–a lot of dancing and celebration of Brazil, the athletes and the Olympics to come. Some good memories from a country that tried, even though it’s fallen on harder times. I hope Brazil gets a nice boost from this effort and that the rest of the world is influenced by its culture.

Onward to Tokyo 2020. A seriously cool handoff performance. I can’t wait to see what they deliver in four years!

8:48 PM EDT

The Tongan guy is back (in the background)! Why is this not being discussed on the broadcast?!?

Oops, we spoke too soon. They brought him up on stage to promote the Olympic Channel.

8:12 PM EDT

All good things must come to an end, and that’s what Rio 2016 has been, don’t you think? It’s been a good Games. Not a great one–though we’ve had tons of great athletic moments–but the issues overshadowing the organization and the operation have seemed to have too big of a shadow for the athletes to overcome.

But we have to say good-bye at some point, and I’m currently enjoying the lighting and musical spectacle they’re putting on. That’s all you really need, right?

Oh! And that kinetic sculpture with the flame looks so amazing in the stadium!

Diving · Rio 2016 · Uncategorized

Last Day (Sort of): More DVR’d Action

1:11 PM EDT

Men’s Diving

Say what you want about American commentators and their slant–I hear plenty about how American-focused and biased their coverage is–but you cannot say that about Cynthia Potter, who’s one of NBC’s team covering diving. She gets so excited about every great dive, no matter where the competitor is from. She’s fantastic at explaining little things the judges look for and what happens to make dives go bad. She makes diving even more fun to watch. Announcing is tough work, and she does it effortlessly.

Chen Aisen from China captured the gold in the 10m platform and did so magnificently–one absolutely perfect (across all judges) dive in the middle of the final round, and a final dive that was equally as stunning. I don’t understand quite how divers do it–and much like gymnastics, continue to develop more and more difficulty. I’m curious to see what will be standard by the next Olympics.

Athletics · BMX · Rhythmic Gymnastics · Uncategorized

Two Days Left: I’ve Got Rhythm(ic)

6:13 PM EDT

BMX

Still plowing through tape, and I found about 5 minutes of BMX coverage that made me really glad I watched it on live stream yesterday. Granted, perhaps there’s more coverage somewhere on my DVR, but I’m really shocked that I’ve only been able to watch BMX finals, whereas seemingly every program I’ve recorded so far apparently has to have some water polo on it (water polo’s fine, but I’m not enthralled enough to watch every. single. second.

I am, however, enthralled with BMX. Just like skicross in the Winter Games, this is really exciting to watch, and you never know how it’s going to end. Races are less than a minute. Racers who crash will ride their bikes (if they can) or literally run them across the line because in the preliminaries, time doesn’t matter–it’s points. When you have to ride several races, depending on what happens to your competitors, even having a bad race might mean you can still make it to the finals.

And what finals they were! On the women’s side, favorite Mariana Pajon from Colombia got the gold–to the excitement of the fans. The men’s race was crazy, and the favored Australians who’d been crushing it all competition long didn’t even make the podium. That honor went to American Connor Fields.

3:15 PM EDT

Women’s Race Walking/Rhythmic Gymnastics

I’m still watching tape (I’ll be watching tape until the Paralympics, it seems) and have started with women’s race walking and rhythmic gymnastics. It’s a fitting pairing, as both are really perplexing. Maybe they could be less so with better announcing–though as each event goes on, you glean more.

Race walking is fascinating because you have to wonder what constitutes a “walk.” While the NBC announcers talked about proper form, it took them a bit to actually describe what it is: When you put your foot on the ground in front of you, it has to be straight. It must remain straight while you shift your weight until it’s directly underneath your hip. Then you can bend it on the backswing.

The route (well-attended by fans, likely because it was free) is peppered with judges, who are there to make sure people are actually walking. They can get penalties for not meeting the standard, and if they get penalties from three different judges, the chief judge will step out and flash a red paddle and pull them from the race.

OK, figuring that out was interesting, but at the end of the race, the walkers sped up! How–just how–do they do that? No clue, but I want to know. Give us a shout if you’ve got insight.

Another perplexing sport for me is rhythmic gymnastics, and the announcers weren’t great at explaining the ins and outs of the sport while it was going on. What can and can’t the gymnasts do? Why are there apparatuses? What’s difficult? What’s a deduction (beyond dropping something)? More information would help because it’s really hard to call this a sport–oh, I know it can be argued, but at the moment, I just don’t get it. I think I have some more on the DVR though, so hopefully it comes with enlightenment, but the dead airtime from the announcers hasn’t helped the sport’s cause in my mind.