Today’s the day. The 2012 Summer Olympics come to a close. The friend that greeted you in the morning with a smorgasbord of live sports is taking off for a couple years – says he’s going to find himself, a trip to Sochi was mentioned.
Sports we loved, athletes we loathed and the moments that stomped on your heart: Jake Goldsbie, Chris Lund and I weighed in on all that and a bit more as the Games of the XXX Olympiad fade to black.
The sport we had no idea about
JG: Handball was legitimately and unapologetically awesome. I had no idea what it entailed and I, like many others I assume, was taken in by this bizarre hybrid of hockey, water polo and dodgeball (it’s exactly as weird as it sounds). However, it turned out to be one of the most legitimately exciting sports of the games. I want it to catch on outside of the Olympics. You mean to tell me you couldn’t get a bunch of people liquored up to go watch handball at Ricoh? In fact, I enjoyed it so much I’m currently writing up a proposal to make it the new obscure sport played by assholes in Trinity Bellwoods. I would totally join up with this. Handball. Tell your friends.
DD: Badminton was a sport I played with my Mom at family gatherings – these picnics consisted of a bunch of South Asian immigrants getting together to eat food from the homeland while playing Badminton and Volleyball at a public park somewhere in Markham. At no point during my adolescence did I say “Yo, Badminton is fantastic.” Thanks to Alex Bruce and Michelle Li I finally said it, some 15 years later. International intrigue, match fixing and a shady governing body? I imagine Ben Affleck is preparing the script for “BADminton: The game of games” as I type. They have their own version of Federer-Nadal, the rallies are comically insane and the post-point screeching, I shall miss you the most. I was able to tweet hashtag TeamBruceLi without feeling like a douchebag. What a sport.
CL: Water Polo is a sport I was absolutely familiar with prior to the games but it’s one that I have stuck in my head for the sheer athleticism it requires to play. Let’s think about this – you’re swimming the length of a pool on the attack or defence, you’re treading water when you’re not actively moving around, you have to tread yourself above water to get a shot off and even if you get sent to the ‘penalty box’ you’re in there, treading water. Let’s also not forget that part of the fun of Water Polo is that you’re trying to drown one another within the context of the game. It’s fatiguing to type.
Water Polo: For the person who loves marathon swimming, MMA and handball equally.
Canada didn’t have a horse in the Water Polo tournament, but if you can’t walk away from these Olympics — or any Olympics — with the utmost respect for these athletes and their ability to simultaneously do these things without dying of exhaustion, I don’t know if you can be redeemed.
JG: I mean, I’d love to get jingoistic and talk about how much I loved Christine Sinclair’s performance in the semifinals of the women’s soccer tournament or Bruce Li pushing Japan to the limit in the badminton semifinals (actually a thing I just typed. My god.) but I really can’t give anyone the “favourite” title that isn’t named Usain Bolt. I know it’s kind of a typical answer and it’s not like he needs any more hype or recognition but, I mean, have you seen the guy run? At a certain point it just becomes funny. The crazy thing about Bolt’s performance in these Olympics is that his 100m run ended up being the least exciting to watch. The duel between him and Yohan Blake in the 200m was the stuff of legends and to watch Bolt turn it on and find that other gear that literally nobody else in the world has is just amazing to watch. And the 4x100m relay. Holy hell. Bolt’s anchor leg of that race was just phenomenal. With the running start, he must have ran that leg in about 9 seconds. Just stupid. Bolt’s Twitter bio reads “the most naturally gifted athlete the world has ever seen.” This is one of those rare times where the hubris is not only deserved but correct. It’s Bolt’s world, we’re just walking through it.
DD: Seems like nothing unites Canadians more than hating on America. Our brash, loudmouth brother to the south win everything while carrying themselves with the grace and humility of Geraldo Rivera. Is this a combination of stereotyping, generalizing and jealousy? – oh, most certainly yes. We sent our female footballers to do what many thought was impossible: beat the U.S juggernaut. For the opening twenty minutes Chris and I seemed to be the only ones watching the game in the Score newsroom – it was a holiday. That changed when Christine Sinclair opened the scoring in the 22nd minute.
1-0, is this really going to happen? 1-1, of course not. 2-1, Sinclair again!? Are you kidding me. 2-2, expletives, many expletives. 3-2, call 911. 3-3, fuck Norway. 3-4, I hate sports.
It was the defining moment of the games for me. Sheer jubilation coupled with soul crushing defeat – Canada’s claim to fame in London. From Milos losing 25-23 in the third set to our Canadian relay team crying into the flag after their disqualification – we did heartbreak pretty well. I’m not sure I’ll remember Rosie MacLennan winning Gold on the trampoline or Adam van Koeverden capturing Silver in the K1-1000 ten years from now. For at least one day Soccer – a sport I love – was IT in Canada. Tough to forget that.
CL: With Usain Bolt and Christine Sinclair off the board, I’m going to go the team route (How Canadian am I?) and select Canada’s 4x100m men’s relay team. I wrote about them yesterday after the disqualification and there are certainly still many strong feelings about the outcome of this race, but I can’t say enough about what these men accomplished on a national scale. Since the Bailey, Surin, Gilbert, Esmie team Canada has been on a steady slide in the world of track. We had our moment, our world record and our gold medals and it has been slim pickings ever since. When you’re deprived of success — or even hope — nostalgia can be a hell of a drug, and I’ve had that image of Donovan Bailey crossing the line in the 100m in 1996 burned into my memory ever since and no new memories to form around it.
During the London 4x100m a statement was made, regardless of whether or not we came away with a medal, that Canadian track is coming back. Sure, we had the hangover that usually comes after a moment of pure bliss but after many advils we are making our way back.
Let’s call a spade a spade here: sprinting is the prestige event of the summer games. If you don’t have memorable performances there, nobody will remember much of anything from your Olympics looking back beyond the list Wikipedia spits out. Canada’s glory brought with it a long drought, but that is coming to an end. The performance of Smellie, Smyth, Connaughton and Warner showed us that. We may never run down Usain Bolt, but we’ll be on that podium in the future.
Canadian track is back.
JG: CTV. TSN and Sportsnet too but let’s pull them all under the CTV umbrella so I can hate them all at once. It’s not like we have a particularly high standard for sports broadcasting in this country to begin with (see: Tabler, Pat) but if this was the best we could do for the Olympics, we’re kind of in trouble (Christ, I sound like an episode of The Newsroom). I mean, the announcing of the events was fine but the talking head nonsense was just awful. The worst example of this being in the aftermath of Canada’s heartbreaking disqualification in the 4x100m relay. First, there was the brilliance that is Farhan Lalji asking Jared Connaughton how he felt after the race like he was expecting to say “being disqualified is awesome! We should do this all the time!” and just generally being the worst. I guess it wasn’t about the Canucks so who gives a fuck or something. Then there was the misery porn montages after the race because when you’re so upset you cry into the Canadian flag on national television what you really want is it to be replayed with sad music seventeen times. And the pure ball of hate that is the Bell Social Scene. Hey, Twitter exists, what a shock. I hope Monika Platek went to journalism school and dreamed of covering wars and elections and every time she says something about the “social Olympics” she dies inside. Just a little.
Oh, and let’s not forget about “I Believe”. Oh my God, this fucking song. It was bad enough when it was consistently played in 2010 but whoever came up with the idea to use it again this year should be fired. Every time an athlete did something fantastic (which, you know, is kind of what the Olympics are about), the moment would be cut short by Nikki Yanovski and her message for the world (the message is that she believes. In what, I don’t care). Nothing ruins the feeling of watching someone do something amazing like this song. Nikki Yanovski is the Pierre McGuire of music, a buzzkill of the worst kind. I hope her parents are disappointed in her. So, yeah, CTV was not my favourite thing ever. But, hey, at least they showed the events live.
DD: First I’d like to second Jake’s comments on “I Believe.” Hate is a strong word - but I use it unreservedly in stressing how much I loathe this song. I spent five minutes searching for a more powerful word than hate – then the song began playing in my head and I had to stop. Health comes first.
The reaction to Ye Shiwen’s record breaking performance is my biggest disappointment. Here’s the top five all time in positive doping cases: Bulgaria (8), Germany (5), Hungary (5), the U.S (5) and Greece/Sweden (4). China’s had one. Her final split in the 400m IM was faster than Phelps and Lochte. She’s 16. Teenagers aren’t supposed to do this – except if their last names were suspiciously American. We watch the Olympics to see records broken, to see the impossible achieved, to suspend our disbelief. Ye was the first female swimmer to break a world record after the ban of those futuristic body suits that made everyone faster. Though they haven’t been caught at the Olympics, China’s swimming program has had their fair share of scandals – including the removal of a female swimmer from the team in June due to a positive test.The Guardian, New York Times and other major international news organizations fed the rumors, publishing articles full of innuendo and speculation. The quotes from respected Swimming officials included words like “Superhuman”, “East German” and “impossible.” Justin Gatlin competed while serving year six of an eight year ban for cheating. Explain that one to me, please.
I get it. Cynicism wins the day. Ye was subject to tests before, during and after the games. She’s clear. Can we not appreciate her monumental accomplishment? What the hell happened to us.
CL: I’m going to be the third vote on the ‘I Believe’ song. If we could bring it behind the barn and put it down between now and 2014 that would be great. Nobody needs to hear it ever again and if we could all just forget it existed the world would be a magnificent place.
I’m also going to piggy back Devang’s sentiment on cynicism and roll with it for a moment. Why is it that we feel the urge to flog ourselves with self-loathing whenever the Olympics comes around? Seriously, it’s insufferable.
Where have you heard the following: A ‘Canadian medal favourite’ (who really wasn’t a medal favourite objectively, they just won the lottery of death and were the object of hype) comes fourth and it’s a travesty. We only win bronze, how pathetic. Canada gets screwed by everyone all the time and our lives are hard.
Seriously folks, it’s time to lighten up. The Olympics are a lot less fun when we spend as much time moping around about how certain names that sounded familiar aren’t leaving with a medal, or we’re complaining about coming third out of everyone on the planet, or we’re being martyrs about adjudication. It’s really not that bad. The Rosie MacLennans and Brent Haydens of the world are incredible stories of people who weren’t expected to leave with anything and did, yet we finished fourth a few times and the sky is falling.
I’d love to have the medal count of the USA or China as much as anyone if not more than anyone, but it’s not going to happen any time soon. You’re allowed to be mad when we lose, but try and give some credence to the people who have won against stacked odds too. An attitude adjustment is needed in the next two years so prepare yourselves accordingly.
Canadians crying into a flag isn’t the image to take away. Canadians belting out the anthem among the world’s best is. Run with that.
For Jake, Chris and myself – thanks for stopping by Going For Glory these last two weeks. What began as a journey into the unknown ends too soon. Till Sochi.