I have surprised even myself by my dedication to the Olympic cause (ie watching the events on TV) this year. I’m always enthusiastic about big world sporting evenings, with the Olympics being the biggest of them all, but V pointed out that despite being gung ho during the Beijing Olympics, I didn’t actually watch that much and the events were in the same timezone (not sure if that is true actually). This time, though, two babies notwithstanding, I’m seriously into it, so much so that even V, ardent monopoliser of the TV remote control (s), has ceded to the war cry of “Olympics!” and desisted from his usual manic channel-hopping.
1. As usual, there was controversy over the TV rights which had been won by a private channel in Hong Kong. The IOC promises 200 hours of the Games must be shown on free TV channels but there were advertising concerns and it was only at the very last minute was an agreement reached, after the IOC and some bigwigs stepped in. The result –historic cooperation between the two rival free TV stations that is very much in the Olympic spirit. I was completely amazed by a question posed by an expat on an online forum asking whether the games were to be shown in Hong Kong. How is it possible to be so clueless about the big news in the place you live? And then the follow up was “oh I don’t have that channel”, when that is impossible unless you don’t have a TV. Everyone gets the free channels. It’s like expats in Hong Kong really live on a planet of their own.
2. I was bummed because the opening ceremony took place at 4 am HK time. But to my own surprise, I ended up waking up for the latter half at 5 am. Okay, V who is like the most annoying of early risers, took the opportunity to get me out of bed at the unreal hour citing the Olympics, but that I actually did so speaks for my general enthu. So for the first time since I stopped nursing Benji, I actually popped into his room when he woke up at 6ish. “Mummy!” he exclaimed in adorable surprise while my helper nearly fainted from shock. This is in contrast to what happens every day, which is Benji opening our bedroom door, climbing onto the bed and saying “mummy” loudly till I crack open an eye and give him a kiss (then he tries to find my mobile phone under my pillow which he calls “minibus” in honour of a clip he watches on YouTube).
3. Unfortunately, I missed all the fun stuff like Daniel Craig and the queen and Mr. Bean. Instead, I got a lot of the parade which, as with the Miss Universe pageant, is always a chance to update myself on countries and places I never knew existed. This is only a comment on my ignorance (and not said countries).
4. All athletes seem to have great skin. V said this should be obvious. Hmm maybe I should be hitting the gym more. But how to when there are sporting events to be watched on TV?
5. There had been a lot of hoopla about the costumes worn by each country. I quite liked the India costumes. Simple but effective.
6. Most giggle-inducing moment during the opening ceremony was when they focused on the stands where special guests from each country were sitting and the two Indians seemed to be discussing whether to stand or not, and finally grumpily got off their asses. Never a more sombre pair was there to be found in the entire arena.
7. Another grump was the Queen. Maybe walking out of the palace on Mr. Bond’s arm took too much out of her because she didn’t even crack a smile or a wave when the British contingent came out.
8. Why does Mohammed Ali have to be inserted into everything? Once in Atlanta was good and he was a boxing great but really, his attitude to fellow competitors was less than exemplary.
9. The torch-lighting was pretty cool, validated by Benji going off into a spontaneous clap when the flame caught. Credit must also go to excellent commentary from yours truly: “Look Benji candles! Whoooaaaaa! (said Chinese-style) Omg fire!”
10. Since then, I am been watching any sport that I can get my eyes on. Part of the appeal of the Olympics for me has always been watching sports that I love like swimming, diving, gymnastics and even athletics that don’t get shown often on sports channels. So I was thrilled to watch the women’s synchronized diving in which the Chinese once again demonstrated their awesome perfection. I was also rooting for the Canadian pair – one diver was 10 years older than her partner, competing in her fourth Olympics. What it must take to maintain that kind of form for nearly two decades.
11. Unfortunately, only get the watch the swimming highlights on a local Chinese channel. This morning, Benji pointed to the pool and said “Daddy!” (whenever he sees a pool he says “Daddy- Mummy” because we are the ones that take him swimming), which is totally ironic because V is a terrible swimmer. I’m sad that people are casting doping doubts on the Chinese female swimmer’s amazing 400m medley (she swam her 50m freestyle faster than the American male winner in the same category). I wish they would just test the winners routinely and be done with it if this is going to come up every time.
12. In addition, to these exciting sports, I have also watched (and cheered and got excited about) shooting (watching Kim Rhode miss just once in 100 shots, as well as Gagan Narang claim his bronze), judo (spent half the time trying to figure out if it was judo or taekwondo and then lamenting the fact that one of the competitor’s shirt had come lose from his belt and he wasn’t tucking it in, finally to be put out of my misery by the commentator pointing out that is against the rules to untie one’s belt without the referees permission and then marvelling at the body revealed by the open shirt), volleyball (close match between China and Turkey, with the added bonus of Turkish athletes being uniformly gazelle-like and beautiful), and table tennis (cheering for the Hong Kong player).
13. The cool thing is that I have lots of places to cheer for – India, Hong Kong, China (yes, I do feel a curious affinity for them seeing as I currently live in China, plus they are great and I am tired of them being maligned), and Philippines (because of my helpers, though I haven’t seen a Filipino in competition yet). And of course, I pick and choose underdogs to support at will.
14. I’m liking that this Games doesn’t seem to dominated by any one country. Like France and China are doing well in the pool and instead of China dominating the gymnastics, it’s the US.
And finally, a downer. A friend linked to this article, which shows how the Olympics have been used to displace hundreds of people. While I wouldn’t expect any better of China, Brazil or even India, I’m surprised that Britain would feel the need to resort to this sort of thing too. It makes one feel kind of hopeless. If even the countries with a better human rights records can’t stop themselves from being heavy-handed, should we just give up and resign ourselves to the world just general being terrible?