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Posts Tagged ‘beijing’

Beijing 2008: Top 10 Olympic scandals, hissy fits and tantrums

Posted by E on August 23, 2008

This has been one colourful Olympics. For every glorious moment of well-deserved glory for winning athletes, there was a hissy fit, temper tantrum and otherwise classy behaviour from others not quite caught in the Olympic spirit.

It took until the last day to get our gold-medal moment of shame, which I will arbitrarily award to Cuba’s Angel Matos, but there are many other honorable mentions. So here they are, our spectacular lineup of athletic sportsmanship: *drumroll*

GOLD MEDAL LOSER: taekwondo (curtesy of CBC)

Taekwondo athlete Angel Matos of Cuba faces a lifetime ban after kicking the referee in the face following his disqualification in a bronze-medal match Saturday at the Beijing Games. Matos’s coach Leudis Gonzalez also faces a lifetime ban in response to the incident that took place at the end of the men’s over-80 kg bout.
“We didn’t expect anything like what you have witnessed to occur,” said World Taekwondo Federation secretary general Yang Jin-suk. “I am at a loss for words.”

SILVER MEDAL LOSER: wrestling (Courtesy of the Telegraph.uk)

Abrahamian threw down his 84kg greco-roman bronze in disgust after his shot at gold was ended by a decision denounced by the Swedish coach as “politics”. Abrahamian took the medal from around his neck during the medal ceremony, stepped from the podium and dropped it in the middle of the mat before storming off. The Swedish wrestler had to be restrained by team-mates earlier as a row erupted with judges over the decision in a semi-final bout with Andrea Minguzzi of Italy, who went on to the take gold. Abrhamian, who won silver at the Athens 2004 Games, shouted at the referee, then went over to confront judges, angrily throwing off the restraining arm of a team official. Swedish fans booed loudly as the judges filed out of the arena. Abrahamian said nothing to waiting reporters but whacked an aluminium barricade with his fist as he left the hall.

Abrahamian was eventually stripped of his bronze medal by the IOC because of this tantrum.

BRONZE MEDAL LOSER: fencing

I have decided to remove this particular entry because it is time to put this incident to rest.

OTHER (DIS)HONORABLE MENTIONS:

These other guys didn’t throw hissy fits during their matches, but must be included nonetheless in order to have a complete account of Beijing 2008’s various petty dramas:

4. The lip-synching fiasco:

The golden Olympic opening ceremonies was somewhat tarnished by news accounts that some of the fireworks had been computer-added to the program we all saw, and that the pretty little girl in the red dress who sang so sweetly was actually lip-syncing, with the original pre-recorded child singer deemed “too ugly” by the Chinese program directors, because she had a missing tooth and buck teeth.

5. The underage gymnast scandal

Chinese gymnasts are very likely younger than the minimum allowed age of 16 – and certificates have been “doctored” by Chinese officials in order to allow them to participate, leading to a team gold medal and several other gold and silver medals that weren’t deserved. While this cheating allegation is currently being seriously investigated by the IOC, (one of the girls even admitted in a Chinese television interview last year that she was 14!) nobody is batting an eye at all the horrendous Chinese child labour practices that are going on in factories across China in order to feed the government coffers that wasted spent a disgusting 43 billion dollars in showing the world that “we do Olympics better than everybody else.”

Ok, I know a lot of people are saying in defense of the Chinese “Asian kids are much smaller than Western ones”, but let me tell you something. I taught kids in Korea for a whole year, and I did travel to China as well, and I’ve never taught a sixteen-year old who looked that young. From my guestimate as a teacher in Asia, three out of the six girls are 12 or 13 years old.

6. The Spanish slanty-eyes photos

This one speaks for itself. But apparently it wasn’t meant to be offensive, as hard as that may be to swallow. The Spanish basketball team (and their supporters – in the other photos) took out ads featuring this photo, saying “We are prepared for China!”; that is to say, being prepared for Chinese competition meant seeing things through their competitors’ eyes…

7. Accusations of bribery and manipulation in Boxing:


Bought boxing matches, what else is new? I only watched two matches before being too disgusted to continue. Read the account, courtesy of Yahoo News:

Boxing officials were battling to contain a major scandal on Saturday as serious claims of bribery and the manipulation of Olympic judging panels emerged after a series of disputed bouts.

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) suspended Romanian technical delegate Rudel Obreja after he held an impromptu and rowdy press conference and made lurid allegations against senior officials.

AIBA also revealed that it had been tracking “possible attempts of manipulation” for more than two months and had brought in an International Olympic Committee (IOC) observer “when the situation became more serious”.

8. The paralyzed dancer

Because of sloppy platforms and mishandling, a 26-year old woman who was supposed to perform a 2-minute solo dance at the Olympic opening ceremonies, a prize-winning and talented top Chinese dancer, fell and broke her back, resulting in complete paralysis from the waist down. Apparently she had laid in agony for 50 minutes while the emergency medical crew had to endure a lengthy security check. One wonders if more immediate attention and packing of her back in ice could have prevented to extent of the damage.

At first this story was given the usual sanitized Chinese cover-up. But as more stories emerged about the young Mongolian woman who came from nothing, and for whom dance was everything, the media picked up on it. The photo shows the brave face Liu Yan puts on as she wishes the best of luck to her country’s athletes. You have to hope that the Chinese government will be prepared to pay for her lifelong care, rehabilitation therapy and give her a generous pension. You just have to hope.

9. The Grannies sentenced to a year in a re-education labour camp

Two frail-looking Chinese women in their late 70s have caused a storm in China by applying to protest during the Olympics. They’ve embarrassed the Beijing authorities and so earnt themselves a one-year sentence to re-education through labour for disturbing the public order, and that’s even before they got a chance to actually protest. Their case has led to criticism that the so-called Olympic protest parks were never intended to allow people to demonstrate during the Games.

In an interview, neighbours Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, said they had not received compensation after their homes were demolished by the city government seven years ago and were simply fighting for their rights.

In an interview, Wang (who is blind in one eye) and Wu were seated together in a ramshackle one-room apartment without electricity in which Wu now lives after her home in central Beijing was demolished to make way for a development.

“We have done nothing wrong,” said Wang.
“They won’t let me protest, then they sentence me to a year labour camp. […] It’s not fair.”

Thankfully, after all the media attention, their sentences have now been suspended, on the condition that they “behave well”. Read: no more protests for grandma.

10. The constant police presence. Read an excerpt from Globe&Mail’s article by G York:

Many of China’s security measures at the Olympics seemed to be symbolic threats, aimed at sending a strong warning message, rather than having any practical purpose. Why did China park an armoured vehicle outside the main Olympic Press Centre? Why did police walk through the crowd at Ditan Park last Sunday, taking photos of every citizen who was watching the closing ceremony on giant outdoor screens? Ditan Park is an ordinary park, not an Olympic venue, and nothing except the large television screens had any connection to the Olympics. Why did the police need to photograph everyone at the park?

I am leaving any other Olympic scandals that come to mind to the readers’ vote – what other dark moment sticks in your mind as an embarrassment to the Beijing 2008 Olympics? Please feel free to contribute your suggestions.

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Posted in canada, cuba, culture, fencing, humor, humour, media, news, olympics, politics, press, wtf | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Berlin, Beijing – behind the smoke and mirrors, a monster rears its ugly head

Posted by E on August 22, 2008

Berlin 1936 = Beijing 2008. I bet Leni Riefenstahl is rolling in her grave wishing she could’ve gotten a crack at filming this one.

How are they similar? In both cases, a hopelessly corrupt IOC awards the Olympic games to a savage totalitarian state, while the world turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed by that state.

Violations against open discourse started early: as foreign journalists began converging on Beijing to cover the Summer Olympics, restrictions began to be placed on journalistic freedoms.

Since China was awarded the Games, China’s Communist Government and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have continually given guarantees to the world’s media that journalists would have unrestricted access to the Internet.
Then, the Chinese Government blew that commitment into disarray when 20,000 journalists covering the August 8 – 24 Games in Beijing were told they would be blocked from accessing some Internet sites.

China has also designated 3 parks in Beijing for “sanctioned demonstrations”, promising that there would be room for protests, provided that those planning to organize a peaceful protest would submit a petition in advance. The result: people were rounded up and arrested instead. No protest ever took place.

Australia’s Media Alliance spokesman Christopher Warren was quoted as comparing the upcoming Games to those hosted by Nazi Germany in 1936. “This promises to be the most restricted Olympics, in terms of reporting the Games and its social and political context, since Berlin in 1936”.

Everyone who has watched the Olympics has witnessed pro-Chinese cheating, none more evident than in the gymnastics fiasco. Not only are at least two of the girls underage, but in my opinion it’s pretty clear the judges have been bought. Not surprising, though, since the field of gymnastics, like figure skating, is notorious for bribing and buying of judges.

China has spent in excess of 43 billion dollars (yes, you read that right) to showcase their superiority over (and shame) all other nations who have ever hosted an Olympics. You can rest assured that the message “We’re Bigger, We’re Better” does not stop with the theatrics of the opening ceremonies, to dubbed musical productions or with little girls who are considered too ugly to represent China and must sing below a stage.

The smoke and mirrors that cover an insatiable urge to beat all others will not put all its hopes on the shoulders of mere human beings. Just think about it – if you’ve gone all the way and spent 43 billion dollars on a show, what’s a few more paltry million to buy off some judges?

This is a country where you go to jail if you speak out against the regime. Where ethnic and religious minorities are persecuted and murdered in the open. Where you must fit in, must not think for yourself, must become a robot for the State.

Communism and fascism are similar in that way: they curtail the freedom to be an intellectual, to have free thought, to breathe without looking over your shoulder. They curtail the kind of music you can listen to, the kinds of magazines you read, the choice of vocation, job, and career you may ever have dreamed to have.

These are nations where children with aptitude are kidnapped from their parents and thrown into provincial facilities where they are forced to train for 16 hours a day, just to show the State as powerful and full of glory. Gold medals are stacked upon the broken bones, wilted minds and ruined bodies of young people.

You can also count on the fact that pre-Olympic discussions took place, where Chinese judging officials have been not only bribed with better apartments and salaries, but also warned that if they brought shame upon China (by marking them less than anyone else), they would be deported to some gulag somewhere and would wish for an early death.

You think it can’t happen again? Guess what? It’s happening already.

Posted in censorship, china, commentary, communism, culture, freedom, germany, news, olympics, politics, tibet, war | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why Canadian fencing sucks big time

Posted by E on August 12, 2008

 

While keeping score with the Olympic games in Beijing, I hardly batted an eye as the news flashed on the official Beijing scores site: one by one, each Canadian fencer fell, pretty much after their first or second bouts. It’s a bit of a deja vu, actually, a flashback to the last Olympics – in Atlanta and Athens – when Canada managed to actually qualify more fencers to go than even this year.

And then what happened? Well, you know. What always happens.
They go home after 1 or 2 bouts.

Sorry to break it to you folks, but the sad and unfortunate reality is that Canada isn’t known for producing quality fencers, which is why the best Canadian fencers go abroad to train (look at Sherraine Schalm), and why someone like Jujie Luan, even at 50 yrs of age (an old lady to some), can qualify for a spot so easily, within 15 months. Coaching is rife with favoritism, bribes used to be common (and not just here – look at the Sports Illustrated’s infamous expose of bribery and corruption in fencing – read it here) & Canadian fencing programs here need to come a LONG way before they can be on par with the Romanians, French, Italians and Hungarians.

Even the biggest recent name in Canadian fencing, Sherraine the epeeist, who was profiled on everything from Macleans to CBC to everything else, who got a sweet book deal and on occasion has been somewhat of a media darling around here, lost in her first bout during the 2004 Athens event. She’s up tomorrow in Beijing, and as much as I’d like to see her succeed, there are no others who have tread before her. No Canadians have ever won a fencing medal. Ever.

So, Elisa, tell us, why does Canadian fencing suck?

Well, first of all, we have to put aside the popular fantasy that fencing is a sport which can be played recreationally, like volleyball or ping-pong or shooting hoops. EVERY STEP of fencing is geared toward competitions. There is no such thing, honestly, as fencing for fun; from day one, enthusiastic, wide-eyed wanna-be fencers are shoved forward onto a slaughterhouse ramp of competitive bouting. You go to amateur bouts, then to “Open” national circuits, then to international competitions. It’s what it is. Even if you want to wage your own protest and say “Hell, I’m gonna fence for fun”, your opponents will be prepping for their competitions, so it is impossible to avoid the intrinsic cut-throat nature of this sport.

But back to why it sucks big-time in this country.

The hot story this Olympics was about Jujie Luan, a former medal-winner for the Chinese waaaay back when she was still a Chinese national, having been churned out by those infamous Chinese athlete factories – you know, where they pick kids from kindergarten, assign them a sport and ship them off to athletic facilities on the other side of the country, whether the parents consent or not. Well, Jujie has been in Canada for many years now – I even got to see her some years back, fencing at the Nationals – and because of the Olympics being set in China, her homeland, she came out of self-imposed retirement. Jujie is 50 years of age, but nevertheless, within 15 months she managed to qualify for Beijing. (She was defeated in her second bout, but that’s not the point). Not to take away from Luan’s story, since training for this caliber of event is remarkable for someone her age. But fencing is NOT as physically demanding as most other Olympic sports. This is why routinely fencers up to their late 30s still qualify for Olympics. In fencing you “peak” in your mid-30s.

I think what’s more interesting is that Luan managed to qualify for a spot on the Olympic team within 15 mths. Frankly, this doesn’t say much for Canadian fencing as a whole.

When you go back to look at my former schoolmate, Sherraine Schalm, you get to see that she has actually been training in Europe for the last decade; a few years in Paris, and more recently, the last four in Hungary. Why? How could such a well-publicized Canadian athlete not actually LIVE here?

Well, other than mediocre coaches, favouritism that is so rampant – where good fencers get pushed aside by coaches who would rather sleep with their students – as it happened at my alma mater, supposedly the best varsity program for fencing in this country (where Sherraine also first came to train), where we won first place after first place in the university games for nearly a decade. The truth is, Canadian Coaches tend to play favourites, which is what the Romanians and the Chinese don’t do – for them, fencing is a business, without emotions and without bi-partisanship. If you have the spark in you, they will work it out of you. That’s their job.

Secondly, and just as importantly, government funding for “lesser-popular” sports like fencing (read: not football, soccer or hockey) is simply non-existent. Athletes are somehow expected to fund themselves, their lessons, their living expenses. Grants are few and far between, and cannot be said to even remotely cover the travel expenses of attending world championships every year.

Therefore, the pool of potential gold-medal-winning fencers has been reduced to the coach-favoured and wealthy – those whose parents and family can raise or at least scrimp together the necessary funds for them to survive as they train. You must be both to last as a competitive fencer. And if a coach doesn’t favour you, and won’t train you for free (how many do it anyway? How many retired fencer-come-coaches can afford to?) and you have to keep paying 20 bucks per lesson, how many lessons do you think you can afford? It all adds up.

Of course, to be a GOOD fencer you have to live abroad, and by the time you factor in the cost of renting a shitty apartment in a double-digit arrondissement on the outskirts of Paris, (as several people I know have done) and commuting to a gym where your teammates, via the grace of the French government, have their own personal trainers and psychologists and adorn the posters on bus shelters, you realize you’ve been pretty screwed by the country you are supposed to represent.

Now how’s that for motivation? No wonder the sport is so pathetic in this country.

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Posted in canada, china, commentary, culture, fencing, olympics, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »