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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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November 10, 2008 10:37 AM

Paralympic broadcast update

Posted by Ron Judd


NBC has informed us that they've decided to simulcast the feed of their Universal Sports coverage of the Beijing Paralympics online at Universalsports.com. That means viewers who don't get the Universal Sports cable channel -- and this includes everyone in the Northwest -- can follow along online instead. Well worth tuning in, if you have the time.

The broadcasts begin daily at 4 p.m. PST, and run through Sunday. See the Web site for more schedule details.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , NBC , Paralympic Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 17, 2008 8:51 AM

Megan Jendrick: No retirement gifts, please

Posted by Ron Judd

Megan.JPG


A reader asks what's now to become of Megan Jendrick of Tacoma, who brings home a silver medal after her role on the U.S. medley relay team.

Here's a note from Megan on a blog she's writing from Beijing, which sheds a little light:

I'm not going to say these are my last Olympics; with so many articles having come out, each with their own little twist, some people have interpreted that I was retiring for good now. I just want everyone to know I've never said that and I'm very excited to keep racing and hopefully continue to represent America.

You can read the rest of her impressions of Beijing, and the performance of longtime teammate Michael Phelps, here.

Photo: Megan Jendrick of Tacoma at a practice at the National Aquatics Center practice before the Beijing 2008 Olympics. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images).

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Northwest Olympians , Swimming |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 16, 2008 7:03 PM

Phelps wins 8th, silvers for Hoelzer, Jendrick; Sunday TV preview

Posted by Ron Judd

Saturday wrap:

With swimming wrapping up, the focus shifts to track and field, which presents interesting logistical challenges, to say the least, for distant viewers. Today's 100-meter men's final, discussed below, is a good example.

Several readers have asked if there's a schedule detailing exactly what time a certain event -- the men's 1,500, a certain U.S. women's soccer game, etc., will be on one of the many NBC networks. The short answer is no, not in a down-to-the-minute way for people seeking to record the game or event. The closest we've come, for NBC broadcasts, is this schedule.
(Note that you might have to register on the site to get it to display Disadvantaged Time Zone times, but when you do that, it also gives you local online Games stories and stats from KING-TV.)

The schedule (there's one on the bottom of the page for online streaming) at least breaks the volumnous network offerings into two-hour chunks, and uses local times.

For example, here's how it breaks down Sunday's NBC lineup:

10:00a - 12:00p
The U.S. women's basketball team plays New Zealand in a preliminary-round game (LIVE ET/CT). American women have won the past three gold medals in this event. New Zealand has made two Olympic appearances, finishing 11th in 2000 and eighth in 2004.

12:00p - 2:00p
The women's track cycling individual pursuit final. Four years ago, Beijing wasn't on Sara Hammer's radar. The pedaling prodigy who first raced competitively at age 3 had left the sport, burnt out and conflicted. But the California native, inspired after watching the Athens Games, returned to cycling and has become an Olympic medal contender. Also, coverage from rowing, equestrian, and table tennis.
Medal Event

2:00p - 5:00p
Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele is the best in the world in the men's 10,000m. In Beijing, the three-time world champion seeks his second straight Olympic gold. Other coverage likely includes rowing "eight" finals and U.S. women's volleyball vs. Poland.
Medal Event

5:00p - 6:00p
Americans Nicole Branagh and Elaine Youngs play China in a women's beach volleyball quarterfinal match.

7:30p - 12:30a (8/18
The first night of gymnastics individual event finals, including men's floor and pommel horse; the women perform floor and vault routines. Also, track and field finals


Happy hunting.

----------------------
Next Up -- first up? last up? -- track and field:

20:40: There's at least one world record involved in the men's 100 meters -- for longest delay of a worldwide major sporting event. East Coast viewers at this moment are watching the men go to the blocks for the race, which began just after 7:30 a.m. Seattle time. That's a 13-hour delay from start time. By the time NBC viewers in the Disadvantaged Time Zone see the race, it'll be a 16-hour and 10 minute delay. That breaks the old, 15-hour delay record for the opening ceremony broadcast.

If you don't already know: Usain Bolt of Jamaica wins in world record time, 9.69 seconds. And that's after pulling up to start celebrating with 20 meters still to go. Nobody on the track was even close. In second was Richard Thompson of Trinidad & Tobago; Walter Dix of the U.S. takes the bronze. Tyson Gay failed to make the final.

BTW: Can we declare a moratorium now on TV "Mom shots?
--------------------
First up: Swimming

Men's 400 medley relay
Aaron Piersol established a small lead for the U.S. Breaststroker Brendan Hansen gives it up to Japan on the second leg. Phelps, swimming the fly, reclaims a narrow lead over Japan and Australia. And then Jason Lezak does it again, holding off all comers to claim the gold in a WR time of 3:29.34. Phelps' swim of 50.15, fittingly, is the turning point in the race. Australia takes the silver at 3:30.04 , Japan the bronze at 3:31.18.


Women's 400 medley relay
Australia blows away its own world record, swimming 3:52.69 to take the gold. The U.S. is second at 3:53.30. China is third at 3:56.11. It's Natalie Coughlin's sixth medal in Beijing -- a first for a U.S. woman. It also brings silver medals to King Aquatic swimmers Megan Jendrick and Margaret Hoelzer, who leaves Beijing with three medals.

Men's 1500 meter freestyle
Ous Melluli of Tunisia wins the long one at 14:40.84; Grant Hackett of Australia is second at 14:41.53; Ryan Cochrane of CANADA takes the bronze at 14:42.69. Larsen Jensen of the U.S. is fifth at 14:48.16.

Women's 50 freestyle
Britta Steffen of Germany, wins at 24.06, an Olympic record. Dara Torres is second at 24.07; Cate Campbell of Australia is third at 24.17. Libby Trickett of Australia is fourth at 24.25.

--------------
Sorry we're slow getting rolling tonight.

Some guys from NBC showed up at the front door, dark glasses, etc., wanted to talk about this blog's "attitude problem."

We told them to come back in three hours.

Actually, had to write Sunday's newspaper column, which will be a highlight reel of Week One of the Games. Not to be missed. Likely to be laminated. Joe Bob says check it out.

On tap tonight: The big Michael Phelps race for No. 8. Dara Torres in the 100. Full slate of track and field, including the men's 100 meters, which occurred approximately last Tuesday in Beijing.

A special shout out tonight to all our readers in Canada, where, after that first GOLD in women's wrestling yesterday, the medals came in a virtual torrent. Well, at least a steady trickle. More on this to come, as well.

Get your fans all pointed toward the couch (Dad, keep pushing the nurse button), and, as they say in ice dancing, get ready to rhumba...

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , NBC , Olympic Medals , Swimming , Track and Field |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 4:38 PM

NBC: No way Phelps Saturday race will be live

Posted by Ron Judd

We neglected to post this yesterday, in all the excitement over beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh's birthday celebration on NBC:

A network spokesman, responding to hopeful rumors that the network would get a clue and at least broadcast one Michael Phelps race -- his likely historic, eighth-medal attempt Saturday evening -- live in the west-coast Disadvantaged Time Zone, has cleared that up:

No chance.

NBC, he reiterated, will continue to broadcast events "when the majority of people are available to watch."

Apparently, that would be about 1 a.m., which is when NBC's coverage of recent marquee events, such as gymnastics, have wrapped up on the East Coast of late. (The network could actually show the same events, live, on the West Coast, and actually have them seen in prime time, but refuses to do so.)

Doesn't matter that it's a major historical event. Doesn't matter that it happens on a Saturday, when a live television office across the country would likely be massive. Just doesn't matter.

It's amazing, and at some point, it starts to feel personal. Did Dick Ebersole perhaps have a bad experience as a child at the Space Needle? You've gotta wonder.

Meanwhile, word arrives that NBC's initial boffo ratings for Beijing have been flagging. For both Wednesday and Thursday nights, they trailed ratings for the comparable time periods in Athens, in spite of marquee events like Phelps' medal quest and women's gymnastics. Given those events, Thursday night should have been a highlight of NBC's entire Games coverage.

Maybe it took a couple days for people to tire of watching events they long ago heard results from dragging on to 1 a.m.

There's more bad news, and you might as well get used to it now: NBC's Olympic contract runs through 2012. Anyone willing to bet that the network won't be showing viewers in Seattle most Winter Games daytime events from Vancouver on a half-day delay, even though they'll be taking place live, right up the road? And you thought this was irritating...

Note also that if you're glibly watching on CBC this time around, you'd better check your channel grid before the Vancouver Games. CBC lost the Games contract to CTV, which will broadcast Vancouver 2010. Neither channel is carried on DirecTV, but most local cable operations offer both.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Canada , Olympic media , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 3:13 PM

Humanitarian Canadian Olympic Relief Aid Being Mustered

Posted by Ron Judd

Canadian medal update, Day 8:

By popular demand, here is the list of summer sports powerhouses that have now won a medal while Canada -- which, for the record, could not even medal with a swimmer named Beavers in the pool last night -- continues to fight valiantly for Numero Uno:

Ethiopia
India
Thailand
Colombia
Vietnam
Argentina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Denmark
Egypt
Lithuania
Mexico
Tajikistan
Togo

We could mention that some of the Carpet Nations, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Karistan (OK, we made that last one up) are already celebrating their second medals. But that would be rude, so we shall not.

The truth is, we feel bad about this. So bad that we -- in a show of North American brotherhood, plus a blatant attempt to suck up and get a good hotel room for Vancouver 2010 -- would like to help. We're putting out the call to all former Olympic medalists, or just major contenders, to form a Canadian Olympic Reserve relief project and give Maple Leaf Nation a little boost in Beijing.

The Games are only half over. Surely there's time for, say, Greg Barton to come forth, catch the Amtrak to Vancouver, secure the necessary papers ("four-time medalist? You're in! Sign here.) and jet on over to Beijing before the flame goes out.

It is, literally, the least we could do. And that is our specialty.

So step on up, folks. It's for a good cause. And think of the upside: Put Canada on the board, and your own money will never be good at any Tim Horton's as long as you live.

Failing this, we have an alternate plan: Actually giving Canada some of our medals that are ... well, not needed anymore. Some of them might have a few Marion Jones crocodile tears on them, but a little Brasso will take that right out.

Stay tuned.


Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Canada , Olympic politics , Vancouver 2010 Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 12:41 PM

Jendrick, Hoelzer qualify U.S. for medley relay medal

Posted by Ron Judd

King Aquatic swimmers Megan Jendrick and Margaret Hoelzer put themselves in line for Beijing medals early this morning, Seattle time, by qualifying the U.S. medley relay team in preliminary heats.

Hoelzer swam a backstroke leg of 59.29, Jendrick swam a breaststroke leg of 1:07.17; Elaine Breeden added a butterfly leg of 58.59, and Kara-Lynn Joyce swam the freestyle in 54:10. The total time, 3:59.15, was enough to win the heat, with China lurking at 3:59.21.

The second heat was won by Australia, at 3:57.94.

The final is at 7:40 p.m. Saturday in the Disadvantaged Time Zone.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic Medals , Swimming |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 11:52 AM

About those beach volleyball suits

Posted by Ron Judd


This subject has been hashed over many times, but still seems to hang out there: A couple female readers have written to question -- OK, protest -- the double standard in beach volleyball attire.

The girls wear bikini bottoms and halter sport tops. The boys wear trunks and tank tops. Why do the men need more coverage? Good question. One with no legitimate answer, at least in sports-performance terms.

What we're not clear on: Are you women protesting the lack of clothing on the women, or the excess of it on the males?

I'm guessing both.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic Trivia |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 11:19 AM

A Phelps upset? Gary Hall says yes

Posted by Ron Judd


Retired sprint king Gary Hall Jr., blogging in the Los Angeles Times, predicts a former training partner, Milorad "Mike" Cavic, who swims for Serbia, will upset Michael Phelps in tonight's 100 butterfly final. Read his reasoning here.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic Medals , Swimming |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2008 9:33 AM

On Phelps, Eric Heiden, and Olympic history

Posted by Ron Judd


Big response in the inbox this morning to today's newspaper column on Michael Phelps and his place in history. Most people say they appreciate the reminder of other great Olympians, and some have offered up suggestions of their own, which I'll post in a followup later. Thanks to all of you who have written.

(Thanks also to a few of you who pointed out a sentence that's not entirely clear in the column: When I noted that Carl Lewis won an "unprecedented" golds in a single event, the long jump, I meant that it was unprecedented in the long jump. Others, such as Al Oerter in the discuss, have won four straight in other pursuits.)

There were a few of the expected knee-jerk, how-dare-you-diminish-swimming responses: The usual "obviously you're not a swimmer" retorts from swimmers. One reader even angrily suggests I'm "running down" swimming out of abject ignorance, by diminishing the difficulty of mastering multiple strokes, or suggesting that the sport is "easy on the body."

Au contraire. As an Olympics writer, I've been chronicling, and praising, the incredible athleticism of elite swimmers for a long time. I don't recall ever writing, in my lifetime, that mastering multiple swim strokes was easy. I did say it was a more "natural" transition that switching between completely unrelated events, and it is. Some people will take that as an insult to swimmers. But some people take anything that's not gratuitous praise of their favorite hobby as an insult, so what can you do.

As I said in the column, I wrote it not to diminish, even in the slightest, what Phelps is accomplishing in Beijing. It's phenomenal, and, I believe, one of the most ingeniously choreographed -- by Phelps himself, and coach Bob Bowman -- athletic achievements ever at the Olympics. There's no denying it's one of the greatest single performances ever, at any Games. He has already established himself as the greatest swimmer of all time. And he obviously leads in the gold medal count.

But you can argue -- and most Olympic historians agree with this -- that when it comes to the "greatest Olympian" title, longevity should be a major factor, as should diversity of athleticism. That's what led me to point out some Olympians from the past who have dominated the way Phelps is dominating now, but over a longer period of time, and in more-diverse events.

My comparison of Phelps' single-Games performances versus others, such as Eric Heiden's sweep of the 1980 speedskating events at Lake Placid was a second argument, meant to illicit some creative debate, and it seems to have done just that. My wife, Emjay, who is also an Olympics nut, and I had the same argument last night that I filed the column.

Assuming Phelps wins his last individual event, both athletes will have won five individual -- as in, non-relay -- golds in a single Games. Phelps will be the first person to do that since Heiden. (Note: Mark Spitz won four individual medals, three relays.)

The differences:

Heiden performed at a much broader variety of distances: from 500 meters to 10,000. As I wrote, that's like winning the 100 meters, the 10K -- and everything in between -- in track, which is astonishing. Phelps' swimming distances vary from 100 to 400 meters, but he must swim four different strokes to get where he's going. Also amazing.

Does greater variety in distance trump varied technique that utilizes completely different muscle groups? I gave the edge to Heiden; Emjay was leaning more to Phelps.

There's no right answer. These things are, as I wrote, absolutely apples and oranges comparisons. But it's a fun argument, and it sheds some light on Olympic history, which in my book is always a good thing.

I guess I had Heiden on the brain because I just finished researching a book about the Winter Games, and it includes a lot of detailed, great-moments history. I watched Heiden's exploits on TV as a high-school punk, but had forgotten the unprecedented nature of what he had done until talking to people who saw it live.

An aside: Most people forget, or don't know, that Heiden, who by current standards was sort of laid back about all this, almost spoiled his own perfection by oversleeping and nearly missing his final race.

He had been out late the night before, reveling, with everyone else, in the Miracle on Ice U.S. hockey victory over the Soviet Union. He barely had time to do a warmup.

Unlike Phelps (and most other current athletes) Heiden hit the spotlight and then quickly ran out of it. He left the sport soon after the '80 Games, and turned down countless sponsorship opportunities to stay out of the limelight. He became an elite cyclist (ending when he suffered a concussion in the 1986 Tour de France), then a physician, and he now works as an orthopedic surgeon. Heiden has been the team doc for U.S. speedskating at the last couple Olympics. He sewed up Apolo Ohno's leg after a gash suffered in a fall in Salt Lake City.

With that, I open the floor to discussion on the above, and ask another question: Aside from the obvious (Spitz) are there other single-Olympic-Games performances that rank with these two? I can think of a couple contenders.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic History , Olympic Medals , Olympic Records , Olympic Trivia , Past Olympians , Track and Field , World Records |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 10:30 PM

Liukins, Johnson 1-2 in gymnastics; Al Trautwig weeps openly

Posted by Ron Judd


OK, we lied about signing off.

As a public service, just for those of you who simply can't get enough of TV gymnastics commentator Tim "Crazy good!" Daggett, we give you this link to his professional speaking business, which declares:

Today Tim Daggett is one of the most "in demand" professional speakers in the country. Beyond his Perfect 10 and Olympic Gold, Tim's story of inner strength, motivation and learning to overcome insurmountable obstacles shows audiences that with commitment to a goal, and belief in oneself, anything is possible.

We are making none of this up.

Tim is a teacher, and he is a do-er. His presentation is filled with a unique mix of emotion, humor and entertainment, and as he shares his momentous success and his heroic struggle, he touches the hearts of all who hear him. Believability permeates the room ... for Tim Daggett has been there. An understanding of his words builds as he speaks .. for Tim Daggett is magnetic.

Book him now, or you'll be crazy sorry.

----------------------------------


The Trout, emoting, during the gymnastics medal ceremony:

"And now, she (Liukins) will only be known by one name."

Well, what is it?

Waiting...

Pele?

Waiting....

Cher?

Waiting....

Flipper?

Waiting...

Trout?

We'll have to get back to you on this.

Meanwhile: Daggett, as the anthem fades: "..And the home of the brave. And they certainly were!"

(Note: You'll have to stay up until 1:15 a.m. to get all of this in person. Put on a pot of Folger's.)

We can't top any of that. Over and out til tomorrow.
-------------------

Gymnastics:

Liukin perrorms a clean routine, which scores 15.525, which is a good -- or bad -- thing, given that commentator Tim Daggett said "I'll fall down dead right here" if she doesn't get it.

Memorable quote:

"That could be a routine that we are watching for generations." -- Al Trautwig, master of the overstatement.

Shawn Johnson needs a 15.45 to get the silver. Her routine is clean, under huge pressure. A "U-S-A" chant is heard faintly in the crowd. Her score: 15.525, to earn the silver. Liukins is the champeen. Yang takes the bronze.
------------------------
Yang scores 15.00 on her floor exercise, which prompts The Trout to extoll: "How about wow?" Liukin is up, needing a 14.85 to keep her lead.
--------------------------

Liukin posts a 16.175 on the balance beam to take the lead with one rotation remaining (floor ex). Yang Yilin of China trails by .15. Shawn Johnson stands third, .60 out of the lead.

-------------------------
Nastia Liukin stands second after two rotations. Shawn Johnson is fifth, trailing by .75.
--------------------
Want some controversy?

Tune in Olympic boxing, on any network. Earlier today, boxing announcers on both CNBC and CBC were beside themselves over the judging during various bouts. One of them went so far as to say he was glad they were there to document the debacle, just for the purposes of righting wrongs down the road.
---------------------
Just to show you we're equal-opportunity grumps: CBC has just shown an extended view of America's Shawn Johnson taping her feet on the sidelines. NBC immediately sued them for violation of intellectual property rights.

--------------------
Before we move to gymnastics, a word about sailing:

Sailing was scheduled to commence Thursday at Quingdao, which sailors worldwide have speculated might have insufficient wind. Result: No wind. Will try again tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're awaiting a statement from BOCOG insisting that there actually was wind; you just had to be open-minded enough to look for it.

------------------
Women's 100 freestyle final:
Amazing. Britta Steffen of Germany wins at 53.12, but Libby Trickett of Australia, who got into the final by luck when a Chinese swimmer false-started in the prelims, swims from lane 8 for the silver, swimming 53.16. Natalie Coughlin gets the bronze, her 10th Olympic medal.
----------------------
Men's 200 IM
Michael Phelps, yawn, smashes his own WR to win in 1:54.23. Laszlo Cseh of Hungary is second at 1:56.52. Ryan Lochte of the U.S. wins bronze with 1:56.53.
----------------------
Women's 200 backstroke semifinal:

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe swims a relaxed 2:07.76 to win her heat and lead contenders into tomorrow night's final. King Aquatic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer is third in the heat at 2:08.25, fifth seed for the final. American Elizabeth Beisel qualifies second for the final. Should be a hot final.
-----------------------
200 backstroke: 2 more U.S. medals

Ryan Lochte wins the 200 back, with a new WR of 1:53.94. Aaron Peirsol wins silver.
-----------------------
Big news:

Rebecca Soni has just stunned Beijing -- and all of Down Under -- by smoking world-record holder Leisel Jones of Australia in the 200 meter breast stroke. Time: A WR of 2:20.22. Jones is second at 2:22.05.

-----------------
Thankfully, May-Treanor and Walsh pull out the first set. The bombers have been turned around at Belgium's border. For a second there, we thought we were going to have to interrupt regular programming.
---------------
The NBC cameras already are rolling the action into East Coast households, where people are snuggling up to their sets and seeing ... beach volleyball! We've run out of jokes about it. At this point, it's simply depressing. And it's not even the finals.

Possible gigantic, pressing, beach-volleyball questions perhaps to be answered tonight:

-- What if Kerri Walsh loses her wedding ring again?

-- Can we see, just one more time, the inscription inside it?

-- Is it true that Misty May-Treanor really carries around little vials of her mother's ashes to sprinkle in the sane in places where she plays? Is this sort of a macabre version of a dog peeing in another's territory, or former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken spitting in an opponent's lane in the pool?

-- What color of tape will Kerri have plastered across her shoulder, like tape applied by an inebriated UPS-store employee, today?

Stay tuned.

CBC, meanwhile, is showing, RIGHT NOW, DTZ TIME, track and field preliminaries.f

It's an easy call.

Meanwhile, we hate to alarm America, but the Golden Girls of U.S. beach volleyball are trailing in the first set of their match against two unknown and largely irrelevant opponents from Belgium.

Comments | Category: Beach volleyball , Beijing 2008 Games , Gymnastics , Swimming |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 1:47 PM

Raise your hand if you're reading this at work

Posted by Ron Judd

Viewership stats confirm it: The great bulk of online viewing of the Olympics is being done by people doing some daytime "research" in the office.

Nielsen stats show that more than 2 million people lurked on the video section of NBCOlympics.com on Monday, compared to about 850,000 on the weekend, CNET reports. Yahoo also reported an 86-percent traffic surge on Olympic sites from Sunday to Monday.

OK, now get back to "work."

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , NBC , Olympic media |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 14, 2008 12:15 PM

More evidence on Chinese kiddie gymnasts?

Posted by Ron Judd


It's the story that won't go away for China.

The Associated Press in Beijing reports that just nine months before the Games, the Chinese government's own official news agency, Xinhua, reported that female gymnast He Kexin -- the one who looks like she's maybe 13 -- was 13. And -- surprise! -- that information has suddenly disappeared from Xinhua's Web site.

The complete story appears below. But we're wondering if any official traction will ever be gained on this issue. If the Chinese athletes are underaged, the Chinese government clearly is complicit: They've all been issued passports showing them to be 16.

And if that's the case, only a full-scale International Olympic Committee investigation could undo what's been done on the arena floor, where China already has captured the team gold medal. Yet, even after compelling proof of the age shenanigans was printed well in advance of the competition in the New York Times and elsewhere, the IOC has sat on its doughy hands.

Oddly enough, as others have noted, the IOC seems to relish that cop role when it comes to other cheaters, such as dopers and scandalous judges. Why the great wall of silence around the age controversy? It's a rhetorical question: The Olympic movement already has proven it's willing to sell its own soul to placate the Chinese, who apparently now run the organization.

Let's face it: The only solution is the King Solomon test: Somebody is going to have to cut one of those little gymnasts in half and count the rings.

Here's the story:

BEIJING (AP) -- Just nine months before the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government's news agency, Xinhua, reported that gymnast He Kexin was 13, which would have made her ineligible to be on the team that won a gold medal this week.

In its report Nov. 3, Xinhua identified He as one of "10 big new stars" who made a splash at China's Cities Games. It gave her age as 13 and reported that she beat Yang Yilin on the uneven bars at those games. In the final, "this little girl" pulled off a difficult release move on the bars known as the Li Na, named for another Chinese gymnast, Xinhua said in the report, which appeared on one of its Web sites, www.hb.xinhuanet.com

The Associated Press found the Xinhua report on the site Thursday morning and saved a copy of the page. Later that afternoon, the Web site was still working but the page was no longer accessible. Sports editors at the state-run news agency would not comment for publication.

If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China's first women's team Olympic gold in gymnastics. He is also a favorite for gold in Monday's uneven bars final.

Yang was also on Wednesday's winning team. Questions have also been raised about her age and that of a third team member, Jiang Yuyuan.

Gymnasts have to be 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible for the games. He's birthday is listed as Jan. 1, 1992.

Chinese authorities insist that all three are old enough to compete. He herself told reporters after Wednesday's final that "my real age is 16. I don't pay any attention to what everyone says."

Zhang Hongliang, an official with China's gymnastics delegation at the games, said Thursday the differing ages which have appeared in Chinese media reports had not been checked in advance with the gymnastics federation.

"It's definitely a mistake," Zhang said of the Xinhua report, speaking in a telephone interview. "Never has any media outlet called me to check the athletes' ages."

Asked whether the federation had changed their ages to make them eligible, Zhang said: "We are a sports department. How would we have the ability to do that?"

"We already explained this very clearly. There's no need to discuss this thing again."

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) has said repeatedly that a passport is the "accepted proof of a gymnast's eligibility," and that He and China's other gymnasts have presented ones that show they are age eligible. The IOC also checked the girls' passports and deemed them valid.

A May 23 story in the China Daily newspaper, the official English-language paper of the Chinese government, said He was 14. The story was later corrected to list her as 16.

"This is not a USAG issue," said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. "The FIG and the IOC are the proper bodies to handle this."

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Gymnastics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 13, 2008 8:45 PM

Olympic prime time -- Disadvantaged Time Zone Edition

Posted by Ron Judd

22:15 Men's overall gymnastics goes on, with Yang Wei of China leading the way. He win China's 20th gold medal.

The first hour was fairly excruciating, as it presents a worst-case scenario for the U.S. viewer: America's two competitors, halfway through, are not in the top 10, yet not mathematically eliminated. That means Americans must watch, in excruciating detail, the two adjust their tape on the bench, take off clothes, but clothes on, change gloves, etc. etc. etc., as the crowd reacts loudly to other nation's competitors actually doing gymnastics somewhere in the background. Will never understand the need to spend every single waking second with the U.S. athletes sitting on the bench and mugging for the camera.

It gets better later, as the two fade from contention, forcing NBC to show other competitors.

It's a bit better on CBC, where Canada's athletes are still shown disproportionately, but not in a way that's out of line. And at least we don't have to listen to them whisper sweet nothings in the camera to all their friends back home.

Al Trautwig, at 1:08 a.m. ET, announces, in a major concession to all 12 east coast viewers still watching: "We are commercial free until the end of the competition." Man, NBC just gives and gives and gives. Think what they could've pulled in for that prime, 1 a.m. ad position.


20:42: Women's 800 freestyle relay final
Australia wins at 7:44.31. China takes the silver. The U.S., which formerly owned this event, takes the bronze, with Katie Hoff unable to make a dent in a large deficit she inherits at 600 meters.

20:15: Over at the Water Cube, Michael Phelps swims 1:57.70 to advance to the final, but the big news is, HIS SPEEDO GOGGLES FAIL HIM AGAIN!

------------------
20:02: We go now to men's individual gymnastics. Right off the bat, add this one to the list of classics from NBC's Al "Every-Chinese-Cliche-In-The-Book" Trautwig:

"All around gymnasts are like the Chinese panda."
-------------------
19:55: Men's 100 free final
Alain Bernard of France wins a drag race with Eamon Sullivan of Australia, swimming 47.21 to Sullivan's 47.32. America's Jason Lezak ties for third place, earning his first individual medal after six relay medals. Defending champ Pieter van den Hoogenband of the Netherlands is out of the running.

Women's 200 butterfly
19:50: Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang, two Chinese swimmers who have raised eyebrows with sterling performances in Beijing, despite not placing in worlds competitions in prior years, finish one-two, swimming 2:04.18 and 2:04.72, respectively -- both under the WR. Jessicah Schipper of Australia, who loses her WR, swims 2:06.26 to finish third.

19:37: NBC yukster Chris Collingsworth (who is in Beijing ... why?) has a taped interview with Jason Lezak, which Bob Costas crows is something "the competition" couldn't get. What competition? You own the Olympics, you summon someone, and they show up. Good grief.

19:29: Men's 200 backstroke, semi heat two
Ryan Lochte swims 1:55.40, right on Peirsol's heels for the final. Markus Rogan of Austria is third seed.

19:24: Men's 200 backstroke, semi heat one
Aaron Peirsol of the U.S. swims 1:55.26 to win, looking very relaxed.

19:18 Women's 100 free semis, heat two
Jiaying Pang of China wins the heat, and Libby Trickett, WR holder of Australia, appears not to make the final -- major upset. Seconds later, Pang is DQ'd for a false start. Trickett will swim the final -- from lane 8. Coughlin goes in as top seed.

19:12: Women's 100 free semis, heat one
Natalie Coughlin, with a gorgeous turn at 50 meters, wins at 53.70. WR holder Libby Trickett of Australia swims 54.11, is in danger of not making the final.

19:07: Men's 200 breaststroke
Kosuke Kitajima of Japan hits the double jackpot, sweeping the 100 and 200 breast with a time of 2:07.64. Silver to Brenton Rickard of Australia. Bronze to Hugues Duboscq of France. Mike Brown of Ontario flirts with third, but keeps Canada's medal-less streak alive.

---------------------
18:55: Sorry. Had to take a break there. I was losing my mind.

NBC is showing a montage of all of Michael Phelps' gold medals, starting in Athens. It will take a while.

A rumor is floating around that NBC might show Phelps' eighth gold-medal race on Saturday live, in all its markets, even here in the Disadvantaged Time Zone (DTZ). Stay tuned, but don't hold your breath.

---------------------------
17:42: This just in: China has now won 17 gold medals. We're not saying their athletes are underaged, but 14 of those are going to show-and-tell on Monday morning.

17:37: Alexandre Despatie and Arturo Miranda of Canada, in a brilliant play to keep Timbit Nation's medal-free streak alive, just made a decidedly non-synchronized dive to drop to fifth place.

We observe that the hometown Canadian crowd is getting a bit cranky about the medal drought. Take this summary of the Canadian duo's efforts, by Dave Stubbs of Canwest News Service:

BEIJING - For too much of Wednesday's six-dive contest, Canadians Alexandre Despatie and Arturo Miranda were synced about as well as a dubbed Godzilla movie.
------------------------
17:18: NBC is now doing a big takeout feature on... Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor. I kid you not. More beach volleyball. They're back live at the top of the hour, Bob Costas says. Perfect. We were looking for time to defrag the hard drives.

Meantime: NBC moves to springboard men's 3m synchro diving.
-------------------------

17:05 p.m. Good afternoon, Irrelevant West Coast. Good morning, Beijing. (Elliott: Remember to eat breakfast.)

NBC's eastern feed leads off with the women's road-cycling time trial, which we have a strange feeling will be won by America's Kristin Armstrong, 35.

One immediate reaction: These are said to be the "Green Games." But every single cycle heading up the road has a personal escort vehicle -- one car per cycle. Just saying.

And we have to ask: Is it part of the official Olympic charter that every color commentator for cycling must have a British accent?

Tonight's expected highlights: The men's 100 freestyle swimming final. Men's individual gymnastics competition (late).

CBC is back at synchro diving.

Comments | Category: Beach volleyball , Beijing 2008 Games , Canada , Gymnastics , Swimming |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 13, 2008 3:23 PM

Canadian medal update

Posted by Ron Judd

Up-to-the-second roundup of current Canadian medalists:

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Canada , Olympic Medals |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 30, 2008 8:33 PM

Top 10 signs some Chinese gymnasts might be underaged children

Posted by Ron Judd

10. "A" and "B" samples for all of them came back positive for Skittles.
9. Constantly napping during floor exercise.
8. Still waiting for that pre-teen growth spurt to push them over 3 feet.
7. To stick the landing from a rings dismount, they need a permission slip from Mom.
6. Distinctive "Wheeeeeee!" can be heard during airborne portions of vaults.
5. Chinese Olympic officials pushing hard for new demonstration sport in London 2012: Synchronized Monkey Bars.
4. Absolutely can't stop giggling while peeing into dope-testing beaker.
3. For kicks, often tie their coach to his chair with those rhythmic gymnastic ribbons.
2. One of them recently appealed his bedtime to international Court of Arbitration for Sport.
1. After practice, they go straight back to the Nike factory floor.


Note: Surely this, coupled with all the excellent FREE TIBET comments attached to the posts below, is enough to get us censored from Chinese Internet servers. If not, well, there's just no injustice anymore.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Demonstration Sports , Doping , TIBET TIBET TIBET TIBET TIBET |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

July 30, 2008 12:06 PM

No, seriously: We want to be blocked

Posted by Ron Judd

Another story on the IOC's clearly dirty fingers in the Beijing censhorship scandal is here.

Actually, we have mixed feelings about this. Clearly the Chinese reneging on (yet another) promise is infuriating. But journos arriving at the Media Center to find some Web access blocked should consider the upside, like mysteriously missing emails and directives from editors back home in the states:

"Huh? You wanted me to cover the synchronized swimming prelims last night instead of the basketball gold medal game? Never got the note. It's those blasted Chinese censors!" And so on.

And we will close by saying: Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. Tibet. TIbet. Tibet. Tibet. TIbet. Tibet.

Did we mention Tibet?

Speaking of Tibet: Did we mention the Amnesty International Report?

Just checking.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Olympic Committee , TIBET TIBET TIBET TIBET TIBET |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 24, 2008 5:07 PM

Track trials, packed with local athletes, begin Friday

Posted by Ron Judd


TrackTown USA is in the spotlight for the next two weeks. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Trials begin Friday afternoon at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field in Eugene.

Local athletes, headlined by champion pole vaulter Brad Walker and former WSU distance runner Bernard Lagat, will be out in force.

For a complete list, see local track and field writer Paul Merca's tabulation here.

Here's the event Web site. And the competition schedule. And the TV schedule.

Happy viewing.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic Trials , Running Sports , Track and Field |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 16, 2008 12:41 PM

Double-amputee's Olympic door opening: Victory or bad precedent?

Posted by Ron Judd

First, let's get this out of the way: The fact that artificial limb technology has advanced to the point that we're now arguing whether replacement legs give a double amputee an advantage on the running track over the best athletes in the world is true cause for celebration.

But you can also argue that the decision by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport to allow "the Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius to compete for a spot on the South African Olympic team is a bad legal precedent.

Nobody and nothing should diminish Pistorius's accomplishments: Born without fibulas, he is an amazing athlete who posted a world-class time in the 400 meters wearing carbon-fiber running blades fitted to his legs. His fastest time, 46.56, is a Paralympic record, but still slower than the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55.

CAS, in its ruling, reversed the international track and field governing body's decision that the carbon "Cheetah" blades gave Pistorius an unfair mechanical advantage, saying that advantage had not been documented scientifically. It's difficult to see how that's so, given that studies showed the prosthetic devices return some 90 percent of the "impact energy" expended by the human body, compared with 60 percent for human legs. It's not clear what "burden of proof" CAS required in the case, but the decision came to many as a surprise.

Arguments will fly both ways about whether the prosthetics are an advantage in averting injury to lower leg bones and feet, as most able-bodied athletes face in training, or a disadvantage in their propensity to overwork other body parts.

But a lot of the furor over the decision, it seems, is a bit premature. The argument that the court decision opens the door to all sorts of mechanical "cheating" in sport -- fins for swimmers missing a hand is a commonly cited example -- is a compelling one. But let's wait and see.

If there's a flood of athletes who have the stones to compete at an elite level against the world's best using prosthetic devices, the sports world can take the issue on at that time. We'll be surprised if and when that happens.

Meantime: Whether you agree with the decision or not, it'll make for quite the story if Pistorius earns a spot on the Olympic team, either by posting a fast enough 400-meter time or being named to his nation's relay team. Even if you're convinced his fake legs are "cheating," at least you'll know who has an "unnatural advantage" in his races.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Court of Sport , International Olympic Committee , Olympic Trials |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 13, 2008 8:49 AM

A Hannah Storm-front hits ESPN, just in time for Beijing

Posted by Ron Judd

ESPN, left decidedly on the summer sidelines due to NBC's lock/stock/barrel ownership of Olympic broadcasts, isn't just conceding the ratings race to the peacock network.

ESPN will expand its popular SportsCenter show to mornings starting Aug. 11, just when the Beijing Games are getting rolling. And it will put a big name with long NBC roots -- Hannah Storm -- in the anchor's chair from 9 a.m. to noon Eastern, the Associated Press is reporting. The announcement was expected later today.

Storm, 45, most recently anchor of the CBS Early Show, has a decade of NBC Olympic experience from Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Salt Lake City.

It's part of a major lineup shuffle in which ESPN will replace nine hours of canned programming (mostly repeats of SportsCenter taped at 2 a.m. Eastern time the night before) with live shows. Under the old format, ESPN didn't begin live broadcasts until 3 p.m. Eastern. A Summer Olympics, with its non-stop news cycle, is the perfect time to make the switch.

"You look at Fox News and CNN, it's inconceivable that they would be on tape for that amount of time," Norby Williamson, ESPN's executive vice president of production, told the AP. "The sports world is evolving in that direction. Things are happening all the time."


Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic media |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 30, 2008 9:00 AM

Beijing: Shades of Hitler's Olympics?

Posted by Ron Judd

As we reach the 100 days countdown to Beijing, a news roundup:

-- A group of Jewish leaders has called for a boycott of the Beijing Games, alleging that the Chinese government is using them as a public-relations screen to shroud blatant human-rights abuses -- just as Adolf Hitler did with the Berlin Games of 1936. In an AP story, Eric Gorski reports that 175 rabbis, seminary officials and other prominent Jewish leaders have signed a declaration urging Jews worldwide to boycott the Games because of China's human-rights record in general, and in Tibet in particular. The statement also accuses China's leadership of providing missiles to Iran and Syria, and maintaining a "friendship" with Hamas.

-- Speaking of human rights, or lack thereof: Nice to see that the Beijing torch procession has finally found a place it can travel in comfort, with none of those nasty protests: North Korea. Maybe they should've run the entire thing there.

-- And speaking of the torch: Nominated for Worst Assignment of the Century is the job of being a journalist assigned to cover the Olympic flame's historic ascent up Mount Everest. In a report here, journos complain of being virtually imprisoned in a remote camp far from Everest's base camp, allowed no freedom of movement and no access to climbers.

"If anything happens, we're supposed to miss it," one of them notes wryly.

No word, meanwhile, on whether the flame will use supplemental oxygen to get to the top. But the Chinese have divulged how they'll get it out of a high-tech lantern and into a full-blown, photographable flame in the almost non-existing oxygen on the summit: rocket fuel. No joke. The ascension of the flame to the top of the world will make history not only for its sheer stupidity, but for being the first time the Olympic flame has employed "missile technology," some Chinese officials are crowing.

Given that the nation's bad rep around the world is partly owing to its generous sharing of that very missile technology, you have to wonder: Who's handling PR for the Chinese government these days? The Rev. Jeremiah Wright? And why do we get the feeling that, before this is all over, we're going to have to dispatch Ed Viesturs to go over and rescue these guys?


Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic politics , Past Olympics , Torch relay |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 27, 2008 11:30 AM

Olympic athletes: Political opinions welcome -- sort of

Posted by Ron Judd

The International Olympic Committee's Athlete's Commission met in Switzerland recently to ponder what to do about growing unrest -- some of it in the athlete's own ranks -- about the choice of China as an Olympics host. Read their conclusions here.

It's a thorny issue, and the athletes reaffirmed their colleagues rights to express opinions. But they also subtly reminded them that they have every right to remain silent. And they dropped in their own reference, just in case anyone forgot, to the IOC's "Rule 51," which says "propaganda or demonstrations" on political issues should be stifled during the Games, or at any official Olympic competition or function. (IOC President Jacques Rogge's recent interpretation of that rule with regard to Beijing can be found here.)

You can argue this issue either way. But we expect -- and frankly sort of hope -- that not every athlete will feel squashed by Rule 51's constraints. In the rule's 50-year history, it has often been ignored. Political expressions have been made on Olympic soil as sacred as the medal stand -- see Tommy Smith and John Carlos, Mexico City, 1968, for just one example -- and the Games have managed to keep from collapsing on themselves. The IOC should be wary about waving the rule around any more than it already has.

In fact, those who argue that Olympism should maintain a wall between competition and politics are ignoring the role of politics in the Games through history. Just one example: At the 1948 St. Moritz Winter Games -- the first to take place after World War II canceled the 1940 Olympics that were to be held in, of all places, Sapporo, Japan -- athletes from Japan and Germany were flat-out barred from competition. How's that for a separation of politics and sport? We could go on, but plenty of other examples of nation state activity and Olympic repercussions can be found through a cursory scan of the history books.

Perhaps IOC execs in Lausanne bemoaning the mixing of Olympic medals and international malaise need to sit for a spell and consider their own part in this drama: They can't cower forever behind the shroud of assertions that "Beijing submitted the best bid!" Because everyone knows the awarding of the Games to China in 2001 was, ipso facto, a political statement by the Olympic movement. Squinting through the resulting blowback and expecting athletes to honor that choice, and refrain from responding to it, is both naive and hypocritical.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , International Olympic Committee , Olympic History , Olympic politics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 24, 2008 5:00 PM

Is there a nest of "moral cowards" at Microsoft?

Posted by Ron Judd

OK, now it's getting serious.

An activist group, Dream for Darfur, is officially targeting Olympic sponsors, including Microsoft, for snuggling up to China, saying they've failed to do their part to end fighting in Sudan.

Dream for Darfur names 16 companies, including General Electric, Coca-Cola and Microsoft, accusing all of "moral cowardice" for pumping money into the Beijing 2008 Games with little regard for China's role in the ongoing conflict in Darfur. China is a major investor in Sudan, and buys most of Sudan's exported oil. The country is oft-criticized for failing to use its economic influence to curtail bloodshed in western Darfur, where the United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced.

Dream for Darfur is the group headed by actress Mia Farrow, giving it media clout it otherwise likely wouldn't possess. It released a 100-page study that Farrow told the Associated Press is a "report card grading the companies' responsibility on humanity and on the ability to think outside the box on profitability, and to open minds to social responsibility."

The report, which examined all corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing Games themselves, says Eastman Kodak, Adidas and McDonalds have take adequate action, and won't be targeted. Kodak and Adidas, for example, earned "B's" on the report card because they wrote to the UN about Darfur.

Microsoft earned a "D-minus," placing it in a group with Johnson & Johnson, Lenovo Corp., Samsung and Visa -- companies that responded to group queries, but have failed to take what the group considers adequate action. Earning big, fat "F's" were corporate sponsors that failed to even respond to the group, including Staples, Anheuser-Busch, mining company BHP Billiton Ltd., Volkswagen and UPS.

All the companies, Dream for Darfur alleges, are "silently complicit in the Darfur genocide, thereby tarnishing the 2008 Beijing Olympics and their own sponsorships by their association with China's role in the ultimate crime against humanity." (A footnote to that statement says the group considers sponsors to be "secondarily complicit.")

The group vowed to protest corporate headquarters and urge a television boycott of the Games in August. Demonstrations are planned at "F" earning companies: Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta and in New York on Sunday, at Staples, Inc. in Boston on Sunday, the AP reports.

No word on protests of Microsoft. In the group's report, it concedes that two Microsoft executives met personally with Farrow in Redmond to address the issue. Subsequently, Microsoft, in a letter, detailed its many contributions to humanitarian relief efforts through the UN and other means, and ensured the group that the company's top leadership, including its board of directors, had carefully considered Microsoft's role in the Olympics.

In a separate, public statement issued last month, in the wake of the query, Microsoft noted that it sees the Olympics as a means to "transform global relationships, create unity and accelerate positive change in the world," and respects the IOC's decision to choose China as a host. The company notes that its role as a sponsor is as a software supplier and distributor of licensed Olympics coverage through its partnership with NBC. And then it states:

"Like people all around the world, we are shocked and horrified by the violence and human rights violations in Darfur. We commend Dream for Darfur and other organizations for their leadership in casting a spotlight on this atrocity and the need for immediate international resolution. Governments and international organizations -- the United Nations chief among them -- as well as humanitarian relief organizations -- will need to continue to work together locally and globally to address the problems in Sudan. Microsoft will continue to support these organizations in their mission through technology assistance and other resources."

That statement was branded "corporate doublespeak" in the report by Farrow's group -- apparently because it did not mention the Chinese role in Sudan specifically -- even though Microsoft was the only corporation to issue a public statement in response to questions about Darfur.

"While we appreciate the effort," Farrow's group says, "the resulting verbiage is a case study in playing it safe."

The group seemed careful to distinguish humanitarian work by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation -- which, it notes, contributed $5.3 million to refugee aid in Darfur and Chad -- from the company's separate corporate sponsorships.

"We continue to hope that Microsoft, because of its significant dealings with China and also because of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's interest in humanitarian issues, may yet emerge in a leadership role on this issue," the report states. "To date, however, Microsoft has done little."

Our take: Corporate boycott attempts may prove an effective tool for groups like Farrow's, whose cause is a just one. Good for her. Bring out the picket signs. But -- at the risk of sounding like a homer here -- let's get real. Does it not seem disingenuous to apply the "complicit" brand to a company like Microsoft, which not only sounds like it's on this groups side, but has been a relative model global citizen compared to other corporations on this group's hit list?

That's especially true when one considers the unparalleled work of the Gates Foundation, which is doing more, day to day, on a down-in-the-dirt level, to aid the world's neediest citizens than a thousand Mia Farrows could do in a lifetime.

Her group, to its credit, posts full responses from all the companies, including Microsoft, in its report. But little of that response -- and none from the Redmond company -- made it into wire-story summaries we've seen.

It illustrates the danger -- and potential irresponsibility -- of simplistic, "letter-grade" branding of corporations for their role in affairs as complex as these. Taking a public-relations sledgehammer to a major corporation that has the stones to publicly endorse your mission might turn the heads of those who fail to read the fine print. But it's not a very good way to effect change.

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic politics , Olympic sponsors |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 22, 2008 3:28 PM

At least one French guy will be at Beijing's Opening Ceremony

Posted by Ron Judd


If those rowdy demonstrations in Paris were any indication, a lot of French citizens aren't happy that the Olympics were handed to China.

But French business moguls? Not so much.

At least one of them, the head of "hypermarket" retail giant Carrefour, thinks the Chinese government is a perfectly fine organization, thank you very much (is this sounding familiar to any Americans?)

Yesterday, hoping to make nice after the Paris protests -- and threats of a retaliatory Chinese boycott of Carrefour's stores inside that country -- Carrefour planted a big smooch on the collective posterior of Chinese leadership, issuing not only a strong show of support for Beijing's Olympic effort, but also a condemnation of the radical idea of independence for Tibet.

The puckering up by Carrefour's CEO, Jose Luis Duran, came in a "special interview" granted to China's official news agency, Xinhua. He called any threatened boycotts of the Games or their ceremonies counterproductive, and vowed to be at the opening ceremony himself, according to Xinhua.

He also sought to squelch rumors that one or more major stockholders in Carrefour had donated money to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan religious leader, calling those reports "groundless lies."

China's Ministry of Commerce fell over itself relishing this giant suckage, saying it "welcomed these actions."

"We hope foreign-funded companies, including Carrefour, can do their utmost to provide quality services for Chinese consumers," an MOC official said in a statement.

Quid pro quo, no?

Carrefour happens to own 112 stores on the Chinese mainland. The company, according to the Chinese government, does nearly 30 billion yuan (about $4.3 billion U.S.) in annual sales in China -- 95 percent from products of Chinese manufacture.

Chinese citizens had threatened a 17-day boycott of Carrefour's stores during May -- a time period designed to mirror the period of the Olympics -- after the street-level mayhem accompanying the Olympic torch's visit to Paris. Hundreds of protestors carring Chinese flags and photos of the late Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong rallied outside a Carrefour store in Wuhan, in central Hubei province, last week, the Associated Press reported. And discontent was spreading to other Chinese cities.

Carrefour is the world's second largest mega-retailer, trailing only Wal-Mart, which is making its own aggressive efforts to expand into the lucrative Chinese market. Anyone want to speculate on Wal-Mart's stance on Chinese occupation of Tibet?

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Olympic politics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 20, 2008 8:00 AM

High times at the USOC

Posted by Ron Judd

Official Olympics Insider Proclamation:

April 20, 2008

Seattle, Wash.

WHEREAS many many of the nation's top athletes, particularly those in track-and-field, are under investigation for using performance-enhancing substances at past Olympic Games, and

WHEREAS the International Olympic Committee and other governing bodies of international sport, in spite of accelerated awareness and best intentions, still admittedly have no means to test for some of the more-prevalent performance-enhancers believed to be in rampant use today, and

WHEREAS any athlete willing to shoot said substances into the buttock region demonstrably could gain the extra speed/height/distance/time advantage to win an Olympic medal and

WHEREAS said Olympic medal could translate into millions of dollars (Canadian; tens of thousands, U.S.) in endorsement deals, and

WHEREAS various U.S. officials, including Peter Ueberroth, the Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, have boldly stood before hundreds of journalists and repeatedly proclaimed the U.S. squad being sent to Beijing to be "a clean team,"

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT, given all of the above, the following serious question really must be asked:

Are these people high?

Comments | Category: Beijing 2008 Games , Doping , IOC , Peter Ueberroth , Summer Games , United States Olympic Committee , Winter Games |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.