One of the oddities of the American presidential cycle is that it coincides with the cycle of modern Olympic Games. As a consequence, every four years, political junkies like myself, who have by this point all but od-ed on polls and feverish speculation, are compelled to take a break for several weeks and watch superbly conditioned young men and women do manifestly impossible things. This year, the Games also coincide with my post-operative regime, which consists of giving myself three different kinds of eye drops at five minute intervals four times a day. I relieve the tedium of the eye drops by lying on my bed and watching snatches of the Olympics through drop-blurred, but now glasses-free eyes.
Herewith, some idle reflections prompted by the endless broadcasts of the London Games.
First of all, even though I am seventy-eight and a reasonably attentive spectator of the passing scene, there always turn out to be events whose existence I was not even aware of. It reminds me of a letter I wrote home from college in 1950 as a first semester Freshman. I told my father, excitedly, that I had just learned of something called Sociology, which I had never known existed. [My father replied indignantly that he had most certainly informed me of the existence of Sociology. He may have been right.] This cycle, it is synchronized diving. I had no idea that there was a sport called "synchronized diving." Watching two young Chinese women do a complicated manoeuvre off the thirty meter board in perfect synchronization reminds me of other extraordinary things people can learn to do with enough practice [I have that same sense of wonder when I watch Alfred Brendel play a Beethoven sonata.]
The system employed for keeping track of the number of medals won by each country is clearly defective, although as I quite well know from my study of Utility Theory, there is really nothing to be done about it. I mean, anyone can see that two Golds, four Silvers, and four Bronzes is not as good as eight Golds and two silvers, but both count as ten medals, making the countries with those scores tied in the overall tally.
I think it was unfair to boot eight women badminton players from the Games for deliberately throwing games. They were acting strategically, attempting to avoid being eliminated by the Chinese team before getting to the medal rounds. Why is this not the equivalent of sacrificing a piece in chess, or laying down a sacrifice bunt to move a runner into scoring position?
Generally speaking, I am not Anglophiliac by inclination, but I really had to rethink my position after seeing the Opening Ceremony tribute to the National Health Service.
The US basketball team should have to play with only four men on the court at a time. I mean, give everyone else a chance!
Beach Volleyball is not a competitive sport. Correctly understood, it is a pre-coital mating ritual. Bringing in sand to London to play volleyball is as absurd as bringing in grass to Dubai to play golf.