If anyone has been watching the Beijing Olympics, I'm sure they'll agree that this year's Olympics games has had more drama than all the seasons of Desperate Housewives combined.
Watching the Olympics on NBC definitely gives the games a more American flavor--namely, Michael Phelps and Misty May + Kerri Walsh (and endless commercials!!!). For the entire first week and a half, NBC showed nothing but programming of a half-naked Phelps, and the even more scantily clad duo of May & Walsh. Olympics invites thousands of athletes from all over the globe, but NBC made it feel like only three athletes were competing. Everything else was just filler before Phelps swam at the Water Cube, or beach volleyball at Chao Yang Park. Even so, Phelps ensured that everyone stayed glued to his/her television sets, as he out touched his rivals by 0.001 seconds to win gold, and continue his quest for 8 golds. Chinese people have it right, 8 is the lucky number, not 7. Why else do you think the Olympics started on 8.8.08 at 8:08pm?
I was cheering Phelps on until I screamed myself hoarse. His eight gold medals are nearly a third of the US total gold medal haul. Without him, maybe China would have had a chance to top the medal stands and ascend to the pinnacle of sporting superpower.
With the games held in Beijing, it is only natural for the China v.s. USA competitions to be fierce and widely promoted. The United States, who has long dominated the sporting world and won the favor of judges, has lost a little ground. For the first time in a long time, the United States has gotten the short end of the stick in some of the USA v.s. China competitions (or so says NBC commentators).
Women gymnastics between China and the USA has be fierce even before the games began. Rumors circulated around that 5 out of the 6 gymnasts on the Chinese team were underage. NBC couldn't emphasize enough how short the Chinese girls were, how young the girls looked, and how obvious that they were underage. Seriously, when you are under 5 foot tall, it's difficult to look exactly old and mature. In addition, the age eligibility rule really has no place in such a sport. If you limit the age to be 16 for gymnastics, then I see no reason why Tom Daley (14) should be allowed to compete in diving either. Jumping off a 10m platform isn't exactly safe either! China has produced official documents that has satisfied the IOC and the FIG. Whether you believe the Chinese gymnasts are underage or not is now irrelevant, so quit whining and just watch them perform.
The team competition began with USA and China going toe to toe, with China pulling ahead after the uneven bars after superb performances by He Kexin, Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan. Then Cheng Fei proceeded to fall off the balance beam, a 0.8 mandatory deduction. In an instant, the lead put up by China after two rotations was gone, and if the USA held it together, they would be favorites going into the last rotation on floor exercise with two world champions on floor in their arsenal. However, just as soon as Cheng Fei lost the lead for China, Alicia Sacramone's beam mount/fall gave the lead back. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson kept it close with strong performances on beam to pressure China into the final rotation.
However, by qualifying first, China had the luxury to watch the US perform first on floor, and boy did the USA deliver. Alicia fell twice; Nastia and Shawn both stepped out of bounds, and Bela Karolyi was going ballistic. China won with strong, solid performances by Cheng Fei, Deng Linlin, and Jiang Yuyuan. I think I forgot how to breath during the entire competition.
Speaking of Bela Karolyi, I have come to hate that man. His arrogance and vicious accusations make it laughable when NBC interviews him and use him as the scapegoat to talk smack about China. According to Bela, everything China did was unfair, the judges incompetent, and everyone is biased in favor of China. Bob Costas (NBC host) simply just nods in agreement, though you know he wants to say more.
Just as the team competition was thrilling, the real drama started with the apparatus finals. The vault competition was punctuated with a fall by Cheng Fei (three time reigning World Champion on this apparatus) on her own maneuver (the Cheng Fei vault). Even so, her A score was a 6.5 and she outscored Alica Sacramone to secure a bronze medal. Bela Karolyi was outraged, calling the judges unfair and stupid. His argument was that because the FIG tried to eliminate favoritism from judges by not allowing any of them to come from the same country as the competitors, they have no idea what they are doing. He, and other the other NBC commentators, pointed out especially that the South African, New Zealand judges come from a country with no gymnastics medalists, and therefore has no idea how to judge routines. Ummmm....you really can't have it both ways Bela.....if they had a Chinese judge in the group, I'm sure you would have said it was favoritism that helped Cheng Fei win. Sore loser.
Then it got even more interesting in the uneven bars, as He Kexin and Nastia Liukin battled it out. Both girls received a 16.725 but Liukin was ranked second. Liukin, after her routine, looked especially confused as she asked her dad why she was ranked second even though she got the same score as Kexin? Papa Liukin had difficulty doing the math as well, as he furrowed his brow in bemusement while listening to Martha Karolyi's explanation in Russian-English. It's rather simple, from a math point of view. See Link
Once again, NBC commentators said they would have scored Liukin's routine much higher had they been judging. If anyone had been listening to their comments, then all the American gymnasts would have gotten 16's and everyone else a 0 from all the deductions from leg separations, missteps on landings, and blah blah blah blah blah. Just put a sock in it. I thought Bela Karolyi would have had a coronary after this result but Bela is still at it....."He Kexin is underage, incompetent judging from Australia who is so so behind in terms of civilization that you would think he/she still lived in a cave and danced around a bush, stupid tiebreak rule, Chinese bias, dumb computer system, etc."
And to top it all, China versus USA in baseball got more physical than a boxing match. Two Americans players came barreling down the plates at top speed before tackling the Chinese catchers. The Americans aren't exactly pixies and having a 200lb man tackle you is a lot of F = ma. The Chinese paid back the favor by throwing a pitch at the American hitter's head. According to NBC, the American hitter has a slight concussion but made no mention on the injuries of the Chinese players (who is suffering from a torn ligament and in need of reconstructive surgery). No bias at all, cough cough. Watch the fights here
P.S I'm not the only one hating Bela Karolyi. See Washington Post's sports columnists rant on Bela:
Hate: Bela Karoly. The now silver-haired Godfather of Olympic gymnastics is a camera-hogging crybaby, constantly moaning about the judging, and always when it involves the U.S. team. He was in full Bela-bluster in the NBC studio over the "rip off" that cost American Alicia Sacramone a bronze in the vault, but she clearly took it with a lot more sportsmanship than he did. Last week, he also whined about underage Chinese gymnasts winning the team gold over the U.S., and he may well have been right, but it surely smacked of Ugly Romanian/American sour grapes. And gymnastics play-by-play man Al Trautwig just plain talks too much, though we did love his use of "fahrklempt," a Yiddish expression (roughly translated as being choked up with emotion) to describe one of the competitors, surely an Olympic first.