Aug 22 2016

The Olympics

Published by at 10:34 pm under Misc


For the last couple of weeks, the Olympics have been a daily staple of my TV watching. With all the NBC channels showing some portion of the games at different times, there was always some sport going on on one of the channels, whenever I switched on the TV. And I quickly realized that it didn’t have to be one of the traditionally favorite sports like gymnastics, tennis or track & field either. Even when I saw sports like wrestling, fencing or sailing that I knew little about, it was easy to quickly pick a favorite and then follow their progress with interest.

Of course, the bulk of my watching happened during the 8pm primetime slot, which is when NBC showed the most important sporting events of the day. The coverage left a lot to be desired. There was understandably a lot of focus on American athletes, which let to almost all coverage being devoted to events where American athletes participated. And the stories about these athletes that preceded the event coverage were at the level of the stories presented by Vijay TV on the participants in its reality shows with a lot of manipulative sentiments. But the most frustrating part of the daily telecast was that it was delayed which meant that we knew the results long before we started watching them on TV. So the element of suspense was missing.

Still it was amazing to watch the feats performed by the athletes. Whether it was Phelps adding to his already astounding medal tally, Ledecky dominating to such an extent that she seemed to be the only one in the pool, Simone executing her routines with incredible grace or Bolt winning his races with ease and showmanship, the games were filled with many moments that made us admire the talent, dedication and achievements of these gifted athletes.

It was always exciting to spot an Indian athlete even if it was usually only in the preliminary rounds. I saw some of them in swimming and track and field though the only sport I was really following India’s progress in was badminton, thanks to my daughter playing the sport and Saina’s high ranking making her a solid medal hope. I certainly wasn’t following wrestling and it was a pleasant surprise to read about Sakshi opening our medal tally. And Dipa made us proud in gymnastics qualifying for the finals and performing a difficult vault to place 4th. Things didn’t look good in badminton with Saina losing early but Sindhu surprised me by making steady progress. She really raised hopes when she beat Wang Yihan, the 2nd ranked player to enter the semifinals. The first match I saw live was Sindhu’s semifinals match against Japan’s Nozomi and I was amazed by her aggression and athletic ability. She was in great form as she won quite easily, winning 11 straight points to win the 2nd game 21-10 after being tied at 10-10. Unfazed by her opponent’s no. 1 ranking, Sindhu fought well to win the first game in the finals too. But a pumped-up Marin dominated the next two games to win the gold and Sindhu earned the silver medal. It was certainly a proud moment seeing her stand on the podium with the silver medal hanging around her neck.

The euphoria surrounding our 2 medals and the performances of these athletes helped us end the Olympics on a high and the athletes are being honored well by our government. But other news reports like our partying officials and a long distance runner fainting since the stations to give her water and energy drinks were unmanned by our officials, point to the lack of support our sports persons get even when attending prestigious events like the Olympics. One wonders if the situation will improve enough to increase our medal tally in the 2020 games in Tokyo.

With the games finally done, its time to catch up on the movies I missed the last couple of weeks…

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “The Olympics”

  1. Prakash says:

    Like you, I was turned off by the coverage, so I ended up watching only a few minutes here & there.

    I was following the badminton matches closely, but didn’t get to watch any of it. I had a chance to watch Sindhu’s final, but I usually have trouble watching matches where I’m strongly rooting for a player/team, so I stayed away.

    While everybody is celebrating Sindhu’s show, please also spare a thought for our other badminton champ, Saina. 26 is old age in badminton, so I’m not sure how many more good years she has left. Be interesting to see whether Sindhu uses this as a springboard or if she ends up as a mercurial player. If she can stay injury free, and if she has that always-on drive that Saina’s had for years, she’ll be top-3 consistently for a few years, will win major championships (Saina hasn’t done that yet) and can even hit #1. She is so lanky and has a great attacking game (unlike Saina, who is very well rounded but defensive).

  2. Harish says:

    I believe there were a lot of positive stories than meets the eye. The folks that decry “disappointment” ought to be asked to go there and do it themselves. Lalita Babar did great by getting in the top-10. There were two marathon runners that had personal best at 2:15 (that most people can only dream of and I know of serious runners that finish just over 3 hours).

    This comparison of “too far away from their personal best” in the media just irritates me. Isn’t that why it is a PR :) (Lalita got the flak too after finishing 9:22 after doing the heats in 9:19!). It doesn’t account for the environment they are in and the comparison of them to the others who were off too. For the record, Usain bolt was off too from his PR. Does that mean he under-performed?

    I think two things need to happen in India. A) The media needs to start highlighting positive stories even if it did not end up in a medal (Dipa was a aberration in coverage, not the norm). B) From the little stats I was able to collect, it seems that if you are more than 2-5% off from a World record (depending on the multitude of factors. 100m has to be within 2%!), there is probably no reasonable chance of a medal. I hope our coaches start prepping our athletes with the mindset of beating the world record, not just giving their best. As far as field events are concerned, I think athletes should stop complaining about facilities and just focus on.

  3. Harish says:

    Of course, I forgot to mention though… Sindhu did great… so much that our thalaivar is her fan now… so we don’t have a choice but to be her fan as well. Goes with association :).

  4. Nikitha says:

    I read somewhere that the number one olympics search term in India after Sindhu’s win was “Sindhu caste”.

    India uruppadadhu :)

  5. Balaji says:

    Prakash, definitely won’t forget Saina. Bad luck that she bowed out early due to the injury. Hope she comes back strong.

    Harish, the problem is that all these media stories about these sports happen once in 4 years! Then news about these get buried under the news about cricket until the next Olympics when we start expecting miracles from our under-prepared athletes.

    Nikitha, that story about the ‘Sindhu caste’ search term turned out to be false. The reporter apologized for it too. So inum hope irukku :)