Monday, July 26, 2021

An Entirely Unusual Experience

The Olympic Games began, and no one seems to care... except, perhaps, for the Japanese people who are protesting outside the venues.  Their country is hosting an international super-spreader event and they are peeved.  Akio  Toyoda refused to attend the opening ceremonies even though he's CEO of Toyota, the major investor in the games.  That was probably a smart move, given that masking was sporadic and vaccination uncertain.  I'm not sure about Japanese politics, but Toyoda's absence made a statement that even I could understand.

The Opening Ceremonies were in stark contrast to the Chinese games'.  Instead of masses of humanity beating drums in sync, there were shapes and lines and solitary dancers exercising in white bloomers while colored lights played on the arena.  It was artful and somewhat interesting but we turned it off when the camera focused on a person on a treadmill.... for a very long time..... until s/he fell off and lay in a hump.

It wasn't a ball or a reclining figure - it was a hump.

The US gymnasts and swimmers stayed away - standing for hours among possible vectors for the disease the day before their events were contested seemed like the smarter move.  The swimmers gathered for their own ceremony, locking arms in a giant circle and singing the national anthem.  It was a wobbly circle and  the voices were somewhat off-key - it was nothing less than reminiscent of color war at summer camp, and in that, it was heartwarming and welcoming and a sweet way to start off a weird Olympics.

It's on the television all day long.  We watched archery. Robin Hood would be perplexed by these bows and arrows, although the targets look just the same as the ones he shot at against Matt of Sliwa in the movie.

We watched the men's 8's and 4's and the women's 8's - that's rowing for the uninitiated.  These are not multiple scoring events, yet the  long pull and glide across flat water was oddly mesmerizing and exciting.  We found ourselves rowing along with them, wondering if one arm was bigger than the other since it was doing most of the work.

These are the thoughts one has when sports slips from the front of the brain into the mush in the middle.  We were brought back to reality when the commentator began to describe the role of each pair of athletes - strength, guidance, technique are equally divided between them.  

I spent some time wondering what my life would have been like had I known that small people with loud voices are perfect coxswains.

There was shooting, with rifles too heavy for the contestants to hold for longer than it took to aim and fire.  One round was all I could stomach; we switched channels and watched tall, fit women in skimpy bikinis play beach volleyball.  It was more fun to see them dancing across the hot sand than it was to have the end of a rifle pointed at my face

Women's handball.  Volleyball for both boys and girls.  Fencing. A road race that went on forever, and was repeated on every channel.  The American men's gymnastics.  The camera angles were odd, the announcers odder still.  Arcane points of order, incomprehensible scoring, competitions between Norway and Korea - we watched it all.  It's the background as I'm cooking, as we're Facetiming with the kiddos, while we're talking to Queen T and Big Cuter for an hour.

There's nothing that demands our full attention - perhaps Simone Biles will do that for us.  Not even the swimming could hold my interest for long; 400 meters is a long time to watch unidentified bodies move through a pool.

It's the production values that have suffered the most.  There is a blond woman with a British accent who shows up from time to time to tell us what we'll be seeing next.  Mike Tirico stands on a deserted patio in front of  perfectly placed bonsai trees on perfectly spaced tables and teases us with what's to come. Mary Carillo was there, subdued and not funny at all.  There are no personal profiles of athletes training in the far corners of the world.  There are videos of watch parties back in the States, there are after event Thanks, Mom! interviews, but not much more up close and personal stories than you'd find in the evening news.

Big Cuter likes the sports and dislikes the human interest pieces; I'm sure he's happier with this scaled down version.  I, on the other hand, miss the spectacle.  I miss the roar of the fans; the empty stadiums are creepy and seem to overpower the athletes.  The void is overwhelming.

It's an odd event in an odd time in our odd little world right now.   


  1. I have never been drawn to any kind of televised sports -- perhaps rebellion against the forced diet of them in my childhood -- so this year's is not different from me.

    1. I came to televised sports when TBG took control of the remote.

  2. I'm watching a lot of the Olympics too. They were background while I cleaned house today. I have gotten over the lack of spectators. It is enough to focus on the faces and bodies of the athletes. It is, and should be, about them.

    1. I'm finding heroes in the most unlikely places - a 17 year old from Alaska, a surfer, a fencer.... the athletes make it happen.


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