Sunday, August 31, 2008

Olympics #4: Blue

judge: (noun) a person appointed to decide in any competition, contest, or matter at issue; authorized arbiter.

Yes, I know it's been a week since the Olympics ended and I still haven't finished my Olympics blogs, but it's been a busy week, what with a new job and all. But I still want to finish this, so here goes...

In Beijing, it was mentioned several times about the judges being the ones in the blue jackets at the judging events (hence the "blue" relevancy). With any judged competition, there will be unhappy competitors, questions, challenges and downright disregard for how the judges award their points and who is the eventual winner. With the last Olympics, it feels a bit like this started right away.

Canadian gymnast Kyle Shewfelt competed on the first day of the Games and, as the defending gold medalist, carried some heavy expectations. But he failed to advance to the finals and both he and his coach questioned the judges. Right out of the gates, the judging was questioned. And it kept going throughout the games and not just with the Canadians.

Swedish wrestler Ara Abrahamian threw his bronze medal on the mat because he wasn't happy with the way his match was judged. He was later stripped of his medal for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Ivett Gonda (Canadian) was favoured to win a medal in taekwondo, but lost her first match and lodged a protest over the judging.

U.S. boxer Demitrius Andrade blamed the judges for his loss, saying he was landing plenty of punches. And as a result of judging during the Games, the International Boxing Association is investigating manipulation of bouts.

In women's gymnastics, silver-medalist Nastia Liukin (U.S.) and her father/coach were confused when she won the silver, despite tying for first with Chinese gymnast He Kexin; the Liukins blamed an Australian judge for being biased against Nastia.

There was judging controversy in fencing, dressage in equestrian, and shooting.

Even Fidel Castro weighed in, blaming corrupt judges for Cuba's poor showing at the Games.

Of course, this is nothing new. As long as winners are decided by other people and not the clock or the final score, there will be problems. I was discussing this with a friend and her opinion was that any judged sport should not be allowed in the Olympics because it can be corrupted and biased and unfair. Like any controversy - be it about doping, the age of gymnasts, CGI fireworks or judging - it gets me down because I'd like to believe the athletes, who have worked so hard to get to where they are, can win and lose on their own merits. I'd also like to believe that David Copperfield is a real magician.

As long as there are judged sports in the Olympics, there will be problems with the judging. Investigate and change rules and have meetings and do whatever makes you happy. When it's up to one group of people to pass judgment on another group, there will always be unhappy endings.

Up next: White - um, still working on this one.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympics #3: Yellow (a.k.a. gold)

great-est: (noun) a person who has achieved importance or distinction in a field.

Michael Phelps is a pretty great athlete. So great, in fact, that during the Olympics various media were running stories on Phelps being the greatest Olympic athlete ever and there were several online polls asking who was the greatest Olympic athlete.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no greatest Olympic athlete ever.

I'm not trying to take away from anything Michael Phelps has accomplished because he has accomplished quite a bit and he's worked hard to get where he is and he's earned it all. And when he came to these Olympics, his goal was to win eight gold medals, topping the seven won by Mark Spitz back in 1972. It took 36 years for an athlete to top this feat. In that time, things changed, as they happen to over 36 years. Better training regimes, better diets, better fitness programs, even better swimsuits all contribute to creating an athlete good enough to top Spitz's performance. But it took 36 years. By saying Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic athlete ever is to take away from what Mark Spitz accomplished. And, really, is Michael better than Nadia or Mary-Lou? Is he better than Carl Lewis or Donovan Bailey? Is he better than Ian Thorpe or Dara Torres? And there are so many more...

While I don't think he's the greatest Olympic athlete ever, I do think he is the greatest Olympic athlete of his generation. And he will continue to be a great athlete and he will compete again in London in 2012, but who knows when the next "greatest" thing will come along and suddenly nine gold medals at one Games becomes the new standard.

Michael Phelps did (and will do) great things. He's fun to watch. He made history. And he deserves his accolades. But there will be others who will also deserve accolades when they accomplish great things. Why do we need to take away from Michael Phelps (or Mark Spitz or Nadia Comeneci or Carl Lewis) by calling the next person "the greatest ever"?

Up next: blue - of judges, judging and being judged

Friday, August 22, 2008

Olympics #2: Red

pride: (noun) something that causes a person or persons to be proud.

For those of you who know me on Facebook, my opinions (read: status updates) of the Canadian Olympic team during the first week were rather blunt; mainly, I wasn't impressed. My biggest issue came in swimming, with numerous Canadian swimmers posting national records while consistently finishing sixth, seventh, eighth or even out of the finals. And my thoughts on this go two ways.

First, why are we sending athletes who really can't seem to compete internationally at this level? Second, why aren't our athletes good enough to compete and win internationally at this level?

I must say at this point that I am a firm believer in sponsoring amateur athletics and I always cheer for the red 'n' white at all international competitions. (Except when it's professional athletes competing in amateur competitions, but that's another post.) I want to see Canada do well. I want to see us win. I want to hear our anthem but I also want to see the silver and bronze medalists smiling and waving. (Of course, I'll still cheer on the fourth place finishes, but really, I want hardware dammit!)

So why is Canada sending athletes that don't seem to match up? The simple answer is because they qualify, during whichever trials/meets/tournaments/competitions for their sport count towards getting them to the Games. And I really can't argue with that. To say that Canada isn't good enough to go to the Olympics in certain sports is to say that only the top ten should go, rather than the top 50. And that would likely cut out many athletes and their respective countries and that would negate the spirit of international competition.

I guess the bigger issue (okay, I know the bigger issue) is why aren't we that good? Where is our Michael Phelps? Is it commitment? Is it talent? Is it coaching? Is it facilities? Or is it that wonderful F-word: funding? In honour of the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Canada has instituted the Own the Podium program, aimed at getting our Winter athletes on the podium. Why do we need to host the Games to care about doing well? The response to this question is the Road to Excellence program, which started in 2006, even though Own the Podium started in 2005.

While both initiatives aim to help develop our amateur athletes, it seems we really only care about 2010 in Vancouver. As the host nation, of course we should care, but as a country we should care every time we send athletes to compete and we should continue to care about and support and fund our athletes for every Games we plan on attending. We have the talent. We have the commitment. We have the coaching. We have more than hockey to be proud of.

So, here's to Tonya Verbeek, Carol Huynh, Simon Whitfield, Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, Karine Sergerie, Ryan Cochrane, Melanie Kok, Tracy Cameron, Ian Brambell, John Beare, Mike Lewis, Liam Parsons, David Calder, Scott Frandsen, Kevin Light, Ben Rutledge, Andrew Byrnes, Jake Wetzel, Malcolm Howard, Dominic Seiterle, Adam Kreek, Kyle Hamilton, Brian Price, Karen Cockburn, Jason Burnett, Eric Lamaze, Mac Cone, Jill Henselwood, Ian Millar, Emilie Heymans, Alexandre Despatie and Thomas Hall for being do damned awesome and running up that medal count.


***An interesting note: at the time of this post, Canada has 17 medals and is in 17th place. However, we are behind Romania (who is tied for 14th place). Romania only has eight medals but four are gold. Canada has three gold medals. It saddens me a little that it's apparently gold or bust.***

Up next: Yellow (a.k.a. gold) - Michael Phelps

One more thing...

post-script: (noun) any addition or supplement, as one appended by a writer to a book to supply further information.

I just wanted to add a further comment to my previous post, about the Olympics and the idea of "fudging" the truth.

There has been a lot of controversy over the age of He Kexin, the Chinese gymnast who wowed everyone with her skill and won two gold medals, which has been going on pretty much since the start of the Games. Documentation confirming her age has been challenged and China as a country as pretty much been called a cheater in hiding her real age. I wanted to wait until the outcome of this before commenting, but regardless of what the official ruling is, I think this entire saga is a black mark against the IOC.

I am more than amazed at how lazy the IOC has been in firmly and strongly stating their position on this issue. Whether or not He Kexin is underage seems to be a moot point now; the bigger issue is why did the IOC let this carry on for so long?

The motto of the Olympics is Higher, Faster, Stronger. From the beginning, the IOC has tried (weakly) to say He is of age. To me, they should have taken the HIGHER road and addressed this issue when it first arose. Then the committee should have been FASTER in making their conclusions known. Finally, they should have been STRONGER in sticking with their conclusion. One can make as many arguments as one pleases, about cheating and denying the rightful winners the chance to hear their anthem and be all political and what-have-you.

As a huge fan of the Olympics, I want to stand by the decision (whatever it may be) of the IOC and not the allegations of some (computer expert) blogger. But right now I feel a great disappointment in the International Olympics Committee for not addressing this issue thoroughly and properly when it first arose. This is not just about the Americans being bumped from silver to gold. It is about a young athlete being called into question, an entire country being accused of cheating and an international athletics competition being demeaned and devalued.

When was China's Olympic team announced? Why weren't all ages confirmed then? Why has this been allowed to drag on? This makes no sense to me and should not have been allowed to happen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympics #1: Black

O-lym-pic Games: (pl. noun) A group of modern international athletic contests held as separate winter and summer competitions every four years in a different city. In 1994 the winter games were moved ahead two years so that the winter and summer games would alternate every two years. Also called Olympics.

I love the Olympics. If I had it my way, there would be Olympic games every other month or so. But since that will never happen, I will have to settle for every two year (as I'm both a Summer Games and Winter Games junkie).

And of course, things have happened during the Games and of course, I've got a few thoughts on these things. So I've decided to devote a five blog mini-series (one blog entry per ring) to the 2008 Summer Olympics.

il-lu-sion: (noun) something that deceives by producing a false or misleading impression of reality.

Usually the biggest black mark against any Olympic Games is the threat of steroids and other drug use. Now, it's really at the point where we're more surprised when fewer people are caught. But I have to say I was a little disappointed in the black marks that have arisen against the Opening Ceremonies.

The Opening Ceremonies were absolutely stunning, no question about that. The thing that got me was that some of the fireworks were pre-recorded and enhanced and the little girl who sang was actually lip-synching to the voice of another girl who wasn't pretty enough. I think the Games lose a bit of their integrity if we can't even get through the Opening Ceremonies without performance enhancement.

Up next: Red - my thoughts on Canada's team

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's big news I tell ya

awe-some: (adjective) Slang: very impressive.

Eeep. I've been rather tardy of late. My excuse is vacation. I was in good ol' Parry Sound last week and it was lovely. I had originally planned to blog while I was up there but days were spent at the beach and evenings were spent watching the Olympics and drinking wine with Mom. Much too fun to pass up for silly old blogging.

But I'm back now and I've got news. Big news. Awesome news. Super-dee-duper-tastic news.

I start my new job with Chatelaine on August 26.

It still really hasn't sunk in and I almost don't believe it, but it's true. Li'l ol' me at Chatelaine. How cool is that?!?!?!!??!?! Aah. Things are pretty good right about now.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part

ex-pec-ta-tions: (noun) the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.

I have some. Big ones actually. For tomorrow. For better or for worse. And I'm nervous. And worried. And anxious. So I'm pretty much just being me. But tomorrow is where it's at. So we'll see what happens.

*deep breath*

Saturday, August 2, 2008

On age

age: (noun) a period of human life, measured by years from birth, usually marked by a certain stage or degree of mental or physical development and involving legal responsibility and capacity.

I was at Second Cup today and while buying my latte picked up a voucher/flyer/thingy to do an online survey and win things.

When I had completed the survey, I had to select my age and immediately went for the "18-24" choice. I had to actually stop and think about how old I am. I'm 28. Sigh.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Of money and happiness

pri-or-i-ty: (adjective) highest or higher in importance, rank, privilege, etc.

I've noticed something interesting lately. My mom and I talk about my job/work/career path regularly and she is constantly trying to get me to enter the public sector. (Aside: my mom works for the federal government.) She thinks I should gun for the government - provincial or federal - because the money is generally pretty good. So I've looked, just to see what's available and if there is anything that interests me. Thing is, pretty much all the government jobs I find I'm qualified for fall within the "administrative" category.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with working in an administrative capacity. This doesn't always mean you're stuck answering phones and ordering Post-It notes. Depending on the job and the part of government, an admin job could be interesting and fulfilling and enjoyable. And, being government, much better paying than private sector. Thing is, though, I've made choices in post-secondary schooling that would hopefully allow me to find a career in an industry I love, doing something I love, and (ideally) making a good paycheque. Based on my schooling, I have decided that publishing is where I want to be. I love books and magazines and reading and words and all the stuff that goes into getting those words onto those pages that we can read. And I want to work in this world.

Of course, I did happen to choose an industry that can pay rather lower than one would wish, but I've done okay thus far finding gainful (enough) employment. And I continue to look and I am trying - really I am! - to get to a place where I can start to really build my career. My mom, though, wants what any mother wants for her child: a job that pays oodles. I would love to make some of those government admin salaries I see on the job boards, but only if said salary is attached to a job I really want to be doing.

And there lies the difference between my mother and I, at least where our respective careers are concerned. My mom has done her time in the workforce, she has had her share of jobs around raising two children and she is now at a place where she wants security and a steady paycheque that will (hopefully) increase year after year. I, on the other hand, am really just starting out and I'm still looking for that place where I can build a career. Maybe I'll never find that company I can spend 30 years at (does anyone even do that any more?) but at least I have found an industry I want to spend the next 30+ years working in. Even if that means working for less than my mother would like.

The trouble comes when I try to explain to my mom why I don't want that admin job with the province. I've worked too many jobs that make me miserable to be willing to risk continued misery for more money. She just wants to see me do well. Sometimes, doing well can't be measured by how much you take home each month.