Thursday, September 18, 2008

Watching the Olympics from a Different Point of View

I know that the Olympics are past us at this point, but I just want to make a few comments about watching the games from a different vantage point.

I must also note that I LOVE the Olympics. The national pride, the spirit of competition, the triumph of the individual, it all makes me weepy.

There was a great deal of buildup to the Beijing games and there were certain advantages about being two hours off the time zone vs. the 15-18 hour time difference the US experienced.

However, I don’t really know how we fared at the games. Frankly, I didn’t hear much about the US athletes other than the fact that Michael Phelps is amazing and our Olympic runners can’t hand off a baton.

Other than that, it was all about the Australians. But really, what could I expect?

Occasionally, Eric and I would spot an American flag in the background, or a person outfitted in a US uniform, but there would be no mention of this person. If an Aussie took bronze, the camera never lifted from that persons face.

They apparently don’t have the total coverage that we have in the US…gone are the background human interest stories that I so love. I think we were just supposed to “know” about these athletes. I now feel as if I do. The fever continues here. There was a parade downtown yesterday to welcome home the Victorian athletes and the medal winners are still present on every local TV program. The magazine covers are filled with photographs of the athletes and even the reality programs are getting in on the act with Stephanie Rice appearing on “Make me a Supermodel”.

We garnered as much information as we could from the internet regarding the standings of the US athletes, but we also understood the focus on the Olympians of our host country. The only mar on the events was the reaction to the senseless shooting of the Bachman's. Rather than it being about some lunatic harming two people, the initial take was that it was anti-American sentiment and the news reports encouraged athletes to wear their Australian colors when out in public.

Australians LOVE sport, the value it highly, and they are very very proud of their Olympic athletes.
It doesn’t really matter what sport an Olympian is competing in, it will be covered and watched. The TV coverage would leave the venerated gymnastics program to show the sport of “equestrian dressage” simply because an Aussie was competing. I didn’t even know that there were horses in the Olympics, or sailing, or fast walking...

The United States took home the most medals, but that is not how the rest of the world does the ranking. We never saw a statistic that put the US in the number 1 position. China took home the most gold medals and so they ranked themselves first…but Australia does a ranking by a different number. They rank medals per capita. So…if one does the math, Australia ranks higher than either the US or China in medals. (USA, by the way is #45)

This doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons, but when in a room with a bunch of Aussies, that point is hardly worth debating.

Go Athletes!

In case you are curious about who is number 1 in medals......


otrey3 said...

It's so much fun to read about your Olympic experience! We still talk about them. You should see the Michael Phelps Diet on the SNL site. It's pretty funny. We still watch the opening ceremonies on the NBC site:,page=9.htmx (middle of the page)

Where is that baby?

AKS said...

It appears that I will not win the date competition for the baby as today (in Australia) was the due date I voted for. I was trying to think positive for you...

I honestly didn't watch much of the Olympics due to primarily my personal feelings on China being selected as the host country. I understand that many felt that not watching the Olympics for that reason was punishing the atheltes, but it was something I just couldn't get past.

However, I share in your experience of watching the Olympics in foreign countries. It is a very different experience. It feels so "wrong" being in a country where they are, at times, cheering against your home country. Like being the sole Viking fan in a stadium full of Packer fans.