My favorite example of handling the loyal audience/new audience divide badly is when NBC decided they wanted to get more women to watch the Olympics, and thus large swaths of their prime-time Olympics coverage were devoted to documentary-style features about the hardships that the athletes had overcome — a seemingly endless cavalcade of relatives with cancer, or car accidents, or brutal injuries, or their dogs getting sick, or the Starbucks barista getting their drink order wrong — suddenly, every athlete’s life was like a country-western song. And the usual audience for the Olympics asked, with greater levels of irritation, “Hey, weren’t we supposed to be watching some actual athletic competitions? Wasn’t some skier supposed to be falling down a mountain by now?”
Jim Geraghty, “Spreading Our Ideas in the Era of Drug-Dealer Journalism”, National Review, 2013-04-29
April 29, 2013
March 23, 2013
It might seem a little odd for me to post an item about a hockey player retiring — given the overall lack of hockey coverage you might find on the blog — but we actually have a connection here: Cherie is Elizabeth’s god-daughter.
One of Scarborough’s most decorated Olympians is set to call it a career.
Cherie Piper, an Albert Campbell Collegiate grad who helped Canada win three Olympic gold medals in women’s hockey, announced her retirement from competitive hockey prior to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) regular season finale which her longtime club team, the Brampton Thunder, won 7-0 over the Toronto Furies.
[. . .]
Her tally for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics was 10 points (five goals, five assists) in five games — fifth on the team.
At the 2006 Turin Olympics, her seven goals and eights assists was good enough for second place amongst all point-getters and tied for tops for goals.
She is in the top-10 all-time scorers for the Canadian women’s team.
Photo by Julie Jacobson
February 2, 2013
January 29, 2013
Just when you think the depths of idiocy have been fully plumbed, there’s the International Olympic Committee to prove you wrong:
Via the IPKat we learn that the IOC has already locked down next year in preparation for the Winter Olympics. No, seriously. A trademark on the number “2014,” which non-coincidentally happens to be a (lesser) Olympic year, has been granted by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office.
The IPKat’s attention has been drawn to Community Trade Mark E3307444. The mark in question consists of the number “2014″, which no-one would ever imagine to be the appellation by which next year might just be known. Applied for in 2003 and registered in 2005, this mark is owned by none other than the Comité International Olympique of Château de Vidy, Lausanne.
So, with the kind of efficiency you only find in the most brutal of trademark bullies, the IOC has trademarked a number many people were planning to use starting next January, nine years in advance. And the IOC isn’t leaving anything to chance. It has staked a claim on all 45 of the possible registration classes, including (but good god, certainly not limited to) chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals/alloys, machines, tools, scientific equipment, surgical instruments, lighting, heating, vehicles, firearms, musical instruments, furniture, ropes, tarps, string, textiles, toys, coffee, fresh fruits and vegetables, beer, other alcoholic beverages, tobacco, insurance, conferences and seminars, design and development of computer programs, restaurant services, asbestos and security.
Anything and everything possibly covered by a registered trademark has been nailed down by the Committee, making it very possible that anyone using the number “2014″ in the year 2014 might find themselves dealing with the IOC’s trademark cops.
January 18, 2013
At sp!ked, Tim Black reviews Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong, by David Walsh:
And so, in the aftermath of his Oprah-atic confession, bound to neither sate the critics nor elate the devout, the infernal humiliation of one-time cyclist Lance Armstrong continues.
The kicking and pelting began in earnest in August last year, when the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles following his failure to challenge their numerous doping charges. The USADA then followed that up in October with a voluminous, damning report, complete with gruesome testimonies from Armstrong’s one-time confidantes and teammates. By this point, even the International Cycling Union (UCI), which had long sided with Armstrong, had given up the defence to join in the lynching. ‘Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling’, exclaimed UCI president Pat McQuaid. ‘Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling.’
As sporting officialdom condemned, large swathes of the media spat. Gossipy stories of Armstrong’s bullying, his lying, his alleged sociopathology were published without nuance; op-eds assassinating Armstrong’s character, inflating his wrongs to Biblical proportions, were rushed off without perspective. On a man once lionised by millions, whose fame had for years been wrapped yellow around the wrists of those who admired him, open season had been declared. All the hunt lacked was a sighting of the quarry himself. And then this week, that finally happened — in the interview with Oprah Winfrey. Caught and unavoidably contrite, Armstrong acted out the role of the doping sportsman. Yes, he was saying, I am everything that the Dopefinder Generals say I am: I am that witch.
December 11, 2012
Cam Cole explains why Christine Sinclair deserves all the accolades that are being awarded:
So what was it about Sinclair that allowed her to win the Lou Marsh on Monday, having led the Canadian women’s soccer team to a mere bronze medal?
Well, one thing the 29-year-old striker from Burnaby did — has done for years, but did most profoundly at the London Olympics — was lead a women’s sport to a place, in her country, above the men’s equivalent.
It’s no coincidence that she is the first soccer player in the 76-year history of the award to win the Lou Marsh.
[. . .]
Fortunately, in Canada, our standards are not so narrow. We don’t consider it much of a negative for a captain of our national squad — who is superior in every other way, who is unselfish and rises to the occasion and doesn’t roll around on the turf as if felled by sniper fire every time she is touched by an opponent — to express our national rage when her team, our team, has just been jobbed.
Overwhelmingly, Canadians were glad Sinclair went off on the referee, with the able assistance of her even more combustible teammate, Melissa Tancredi.
Overwhelmingly, after an incident that in normal circumstances might have been a national embarrassment, the country rallied around Sinclair, and her fellow Olympians chose her to carry Canada’s flag in the closing ceremony.
After a bronze medal? Yup.
August 14, 2012
Brendan O’Neill says that the London Olympics were far more politicized than the Beijing games in 2008:
From the flurry of fanboy commentary that followed Danny Boyle’s am-dram opening ceremony to the insistence that the Games represented the coming to fruition of the post-Diana dream of a new, less stuffy Britain, the urge to politicise the Games has been intense. That the political classes have sought so shamelessly to usher in ‘another kind of Britain’ on the back of the Games speaks volumes about their desperate need for a new national narrative, and their disillusionment with the democratic route to social overhaul.
Normally we frown upon elites that heap their political obsessions on to mass sporting events. We think of Hitler turning the Berlin Games into an advert for Aryan superiority (a vision shot down by Jesse Owens) or of the Beijing opening ceremony’s thousands of fantastically coordinated drummers and boastful history lesson, described by one British hack last week as ‘crypto-fascist’. And yet, Britain’s ostensibly liberal observers thought nothing of turning 2012 into an advert for their own allegedly superior way of life and thinking.
The tone was set by Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt, who described Boyle’s opening ceremony as the ‘march past’ — that is, victory parade — of his side in the Culture Wars. The ceremony was proof, said Hunt, that ‘the left took victory in the Culture Wars’, and moreover that a New Britain was being born: if the Queen’s Jubilee celebrated a ‘staid and nostalgic national identity’, this ceremony ‘offered an attractively contradictory, complicated, and above all creative conception of these Isles of Wonder’.
There has since been a concerted effort to turn the ‘bonkers’ opening ceremony into a new national narrative. Somewhat defensively, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland insists that it is ‘not just Guardian types’ who are exalting in the new political vision provided by both the ceremony and the multicultural message of the Games that followed — the whole nation is, apparently, recognising that ‘we have glimpsed another kind of Britain’, and that we should ‘love the country we have become — informal, mixed, quirky — rather than the one we used to be… reactionary’.
August 9, 2012
Now that we’ve all had a bit of time to calm down about the awful officiating in the Canada vs USA women’s soccer game, Cam Cole explains why FIFA should penalize the Canadian team for their intemperate comments:
On a magnificently warm, sunny Wednesday at the pristine playing fields of Warwick University, all was forgiven if not forgotten by the Canadian women.
Word spread quickly that FIFA, the sports governing body, had determined that its investigation into the bitter post-game remarks by the losing side needed more time and … well, had basically decided to bury the whole thing and maybe one day suspend the star of Canada’s team, Burnaby’s Christine Sinclair, at some future date — like for a couple of friendlies she hadn’t planned to play anyway.
To say coach John Herdman was relieved to have his best player available for Thursday’s bronze medal match against France — to say nothing of the thunder to Sinclair’s lightning, the equally vocal Melissa Tancredi — is a considerable understatement.
[. . .]
And let’s face it, the Canadians were out of order by almost any sport’s standards in the volume and toxicity of their remarks about the Norwegian referee.
If they had merely said she was blind as a platypus and ought to be carrying a white cane and have a guide dog to help her navigate the field, they’d have been well within the bounds of fair comment.
It was when Sinclair accused Pedersen of having decided the result before the first ball was kicked, and when Tancredi suggested that the referee slept in Team USA jammies, that matters crossed the line from acceptable criticism to slander.
Ineptitude is one thing, bias quite another.
So FIFA took matters under advisement, and launched the kind of thorough investigation that Claude Rains launched when Humphrey Bogart shot the German general at the end of Casablanca.
Of course, I must point out that Cole is absolutely wrong here: it was Major Strasser who was shot, not a German general.
August 3, 2012
Scott Page and Simon Wilkie contend that the real responsibility for four badminton pairs being tossed out of the London Olympics should fall on the tournament organizers, not the players or their coaches:
Why though did teams try to lose? And specifically, why four teams? The answer lies in the organization of the Olympic tournament and provides an illustration of the importance of a field of economics known as mechanism design.
Here’s how the Olympics set up the tournament. In the “round robin” phase, the 16 teams were divided into four pools, each team playing all three other teams in its pool. The top two finishers in each pool would then advance to a playoff.
After pool play, the tournament becomes single elimination (also known as “win or go home,” with the lone exception that the semi-final losers would compete for the bronze medal). This single elimination portion would pit the winner of one pool against the runner-up in another pool. The winners and runners up were matched up in such a way that no two teams from the same pool would play in the first round.
The best teams advance, and by coming in first in your division, you play a runner up from another pool — an expected weaker team in the knockout round of eight. Not only does this make sense, it’s a tried and tested institution that has stood the test of time, from little league to the FIFA World Cup.
They offer some alternatives to the existing tournament format that might work better. On the players themselves, I see the point that Page and Wilkie are making, but I still agree with the BWF decision to sanction the players. For that matter, I’d support my local badminton club in this kind of decision in a local tournament. To have gotten away with what these teams attempted to do, they’d at least have to pretend to be seriously playing. I’ve seen better acting by seven-year-olds.
August 1, 2012
It’s not a sport that generally attracts a lot of attention during the Olympics, but several Badminton players are accused of deliberately losing games to secure better match-ups in the elimination round:
China’s Olympic sports delegation has begun an investigation into allegations two badminton players “deliberately lost” their match, state media say.
Doubles players Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli are among eight players charged by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) with “not using one’s best efforts to win”.
Four players from South Korea and two from Indonesia have also been charged.
Some of the players said they were saving energy. Reports say they wanted to lose to secure an easier draw.
It may not be a technical violation of the rules to “take it easy” in a non-critical game, but it does sound as if these particular players didn’t even bother to make it look like they were competing.
The match between the top-seeded Chinese duo and South Koreans Jung Kyung-eun and Kim Ha-na came under scrutiny after the longest rally in their game lasted four shots.
Match referee Thorsten Berg came on court at one point to warn the players, who also appeared to make deliberate errors.
Both pairs were already through to the quarter-finals.
The Chinese duo lost, meaning — Xinhua noted — that if both Chinese pairs continue to do well, they will not meet until the final.
IOC brings out the ban hammer:
EIGHT female badminton players have been sent home from the Olympics, disqualified by the sport’s world federation after throwing matches in a case condemned by London Games boss Sebastian Coe as “depressing” and “unacceptable”.
A disciplinary hearing held this morning, which Australia’s badminton coach made a submission to, found that four players from South Korea, two from Indonesia and the competition’s top seeds from China deliberately tried to lose their qualifying matches in an attempt to manipulate their draws.
The four sets of doubles teams were charged after matches on Tuesday littered with basic errors. Accused by badminton’s international governing body of “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport”, they were ultimately found guilty of trying to lose with the motive of improving their positions for the knockout stages.
The spectators who attended the matches on Tuesday night will not be offered refunds by the London organizers, according to the BBC:
No refund will be offered tospectators at badminton “no contest” last nightsay Locog #london2012
— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) August 1, 2012
Seb Coe on Badminton: “depressing, who wants to sit through something like that?” but IOC/Locog say no refund on tix #London2012
— Cassell Bryan-Low (@CassellBryanLow) August 1, 2012
Update, the second: I couldn’t find any actual footage of the match in question until CTV posted it (not embeddable, unfortunately). It’s amazingly bad. The audience absolutely deserve a full refund.
July 31, 2012
The Olympics are a giant exercise in sports socialism — or crony capitalism, if you prefer — where the profits are privatized and the costs socialized. The games never pay for themselves because they are designed not to. That’s because the International Olympic Committee (an opaque “nongovernmental” bureaucracy made up of fat cats from various countries) pockets most of the revenue from sponsorships and media rights (allegedly to promote global sports), requiring the host country to pay the bulk of the costs. Among the very few times the games haven’t left a city swimming in red ink was after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, when voters, having learned from Montreal’s experience, barred the use of public funds, forcing the IOC to use existing facilities and pick up most of the tab for new ones.
Even that’s far from fair. If anything, the Olympics should be compensating the host city for the hassle and inconvenience, not the other way around. The only reason they don’t is because the Cold War once stirred retrograde nationalistic passions, blinding the world to the ass-backwardness of the existing arrangement. Londoners are signaling that this can’t go on.
Brendan O’Neill on the dangers of dissenting from the cult of tolerance:
Did you enjoy the Olympics opening ceremony? If you didn’t, it’s probably wise to keep it to yourself. After all, you don’t want to end up like Tory MP Aidan Burley, who has been denounced as “reprehensible”, “offensive” and even “incompatible with modern Britain” — wow — for having the temerity to tweet that he thought the ceremony was “leftie multicultural crap”. There is a profound irony at work here. The ceremony celebrated the openness and diversity of modern Britain and has been hailed as a wonderful spectacle of “inclusion”. Yet it seems our celebration of diversity does not extend to allowing any criticism of the ceremony itself; our inclusiveness does not mean we will include dissenting views on Danny Boyle’s vision of the New Britain. When it comes to the opening ceremony, you must conform and celebrate, or risk being cast out (of polite society).
The opening ceremony is speedily morphing into another “Diana moment”, into another instance when everyone is expected to kowtow before a new, unstuffy vision of Britain, and heaven help those who don’t. Following the death of Princess Diana, we were told that we had entered a post-traditional, emotionally-aware New Britain, and yet the expression of certain emotions — such as criticism of the cult of public mourning outside the various royal palaces — was frowned upon and censured.
July 29, 2012
I don’t want to turn the blog into an exercise in mocking the major international sporting event being held in a major English city, but this report from the Guardian can’t be missed:
Soldiers have been drafted in to fill empty seats at the London 2012 Olympics after prime blocks of seating at the Aquatics Centre and gymnastics arena went unused on the first day of competition.
Troops were despatched to the North Greenwich Arena this morning by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), to take up seats left empty by accredited officials from Olympic and sporting federations, as well as some sponsors and members of the media. More troops, many of whom had their leave cancelled to provide emergency cover after the organisers failed to find enough security guards, will be issued with last-minute invites to take seats in venues when blocks of seats are found to be empty, the games organisers said this morning.
The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Saturday the empty seats were “very disappointing” and suggested they could be offered to members of the public. He said the matter was being looked at “very urgently”.
I guess giving the seats to members of the public would be too much of a security risk?
Billy Gallagher at TechCrunch explains why he’s recommending viewers not watch NBC:
Spoiler alert: Phelps and Lochte raced today. The results are all over Twitter. But the race won’t air on TV in America until tonight.
This is 2012, not 1996. NBC has put all of the events live online, provided you have a cable subscription, but won’t have them available recorded online and won’t air many events, including the most high-profile ones, until a primetime tape delay.
This isn’t a new strategy, just a dumb, outdated one.
This isn’t just the first social Olympics; it’s the first Olympics where we can see in real time the dysfunction of the broadcast monopoly
— Michael Roston (@michaelroston) July 28, 2012
Sums it up pretty well. We’ve already covered the failings of NBC (and the IOC) fairly extensively, but its a topic that bears repeating. Check out #nbcfail for a live (gasp, what’s that?) stream of people’s frustrations with the peacock network.
Stephen Bayley – Founder of the Design Museum – gives the Olympics merchandise a critical mauling.
In ‘Rule Britannia: The Vice Guide to The Olympics’ VICE takes an in-depth look at the British public’s reaction to The Games coming to London this summer and the negative impact it’s having on certain people’s lives.
The six week festival promises to bring a a celebration of unity and sporting achievement, not to mention a huge cash injection to our beleaguered capital. VICE questions the real effects of The Games on a city as complex and tempestuous as London and discovers that they go much deeper, and murkier than the Olympics’ media spin-machine would have us believe.
H/T to Nick Packwood for the link.