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2012 Summer Olympics, London(Stay away if you want to remain unspoiled.)


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#136 bart

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Posted 15 August 2012 - 10:14 AM

Here's a link to an informative interview with Elanore Franklin, one of the ballet dancers who participated in Christopher Wheeldon's big number at the closing ceremonies.

Rebecca King, a dancer with Miami City Ballet, has been turning Tendus Under a Palm Tree into a serious journalistic publication. It's a dancer's blog, but it's become much more.

Franklin joined the dozens of dancers, most of them non-professional (and therefore not paid), who rehearsed weekends under arduous conditions and had to deal with problems like torrents of rain, a stage that raked to the side, and lycra tights that caused feet to slide around inside the point shoes.

It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at one of the "biggest" ballet stories of all times. (Even bigger than Excelsior !!!)

http://tendusunderap...g-ceremony.html

#137 Helene

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 02:34 AM

The cycling has been poetry in motion. I just wish I understood the rules.

Congratulations to the British Men's sprint team and Victoria Pendleton for their gold medals.

I'm now up to 8 August (Day 12, I think) on the taped coverage, and I've had a great time watching track cycling. The British team had an awe-inspiring Olympics on the track.

Just the basics:

Track bikes are single gear -- the rider chooses a gear from among the acceptable sizes -- the rider can only pedal in one direction, and the bikes have no brakes. That's why someone has to hold the back of the bike so that they don't fall over, and why races start with at least one lap of getting up to speed.

Pursuit. In Pursuit, two riders or teams start the race at opposite sides of the middle of the straightaway of the track. It's mostly a time trial -- the fastest time wins -- with the added twist that over the course of the multi-lap race, a rider/team beats the opponent if the ride team catches the opponent. After all of the eliminations, the top two ride for silver and the next two rider for bronze. Individual pursuit was removed as individual event this Olympics and was added to the Omnium.

In team pursuit, time is counted from when the third member of the three- or four-member team crosses the finish line, and the team members work together (hopefully) to fulfill a strategy. They "draft" each other, and, usually, because the person in front has to work harder to fight wind resistance, they trade-off that top position, and they ride at the bottom of the track until they need to cross the finish line, because the inner circle has the shortest distance. (At the end two riders go wide, and try to cross at the fastest pace, since it's the third rider's time that counts) . However, because only three scores count, they can "sacrifice" one team member who is expected to tire by having that rider spend more time at the front and sometimes to set a very fast pace for the team. (The risk is that if another member crashes or burns out, that the third rider's time will be very slow or the rider won't finish.)

Great Britain won the Men's (Clancy, Thomas, Burke, Kennaugh) and Women's (King, Trott, Rowsell) Team Pursuit.

Keirin. This is a group race in which a motorized bike leads the (individual) competitors around the track single file for a set number of laps, gradually increasing the speed, and then drops off, and the racers jockey for position, based on their strategy for the last few laps, which is the race. The riders start in a random position. (It was invented as a gambling sport.) First one over the line who doesn't get eliminated for infractions wins; there are rules about not running the other cyclist off the track, how close they can come to each other, what it means to cut someone off illegally. It's a lot like long distance track races in terms of jockeying for position, leading vs. having a kick, trying to avoid getting boxed in vs. trying to box in an opponent, having to go wide to get around the group, but 1. It's a lot faster and 2. The track is steeply banked.

Victoria Pendleton won the Women's Keirin, and Chris Hoy won the Men's Keirin.

Sprint. Sprint is head-to-head competition. Two riders or teams (of two for women and three for men) compete at a time, best two-of-three races. In the qualifications, the winners go on, and the losers get a second chance to qualify against each other in repechages, like in rowing.

There's a draw to determine who has to lead the first race (and the third, if necessary). The leader gets dibs on the inside "lane" of the track (which is quite narrow), and the other rider is not allowed in that space. The first lap or two the riders stalk each other, usually at a snail's pace, although sometimes the strategy is to take off quickly and hope that the other rider can't react in time. The race within the race starts at the bell lap, and the winner is the first one over the finish line. In general, the idea is to beat the other person while expending the least amount of energy -- they race a lot without that much recovery time -- which is why you'll often see one rider ease up in the last stretch when s/he realizes that s/he can't win.

Victoria Pendleton won silver in the Women's Sprint. Great Britain won the Men's (Hindes, Hoy, Kenny) Team Sprint, and Jason Kenny won the Men's Sprint. There was a controversy because the governing body of cycling said that only one rider from each team could enter, and there was a lot of criticism that the British team chose Kenny over Chris Hoy, the defending Olympic champion, based on Kenny's and Hoy's results this year. Luckily, Kenny proved them right. Women's Team Sprint was the only cycling event in which GB didn't medal.

Omnium. I'd never see it before these Olympics, and found it fascinating. It's made of six events, half of them timed events, and half group strategy events. It's a bit like the heptathlon or decathlon, demanding different skills or the same skills in different distances. Relatively, the timed events are like the 100m, 200m, and maybe the 1500m in track. Unlike the decathlon and heptathlon, where the athletes are given points based on time or distance, and where the 1st and 2nd place athlete in one event can be few or hundreds of points apart, based on how well or badly they did, in Omnium, points are awarded like ordinals: the first place rider gets 1 point and the second place rider gets 2 points, whether No. 1 was .01 of a second or 2 minutes ahead of No. 2. The rider with the lowest number of points wins.

The three strategy races are intense. In the long points race, there are a lot of laps, and every ten or so laps, a rider can earn event points either by crossing the designated finish line in the top four (5, 3, 2,1 points earned) or by sprinting ahead and catching the main pack, which gets them 20 points. The riders are ranked by how many points they've earned, with the winner (most points), getting the least points towards the Omnium total.

In the elimination race, the last rider in the pack after every set number of laps is eliminated and leaves the race; they have lights on their handlebars that the officials activate once they've been eliminated. The first one to cross the finish line against the only remaining competitor at the end wins the race.

The scratch race is like a road race -- everyone sets off for a fixed number of laps, and the first one over the line wins.

At the end, they add up the points, and the rider with the fewest points wins. Like with the heptathlon and decathlon, different riders have different strengths, and it takes a few events before the true contenders shake out.

Edward Clancy won bronze in the Men's Omnium, and Laura Trott won the Women's Omnium. She was first in three segments, second in two, and third in one, just edging out Sarah Hammer by one point.

I think the greatest athletes in the Olympics are the horses. The sheer number of different skills and level of difficulty for eventing is amazing. Compare them to track and field. Humans practice for years jumping the exact same hurdles the exact same distance apart. Equestrian jumping courses are different every time. The numerous jumps are different hights, different widths, and made of varied materials. They add all kinds of visuals to distract them, and....the horses see the course for the first time in the competion! Not to mention they also do dressage, very complicated "dancing" which has no relation to what a horse does naturally. I am in awe.

It was great to hear Nancy Wetmore's commentating on the CTV et. al. coverage: she spoke more about the horses than the riders.

I taped hours and hours, but I don't remember seeing any coverage of dressage.

#138 JMcN

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 05:28 AM

Thanks Helene. Currently watching The Team GB Victory parade through London live on TV. What a joyous occasion. The atmosphere on the route must be absolutely amazing - ginormous cheering crowds.

#139 Mashinka

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 06:16 AM

As a Londoner I am wondering if I will see any reduction in my Council Tax next year as we Londoners have been paying for the Olympics for the last seven years; however I won’t hold my breath.

The Olympics have been used by the British government as nothing more than a propaganda tool to take the minds of the populace off the pressing issues of the day, the term ‘bread and circuses’ springs to mind here. The blanket reporting of the Olympics, especially on TV has meant the burying of bad news on both the home and international front.

Reality did raise its head at the Paralympics though when the P.M. and the Chancellor together with Jeremy Hunt (until recently Minister of Culture) were vigorously booed. For many people, myself included, the stand-out moment of the entire games.

#140 dirac

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Posted 10 September 2012 - 09:46 PM

Reality did raise its head at the Paralympics though when the P.M. and the Chancellor together with Jeremy Hunt (until recently Minister of Culture) were vigorously booed. For many people, myself included, the stand-out moment of the entire games.


Thanks, Mashinka. I understand their heads are bloody but unbowed. It's going to be a pleasant winter.

One of the supporting players in the Queen's Bond video, Monty the corgi, has died at age 13.

#141 Helene

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 12:50 AM

Vancouverites feel your pain, Mashinka. I had a great time at the Olympics, but I would never have chosen to have them in a city in which I lived.

VANOC's way of mitigating risk was to transfer it to the City of Vancouver, which has been on the hook for the Olympic Village.

Among the worst impacts was that the City invited tens of thousands of people into Vancouver to celebrate on game 7 of the Stanley Cup play-offs, because the Olympics allegedly showed that Vancouver was a mature city, conveniently forgetting the half billion spent on Olympic security. The result was a riot and millions of dollars in damage.

#142 Mashinka

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 04:02 AM

Vancouverites feel your pain, Mashinka. I had a great time at the Olympics, but I would never have chosen to have them in a city in which I lived.

VANOC's way of mitigating risk was to transfer it to the City of Vancouver, which has been on the hook for the Olympic Village.

Among the worst impacts was that the City invited tens of thousands of people into Vancouver to celebrate on game 7 of the Stanley Cup play-offs, because the Olympics allegedly showed that Vancouver was a mature city, conveniently forgetting the half billion spent on Olympic security. The result was a riot and millions of dollars in damage.


Am I right in thinking it took the Canadians decades to pay for their games? The Olympics helped to bankrupt Greece. Eventually we will get to hear the true cost to London in real terms. Many Londoners, myself included, simply left the city to avoid the predicted crush, but it didn't happen as too many people were put off by the inflated prices being charged and shops, hotels etc found their takings actually went down in what is usually the height of the tourist season.

#143 sandik

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:17 AM

I'm now up to 8 August (Day 12, I think) on the taped coverage, and I've had a great time watching track cycling. The British team had an awe-inspiring Olympics on the track.

Just the basics:

Track bikes are single gear -- the rider chooses a gear from among the acceptable sizes -- the rider can only pedal in one direction, and the bikes have no brakes. That's why someone has to hold the back of the bike so that they don't fall over, and why races start with at least one lap of getting up to speed.
....
Edward Clancy won bronze in the Men's Omnium, and Laura Trott won the Women's Omnium. She was first in three segments, second in two, and third in one, just edging out Sarah Hammer by one point.


Golly -- I now know much, much more than I did -- many thanks!

#144 sandik

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 07:31 AM

I was in London for the beginning of the Paralympics, and though I know what a strain preparations have been for the city, I have to say that the games seems to bind people (locals and tourists) together in a way that I rarely see. The jumbo screen at Trafalgar Square was a brilliant focal point (and so were the table tennis tables scattered around the city!) and the cadre of volunteers were cheerful and patient -- we asked all kinds of questions, both game related and otherwise, and they were unfailingly helpful. But I think the best example of that was the gentleman who was manning a booth outside the British Library -- they had one of the torches from the Olympic Flame relay, and would take your picture holding the torch. Around here, I am chagrined to say, they likely would have charged a fee for the opportunity, even if you used your own camera, but there it was free. When I asked him what events in the games he'd seen, he said that he hadn't been to any of the events -- he had chosen to spend his time as a volunteer. They were selling some vintage postcards and special Olympics stamps, that they would run through a special Olympics postmark -- I was thrilled to send some to friends at home.

We were very impressed with the coverage of the Opening Ceremony, and indeed with all the attention put on the Paralympics -- I know that it has a certain 'bread and circuses' vibe, but compared to the parsimonious and short-sighted presentation (or lack of it) in the US, the attention and respect shown to a part of the population that is often dismissed and overlooked was very heartening. I can be as cynical as the next person about the standard "triumphing over adversity" story, but this was very special. Whatever costs London has incured hosting these games, and I imagine they are close to staggering, you can be very proud of their outcome.

And seated volleyball? Woah!

#145 Helene

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Posted 11 September 2012 - 09:44 AM

Am I right in thinking it took the Canadians decades to pay for their games? The Olympics helped to bankrupt Greece. Eventually we will get to hear the true cost to London in real terms. Many Londoners, myself included, simply left the city to avoid the predicted crush, but it didn't happen as too many people were put off by the inflated prices being charged and shops, hotels etc found their takings actually went down in what is usually the height of the tourist season.

The Montreal games from 1976 are still regularly referenced as a financial disaster for the city and a warning about the follies of bidding. Still, the standard civic pride and debunked-but-still-potent arguments about how much tourism $$$ will bring into the economy -- usually a transfer of other money -- take over, and cities are still stupid enough to bid. I never underestimate the allure of being a big macher during a six-year project that brings constant, world-wide attention, especially for a summer games.

Winter Games tend to be less expensive by comparison, mostly because the mountains and snow cover almost all of the alpine, cross-country, and extreme skiing events except the ski jumps, and there's usually at least some rink availability for figure skating, hockey, and speed skating. The major venues that need to be built are usually for sledding, curling, and snowboarding, with the latter considered a plus for resort towns, and the former a plus if it turns into a national training center, like the speedskating venue in Calgary. Because of that center, the speed skating venue just south of Vancouver, in Richmond, was converted into a much-needed community rec center. In Sochi, the venues for curling, skating, and maybe hockey are temporary and will be moved to other parts of the country once the Olympics are over, and the oligarchs will have their resort back.

The Olympic Village is the big elephant in the room, especially with the expansion into extreme sports. In cities there's usually some lip service to providing public housing (directly or indirectly) and/or urban renewal. In Vancouver, a private developer thought it would be a grand idea to build the Village as luxury condos in a low density area, especially with a prime stop on the new Canada Line (light rail to the airport), which made sense when when the Olympics were awarded. After the housing bubble burst and the inevitable world financial crisis happened, the developer was ready to walk away, and VANOC got the city to "save" the Olympics.

What I find most hair-tearing is that in Vancouver, for example, there were four major infrastructure investments: expanding the Sea-to-Sky highway from Vancouver to Whistler, the Canada Line light rail to the airport -- which was at most number three on the light rail priority list until the Olympics, although it has has much higher ridership than expected -- fortifying BC Hydro infrastructure, and communications upgrades. The Olympics cost multiple times more than funding them directly, but there was no civic will to raise the money to do so. Unless a China or Russia makes an Olympics a national agenda -- British Columbia would get more respect from Ottawa (read: Toronto) if it were Hong Kong -- I suspect it's the same for most bidding cities.


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