Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Adventures of an Armchair Athlete

Ever since 08.08.08, I'm pretty sure the overall productivity of the world has dropped slightly, as millions take time out to watch the various events of the Beijing Olympics progressing day by day. I know I've been glued to the TV whenever I have spare time, following the fortunes of a number of athletes in a variety of sports. Nail-biting stuff.

Did you watch that opening ceremony at the Birds Nest stadium in Beijing? Wow, wasn't that just awesome in scale, grandeur and artistry? So much planning must have gone into choreographing the various sequences depicting the great inventions the Middle Kingdom contributed to mankind: paper, printing, the compass and gunpowder. Also for me, the "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" style lighting of the Olympic cauldron was comparable to my previous favourite which was that archer who shot the flaming arrow to light the cauldron at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

As a Malaysian residing and working in Singapore, I was particularly interested in the two sports of badminton and table tennis, which the two countries had the best chances for an Olympic medal. As it turned out, both Singapore's women's table tennis team, comprising Feng Tianwei, Wang Yue Gu and Li Jia Wei, and Malaysia's badminton champion Lee Chong Wei made it to the finals, in both cases against China. Alas, they didn't manage to overcome their Chinese competitors, and both Singapore and Malaysia had to settle for the Silver medal. Still, it was a tremendous achievement for both countries. It was Singapore's first Olympic medal after 48 years (the only other time was for weightlifting in Rome, 1960), and 12 years for Malaysia (the previous silver & bronze medals also for badminton at Atlanta, 1996).

I was also very keen on the swimming events. Geez, that Michael Phelps (USA) must be super-human. Attaining a single gold medal is a lifelong dream for most athletes, but EIGHT ??? And most of the wins are also in world record times. Really must find out what this chap eats for breakfast.

Language-wise, through these games, the entire world would have learnt at least one Chinese phrase. That phrase obviously is jia you (literally meaning "add oil" and loosely translated to "Come on!" or "Give your best!"), almost a constant chant by the Chinese crowds in the various stadiums, as they egg their national heroes on.

Ahh, the Olympic spirit is alive and well. What a wonderful forum for the the best athletes from around the globe to pit their talents against each other in friendly competition - striving to attain excellence, as exemplified in the Olympic motto citius altius fortius, which means "faster, higher, stronger"

There's been a lot of discussion about keeping politics and the Olympics separate. All that protesting about Tibet and alleged human rights abuses and boycotting of the Beijing Olympics ... I think you can't really separate politics from anything, much less a high-visibility event like the Olympics. Humans are by nature political animals, so why bother? In fact, why not combine politics with the games in a more productive way? The idealist in me frequently questions why can't all international disputes be resolved in a game rather than with armed conflict? You know, through basketball or badminton rather than bombs and bullets.

There's about a week left in the Beijing Olympics, and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself. For the rest of the games and especially the closing ceremony, let's hope everything proceeds as perfectly as it has so far. I kinda pity those on the London Olympics 2012 organizing committee. What do you do to top a performance like that in Beijing? Hmm, possible thoughts for a future blog ...


Anonymous said...

Russia dominates women's tennis. yeah!

durian said...

The UK hosting the 2012 games will have to compete by changing the game. We shall see how innovative they can get as they would have to do so without the sums of money China has put into it.

Anonymous said...

it's "jia you"

James Yong said...

Oops, just shows the standard of my Mandarin :-( Error has been duly corrected, thanks to Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to China for winning the most Gold Medals out of all competing countries !!!