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Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth.

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

Every four years, the world gets together to anxiously watch a competition that some find fascinating, others don’t care about but can’t seem to escape, and still others just find weird.

No, I’m not talking about the American Presidential election. Although now that you mention it …

Olympic games actually take place every two years, since they separated the summer and winter games. That makes sense – for all intents they’re two entirely different events. For instance, you could try curling on a hot August day, but without ice that game would just sink like a stone.

Many people are startled to learn I follow the Olympics, after often and loudly proclaimed my hatred of sports. Maybe I’m just a fan of big events in general: The only sports I watch annually are the Superbowl (where I schedule breaks so I can see the commercials) and the Indianapolis 500. If I wasn’t a Hoosier and thus required to care by state law, I might not be watching one car race a year, either.

When I was a kid every family holiday gathering involved a football game, which is how I learned to always have a book with me.

And yet I like the Olympics, and the truth is I don’t hate sports (except for basketball); I just don’t care one way or another. You explain to me why I should, and I’ll explain to you why you should be watching Fringe.

During the Olympics we watch many sports that we don’t even realize exist the other three years. The exception is that I don’t watch Olympics basketball, yet I can’t seem to escape basketball at any time. Have the playoffs started interfering with the pre-season games, yet?

The highlight of this entire Olympics – granted that they aren’t over yet – had to have been during the opening ceremony. For those who didn’t watch it, a film shows the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, getting out of a car at Buckingham Palace in London. He’s escorted through the place, then shown through a door. And there James Bond stands, waiting on the Queen of England to finish the letter she’s writing.

Like most people, I thought, “I wonder who they got to play the Queen?” She’s what, 86? Certainly not an actor, Queen Elizabeth leads a private life when she’s not appearing before millions of people.

Then she turns around, and it’s actually her. From clear over here in the colonies, you could hear all of Britain roaring its approval as Her Majesty got up and led James Bond back through the castle. We were treated to a bemused look from Craig, who must have been thinking, “Here I am, playing a fictional character escorting the real Queen of England; what a world.”

The two get on a helicopter, parachute out over the Olympic stadium, and then, in what I assume is a fun bit of trick timing, the Queen is introduced live as she takes her seat. Knowing that woman, maybe it wasn’t trick timing.

I don’t care how jaded you are, that was cool.

The rest of the games so far haven’t been able to match that moment, but not for lack of trying:

In the first six days of competition six world records were set in swimming alone. It’s just a matter of time before Missy Franklin arrives at the stadium, only to discover she’s already won.

Also doing well this year was one of Great Britain’s rowing team, Mark Hunter. I don’t usually follow rowing, but for some reason I’ve been interested; I just like the guy’s name.

The first Olympic sport I ever followed was women’s gymnastics, after falling madly in love as a teenager with first Nadia Comaneci, then Mary Lou Retton. But did they answer my letters? Cancel the restraining orders? Noooooo …

Today I’m still left speechless by the abilities of kids who have got to rank among the best all-around athletes of any sport. They may not be able to take a hit like a footballer, but I’ll bet a footballer can’t do a back spring-half flip-head touching knees spin into a round-off backward somersault – then land on a four inch wide beam.

I’m patriotic enough to be happy about America’s women’s team winning the gymnastics gold for the first time since 1996. Then there was the all-around gold medal, clinched in style by the bubbly Gabby Douglas, nicknamed “The Flying Squirrel” even though squirrels aren’t as flexible and can’t get enough hang time.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was that nobody stressed out about Douglas being the first black gymnast to win the all-around. She’d forgotten that herself, until somebody pointed it out to her, and that’s the way race relations should be: Unnoticed. (In an ironic bit of what could be called reverse discrimination, I had trouble telling some of her teammates apart. Or is that age?)

The final attention grabber I wanted to mention was during an interview with Caroline Lind, just after her rowing team won the gold. When asked if she felt they’d clinched it before the race ended, she said, “You never know what can happen in a boat race. You can catch crabs, anything.”

My wife looked at me and said, “Did she just say catch crabs?”

We rewound it three times. Yep. That’s what she said. And I can see how that would take your mind off rowing, especially if you caught them during the race.

A trip to Google cleared it up: “catching crabs” is a term for when you don’t dig your oar into the water just right, throwing off your rhythm and slowing the boat. Honestly, I think it’s time they considering looking for a new expression. It’s as if being thrown off by a loud crowd was called “getting the clap”.

I guess all I can do is watch until the time comes that something I can excel at is introduced as an Olympic sport. Say … Olympic Home Repair Injuries?

Sponsored by Band-Aid.

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
vovat
Aug. 9th, 2012 04:11 am (UTC)
I learned the term "catching crabs" from The Annotated Alice.
ozma914
Aug. 9th, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
I seem to recall reading that term way back then and not knowing what it meant in any context. Guess it's time for me to read Alice again, and see what else I didn't pick up on!
lynnylou
Aug. 9th, 2012 06:19 am (UTC)
I watch the Olympic once is a while but when I was a kid a was glued to tv, but back them I used to watch tons of sports. As I have gotten older I really don't watch sports at all. Since don't have cable or an antenna I haven't watch much this year expect at work when the tv was on.
ozma914
Aug. 9th, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
Not to give away my age, but as a kid I watched whatever happened to be on one of the three channels we got! These days I have 70 channels, and probably have the TV on less often than I did back then ...
kazzy_cee
Aug. 9th, 2012 07:06 am (UTC)
I loved that bit of the opening ceremony too :). Actually over here you don't have to watch any sport as the highlights are on Twitter, the radio and most if the TV stations, on the newspaper stands and pretty much every overheard conversation on public transport! I rather like this as I know I would get nothing done if I actually turned on and watched live *g*
ozma914
Aug. 9th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
I've stopped watching for the most part, simply because I've been too busy and was getting too far behind ... but it certainly isn't hard to keep up on what's going on!
curiouswombat
Aug. 9th, 2012 07:27 am (UTC)
I happily sit and watch all sorts of sports I wouldn't usually as well. We have 3 BBC channels showing different sports more or less 24/7, as well as a separate digital channel for every single sport that is happening at any one time, and so sometimes I can be totally spoilt for choice over just which 'odd' sport to watch!

I loved the Queen's part in the opening, too. The other high spot (apart from much of the opening sequence seeming to be based on Lord of the Rings...) was the wonderful rendition of Abide With Me and the tribute to the armed forces and those who had died in terrorist attacks; but I gather NBC didn't think it was particularly relevant and cut it out, which was a great shame.

(There is a strong link in the minds of the British between these Olympics and terrorism, as the announcement was made that London had been awarded the games on 6th July 2005, and the city was rejoicing about it when the bomb attacks occurred on 7th July.)
ozma914
Aug. 9th, 2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
On some parts of the day here NBC is carrying the Olympics on three different channels, including MSNBC, their 24 hour news station. Since I despise MSNBC, that suits me just fine! Last time I checked in it was beach volleyball, water polo, and track.

There's probably a bit of a political side to why NBC didn't carry that tribute coverage (which I didn't know about until you told me). The network tends to be very left wing, and the left wing here in America has been trying hard to convince us we're not at war and terrorism is all over and done with. I would imagine most Londoners know better....

Still, the opening ceremonies we did get to see were a triumph.
gillo
Aug. 9th, 2012 09:53 am (UTC)
As Karen said, there is so much Olympics around here there's virtually nothing else on TV, at least on BBC. And the digital "Red Button" allows us to watch literally any sport while it's going on - London is an incredibly multicultural city, and it means people can watch their home athletes as well as ours. It means I can watch as much or as little as I like, which suits me fine - the news tends to have a ten-to-fifteen minute slot which brings me up to date and otherwise I can channel surf for non-sports.

Buck House, BTW, is a palace, not a castle. Windsor is a castle. Kenilworth is a castle. Castles are built for defensive purposes and are old. Buckingham Palace is barely three centuries old and wouldn't hold out an hour against a determined attack. You see the difference? ;-)
ozma914
Aug. 9th, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
Oh, so Buckingham Palace is *only* three centuries old, eh? :-) The entire town I'm living in was a hilly forest three centuries ago!

NBC has been carrying the Olympics live during our daytime, on three different stations. Just the same, I think it's safe to say we're missing a lot.
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Aug. 10th, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
We could absolutely hear that roar in the background, as soon as the Queen turned around! I can only imagine how loud it was in the stadium. And yes, I did know which ones!

By the way, was there any mention of The Doctor during the opening ceremonies? How could they have passed on such a cultural icon?
(Deleted comment)
ozma914
Aug. 11th, 2012 05:16 am (UTC)
Fifty is close enough!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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