The Olympic Spectacle

English: The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, ...
English: The Olympic Flag flying in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, outside the provincial legislature of British Columbia, in recognition of Vancouver’s hosting of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Olympics of course roll around every four years. I’m not particularly a sports fan, and in fact I don’t think that I’ve watched any of it this time, except for the excerpts on the evening news show. That doesn’t stop me feeling pleased whenever one of my countrymen wins a medal.

But much of the Olympics is not about the sport. Much of it is to do with how the host nation is coping with the huge sporting event, and this time the host nation, Brazil, has come under fire for a number of reasons. Obviously big spending on sport in a poor country is not a good look, and if things go wrong with the accommodation or the actual venues, then it looks even worse.


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Unfortunately it’s the nature of the beast for things to go wrong. There is a high need for accommodation, for athletes and officials and this pretty much has to be flung up in a hurry given the short time frames. Hence athletes arrive to find unfinished quarters and other such issues.

The same is true of the venues. In a country like Brazil where there isn’t a lot of money to spare, things like water pollution are a fact of life, and a rushed clean up is not going to fix that. Even in this country harbours and marinas can sometimes be less that perfectly clean. Such is life, in spite of strenuous efforts to clean things up.


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I believe it to be true that many of these sports venues may become white elephants after the games, especially those for the minor sports. It is unlikely that there will be the level of usage from local athletes after the Games that would permit them to be kept open. The accommodation areas may fare better in this respect as there is always a demand for accommodation. I believe that this is true for all past Olympic host nations, at least to some extent.

The Olympic Games do draw people to the host country, to spend money on tickets and accommodation, not to mention the myriad of trinkets and souvenirs that they will no doubt purchase. It’s questionable however whether or not the host country is going to profit in either the short term or the longer term from the Games. Of course they hope that people will enjoy themselves and maybe return to spend more money.


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News crews having been going out in Rio and asking the locals their opinions on the Games, and naturally, they are not very positive about them. If you are living in sub-standard accommodation and you see millions being spent on short term accommodation for visitors who will only occupy them for a few weeks, you would likely not be positive either. The locals’ opinions on the news crews who ask silly questions is not, however, recorded.

Most nations have one or two representatives. When a really small nation gets a medal of any colour, the world’s press tend to descend on the winner and breathlessly ask the same old questions. “How does it feel to win a medal?” and “How will the folks back home be feeling right now?”. Of course the athletes are ecstatic and the folks back home will be proud too. Such cookie cutter question and answer session are so predictable that they become amusing.

Medal presentation at the 1936 Berlin Olympic ...
Medal presentation at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, Sivano Abba-Italy (3rd place) Gotthard Handrick-Germany (1st place) Charles Leonard-USA (2nd place) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, that not a comment on the amazing achievements of the athletes from small nations who win medals, some of whom will have scrimped and saved to attend the games and may not have had the opportunity to be coached by the best coaches, but it’s a comment on the predictability of the media’s responses.

Nations always have high hopes for their athletes, and are unreasonably disappointed when they come up against the best in the world and don’t do too well. Of course the athletes from a small nation don’t have the resources and coaches that the larger nations do, and so when an athlete from a small nation claims a medal, it is a significant event, not that this diminishes in any way the achievements of the athletes from the larger nations.


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There are many unique features of the Rio Olympic Games. One of them is the presence of athletes who are competing as refugees. They have (so far) obtained two medals, a gold and a bronze in shooting. These athletes (there are 10 of them) have undergone great hardships, often travelling long distances through multiple countries, and to nevertheless be able to take part in the Olympic Games and even win some medals shows a great deal of fortitude.

Another is the perceived risk from the Zika virus. It’s commendable that so many athletes have ignored the risk and come to Rio anyway. The only group that stayed away purportedly for this reason were some of the golfers. As the linked articles suggest there may have been other reasons for their absence.


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Brazil is not known as a particularly safe country to be in, though it isn’t thought to be as dangerous as many countries can be. However, there does not seem to have been much in the way of trouble between the local population and the athletes, support staff and spectators who have come to Rio.

One notable exception was the case of four American competitors who were supposedly robbed at gunpoint while celebrating a medal win. As it turned out, what really happened was that the four were drunk and trashed a service station. The station’s security guard pulled a gun to prevent them driving off and made them pay US$50 to cover the damage that they had done.


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Scandals are part of the Olympics, and the drugs scandal has been the worst so far. At one stage it looked as if the whole Russian team was going to be banned, as it was alleged that there was a government led doping programme in place.

While it was evident that some athletes do take performance enhancing drugs, the fact that in Russia this was actively encouraged by the state was a shock. In the end Russian athletes who could prove that they were clean were allowed to compete. While this is good for the athletes themselves, it was a let off for the Russian state doping scheme. This is not a good look for sport and unfair to other athletes.


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I’m going to try something different in this post. I won’t try to stick to a single theme, but will try to create a miscellany of short themes and see how it goes.

Firstly, a friend of mine is a keen photographer who keeps a blog and for five years he has posted one or more photos to his blog every day. It’s a fantastic achievement, and since I have trouble posting once a week, I can only imagine the persistence, application and diligence needed to post once every day.


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I’ve mentioned before that I have started blogs at various times in the past and have been unable to keep them going. This time around, for reasons that I can’t really fathom, I have managed to keep going for coming up to 150 posts now. If Brian succeeds in reaching 5 years of posting he will have posted over 1,870 times. Which is mind-boggling!!

One of the reasons that he has given for dropping his self-imposed regime of daily posting is that he feels that the quality of his posted pictures is possibly suffering from the requirement to post something every day and that the temptation to post a merely adequate (from his point of view) picture just to keep the chain going is strong.

English: Locomotive in KiwiRail livery (not a ...
English: Locomotive in KiwiRail livery (not a particularly good photo, but perhaps adequate until a better is found) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must say that I have not seen any deterioration in his pictures, but I don’t look at them with his eyes. So I will continue to look forward to his posts, even though he will not be posting daily pictures once he reaches the 5 year target.

Of course, this has made me think about this blog and how long I intend to keep it going. I’ve posted nearly 150 times so far which represents a bit under three years. I’d like to reach at least 5 years too, which will be around 250 posts. That’s the current target, so let’s see if I can reach it.

English: 250 West Pratt Street in Baltimore
English: 250 West Pratt Street in Baltimore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next topic. If I was able to ask God a question, I would say “Quantum Physics. What were you thinking!” We like to think that the universe is logical and consistent. If it wasn’t then there would be no guarantee that the sun would not blink out 10 seconds from now. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0! OK we are fine this time.

I’m told, and I have an inkling about it from my reading and thinking, that Quantum Physics is logical and consistent. However the various popularizations of it appear counter intuitive and paradoxical. How can Schroedinger’s poor cat be both alive and dead? What exactly is a superposition of states? What (if anything) is the “collapse of the wave form”?

Omega-Point-Multiverse
Omega-Point-Multiverse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

General and Special Relativity were considered mysterious and paradoxical when Einstein first published his papers. At the time someone claimed that only three people in the world truly understood it, but it didn’t take long for it to be taught down to college and undergraduate levels. While strange and challenging, it was soon accepted as true by the majority of people who had come across it, although people still create web sites where they try to prove that Einstein was wrong.

Quantum Physics is also taught at undergraduate levels I believe but it remains (or so I get the impression) as a work in progress. The famous Copenhagen Interpretation was formulated around 90 years ago by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenburg and there is still no accessible standard interpretation that is accepted by the majority.

English: Experiment suggested by Heisenberg, p...
English: Experiment suggested by Heisenberg, part 1: Wide hole in barrier screen gives only a very general idea of location of photon as it moves toward detection screen. Photons will arrive at a small spot on the detection screen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Niels Bohr once said “Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not yet understood it.” Richard Feynman said “Nobody understands quantum mechanics.” So, God, Quantum Physics. What were you thinking about?

Flags and things. There is a big debate in this country at the moment about whether or not to change the flag. People often refer to the Canadian flag as a case where a new flag was adopted after public discussion. It’s not a good case study though as the actual adoption of the winning flag involved a farcical mistake : “Through a six-week period of study with political manoeuvring, the committee took a vote on the two finalists: the Pearson Pennant (Beddoe’s design) and the current design. Believing the Liberal members would vote for the Prime Minister’s preference, the Conservatives voted for the single leaf design. The Liberals, though, all voted for the same, giving a unanimous, 14 to 0 vote for [it]”. (From Wikipedia).

Flag of Spanish Vexilology Society (Asociación...
Flag of Spanish Vexilology Society (Asociación Española de Vexilología) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The process for our new flag was decided on early. Firstly all submissions would be reviewed, and a “top 40” would be selected by a panel composed of, basically, a bunch of celebrities and other. No disrespect to them, but they were not flag experts, and if they were chosen to sort of represent the man/woman in the street that is what they achieved.

Of the top 40, four were “approved” by the ruling National cabinet. It’s not too clear how this was done, but only conspiracy theorists would contend that three out of the four contained the fern emblem that the Prime Minister favoured and that he somehow influenced the selection.

Stjórnarráðið in Reykjavik, the seat of the ex...
Stjórnarráðið in Reykjavik, the seat of the executive branch of Iceland’s government (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now we have the top four we are supposed to vote in a referendum to pick one to go up against the current flag in a second referendum. Interestingly a group has been formed to promote a fifth design (originally in the top 40) over the top four. We will see where if anywhere that this movement goes. I’d guess it will eventually fail.

One hundred words to go. Interest is high on the attempt of Jarryd Hayne, a former Australian rugby league player who has secured a spot in San Francisco 49ers NFL team. (That’s what is called “American Football” everywhere except the USA). Good luck to him, I say. I expect to see a surge of popularity for the sport in this part of the world.

RLWC - Fiji v Ireland, Gold Coast 2008. Fijian...
RLWC – Fiji v Ireland, Gold Coast 2008. Fijian fullback Jarryd Hayne. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He seemed to bring something new to the American game, but time will tell if opposition coaches find ways to nullify his effect or whether other players will adopt some of his style, which to my naive eye seems to be a more fluid running game. Or maybe he really is an exceptional player. Time will tell.

Well, I quite enjoyed jumping around through various topics but I don’t think that I will do it every time. I’ll just take it as it comes.

A show jumping course
A show jumping course (Photo credit: Wikipedia)