Sunday, January 25, 2009

Beijing Olympics האולימפיאדה בבייג'ינג

This year I paid more attention to the Olympics than I ever had previously. This may have been due to the fact that I was doing my viewing in the States, where my impression is that more events are broadcast than are here in Israel. Yet an American friend commented that it seemed to him that more people were tuned in this time, so it may have been a wider phenomenon. In any case, I came away with two impressions.

The first is that team sports should be eliminated. First of all, all of the team sports already have their own championships―World Cup soccer, the NBA, and the World Series are examples―so watching a bunch of Very Good Players just isn’t that riveting. Second, I always felt that the Olympics is about who can run fastest, jump highest, and do the most daring aerial twists and still land on two feet―and that’s the way it should stay. If truth be told, I’d also eliminate the synchronized swim event. As for beach volleyball, yes, it demands fitness and skill, and yes I suppose it’s a sport…so let them form leagues and have their own championships.

My other impression is a social observation. During a break in one of the gymnastic competitions, the network went over to a school somewhere in China where gymnasts are trained from preschool age. The building appeared to be crumbling and in bad shape, but the instruction was top-notch. Or was it?

The camera zoomed in on a child of about three arching his back until his body formed a complete circle. The instructor approached the child from above and gently pressed on the child’s vertebrae; I assumed that this increases the body’s agility. It makes sense that children’s bone structure, which is still soft and not yet formed, can be molded in this fashion. Then it dawned on me: Soft bones…mold them to meet society’s expectations…ding ding ding!…The ancient Chinese practice of foot-binding. So there we have it: The Chinese “gymnast industry” is the new foot-binding!

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