Final Thoughts on the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

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The Beijing Olympics came to a close yesterday with two more near upsets when the so-called Redeem Team held off the Spanish to win the gold in men’s basketball while the U.S. water polo team battled Hungary before ultimately losing 14-10.

In U.S. terms, the Redeem Team loss would have been the bigger upset, since this was a team that had been assembled to restore U.S. basketball pride after the Athens Olympics in 2004. And after winning their first seven Olympic games by an average of 30.3 points (including an earlier 119-82 rout of Spain), the gold medal game didn’t appear to offer up much of a contest. The only problem was that someone forgot to tell the Spaniards, and with under two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game, the U.S. was just up by four points. The Redeemers got their act together, however, and the final score was 118-107.

The bigger international upset, however, would probably have been if the U.S. could have found a way to pull out a victory in water polo. The U.S. team was on its fourth coach in four years – Terry Schroeder, the captain of the U.S. silver medal teams in 1984 and 1988 – and they were playing the Hungarians, the country that has been dominating the sport and that won the Olympic gold in 2000 and 2004. The U.S. just couldn’t pull off the final victory, however, and had to settle for the silver medal.

Speaking of adversity, the U.S. men’s indoor volleyball team put aside all that happened at the start of the games and found a way to go undefeated, winning the gold medal three sets to one over the Brazilians yesterday. For those with a short memory, the father-in-law of U.S. coach Hugh McCutcheon was murdered in Beijing the day after the Opening Ceremonies, and his mother-in-law was seriously injured. McCutcheon missed the first several games to be with his family, but he was on the sidelines yesterday as the men pulled out the gold. And for the first time since 1984, both the U.S. men and women’s indoor volleyball teams played for the gold, but the women settled for the silver.

And so the Beijing Olympic Games have come to a close with another spectacular ceremony that I didn’t watch – I just don’t go for those things – though it will be interesting to find out if there are any lip-synching or fake fireworks controversies involved with this one. The next Olympic will be in 2010 when Vancouver hosts the Winter Olympics, and Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt will return to our national conscious in 2012 when London hosts the Summer Olympics.


And for those of you still bitching about the Chinese cheating in the women’s gymnastics: Well, get over it because nothing’s going to happen. International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has asked the IOC to look into the matter, but he told NBC’s Bob Costas on Saturday night – repeated here to the Associated Press – that the Chinese have provided official paperwork verifying the age of the young gymnastics, including birth certificates, school records and family records. Yes, yes, I know, it’s the Chinese, and they probably faked all of that information, but as far as I know, there’s no other way to verify the information. And, as I’ve been saying, if the American girls didn’t fall of the beam or step out of bounds on the floor exercise in the team competition, the Chinese don’t win the gold medal anyway.

But in a controversy that is being strangely underplayed here in the U.S., the Netherland Antilles is protesting the loss of the silver medal for its runner, Churandy Martina, in the men’s 200-meter sprint. Most of you probably don’t know of this because the big story was Usain Bolt setting his second world record while winning his second gold medal. But America’s Wallace Spearmon was immediately disqualified, losing his silver medal, for stepping out of his racing lane. While watching tape of Spearmon’s disqualification, U.S. officials discovered that Martina had also stepped out of his lane, so an hour-and-a-later, they protested. The silver was then awarded to Shawn Crawford of the U.S. with the bronze going to Walter Dix, also of the U.S.

And now the Netherland Antilles is crying foul. The protest is based on a relatively simple matter: International track federation rules state that all protests must be filed within 30 minutes of the race, and the U.S. waited over 90 minutes to protest. And while this sounds like a technicality, see it from the Netherland Antilles viewpoint. After all, it was just last year at the world championships that an American runner was allowed to keep her medal, despite stepping out of her lane, because the protest was – yep, you guessed it – filed too late.

That, in the legal biz, is known as precedent. And precedent is something that is supposed to be followed. This means that Walter Dix should be handing his bronze to Shawn Crawford while Crawford hands his silver to Martina. But seeing as how the Netherland Antilles is having to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, I’m somehow suspecting that the U.S. is attempting to play the big bully here.

After all, the only rules that should really apply involve those preventing the U.S. women from getting the gold medals they couldn’t earn on their merits. – John Royal

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