Vladimir Putin: the Answer to Russia’s Olympic Woes

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics just concluded yesterday and once again my fatherland turned in a dazzling performance… NOT. México’s Winter Olympic team consisted of one man, Hubertus von Hohenlohe, a slalom skier.

El Beto (who is of German descent) managed to come in 46th and 78th in the slalom and giant slalom respectively. I bring this up not to puff up my nationalistic sensitivites (as if) but to accentuate the contrast in expectations.

The Russian delegation, relative to México’s one man wrecking crew, performed gloriously. By gloriously, I mean they managed to not only win a medal but eleven of them, three of them gold! México has never sniffed a medal in a Winter Olympics.

Yet for all this, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev came out and lambasted his nation’s performance in Vancouver,

Medvedev calls for resignations after Russia flops at Winter Olympics

Dima made some apparently helpful suggestions,

We need to think about how we change our training methods. The new training system should focus on athletes who should be put at its cornerstone, not sports federations and their executives — and not even the trainers, with all our great respect to them. Athletes are those who bring victories, and they should become the focus of our attention.

We can’t even blame Russia’s “poor performance” on the fact that the Soviet Union is a thing of the past. The combined medal won by all former Soviet republics is 22, which would have put the USSR in 5th place right behind Norway.

I’m sure Medvedev is going to summon experts to come up with better methods to increase his nation’s medal hauls at the Summer Games in London (2012) and the next Winter Games in Sochi (2014). I, however, have more helpful advice and it’ll probably cost less rubles.

Unleash your one man wrecking crew, Prime Minister Putin. He would be a lock for gold in the following events:

Badminton

Equestrian

Judo

Shooting Sports

President Medvedev, in your pal, Mr. Putin, you have a national treasure but more importantly, an athletic and versatile golden goose.

If you don’t want him, surely I can petition the Mexican government to grant him honorary citizenship so at least we can hold our heads high at the next Olympic Games.

I can see it now in Sochi, El Putin and El Beto wiping the floor with the field in the 2-man luge and the cheers ringing out from El Zócalo to Cabo San Lucas: ¡Putin! ¡Putin! ¡Putin!

Westlake Hills… That’s Where I Want to Be

Back in college in the A-TX, I used to hold a job in which I interacted with one of the most puzzling creatures that inhabit the urban jungle: rich kid who panhandles.

That’s right, there were kids (maybe still are) who came down from the lofty spires of their parents’ Westlake Hills homes to walk the mean streets surrounding the University of Texas. How did I know they were from Westlake Hills? Well because they’d try to use their Westlake High IDs to buy cigarettes.

But the best part is that they’d ask people for change so they could purchase said cigarettes. It would not surprise me one bit if most of these kids fit this brilliant post by Mr. Landers’ to a T.

Is there anything better than a group of people who rail against a system/authority figures which put clothes on their backs and/or support their nascent drug habit? Well, maybe Woody Allen signing a petition supporting Roman Polanski, but I digress.

I was reminded of these chiflados after reading the following story this morning, Six Charged With Mob Activity and the seeing the mugshots accompanying it.

Chiflados

With the notable exception of Randy Jackson’s little brother (middle, bottom row), these 6 luminaries reminded me of my pals from Westlake Hills.

Of course, none of the Westlake kids did anything like what these 6 were picked up for, mainly dragging an Olympic banner and scuffling with the Poe-leez.

I’m not a betting man but I’d wager that after a brief council of war these 6 couldn’t name 3 Olympic Sports, and were just looking for an excuse to vent their pampered angst.

­¡Sopencos!

Béla Károlyi is a National Treasure

What do you think of when you hear the words “National Treasure”? The Statue of Liberty? The Washington Monument? Nicolas Cage’s best Indiana Jones impersonation?

Me? I think of none other than legendary gymnastics coach, Béla Károlyi (below, Bela would have never worn that jacket if Sen. McCarthy were still alive).
Mark Stehle (AP)

Béla’s effusive personality was one of the highlights of the Games back when he was coaching the U.S. team. The image of him carrying an injured Kerri Strug is forever burned in the minds of American fans.The crushing bear hugs he delivered to his pixies as they came off their exercises were a sight.

But not as much of a sight as his act on NBC’s gymnastics coverage of the 2008 Beijing games. His rants, in which he uses words like “rip off”, against the seemingly biased judging (giving an unfair edge to the Chinese) have been classic.

NBC’s gracious peeks into Béla’s reaction as he watches U.S. gymnasts has been highly entertaining. The guy is flailing his arms, kicking his legs up in the air, all the while, I’m sure, analyzing the nuances of the sport he has dedicated his life to. Tell me of another analyst in any other sport who shows this much passion (John Madden’s man love for Brett Favre does not count).

Then on the last night of gymnastics, he’s sitting on the couch with balance beam gold medalist Shawn Johnson and her coach Liang Chow while they’re being interviewed by Costas.

During a characteristic (not to mention a very Eastern European) fit of laughter, Béla puts the cherry on top to his act in Beijing by delivering a hearty and joyous patella-cracking slap to Chow’s knee. The look on Chow’s face betrayed some pain.

Thanks Béla for all the memories, you’re the best.

NBC: It’s Not Easy Being Green

The wife and I are locked in a perpetual struggle over our home’s thermostat. She wants it above a balmy 78°F while I prefer it to be at 72°F.

Yet as with most things, fiscal responsibility wins the day and the thermostat does not dip below 78°F (the junior Senator from the state of Illinois would be proud).

What Mr. Obama would not be proud of is NBC’s act in Beijing:

Not Green: NBC Beijing Olympic Set Air Conditioned — Outdoors

Whatever happened to this?

Beijing 2008: Lego Style

Just when we thought we seen it at all, some folks with a lot of time on their hands in Hong Kong recreated the Beijing Olympics experience with Lego blocks (“On your marks, get set, Lego! Welcome to the Olympics where everyone’s quick off the blocks“)
.

I, for one, am a big Lego fan and think it outstanding, here’s their rendition of the “Bird’s Nest”:

Martha Karolyi’s Sour Grapes

OK so maybe Alicia Sacramone (below right, picture credit: Reuters) might have cost the US women’s gymnastics team the gold last night by falling off the balance beam then doubling down by slipping in the next event, the floor exercise.

Team USA eventually claimed the silver medal and it was a huge disappointment judging by the looks on the girls’ faces. [Funny because the U.S. men reacted like they had won an Academy Award, Bible Bowl, the Super Bowl, World Series, the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and the gold after winning "only" bronze the day before. Had they won the silver, they might just have dropped dead from excitement.]

Then U.S. team director, Martha Karolyi had to pull out all the stops in making excuses for Sacramone’s potential gold medal-costing performance. According to this story (“U.S. team blame stadium official for gymnastics loss”):

US team coordinator Martha Karolyi said officials at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium had disrupted Sacramone’s preparations for the beam.

“First they called her name up, then they did not even put her name up even though the Chinese had finished … (it was) totally unusual holding,” she said.

“She was mentally prepared and then she had a mental break, then after not doing the job, the beam, on the floor exercise her concentration was bothered.”

Karolyi insisted the world champion US team would have won gold if Sacramone had not become unsettled.

Had the U.S. team won gold, I wonder if Martha would have said that the alleged saboteurs only strengthened her girls’ resolve?

México gets its First Medal in Beijing!

OK, so it took until Day 4 but my native land finally medaled thanks to the efforts of divers Paola Espinoza and Tatiana Ortiz (bronze in women’s synchronized 10-meter platform).

Read all about it here, “Mexico celebrates bronze medal in diving”.

Here is a picture of the dynamic duo in the middle of one of their bronze-winning performance:

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Blue Screen of Death makes a Cameo at the Olympics

This one is for all the Mac honks in my life:

Blue Screen of Death Strikes Bird’s Nest During Opening Ceremonies Torch Lighting

It’s a good thing Macs never freeze up…

Spain’s Basketball Team Drops the Ball

The Spanish Olympic Basketball Team is in a bit of hot water after a certain picture started making the rounds. A picture (below) in which the entire team is seen “making slit-eyed gestures”.

The quote (and picture) came from the following story,
Olympics: Spain’s eye-catching faux pas

Obviously the Spanish players saw nothing wrong or insensitive about making said gestures. Perhaps their attitude is an innocent one. At least that’s what it was when we used to do the same thing as kids in México. Not justifying it, just saying that when there isn’t exposure to other cultures this kind of thing is endemic (see Memín Pinguín), but can hardly be called malicious.  If such behavior persists after exposure, then that is a different story.

It is somewhat similar to Asians derisively calling Caucasians “round-eyes”. Which is interesting in light of what this post (#41 Eye Enlargement) alleges:

Fact: Asian women think that their eyes are ugly. They will go to many lengths to change the appearance of their eyes, from high-maintenance temporary alterations to more expensive and permanent options. So much so, that every Asian person has at least one sister, mother, aunt, grandmother, or friend who has tried to change their eyes.

Alain Bernard: Prognosticator Par Excellence



“The Americans? We’re going to smash them. That’s what we came here for” — French swimmer Alain Bernard (above in happier times)


Oops! Well Mr. Bernard’s (right) prediction didn’t exactly pan out. The American 4x100m swim team took the gold tonight in dramatic fashion: “Phelps collects 2nd gold in relay”.

Bernard joins the ranks of athletes who have bumped their gums prior to competition only to fall flat on their faces and choke in spectacular fashion.

Perhaps none so wonderfully (if you’re American) than Mr. Bernard who anchored the 2nd place French team. The French were comfortably ahead and were poised to win gold when Bernard started the anchor leg of the relay.

What no one was counting on was Mr. Bernard’s able impersonation of an anchor in the last several meters, in conjunction with American Jason Lezak’s inspired finish to secure the gold for the American team.

Alain, my man, you are an excellent swimmer but as far as trash-talking is concerned, you’re what the French call, les incompetent.

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