Color Commentary: Watching the Olympics

By Jonathan Adams Aug 13, 2008

I honestly have no idea how one plays handball. I watched the game for a good thirty minutes and it appears that they just throw you a ball and tell you to "Play!" Beach volleyball is another event that has a long way to go as a spectator sport. However, I have been shocked at my random outbursts of nationalism while watching the swimming and gymnastics events. As I watched the Chinese and United States women compete in gymnastics over the past couple days, I was really bothered by the commentators’ view of the Chinese women. Like in years past, they talked about how the Chinese send their children at a young age to become skillful gymnasts (as if learning to flip at age three is the foundation of Communism). Don’t most American parents try to develop some sort of skill in their young children? It seems much more likely that you would find crazed stage dads and soccer moms right here in the United States. Exaggerated stories about factories full of conniving Chinese preteen acrobatic robots plotting to steal the American gold persist:

The Chinese gymnasts could have picked out their leotards from Thumbelina’s closet as they performed gymnastics in miniature on Wednesday. Wearing blue eye shadow with their hair pulled back, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin looked like girls who had just rummaged through their mothers’ makeup. This was a ladies’ final, though somehow it was hard to see how they qualified as women. Amid pre-Olympic hand-wringing over why the birthdates of He, Yang and Jiang didn’t jibe with other registration materials that showed they might be as young as 14, China swore on its stars’ passport stamps that the tots are the legal tumbling age of 16. But while the tiny trio helped their nation whisk the gold medal away from a suddenly clumsy U.S. group in the team competition, it was impossible to deny the visual evidence of something unjust in China. [Sports Illustrated]

The women from the United States are just as small just not as talented, apparently. What parts of the 2008 Olympics are you watching?