Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympic Scoring Scandals: Stick it Again, Sam

I have a bias about the Olympic gymnast age controversy, besides the bias of most reasonable people towards thinking it's a waste of time.

The United States is so jealous of China these days, and nowhere has that been more obvious than in this Olympics. Prior to the Games, all the media could talk about were China's shenanigans (tearing down people's homes, etc) which are all awful things. But when American cities decide to host the Olympics, we don't hang around and throw stones as to all their decision-making.

Then there's this gymnast thing. Over on Slate, Meghan O'Rourke practically fetishizes the Chinese women's gymnastics team by going on and on about how they're so thin and tiny. They're Asian women, Meg! My mother still gets carded at bars, and I've been of legal age for years!

Not that I'm saying the Chinese government isn't capable of turning the Olympics into one big state-sponsored photo op. But the fact that Americans watching the gymnastics automatically thought that China was illegally entering a whole team of underage girls says a lot about how we in America relate to other countries and cultures, maybe even more than what it says about the Chinese.

And then all the complaints over Nastia Liukin taking the silver when the tiebreaker went down. I can't see the videos, but I'm not a judge. I do think it's too much whining, too little action over here on the US side. I mean, Mike Phelps just took home eight golds. I know it sucks for Nastia, but she herself said of the whole situation "[The gold medal winner] is an excellent athlete no matter how old she is."

As a nation, let's follow the example of our own athletes. Let's lay off the griping and get on with the celebrating. Let's admit that China hosted a kickass opening ceremony and fielded a phenomenal team.

And if there is a real controversy, let's take the cue of one of the Jezebel commenters, who said, "Gymnastics scoring, like any scoring that requires a human to make a split-second value judgment, is fraught with error. Frankly, if there's a tie, they should make them do it again. Only fair."

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