Monday, 21 January 2013

On the Olympics, thoughts, etc.

This post has been running around in the back of my mind for months, but I was never in the right mood to write it. Consequently, except for the last part of it, it is a little out of date.

On my earliest Olympic memory

When Raymond was here in Montreal, we chatted about the Olympics as it was the topic du jour. I recounted to him about how the lighting of the Olympic flame for the Montreal Olympics was the first world event where I remember where I was for it. I elaborated by saying I had been at the house of some friends in North Hatley, and I remember alternately playing on their steep front lawn and going in to see the progress of the torch relay on their colour TV, as neither my grandparents' summer house or the one my parents had rented had a TV.

Raymond noticed that I had specified the TV was distinct for me as it was in colour. He inferred that by implication my family had a black & white TV. The concept of people owning a black & white TV was somewhat odd to him, as he was only 21. That realisation made me feel somewhat old. Although colour TVs were quite common in when I was young, there were still many black & white sets out there. My parents had a black &white TV up until a fire in 1978, after which they bought a colour TV.

On Olympic biking sports

For better or for worse, I am pretty much the go-to guy at work for bike related questions. While I am not the only cyclist there, I am the most visibly devout cyclist. Consequently, I wasn't surprised when one of my co-workers asked me about some aspects of Olympic, indoor biking events. I can't quite recall the exact question, but the short answer was "drafting", i.e. there is a hole body of sports tactics in the various indoor biking events that have to do about how it is easier to ride just behind someone else. Once I mentioned drafting, she immediately got the picture as she follows car racing, and has regularly attended the Montreal Grand Prix among other events.

However, I still had to explain some of the arcana behind the keirin events. I was rather hampered by the fact that I knew only the basics. Also, what little I know makes me feel it is a needlessly complicated event.

On a useful comment by an Olympic cyclist

I was favourably impressed that Bradley Wiggins, who won the gold medal for the road time trial at the London Olympics came out in favour of a law requiring bike helmets. There are some absolute rubbish ideas about bicycle safety floating around out there. I am glad that Wiggins is prepared to refute them.

On less useful comments by an ex-Olympic cyclist and a library's reaction to it

On the other extreme, Lance Armstrong's recent "admission" that he used performance enhancing drugs, struck me as far too little, far too late. High-level, competitive cycling has been awash in various drugs for a very long time and everybody knew it, as least unofficially. I give the sport a vague benefit of the doubt in that it has made some noises about cleaning up its act in the last few years, but back in Armstrong's heyday, he was the greatest hypocrite of them all.

Now it seems he is trying to redeem himself with his "mea culpa". However, I don't put much faith in him. I keep on being reminded of  a "reformed" cardsharp in 19th century America who went on a lecture tour where he claimed all decks of cards were marked. He "proved" it with any deck the congregation brought to him. However, what he was actually doing was using the cardsharp technique of the "shiner" (a small mirrored surface) to see what the cards were without turning them over. In other words, he was still tricking people.

I therefore thought it was appropriate that a library in Australia put up a sign saying they were moving Lance Armstrong's books to the Fiction section! Of course, they were only joking.

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