kottke.org posts about 2008 Summer Olympics

The shoe masterMar 18 2014

Hitoshi Mimura

That is a bespoke running shoe made by a small company started by Hitoshi Mimura, who is considered one of the top shoe designers in the world. Mimura had great success at Asics, outfitting Olympic gold medal runners with shoes lighter, grippier, and more breathable than those worn by competitors, but now he has struck out on his own.

"I take 13 measurements of the foot, each foot has to be measured separately," explains the sensei of shoemaking. "I only trust hand-measuring. Currently, each shoe takes about three weeks to make, mainly due to determining which materials to use." Preparation is also key. "For a world championships or Olympics I check the course once or twice. I went to Beijing three times."

A NY Times feature on Mimura written before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing emphasized the designer's reliance on rice husks in the soles for grippiness. Mimura takes his job and his responsibility to the runners very seriously:

Surreptitiously, Mimura made soles of two slightly different thicknesses, to compensate for the fact that Takahashi's left leg was eight millimeters -- about a third of an inch -- longer than her right leg. She had tried a pair of the uneven soles before the Sydney Olympics, but felt uncomfortable.

Still, Mimura felt Takahashi needed such shoes to win and to avoid a recurrence of pain caused by the disparity in her legs. Without Takahashi's knowledge, Mimura gave her the uneven soles, then wrote a letter of resignation, in case she failed to win gold.

"I decided to take full responsibility because I made this pair against her wishes," Mimura said of the letter. "I didn't have to hand it over. It's still in my desk."

That is belief in yourself and in your craft. Many people believe in "giving people not what they want but what they need" but how many of them will put their livelihood on the line for it?

2008 is best sports year everJan 06 2009

Sports Illustrated named 2008 the best year ever in sports. In my best links post, I said that three 2008 sporting events stuck out in my mind but this article reminded me of one more: Jason Lezak's amazing anchor leg in the 4x100 freestyle.

Usain Bolt: 9.55 secondsSep 12 2008

Some physicists have worked out what Usain Bolt's time in the 100 meters in Beijing would have been if he hadn't started celebrating before the finish line: 9.55 seconds. The original paper is here. I tried doing this the day after the race but even the HD footage wasn't good enough to see the tick marks on the track and I didn't want to mess around with all the angles. (via justin blanton)

Update: The folks at The Science of Sport lay out a much more sensible case relying on split times that Bolt would have run somewhere between 9.61 and 9.69. (thx, jim)

James Powderly's story of his Beijing detentionAug 29 2008

James Powderly, New Yorker and founder of the Graffiti Research Lab, was one of several Americans detained in China earlier this month for attempting to display protest messages related to Tibet during the Olympics. After 6 days in custody, he was released and sent back to the US. He's given a few interviews about his experience, all really interesting. From The Brooklyn Paper:

After more than a day of continuous questioning, cops drove the artists and activists - who assumed they were headed to the airport for deportation- to a Beijing jail, where they were stripped, photographed, screened, separated from each other, and placed in cells with other prisoners. Powderly joined 11 other prisoners in a cell with only eight beds, no potable water, and bright lights that illuminated the tiny room 24-hours a day to keep the detainees from sleeping.

And from Gothamist:

Would you say the interrogations were torture? Well, I think probably, a lot of people might disagree, even some of my other detainees might feel like what they received wasn't torture. And relative to what someone might receive on a daily basis at a place like Gitmo it certainly is not particularly harsh. It's kind of like being a little bit pregnant, we were a little bit tortured. We were strapped into chairs in uncomfortable positions, we were put into cages with blood on the floor and told we would never live, we were sleep deprived the entire time. There was an interrogation every night and they kept us up all day. They never turned the lights off in the cells. We were fed food that was inedible, we were not given potable water. Any time you threaten and take the numbers of family members and take down home addresses, there's an element of mental torture there. There's physical torture in the form of us having to sit in uncomfortable positions all day long and spending the night strapped to a metal chair inside of a cage. We all have cuts and bruises from that, and some of my peers were beaten up a little bit.

There's also a brief video interview and an article at artnet.

Powderly also stated that before he left, $2000 was extracted from his bank account by the Chinese as a fee for his plane ticket to the US. I know James a bit from Eyebeam, and for whatever stupid reason, when I first read about his detention, it never occurred to me that the detained Americans would be interrogated...I thought the Chinese would just hold them until the Olympics were over and send them home. To be interrogated to the point of mistreatment...well, glad you're home, James.

From Google Earth to a gold medalAug 29 2008

Kristin Armstrong, the Olympic gold medalist in the women's individual time trial in road cycling, took a GPS unit along with her when she previewed the road course in Beijing in December 2007. When she got home to Idaho, she d/led the data, put it into Google Earth, and found a similar local loop on which to train.

This capability along with having the elevation profile proved invaluable in my preparation for my Gold Medal race.

(via matt's a.whole)

Best photos of the Beijing OlympicsAug 25 2008

Three galleries of the best photos taken at the Olympics. Part 2 and part 3. NSFW.

Update: Caveat to the links above: all the photos above are lifted from elsewhere. You may prefer the collection at Big Picture instead. I've got mixed feelings about sites that take photos from other sites without proper attribution. On one hand, the photographers are not getting their due credit and payment for those photos but on the other, the act of collecting and curating adds something new to the work and results in something worthwhile. I wish there were a way for sites to make groups of photos like these without the hefty licensing expenses...the photographers get more of their photos out there and we get all sorts of neat views through the lenses of the photographers and talented curators. (thx, josh)

DFLAug 22 2008

I always forget about the awesome DFL blog until right before the Olympics are over. The site keeps track of all the last place finishers during the Games. Here's the site's tagline:

Celebrating last-place finishes at the Olympics. Because they're there, and you're not.

China is leading with 8 last place finishes. (via matt's a.whole)

Water Cube panoramaAug 22 2008

Awesome panorama of the Water Cube in Beijing from the top of the 10 meter platform. Looks way higher than on TV.

Turning the dateAug 21 2008

With a Russian athlete leading the javelin competition, Czech thrower Barbora Spotakova stepped up for her final throw and thought about the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia forty years ago that day. After her victory, she described her goal with that throw in a wonderful turn of phrase:

I was wondering if I could turn the date.

I don't know if that's a translation or what, but non-native speakers of English often express ideas more beautifully than native speakers do (Nabokov for example).

Somewhat related...how perfect is the name of the US women's soccer team goalkeeper: Hope Solo.

Update: I need a do-over on this one. First of all, Nabokov is a native English speaker; in fact, he could read and write English before he could Russian. Second, the NY Times modified the quote in that article! When I read it, the selection above was a direct quote attributed to Spotakova. Now the passage reads:

"Aug. 21 is a very special day for the Czech Republic -- it's the 40th anniversary of the Soviet invasion in 1968," she said afterward. "I of course had a Russian competitor against me. She was winning with such a long throw," she added, and said she wondered if she'd be able to turn the date to her advantage.

That's much less poetic...I wonder if there was a translation misunderstanding or something. (thx, dan & nivan)

Vincent Laforet's Olympic photosAug 19 2008

Photographer Vincent Laforet, formerly of the NY Times, is in Beijing making photos of the Olympics. Here's a look at some of the stuff he's been shooting and the process behind getting those wonderful overhead shots of his.

Getting a photograph of Phelps from above is priceless -- so it's all worth the hassle. Here he is winning gold in the 200 meter individual medley. This was shot with a 400mm 2.8 handheld--oh yeah, hand holding a 12 pound lens ain't easy. Luckily it was strapped to me -- and I to the catwalk with oodles of safety cables. We weren't allowed to being extra CF Cards or even a paper start list, which is pretty extreme if you ask me. We were patted down before we went up by the photo escorts, and we all tried to get things in -- even our credentials were left behind. While extreme, I agree with one of the photo escorts who said that if even one sheet of paper floated harmlessly down from the catwalk. it would be game over for everyone -- no more catwalk access.

You can keep up with Laforet's Olympic output at his blog. (thx, stacy)

Michael Johnson's 19.32Aug 18 2008

A look at just how crazy Michael Johnson's 200m world record is.

Eyeballing the chart would suggest that the cutting edge of human achievement in the 200m is anything sub-19.7. A 19.59 at Beijing would be phenomenal. Then you scroll down -- way down -- and you hit Johnson's 19.32.

Johnson has stated that he's fully prepared for Usain Bolt to break his record.

Phelps-Cavic photo finishAug 16 2008

Underwater photos from the finish in the men's 100-meter butterfly finals, both just before Phelps and Cavic touched the wall and just after. It's amazing how far Phelps was behind before his half-stroke.

Cavic seems like an interesting guy and is handling the close loss well. He wrote an entry on his blog entitled "Success!!!"

On winning a SILVER medal: I am completely happy, and still in complete disbelief that I was able to achieve this feat! I'm not joking... It's a tough loss, but I'm on cloud nine. I congratulated Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman. I'm just glad the race was fun to watch for everyone. It was a pleasure for me, really.

Cavic came to Beijing with the goal of winning the bronze in this event; he called his silver "the greatest moment of my life". I also liked this account of his pre-race routine:

Hall said he could tell before the race that Cavic was in the right frame of mind to challenge Phelps, when he adopted the same prerace routine as Phelps by putting one foot on the starting block and turning to face in his rival's direction.

"Most guys are trembling when they have to step up to Michael Phelps," Hall said. "But he did not fear him, and it showed."

Cavic said he was not "staring him down" before the race.

"Both of us had metallic goggles, so I couldn't see his eyes, and he couldn't see mine," Cavic said. "Maybe he was able to see the reflection of himself, and he was like, Hey, I look pretty good. I saw myself in his reflection and was like, I'm keeping this under control."

Update: Here's a look at how the Omega timing system used in the Water Cube works. The timing system is more accurate than the pool architecture:

OMEGA touch pads and starting blocks are part of an integrated timing system capable of recording times to the nearest 1/1000th of a second. However, because it is not possible to build swimming pools in which each lane is guaranteed to be precisely the same length, Olympic and World Records are still recorded to the nearest 1/100th of a second.

(thx, david)

Update: Sports Illustrated has a frame-by-frame look at the Phelps/Cavic finish. For the conspiracy theorists out there, I believe the fifth frame tells the tale pretty well.

Olympic national anthemsAug 16 2008

The NY Times collects the national anthems of all the countries that have won gold medals in the Olympics so far.

Michael Phelps' iPodAug 15 2008

Before each race during the Olympics, Michael Phelps is seen sporting those ubiquitous white iPod earbuds. But what's he listening to? A lot of rap and hip hop.

McDonald's medalsAug 15 2008

Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald's for 30 days, gained 25 pounds, and had health problems. US swimmer Ryan Lochte has eaten McDonald's for "almost every meal" since he arrived in Beijing and has won four Olympic medals. His fellow swimmer Michael Phelps doesn't eat so healthy either. In a sport where you can win or lose by tenths or hundredths of seconds, I wonder what impact a proper diet would have on their times. (And to not eat any Chinese food -- one of the world's great cuisines -- while in Beijing? A travesty.)

Update: The Guardian's Jon Henley tries Michael Phelps' diet for a day. Unsuccessfully, I don't need to add. (thx, laura)

Update: Fear of illness may also have something to do with Lochte's standing reservation at McDonald's.

Olympics TV schedule calendar (in GCal)Aug 07 2008

NBC has an extensive calendar of events on their fancy Olympics web site but it doesn't look like they have the option of simply subscribing to a TV schedule calendar in iCal or on Google Calendar. I found a Google Calendar of the Olympic TV listings that looks to be accurate. I couldn't find an iCal calendar; the closest I got was this schedule of competition calendar, which looks like it may or may not jibe with the broadcast schedule here in the US (many of the main sports will be broadcast on a tape delay). Has anyone found a Olympic TV sched iCal calendar?

Weekend sports wrapJul 07 2008

1. The Federer/Nadal final at Wimbledon was epic. I was tense for the entire duration of the final three sets, which lasted about 2.5 to 3 hours. After years of sportswriters declaring that Roger Federer is the best player of all time, we might be faced with the possibility that he's not even the best player of his generation. Two data points: 1) Nadal has shown that he can win on any surface, including Federer's specialty, and 2) Nadal's head-to-head record against Federer is 10-5 (although many of those wins came on clay). The match also clearly reveals the idiocy of this lame Bill Simmons article about how tennis needs to change.

2. Joey Chestnut successfully defended his title this weekend at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, eating 59 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. He needed a 5-dog overtime to hold off long-time champ Takeru Kobayashi, who has lost to Chestnut the last two years. Chestnut weighs 230 pounds while Kobayashi is only 160 pounds.

3. The US Olympic swimming trials are over and Michael Phelps qualified in 5 individual events and will likely participate in three relays as well, giving him a chance to break Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals won in a single Olympics. Overshadowing Phelps' achievements was "41-year-old mom" (that's how they kept describing her on TV) Dara Torres, who qualified in both the 100-meter freestyle and the 50-meter freestyle.

Update: Ok, Nadal can't consistently win on hardcourt. But he's 22...give him time. (thx, everyone)

Dara TorresJun 30 2008

This is Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.

Dara Torres

She's 41 years old, has a two-year-old daughter, and won her first Olympic medal, a relay gold, in 1984. Torres is training to make the 2008 US Olympic team, but it's not some casual attempt to relive the good old days: Torres set the American record in the 50-meter freestyle just a few months ago. As the photo above attests, part of Torres' continuing success is due to her training regimen.

Torres calls resistance stretching her "secret weapon." Bob Cooley, who invented the discipline, describes it in less-modest terms. According to Cooley, over a two-week period in 1999, his flexibility system turned Torres "from being an alternate on the relay team to the fastest swimmer in America." The secret to Torres's speed, Cooley says, is that his technique not only makes her muscles more flexible but also increases their ability to shorten more completely, and when muscles shorten more completely, they produce greater power and speed. "What do race-car drivers do when they want to go faster?" Cooley asks. "They don't spend more hours driving around the track. They increase the biomechanics of the car. And that's what resistance flexibility is doing for Dara - increasing her biomechanics."

The Olympic Trials are going on right now in Omaha, NE. The women's 50-meter freestyle preliminaries take place on July 5 with the final on July 6, broadcast live on NBC.

Chinese restaurant name changesJun 19 2008

The Chinese are encouraging their restaurants to change the names of some of their dishes before the Olympics start. Those dishes due for a name change include:

- Bean curd made by a pock-marked woman
- Chicken without sexual life
- Husband and wife's lung slice

In advance of the 2008 Olympics, the ChineseJun 23 2006

In advance of the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese are destroying the hutongs of Beijing, the tiny alleyways that connect the city. Includes a photo slideshow of the destruction.

Russia plans to drive a golf ballMar 01 2006

Russia plans to drive a golf ball off of the ISS with a gold-plated, scandium alloy six-iron into a four-year, low-earth orbit....which may actually damage the space station if the ball is not "hit out of the station's orbital plane". I understand this event will be debuting at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

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