kottke.org posts about Olympic Games

2014 Winter ParalympicsMar 10 2014

The 2014 Winter Paralympics opened in Sochi, Russia a few days ago. In Focus has some photos from the early competitions.

2014 Winter Paralympics

The competition runs through March 16th. The best way to watch in the US is on NBC Sports Network...they're showing 52 hours of programming from the Games over the next two weeks.

David Attenborough narrates curlingFeb 19 2014

BBC Radio 1 recorded David Attenborough doing nature-style commentary for curling, but the YouTube video isn't available in the US, but luckily there's a copy on LiveLeak:

For the curious, here are the rules of and other assorted information about curling.

The sex OlympicsFeb 14 2014

I needed a good laugh this week and this news report from The Onion about how the Olympic Village in Sochi was built with the athletes' sexual activities in mind was an LOL machine. NSFW.

Apparently Tinder is all the rage in the Olympic Village this year...those athletes need to work through the 100,000 condoms they've been provided.

Photos of the first 12 Winter OlympicsFeb 13 2014

Andrea Mead Ski1948 Pentathlon

Following the film footage of the 1932 Winter Olympics (ice skating on stilts! Keystone Cops ski jumping!), here's a collection of photos from In Focus of the first 12 Winter Games, from 1924 to 1976.

The mogul skiers of HothFeb 13 2014

I can't stop watching this...watch Imperial AT-AT's attack Olympic mogul skiers on Hoth:

Those skiers are not going to make it past the first marker. (via devour)

Footage from the 1932 Winter OlympicsFeb 12 2014

Here's a bit of film footage from the third-ever Winter Olympics, held in Lake Placid, NY in 1932. The ski jumping segment is amazing and terrifying.

Here's how those Games compare to the modern day Olympics.

The Manhattan Winter OlympicsFeb 05 2014

I love this sort of thing: visualizations of Olympic venues plopped into Manhattan to provide a sense of scale. My favorite is the bobsled run in Times Square:

Times Square Bobsled

My son and I were just talking about this and when he asked me, I had no idea how big the track actually was. Can't wait to show him this when I get home tonight.

In other news, the news media has arrived in Sochi and the town doesn't seem to be ready for the Games. Oopsie!

Did Caster Semenya deliberately throw the 800 meters?Aug 13 2012

From Slate, some speculation that Caster Semenya sandbagged the 800 meter final in order to avoid further gender-related scrutiny.

After the race, track and field aficionados questioned her tactics. The BBC's David Ornstein said it appeared that Semenya "had more left in the tank." His story quoted BBC commentator Kelly Holmes, who won this event in the 2004 Olympics, suggesting that Semenya hadn't made her best effort: "She looked very strong, she didn't look like she went up a gear, she wasn't grimacing at all. I don't know if her head was in it, when she crossed the line she didn't look affected." Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden tweeted that Semenya "seemed oddly disengaged most of race and not tired at end."

I watched the race and Semenya's finish was odd...she made her move super-late and was moving at a tremendous pace when she crossed the line. Had she worked her way up to the front before the final turn, she may have beaten the field by several lengths.

Update: Here is a more nuanced analysis of Semenya's effort in the 800 meter final.

Perhaps there is nothing to her performance other than that she runs a more even pace than her rivals.

A comparison between her semi-final and this race is interesting in this regard. In that semi, she went through 400m in just over 58 seconds, 600m in about 1:28 and then closed the final 200m in 29.5s, looking like she had something in reserve.

Tonight, she went through 400m in 57.69s, then through 600m in about 1:27.1, and then closed in a touch over 30 seconds. My point is, her performance in the final was slightly faster at every stage than the semi, until she closed slower over the final 200m. To finish SLOWER than she did in the semi implies that she has little reserve and that she is closer to the limit than she looks. She wasn't actually that fast over the final 200m, it's just that everyone else was very slow!

(via @andrewsmit)

Jim Thorpe, greatest Olympian* ever?Aug 09 2012

Smithsonian Magazine has a good argument on why Jim Thorpe should be considered amongst the greatest Olympians even though his records and medals are not officially acknowledged by the IOC.

A week later the three-day decathlon competition began in a pouring rain. Thorpe opened the event by splashing down the track in the 100-meter dash in 11.2 seconds-a time not equaled at the Olympics until 1948.

On the second day, Thorpe's shoes were missing. Warner hastily put together a mismatched pair in time for the high jump, which Thorpe won. Later that afternoon came one of his favorite events, the 110-meter hurdles. Thorpe blistered the track in 15.6 seconds, again quicker than Bob Mathias would run it in '48.

On the final day of competition, Thorpe placed third and fourth in the events in which he was most inexperienced, the pole vault and javelin. Then came the very last event, the 1,500-meter run. The metric mile was a leg-burning monster that came after nine other events over two days. And he was still in mismatched shoes.

Thorpe left cinders in the faces of his competitors. He ran it in 4 minutes 40.1 seconds. Faster than anyone in 1948. Faster than anyone in 1952. Faster than anyone in 1960 -- when he would have beaten Rafer Johnson by nine seconds. No Olympic decathlete, in fact, could beat Thorpe's time until 1972. As Neely Tucker of the Washington Post pointed out, even today's reigning gold medalist in the decathlon, Bryan Clay, would beat Thorpe by only a second.

Update: I misstated what the Smithsonian article actually said about Thorpe's official status according to the IOC. Here's what the article says:

It's commonly believed that Thorpe at last received Olympic justice in October of 1982 when the IOC bowed to years of public pressure and delivered two replica medals to his family, announcing, "The name of James Thorpe will be added to the list of athletes who were crowned Olympic champions at the 1912 Games." What's less commonly known is that the IOC appended this small, mean sentence: "However, the official report for these Games will not be modified."

In other words, the IOC refused even to acknowledge Thorpe's results in the 15 events he competed in. To this day the Olympic record does not mention them. The IOC also refused to demote Wieslander and the other runners-up from their elevated medal status. Wieslander's results stand as the official winning tally. Thorpe was merely a co-champion, with no numerical evidence of his overwhelming superiority. This is no small thing. It made Thorpe an asterisk, not a champion. It was lip service, not restitution.

Thorpe's family got his medals and is listed on the Olypmic web site. But as the article says, it does nothing to recognize just how dominant Thorpe was in the decathalon and pentathalon. In the decathalon, Thorpe led from the second event on and beat his nearest competitor Hugo Wieslander by almost 700 points. (For his part, Wieslander refused to accept the gold medal retroactively awarded to him because of Thorpe's disqualification.) His victory in the pentathlon was even more lopsided...in an event where fewer points are better, the second-place competitor earned three times as many points as Thorpe. (thx, gary)

What if every Olympic sport was photographed like beach volleyball?Aug 03 2012

Nate Jones was disappointed about how women's Olympic beach volleyball has been photographed at the Olympics so he decided to show us what other sports look like through the lens of women's Olympic beach volleyball photographer's lens. The results are hilarious.

Olympic Butt Photography

(via ★mathowie)

The Mars OlympicsAug 02 2012

On Twitter right now, Neil deGrasse Tyson is imagining how various Olympic events would work on Mars.

Women's Beach Volleyball on Mars: No protective ozone layer there. Solar UV would irradiate all exposed legs, buns, & tummies

Gymnastics: On Mars, with only 38% of Earth's gravity, the Vault & other spring-assisted leaps would resemble circus cannons.

(via @jaycer17)

Homemade Olympic highlightsAug 02 2012

The WSJ is producing some homemade highlight videos of important Olympic events, sort of like what one of the Tenenbaum children might conjure up.

(via @davidfg)

Women at the OlympicsJul 19 2012

Nevermind that Marissa Mayer is a pregnant CEO...Malaysian air rifle shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi is set to compete at the London Olympics while eight months pregnant. Shooting with a potentially moving/kicking baby on board can't be easy.

The International Olympic Committee does not keep records on the number of pregnant athletes, but a search of news reports suggests that only three other pregnant women have competed in the Olympics, all of them in the Winter Games. And Nur Suryani looks likely to set the record for the most heavily pregnant competitor in Olympic history.

Shooting may be less strenuous on a pregnant body than many other sports, but it is also a sport in which fortunes can hinge on fractions of millimeters, with breathing, balance and concentration considered paramount.

Nur Suryani has a solution when she steps onto the rifle range in London: "I will talk to her, say, 'Mum is going to shoot just for a while. Can you just be calm?"'

But just when you are thinking "yay ladies", consider that when the Japanese soccer teams flew to Europe on the same flight, the men sat in business class while the women were seated in coach.

It was precisely a year ago that the Japanese women's soccer team won the World Cup, beating the United States in the final and giving a boost to the spirits of a nation that had been battered by an earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear disaster.

But when they flew to Europe on Sunday along with the men's team, the women were in coach seats while the men were up in business class. The Japanese Football Association said the teams had left Tokyo together on the same Japan Airlines flight.

"I guess it should have been the other way around," Homare Sawa, the leading player on the women's team, told Japanese reporters this week. "Even just in terms of age, we are senior."

And don't even get started on Saudi Arabia and many other Middle Eastern countries. Recent "progress" aside, these countries are still sickeningly misogynistic regarding athletics.

Update: Taibi ended up finishing 34th out of 56 in the qualifying round.

Jesse Owens' favorite Olympic memoryJul 17 2012

Jesse Owens' medal-winning exploits against the Aryan backdrop of the 1936 Olympics are well known, but I had never heard the story of his friendship with his German rival in the long jump. Owens explained in a 1960 Reader's Digest piece:

Walking a few yards from the pit, I kicked disgustedly at the dirt. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to look into the friendly blue eyes of the tall German broad jumper. He had easily qualified for the finals on his first attempt. He offered me a firm handshake.

"Jesse Owens, I'm Luz Long. I don't think we've met." He spoke English well, though with a German twist to it.

"Glad to meet you," I said. Then, trying to hide my nervousness, I added, "How are you?"

"I'm fine. The question is: How are you?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Something must be eating you," he said-proud the way foreigners are when they've mastered a bit of American slang. "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed."

"Believe me, I know it," I told him -- and it felt good to say that to someone.

Here's a video of Owens competing in Berlin:

Update: Or perhaps Owens fabricated the story? (thx, @jessakka)

The naughty 2012 Olympics logoJul 12 2012

With the Olympics about two weeks away, consider this a final you-can't-unsee-it reminder that the 2012 London Olympics logo looks like Lisa Simpson performing oral sex.

2012 Olympic Logo Lisa Simpson

It's not as bad as some of the others on this list (oh, that Mon-Sat logo), but it's still exceptionally unforgettable. Enjoy the wall-to-wall Olympic coverage for the next two weeks!

NBA TV documentary on the Dream TeamJun 18 2012

NBA TV did a documentary on the 1992 Men's Olympic basketball team, aka the Dream Team. It it, for now, available on YouTube:

Get it while you can...this looks like an unofficial copy and the NBA is likely to take it down soon. (thx, david)

An oral history of the Dream TeamJun 12 2012

This history of the 1992 US Olympic basketball team might only be interesting to those who watched all those games. Which I did. And I am.

Chuck started Michael and Magic every game and then rotated the other three. Pippen would start one game, Mullin would start the next. Robinson and Ewing would alternate; Malone and Barkley would alternate. He was a master at managing. But in the second game against Croatia, there was never any doubt: He was putting Pippen on Toni Kukoc [who had just been drafted by the Bulls and had been offered a contract for more money than his future teammate]. Pippen and Jordan were tired of hearing about how great Kukoc was, because they were winning NBA championships.

You ever watch a lion or a leopard or a cheetah pouncing on their prey? We had to get Michael and Scottie out of the locker room, because they was damn near pulling straws to see who guarded him. Kukoc had no idea.

Ten Olympic events due for a comebackMay 23 2012

Over at the NY Times Olympics blog, Victor Mather takes a look at a few sports that would be fun to see in the Olympic Games again.

3. Dueling pistol, 1906

No actual duels were fought, alas. Rather, contestants shot at a dummy dressed in a frock coat. Shooting events tend to be rather dull to watch, but they would have a chance with creative thinking like this.

And tandem bike racing!

And don't forget the art competitions.

Art competitions at the OlympicsDec 01 2011

The Olympic Games used to include competitions in painting, sculpture, literature, architecture, and music.

From 1912 to 1948 rules of the art competition varied, but the core of the rules remained the same. All of the entered works had to be inspired by sport, and had to be original (that is, not be published before the competition). Like in the athletic events at the Olympics, gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded to the highest ranked artists, although not all medals were awarded in each competition. On a few occasions, in fact, no medals were presented at all.

(via @itscolossal)

Watch complete games of the Dream Team from the 1992 OlympicsOct 21 2011

Here's a little weekend viewing for you...Ballislife has put several complete 1992 Dream Team games up on YouTube. Here's their game versus Croatia to get you going:

(via @fchimero)

1896 Olympic marathonJul 26 2011

Here's a photo of three gentlemen running in the first Olympic marathon in 1896 attired in what looks like street clothes.

1896 marathon

This was the second modern running of the marathon; the first was a pre-Olympic qualifying race held a month before. In the Olympic race, seventeen competitors started the race and only about half finished. The winning time was just under three hours and the third place finisher was disqualified for covering "part of the course by carriage". I would also not be surprised if the three fellows in the photo above stopped off for a coffee and some painting along the way.

Athens' modern Olympic ruinsJun 18 2010

Many of the stadiums and venues from the 2004 Athens Olympics are now lying abandoned, unused since the Games and symbolic of the disfunctional Greek economy.

Softball has no following in Greece, and the construction of a permanent softball stadium hasn't changed that. [...] Greeks like sports, but they like smoking more.

A city "winning" the right to host the Olympic Games seems like buying a pig in a poke.

Photos of the 2010 Winter ParalympicsMar 17 2010

The Big Picture has an awesome set of photos from the 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver. Handicapped my ass...most of these events look much tougher than their regular Olympic counterparts.

Predicting Olympic medal countsJan 21 2010

Economics professor Daniel Johnson makes accurate Olympic medal predictions using a handful of indicators that are unrelated to sports.

His forecast model predicts a country's Olympic performance using per-capita income (the economic output per person), the nation's population, its political structure, its climate and the home-field advantage for hosting the Games or living nearby. "It's just pure economics," Johnson says. "I know nothing about the athletes. And even if I did, I didn't include it."

For the upcoming 2010 games in Vancouver, Johnson predicts that Canada, the US, Norway, Austria, and Sweden will end up with the most medals. (thx, brandon)

Update: Johnson's predictions were a bit off.

Nice posters for the 2012 OlympicsMay 22 2009

Alan Clarke has designed some lovely proposed posters for the 2012 Olympics in London.

2012 Olympic PostersThe Ministry of Type likens them to Otl Aicher's classic work for the 1972 Munich Games but they also remind me of several of the media packaging mashups, particularly those of Olly Moss.

2008 Summer Paralympic Games photographySep 12 2008

I don't mean to link to every single thing on The Big Picture, but Alan's knocked it out of the park again with these fantastic photos of the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games. These sports look more difficult than the ones at the regular Olympics. Take, for instance, goalball:

Participants compete in teams of three, and try to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it, into the opponents' goal. They must use the sound of the bell to judge the position and movement of the ball. Games consist of two 10 minute halves. Blindfolds allow partially sighted players to compete on an equal footing with blind players.

The Games aren't being broadcast on American TV but you can catch them on the web at Universal Sports.

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)

New Yorker cartoon ideaAug 22 2008

My Olympics-themed New Yorker cartoon idea: Two men walk down the hallway of an office. One of the men, just laid off, carries a box with his things in it and says to the other man, "Don't worry, I'll work my way back through the repechage."

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.

Great Olympic moments on YouTubeAug 20 2008

One of the best ways to watch the Olympics is to chase down all the references made by NBC's commentators on YouTube and watch them in addition to (or instead of) the regular telecast. Here are some of the ones I've found.

From the 1976 Olympics, the first perfect 10 in Olympic gymnastics history by Nadia Comaneci on the uneven parallel bars. This more impressive routine also earned a 10, as did this balance beam routine.

Olga Korbut's uneven parallel bars routine from the 1972 Olympics (above). Love that dismount! The skills done on the bars today are so much more athletic but Korbut's routine was a magical flowing performance. At the rate the women today are going, the uneven parallel bars will soon be replaced by the high bar used in the men's competitions...they barely use the bottom bar anymore.

My recollection of the men's 4x100m relay at the 1984 Olympics involves the US team trailing after three legs when Carl Lewis (still my favorite Olympian) seizes the baton from Calvin Smith and thunders down the last 100 meters, singlehandedly winning the race and smashing the world record. The reality was somewhat different. The American team was way ahead when Lewis got the baton but it still is amazing to watch him pull away from the rest of the field like that. Bolt-like, innit?

A similar pulling away occurred in 1996 by Michael Johnson in the 200 meters. No one even came close to threatening his world record for 12 years until the emergence of Usain Bolt.

In 1988, Greg Louganis hit his head on the board on his third-to-last dive in the preliminaries of the men's springboard. He returned to qualify for the next round and eventually won the gold medal in the event.

Bob Beamon smashed the world record in the long jump by almost two feet at the 1968 Olympics. His record stood for almost 23 years until Mike Powell broke it in 1991.

Also at the '68 Games, Dick Fosbury unveiled his unique high jumping technique, the Fosbury Flop, which became the preferred technique in this event. For comparison, here are a couple of videos showing the other techniques that were in use at the time.

Jesse Owens' 100 meter win at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

After his hamstring popped in the semifinals of the 400 meters at the 1992 Olympics, Derek Redmond, aided by his father, finished the race to roars from the crowd. Just thinking about this makes me cry.

Speaking of tear-inducing performances, Kerri Strug hobbled up to the vault runway on a bum ankle and hit a 9.712 on her final vault in the team competition at the 1996 Games, landing more or less perfectly on one foot, clinching a victory for the US team. Or so the story goes. As with all mythology, the truth is present but not entirely adhered to. As it turned out, the US team had enough of a lead on the Russian team that Strug's last vault was unnecessary. But it hardly dimishes the moment for Strug. At the time, she thought she had to do the vault for the medal and she went out there and stuck it.

And finally, Svetlana Khorkina on the uneven parallel bars at the 1996 Games. For reasons I don't fully understand, Khorkina is probably my favorite female Olympian ever.

Update: From the 1964 Games, here's a video of Billy Mills coming from behind in the 10,000 meters. I have no idea how he sprints that fast after running more than six miles. (thx, 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)

The middle management OlympicsAug 19 2008

John Kenney goes for the gold in bi-monthly-status-meeting commenting. Even as a young student, Kenney seemed tailor made for this event. As his teacher recalls:

In twenty-five years of teaching, I'd never seen a student with less energy, interest, or charisma. It was almost like he was catatonic. But then, when called upon in class, he was able, at an early age, to take a fresh, cogent thought that a classmate had made moments before and restate it as if it were his own. I knew then that he had the raw skills to become a truly great middle-management-meeting Olympian.

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.

Olympic medals by populationAug 08 2008

In terms of population, the Bahamas won more medals at the 2004 Summer Olympics than any other country, by more than double. For a country of ~21 million, the super-fit Australians make a good showing on the list.

Update: And here's a listing of medals rated by wealth. (thx, noah)

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?

Average athlete vs Olympic athleteAug 05 2008

Two average Joes compete in five Olympic events to see how they stack up against the top Olympic competitors.

Dennis Crowley and myself spent all day doing 5 different Olympic Events: 100m freestyle, 100m dash, 110m hurdles, long jump and the rings (in gymnastics) and compared ourselves to Olympic athletes.

Olympic athletes make it look easy and these two make it look difficult. I particularly enjoyed Crowley's 100-meter swim/walk. Related: can you go from normal guy to Olympian with a few years of hard training? (via clusterflock)

Update: ESPN followed Kathryn Bertine -- "an average person with an athletic background" -- on her two-year quest to become an Olympic athlete. (thx gerard)

Update: The Mechanical Olympics project is leveraging the Amazon Mechanical Turk workforce to make videos of ordinary people competing in all the Olympic events. Here's an example video. (thx, michael)

Extensive Olympic statsJul 15 2008

The folks behind the excellent Baseball Reference have launched a statistics site for the Olympics. Every athlete that's ever competed in the Games has his/her own page. Announcement here.

A rare positive review from Speak UpJun 05 2007

A rare positive review from Speak Up of the new London 2012 that everyone else in the world seems to hate. "I believe, despite any ensuing boo's, that this is some of the most innovative and daring identity work we have seen in this new millennium, and the lack of cheesy and imagination-impairing gradients gives me hope that identity work can still be resurrected on a larger scale."

Update: Coudal loves the logo.

Jonathan Crowe ran an Olympics-themed weblog forMar 05 2006

Jonathan Crowe ran an Olympics-themed weblog for Athens 2004 and Torino 2006. Interestingly, the 2004 version got a lot more traffic, but more recent one made him more money via Google AdSense. "Whether [the increase is] due to better ad block positioning, 'better' ads (more on-target or more lucrative), a 'better' audience, or simply a more mature advertising network, I have no idea."

Olympics wrap-upMar 03 2006

I've got a few stories about the Winter Olympics open in tabs, so in the interest of getting rid of them:

- Photographer Vincent Laforet discusses his process in getting the photographs he wants.
- How the broadcast graphics were done for NBC's coverage of the Olympics.
- The Nation on what went wrong with NBC's coverage.
- Here's the New Yorker's take on the TV coverage.

Finally, Gelf Magazine compares Olympic predictions with the actual results. The media outlets surveyed all predicted higher medal counts for the US, but weren't off by that much (aside from the ridiculous AP predicitons). Only NBC and Nike were surprised that Bode Miller sucked so royally.

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.

Figure skater Johnny Weir loves to shop. (via lia)Feb 28 2006

Figure skater Johnny Weir loves to shop. (via lia)

Olympic snowboarders competed while listening to theirFeb 27 2006

Olympic snowboarders competed while listening to their iPods. The goal? Effortless concentration. "It enables you to focus on what you're doing without actually focusing, if that makes any sense. You're not over-thinking, and that's the best way to perform the harder tricks and maneuvers."

My favorite Winter Olympics coverage is thisFeb 17 2006

My favorite Winter Olympics coverage is this correspondence being posted several times daily to Slate. If this is what the NBC coverage was like, it might actually be entertaining.

Gold medal winning mogulist Dale Begg-Smith, describedFeb 16 2006

Gold medal winning mogulist Dale Begg-Smith, described during the Olympic telecast as a successful entrepreneur, was actually a bigwig at a spyware company. Business aside, his final run wasn't good enough to warrant the gold. (via /.)

A collection of "stupid nude calendars". IFeb 16 2006

A collection of "stupid nude calendars". I confess that I found this while looking for photos from the racy curling calendar...but I came away empty-handed. (Only slightly NSFW.)

DFL is a blog highlighting the lastFeb 14 2006

DFL is a blog highlighting the last place finishers in Olympic events. Eddie the Eagle should be the site's mascot.

One-page full schedule for the NBC coverageFeb 13 2006

One-page full schedule for the NBC coverage of the Winter Olympics.

Larry Brown wanted Stephon Marbury off theJul 22 2005

Larry Brown wanted Stephon Marbury off the Olympic team in Athens. Marbury is the most overrated player in the NBA...there ain't no "Marbury" in "team". I wouldn't have him on my team even if he played for free.

Both baseball and softball voted out ofJul 08 2005

Both baseball and softball voted out of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

London wins right to host 2012 Olympic GamesJul 06 2005

London wins right to host 2012 Olympic Games.

NYC2012 is using the Union Square clockMay 02 2005

NYC2012 is using the Union Square clock art work to promote NY's 2012 Olympic bid. One of the artists who did the piece is not thrilled about it being used for advertising.

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