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kottke.org posts about Olympic Games

Nice posters for the 2012 Olympics

posted by Jason Kottke   May 22, 2009

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

2012 Olympic Posters

The 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 photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 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 seconds

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 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 detention

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 medal

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 Olympics

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 idea

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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.”

DFL

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 panorama

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 YouTube

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 photos

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 Olympics

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 19.32

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 finish

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 anthems

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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’ iPod

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 medals

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 population

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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)

posted by Jason Kottke   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 athlete

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 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 stats

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 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 Up

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 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 for

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 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-up

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 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 ball

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 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)

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2006

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

Olympic snowboarders competed while listening to their

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 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 this

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 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, described

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 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”. I

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 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.)