Stephen Holcomb is the driver for the US 4-man bobsled team that starts racing today and also a bit of a nerd, more or less. Check out his “Where in the World Is Matt-like” video that he created over the last World Cup season.
Much is being made about the Polo Reindeer Cap from the opening ceremony being the hottest fashion item of the Winter Games, but now it seems it has been supplanted by something a bit more garish being the sought after ‘must have’ for Olympic fans (which good for me too as I’ve sold my Polo hats for as much as $500 each on Ebay).
While often thought of as synonymous with ice resurfacing, Zamboni is actually a trademark of a specific machine. The Olympic committee, in an effort to ‘go green’ decided not to use the tried and tested Zamboni but an electronic Olympia machine.
The first one belched up a bunch of snow on the long track speed skating oval.
Then the backup did the same thing.
Then the emergency backup shredded the ice to the point some teams wanted a postponment of the race.
That was it. Back to the standby and an airlift mission was tasked to fly a true Zamboni out to Vancouver so that the ice resurfacing can go ahead without fail.
The NBC Olympics site is really trying some pretty cool things this Olympics. They have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds (both of which allow you to submit questions to the on-air announcers), but one of the newer items is a real time Twitter visualization so you can see what the Tweeting masses are talking about as they watch the games. This is a pretty neat capture of what folks are talking about in real time, and I can’t wait to see it tonight when some announcer says something dumb. Will be interesting to watch.
One thing that always amuses me during the Olympics is the nationalistic jingoism that is often displayed, mainly in an anti-USA manner by fans from other parts of the world. It can be silly, like saying ‘Chanting USA-USA is Nazi-like’ but Greek fans in Athens chanting ‘Hellas-Hellas’ is part of the Olympic spirit.” One other way it manifests itself is in the endless debate about the medal table.
I’ve spoken about this before during the medal debate in Beijing. There are two ways of counting medals by country at the Olympics. By the number of golds, then silvers, then bronze, or by the overall number of medals. The United States media generally reports on the overall number of medals, whereas most of the rest of the world reports on who has the highest number of gold medals. Thus a country with 1 gold would appear higher than a country with 6 silvers and 10 bronze medals in some tables. This has led to some countries like Russia criticizing the Gold First standard saying ‘how can a country with 12 medalists be said to have a ‘poorer’ Olympics than a country with just one medal?’ Some commentators have suggested a ‘points system‘ whereby a bronze is worth 1/5 of a Gold or something like that. Sounds very silly (it’s a British idea so yeah, it is very silly).
Officially–there is no ranking. The Olympic charter forbids it:
The IOC and the OCOG shall not draw up any global ranking per country. A roll of honour bearing the names of medal winners and those awarded diplomas in each event shall be established by the OCOG and the names of the medal winners shall be featured prominently and be on permanent display in the main stadium.
However, there is an unofficial ‘media alert’ that the IOC puts out that has the medal table in the order of Golds first. This started back around the 2000 Olympics and the IOC won’t comment on the debate because “officially, we don’t publish a table”. How bureaucratically convenient. UPDATE: It appears that the Vancouver 2010 committee has decided to publish their list in a ‘total medals’ format, but the European media continues to follow a Gold first standard.
Which is better? Who really cares. In the end it is about athletes and their own personal quests and sacrifices to become the best in the world. Some of them have help from nations, some do not. If you see someone arguing the point that one counting system is inherently better or worse than the other, than you have found someone worth ignoring for the rest of the Olympics.
Following the death of Olympic competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili, Olympic luge competitors will now be starting at a lower ramp in an effort to reduce speeds on the Whistler Luge track, this despite an ‘investigation’ earlier which ruled out track design as an issue in the death.
However, many are acknowledging that the technical changes are not really the issue right now, but that mental changes are in order.
“You have an emotional component and you have a technical component,” Romstad said, his voice cracking as he tried to explain why what seems a fairly superficial fix is being instituted. “None of our athletes . . . They lost a friend yesterday. It’s an emotional experience, something they haven’t been through before.”
“NBC sucks” is a constant drone you hear each and every Olympics. “They didn’t show enough of the Tajikistan entrance, ergo they are biased against Tajikstan” and other silliness often is heard on the messageboards and other sites (and no, I’m not kidding about the Tajik reference–it happens).
So now that we’re done with that, let’s talk about some real live numbers behind this year’s Olympics.
NBC is going to have 835 hours of coverage across multiple platforms (and I believe that includes online coverage as well). This is way up from the 419 hours of Torino coverage in 2006, and 375.5 hours in 2002 Salt Lake City. It will also be the first Olympics produced entirely in HD (though my local WRC coverage got messed up last night due to a glitch with Comcast that I had, so I watched most of the Opening Ceremony in Standard Definition. How 2003 was that?)
NBC is doing all this coverage with a significantly lower staff this year. 2168 employees which is down from the 2,768 they sent to Torino and 3,260 in Salt Lake. You would figure more advanced technology might require more personnel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
NBCU will use more than 100 cameras, all equipped with Canon lenses, to supplement OBS’ coverage. They include Sony HDC-1400, -1500 and -3300 units, and for ENG applications, Sony’s new PDW-F800 XDCAM HD optical-disc camcorders.
Um, ok. It also goes into some details about how the streams are being processed directly in Vancouver instead of backhauled to their HQ and redone there (as they had to do with the China Olympics).
Anyway, it’s a pretty interesting article if you like technical details of television sports broadcasting.
The Vancouver Olympic committee has issued a statement on the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.
The track was closed for an investigation by the coroners office in Canada. Once they had the evidence they needed for their investigation, they turned it over to the FIL (International Luge Federation). The luge federation and the Vancouver Olympics determined ‘human error‘ was to blame for the crash, not the track design itself.
It appears after a routine run, the athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not compensate properly to make correct entrance into curve 16. This resulted in a late entrance into curve 16 and although the athlete worked to correct the problem he eventually lost control of the sled resulting in the tragic accident. The technical officials of the FIL were able to retrace the path of the athlete and concluded there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.
There have been several other accidents on this track, in both luge and bobsled. One corner is now known as “50-50 corner” as you have a 50% chance you’ll crash coming through it. There are others who still blame the track, even in light of the official report from the Olympic committee.
From a layman’s perspective, it looks kind of silly to have large metal poles located on the ‘downwind-inertia’ side of the track, i.e. the place where the body would naturally go in a crash. But watching the horrific luge crash video you see his body did sort of go back and forth and I’m not certain the ‘flow’ of the track led to him going in that direction any more than it would have resulted in him jumping the wall in the other direction had he crashed a bit earlier.
Vancouver residents have set up a makeshift memorial to luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in the city center.
For those who have not heard, the luge athlete from Georgia was killed today in a freak accident on the very dangerous luge track in Vancouver. Nodar Kumaritashvilvi accident propelled him off the track and into a steel girder at nearly 90 mph, which caused injuries that eventually cost him his life.
A special moment of reflection will be held tonight during the opening ceremony. IOC officials are meeting with the luge federation in an emergency meeting as to whether the luge will take place at the Olympics or if any other changes might be made to the schedule.
The only thing bigger than the USA logo on the US Olympic Team’s Opening Ceremony outfits is the Polo Ralph Lauren horse that appears on the front of each jacket. I remember when some folks were upset to see the Nike swoosh. They’re going to have a field day with this. At least the hat is relatively logo free.
UPDATE: The “Moose” hat which was worn in the opening ceremony is already a very hot seller. Ebay is sold out, but I’ve got one (L/XL) that I’ll be auctioning off shortly. Check back for the link or goto Ebay to find it.
The wool hat is a top seller. You can’t find them in stores and the only place I’ve heard that has them in stock is the USA store in Vancouver. You can find them on ebay, but you will spend nearly $400-$500 to get one (yes, seriously).
If you have $400 you might like this sweater a bit more. It’s quite nice and was worn by most of the team during the opening ceremony.
Unlike Beijing, in which the nations entered in Chinese alphabetical order, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver will have the nations arriving in French alphabetical order, English order according to some published reports. Of course there are two exception–Greece will be first, and Canada will be last (as the host nation). The USA will be the 82nd nation to enter.
The opening ceremony is being dedicated to the memory of Nodar Kumaritashvilvi, the Georgian luge athlete that died earlier today.
This is the best list I can find so far. We’ll see if I can find a better one before the parade starts.
The New York Times is reporting on a ruling that is ending the debate on the ages of China’s gymnasts in the 2008 Beijing games, but opening the debate about the 2000 Sydney team.
”We are satisfied with the information provided by FIG, and we now consider the (2008) matter closed,” said Emmanuelle Moreau, spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee.
”Clearly they feel that there is more to be looked at for Sydney,” Moreau added. ”We encourage them to pursue their inquiry and shed some light on these cases. We now rely on them to get to the bottom of that and get back to us.”
Unfortunately, the report doesn’t say ‘why’ they believe this to be the case, what killer piece of evidence they’ve obtained or anything to that effect. We’ll have to see what comes out in the next few days.
It’s a great honor, voted on by the athletes themselves. She’s been living a bit of the American dream as have many other recent immigrants, and she’s said carrying the flag is as important to her as winning a gold medal.