What Makes and Breaks the Olympics


28 days until the Olympics. I can hardly believe that I have waited for four years for this, and it is hardly a month away.

Although I will arrange everything so that I don’t miss a single, solitary second of Women’s or Men’s Gymnastics, it is about more than that to me. Every free moment I have, I will be glued to the television set.

The Olympics for me, represent what is seemingly lost these days in life; absolute true beauty. There is nothing more exciting to me than watch the best moments of people’s lives. And I will cry, cry, cry, as I watch these events and moments unfold because it is simply too perfect. It’s so beautiful that my heart breaks wide open for these people all over the world.

So while watching the “Beijing Olympics” section ON DEMAND on Comcast Cable I stumbled upon “The Top 5 Heartbreaks.” And here is what I saw, half asleep at 2am that made me pour out buckets of tears. What gets me so excited for August 8th to 24th.

In the 1992 Barcelona Games, British runner Derek Redmond competes in the semi-finals for the 400m race. Plagued by injuries throughout his career, Redmond goes down with a leg injury. (He had posted the best time during the first round, and won the quarter-finals). He gets up, pushing people away and hobbling to finish the race. He is joined by his father who holds on to him, as Redmond sobs into his shoulder.

Runner Hicham El Geurrouj of Morocco was one of the best of the best at the 1500 meters. At the 1996 Atlanta Games, a fall took him out of the race. Four years later at the Sydney Games, he is beat last second by Kenyan Noah Ngeny. For the 2004 Athens Games, El Geurrouj was not expected to be contending for the gold. And at the last moment he narrowly wins the gold over Kenyan Bernard Lagat (who won the bronze in Sydney) who himself gets down onto his hands and knees and cries with El Geurrouj. There is nothing like seeing victory, but it makes it ten times better for me to see those from other countries who just miss out on their dream to be so happy for the one who did win. The world lacks that so much today. Human beings are so selfish and cruel to one another, and the Olympics demonstrate the very best sides of people.

So with that said, I realize I have a small fear that has been building for these Olympic Games. I am afraid of what kind of scandal or controversy can ruin it for me or more importantly, the athletes. I have blogged about this before, but I am getting increasingly worried about the age debate over gymnast He Kexin. Because at this point, I cannot believe what a wide consensus the world of gymnastics has over her being underage. I can’t believe the major publications and whatnot that state this.

The Olympics are the only time gymnastics is a headlining sport. And there has been a major controversy every year as far as I can remember. Let’s say hypothetically that China wins team gold, and He wins the uneven bars gold. Suddenly, there is a major news break that discovers that He is underage. Major headlines. They decide to strip China of team gold, and He of uneven bar gold. Major, major headlines. Better TV ratings.

My point is, if this happens I will lose faith in humanity. A part of me will truly die. The only reason I say this is a possibility is because it is so widely believed. And the fact that event finals have been split in 3 days in an odd order (which is there to increase ratings; an extra night of gymnastics) make me wonder what else they would do to increase ratings. IF there are underage gymnasts on the Chinese team, there is proof now. Do something now, don’t wait until the Games. Don’t ruin the moments, people’s lives, or my faith. Don’t “fix” it.  Don’t fix destiny.  Don’t make destroy anything else with Politics.

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20 Comments

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20 responses to “What Makes and Breaks the Olympics

  1. Charlotte

    whats the order for event finals?

  2. audgator

    I forgot the order of MAG, but for WAG-
    Night 1- VT, FX
    Night 2- UB
    Night 3- BB

    I personally despise that.

  3. MoceanuReturns

    I guess it will be best for Nastia, that way she is rested for UB and BB. I’m pretty sure Marta will give precedence to the team than AA so I think she’ll make Shawn do AA both prelims and TF. She’ll probably be exhausted by AA and EF

  4. bettycoltrane

    MoceanuReturns:
    But everyone who will compete in AA will have had to qualify for AA right? So that fields is going to be level, at least in theory. And it’s not like they’re going to spare Shawn’s scores in TF for the sake of her being rested (since she’s the best, also most consistent, also she probably wouldn’t want that). So there’s really no conceivable way to avoid the problem you’ve mentioned. But probably Shawn will just be prepared so that she’s at her best for all her competitions.

  5. LS in WA

    Discovered your blog a few days ago. Was delighted by the passionate, genuine tone of your commentary. I love gymnastics also, and am always looking to see what others think about what is going on in the sport. The Olympic Games truly are wonderful. On one level, the event does bring out the best in humanity, but it also displays the worst.

    What ruins the Olympics for me is not scandal, it is when evil is rewarded. Cheating is never acceptable, not at any time, or for any reason. Any nation that cheats in any way, whether through drugs, bribery, or breaking international rules governing a sport, should not only be exposed, but required to pay the consequences.

    China has long stated it intends these games to be a showcase of its superiority as a nation. To what lengths China will go in order to secure as many golds as possible, I do not know and cannot say. But I, too, am concerned. I do not know of any better way to ruin these games for the athletes, not to mention the spectators, than to allow cheating. Artifical advantages for a few nations ultimately ruins the experience for all.

    Historically, there have always been a few nations that have not played by the rules in regard to age. Every nation that I am aware of in this regard is or was communist: the USSR cheated with Olga Bicherova in the 1981 worlds. Romania cheated with both Daniela Silivas and Gina Gogean. And everyone remembers Kim Gwang Suk of North Korea. In each of these examples, deserving gymnasts lost out to an illegal competitor.

    As for the He Kexin debate, it is simple. If she (or any others) does not meet the age requirement, she should not be on the Chinese team. If it turns out that China is cheating through use of underage gymnasts, then China should not be allowed to win. That would not be fair to the other nations and athletes who are playing by the rules.

    On a slightly different note, I believe that raising the minimum age in women’s gymnastics to 16 was a step in the right direction for a sport suffering increasingly from emotional and physical ailments resulting from efforts to thwart nature. Why? The sport had gotten to the point where winning seemed to require a prepubescent body. Raising the age limit has allowed some success for a wider range of female ages and body types. If anything, the minimum age should be raised further, to ensure girls’ bodies and minds have the chance to develop fully and properly in order to handle the requirements of elite-level sports.

  6. audgator

    LS in WA-
    Awesome insight. You bring up a lot of very good points. It does suck for evil to be rewarded.

    But as for the age rule, I used to agree with it but now I do not. Simply because at this point in time, you cannot succeed in gymnastics without being able to handle the pressure. It seems that consistency and dealing with the pressure cannot be taught.

    Very great comment, and thank you for the compliments.

  7. Isis

    You said:

    “Let’s say hypothetically that China wins team gold, and He wins the uneven bars gold. Suddenly, there is a major news break that discovers that He is underage. Major headlines. They decide to strip China of team gold, and He of uneven bar gold. Major, major headlines. Better TV ratings.”

    Anything’s possible, but I find the scenario unlikely. Why? Because who’s going to do this? Certainly not the Chinese media. And as for the Western media, look, the only people who could possibly have the resources to track down this kind of information are the major media companies, and embarrassing China like that might end up costing them big (especially if it does lead to any medal-stripping); China could revoke their permits, or (more likely) start restricting their access to places that they used to have access to, without necessarily making much noise about it, but in the long run, costing the ‘guilty’ media a ton of money anyway. IMHO, it simply wouldn’t be worth it for the media’s point of view.

    As for the ‘cheating is cheating’ mantra, I’ve this before and I’ll say it again: (1) I strongly disagree with the current age rule, and (2) bad rules ought to be opposed in any way possible, including by breaking them. If He Kexin is underage and still makes the team, then I say: good for her and good for China. As long as neither He Kexin nor the Chinese team gets into trouble, that is. (And, in spite of all the rumors, I really don’t think anyone will get into trouble.)

  8. audgator

    Isis-

    You’re awesome 🙂

    To everyone-
    I love the comments everyone writes. LOVE. Keep it coming!

  9. Kelly B

    I couldn’t agree more with why you love the Olympics…well said! The Derek Redmond thing still makes me cry, too. It’s everything writers write about set into real life. Amazing. I think that picture should have won a Pulitzer!
    As for the age thing and He Kexin…sure, China ought to follow the rules. And Marion Jones shouldn’t have juiced. They all get broken by everybody. I can’t help but think, though, if I’m Nastia Liukin and I win the gold only because He Kexin couldn’t compete (or worse, was stripped of it after she won), the gold won’t feel much like gold knowing you’re truly NOT the best in the world at the time. Age schmage. The best is the best and how can the Olympic Gold Medal be as perfectly sweet as it ought to be if you don’t really know if you even are the best!

  10. Catherine

    i think it’s unfair because nastia could have won gold on bars last quadrenium, but she played by the rules and waited until now. if kexin wants gold, she should wait her turn. why does nastia have to wait, but kexin doesn’t??

    i disagree with the age rule, but it’s not fair that some countries have to follow it and others don’t

  11. I know it sounds bad but…
    I would absolutly love to see He Kexin perform in Beijing. Simply because her routine is probably the most spectacular in the world.
    BUT…
    I dont want her to go, especially if her performance prevents rule abiding gymnasts like Nastia getting the medals and placing they deserve.
    Sadly I doubt a bit of contoversy will put China off. I mean, He’s official age cant be proven. And I think that as a team, competing at home, breaking the rules will not put China off in their quest for a home gold and national glory.
    If she does compete, China are cheats and bad sportsmen. Whats even more puzzling is why they have allowed the media to so blatently publisize such incriminating information.

  12. Catherine

    it’s not even just about the gold, but say if kexin, nastia, and yang are on the podium, that still takes tweddle and ksenia out of the medals and they deserve to be there

  13. MRR

    I’d say just ban the age-rule altogether. He Kexin, for example, has hit all of her bar routines in competition this year. Even if world cup meets and national championships are far less pressure packed than an Olympics would be, Kexin (too young or not) has proven she is a competitor and deserves to compete with the finest in the world. EXCELLENT POST!

  14. amy

    i am with Catherine… Martha has said many times that has Nastia been the right age she would be at the games in 2004! So Nastia waited and so should he kexin!

  15. Nik

    I am loving your blog.. the passion is amazing and just got me all hyped up for the Olympics.. so much coverage, so much excitement!!

    As for the He Kexin thing here is my opinion: Noone has proven anything. Noone has shown that her age is anything different to 15 turning 16. There is no documentation to show that she is underage. I think she probably is, but the poor girl has to be innocent until proven guilty. By looks, sure she looks young but so does Mattie Larsson. The difference being that the USA has substancial documentation of births and deaths and China does not. With their enormous population and the fact that a lot of births go undocumented, not to mention they follow the Chinese year it will be hard to prove that she is anything other than the age she is presenting to the world today. I know some people I went to school with who were in the same boat but from Africa. They were in my grade at school but weren’t sure if they were 15 or 16 when we were all getting our driver’s permits because their country did not have that kind of documentation.

    Until China’s technology is brought up to speed country-wide, there will always be these discrepencies. When someone is born in a house in a rice field who is to say what date they were born exactly?

    Saying all that I disagree with the age rule anyways, there are 13 year old divers competing yet gymnasts have to be older. Kinda unfair. Though it was good for the image of the sport- my boyfriend is no longer opposed to watching because there are fewer ‘little girls’ and more ‘sexy’ gymnasts hahaha.

  16. becca

    I agree about the point that nobody really knows He Kexin’s age. Even if He Kexin was the correct age, it would be really hard for the Chinese to prove it. I think the point is that the age rule should be done away with because it’s not enforceable.

  17. Great post.

    I think you are exactly right. Someone — right or wrong — will reveal that she is underage after she has already competed.

    It will be the scandal of the Games.

    I only hope the Chinese coaches are smart enough to not select her if indeed she is underage. They might well win without her.

  18. Isis

    Rick,

    What makes you so confident? I mean, how are they going to do it? Even if (say) they tracked down her 1st grade teacher, and s/he said that He Kexin was 14, the Chinese could easily argue that the teacher was an imposter, or that s/he got things mixed up, or what have you; in any case, it would not constitute a legitimate proof (legitimate enough for the FIG to be able to take any punitive action, that is). Even if someone dug up her birth certificate Gina Gogean-style: who knows how many He Kexin’s there are in Beijing! (She’s from Beijing, right? I thought I read that somewhere.) It’s not like Gina Gogean, who was born in some village in a country with 20 or so million people, in which Gina is an uncommon name. Again, they could argue that it’s not THE He Kexin and/or that the birth certificate was forged by a malicious fame-seeker.

    None of this is to say that this couldn’t potentially turn into a minor scandal (not a major one: gymnastics is not a popular enough sport for that). But the more I think about it, the more I think that it would be plain impossible to produce a proof that could potentially lead to China and/or He Kexin being stripped of any medals.

    (And let us all remember: North Korea got into trouble over Kim Gwang Suk, not because they forged her age, but because they were stupid enough to submit three different birth dates for her to the FIG. Had they been consistent, people would’ve been pointing out that she was ‘obviously’ too young – just as they are doing now with He Kexin – but nobody would’ve been able to prove a thing.)

  19. david

    1) yes, cheating is cheating, but cheating on one’s age is not at the same level as cheating with enhancement drugs.

    2) There is no absolute fairness in the Olympics Games. Fairness is a relative term.

    3) No, no, cheating is not the problem only to the communist countries. They just got caught more often. Aussies and americans are breaking the world records on swimming like crazy these days. Does anyone out there really believe that all those world records are honest? I don’t. The technology advantage of the western countries might just give them an edge in cheating.

    4) So far there is no proof on He’s age falsification. so I refuse to let the rumor ruin my excitement on the coming Olympics. Apparently, the Chinese don’t give a shit about the rumor. If FIG, USAG, and the members of the US team also don’t give a shit, why should I?

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