Summer Olympics 2008

Are you planning to watch the Olympics this year? I'm guessing very few people wish to, or are physically able to, watch the entire seventeen days worth of games, but most people will watch some events, even if they just catch the highlights on the news. This year it's supposed to be easier than ever to catch what interests you, whether that's something esoteric like synchronized swimming and badminton or more traditional sports like track and field and gymnastics. You can watch on your television, on NBC. You can watch on your computer at, where you'll be able to access three thousand hours of on demand video and two thousand hours of streaming video. You can even get some data on your cell, live results and video highlights at And of course there's loads of info at the official Olympic website. In fact there's so much Olympic stuff out there that Dr. Klaus Kallmayer, head of cardiology at City Hospital in Dubai has said it could actually kill viewers. Now that's a serious sporting event.

The Olympic Games always draw controversy and I'm tempted to think this time around there is more than usual, but then I remember the Moscow and the Los Angeles games where entire blocs of countries boycotted, leaving enormous gaps in the competitions, so I'm probably wrong. There has been quite a bit of secrecy surrounding these games, especially the opening ceremonies, which will be over by the time you read this. According to this article from Variety the ceremony was so secret that the penalty for talking about it was rumored to be seven years in jail! Interestingly I haven't heard the same sorts of things about the closing ceremonies, and in fact political figures, like the British Prime Minister, who are skipping the opening ceremonies are planning to attend the closing, so maybe the closing ceremonies are stigma free. (If you really want to boycott the Olympics but want to see some cute athletes competing check out the international puppy games on Animal Planet.)

But even after doing all this research and worrying about the political implications of watching the Olympics, I still couldn't figure out the most important bit of data I needed, which is what times are my favorite events happening? I must confess I had no idea how to translate Beijing time into my own time. For instance the actual opening of the games took place at 8:00 p.m. local time on 08/08/08 (to take advantage of all those lovely eights, although I suppose they could have opened them at 8:08 to be really thorough) but I didn't know time that is for me. Luckily Google came to my rescue and informed me that for me, as I type on the east coast of the US, Beijing time is currently exactly twelve hours ahead of me.

Earlier this week I dreamt I was a television journalist broadcasting from Beijing and I said, "The entire Olympics is one giant sculpture installation, filled with performance art; leaping, jumping, running, racing, swimming; and on a scale to make Christo weep." When I woke up I thought about what I had said and decided it wasn't a bad analogy. The Olympics are as much a spectacle as they are a massive sporting event and there's no reason not to revel in that aspect of them. In fact in Hong Kong, Beijing's co-host city where my favorite sports will be taking place, there is an actual Olympic art competition. You can read more about it and look at some of the pieces here.

There are all kinds of weird things you can find if you poke around the official Olympic website. For instance did you know that you could have been one of two thousand people who were allowed to walk the nearly six kilometer cross country course? I've been to quite a few horse shows in my time and normally only the athletes and their coaches or instructors can walk the course. I wonder what the footing will be like after two thousand people tromp along the thing. This is a fantastic opportunity as Olympic jumps can be quite beautiful and frightening as you can see from these pictures of past Olympic events. Here, here, here and here.

You can also visit the personal trainer portion of the website. This isn't what I expected, namely advice on how to get into better shape, instead it's videos of various athletes answering questions like "How do you overcome your fear?" and "How do you resist the temptation to take forbidden substances?" That last one may say more about the questioner than the questioned. You can access the personal trainers, ranging from pole vaulter Sergey Bubka to swimmer Rania Elwani here. There's plenty of other interesting things to find, including schedules, wallpaper and screensavers so be sure to take a look.

One-Paragraph Review
This week's one-paragraph review is from The Dude who commented on Darren Shan's Demonata series of YA novels saying, "These are the first books I've enjoyed since I finished Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Everything else I've read was for school and was agony. Thanks for suggesting them." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at