Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Beijing Olympics. Is the Visibility at Least the Length of a Ping Pong Table?

Canoeing. Table Tennis. Beach Volleyball. Handball. Synchronized Swimming.

You might think this is simply a list of the most exciting and competitive professional sports in the world.

You’d be wrong. It’s actually a list of the top Olympic sports – as judged by me. And I didn’t even include other fan favorites like Track ‘n Field, Swimming, or Log Rolling.

That’s why the Summer Olympics are all the rage right about now. There’s something for everyone. And with the Women’s Shooting 10-meter Air Rifle finals tomorrow, this international athletic extravaganza really starts out with a bang.

Sorry. That was a stupid pun – but unavoidable, I’m afraid. After all, the Olympics – whether summer or winter – is always a time of media super-saturation, inevitably loaded with bad puns and forced overly-nationalistic enthusiasm.

And this time around, we’ll have a new media obsession to deal with – Beijing’s infamous air pollution.

A clear summer day on a lovely and quaint Beijing back road.

It sounds real nasty, for sure. And I can’t imagine competing in the 10-kilometer Race Walk, or the Men’s Fencing – Individual Epee events in that particulate-permeated pea soup they call “the atmosphere” over in Beijing.

To me, the Earth’s atmosphere is mostly transparent. But that’s just what I’m used to in the West.

Just because we can see the buildings on either side of the street, doesn’t mean the air in New York is better or more healthful than in Beijing.

For example, the air in Beijing, due to its substantial thickness and mass, actually provides a good amount of calories and nutrition to those who breathe it. Go ahead and take a big gulp of Beijing air. You’ll immediately feel full and satisfied.

Mmmmm. Looks like lunch.

Now try the same thing in New York. The most significant sensation you’ll feel is a headache.

So even though many competitors are concerned about their health – and their performance - during these Olympic Games, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the strength and speed athletes perform better than ever before.

As an ancient Chinese proverb posits, “Breathe the exhaust of a thousand coal-fired power plants. Inhale the fumes of 10,000 petroleum refineries. Consume the emissions of 5 million diesel engines. You will have the power to move mountains, and to run six consecutive sub-4 minute miles.”

On a particularly smoggy day, this athlete would barely be able to see the ball in her hand - thus leading to numerous double faults and unforced errors.

The point is, don’t knock it until you try it, Olympic athletes. You may do better than you think.

Now go bring home the gold for us couch potatoes, while we comfortably watch our televisions and breathe our mostly odorless, tasteless, colorless air back in the USA.

Subscribe to my sweet feed

No comments: