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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 6:47 pm 
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This thread just got unpleasant. I'm not getting into it. Pat yourselves on the back all you like.


Oh, and yov, we're perfectly capable of laughing at ourselves. We won 4 medals in boxing and 1 in horsejumping, prompting a spate of Facebook statuses saying "Its official, we're good at Riding and Fighting". However, when someone else says something similar, it smacks of prejudice.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 6:51 pm 
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Oh, that good ol' Olympic spirit!

The breastbeating in Canada has already begun. "We" didn't get enough medals!

Well, no, I sure didn't. Good for the kids who did.

I enjoyed parts of the games, but my original feelings haven't changed.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 7:01 pm 
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Well, I always like having people from underrepresented or unlikely countries participating, I have to say. So (but this is because the particular rankings of athletes in particular sports don't matter to me) I would regret a system in which there were more Americans and fewer Others.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:03 pm 
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Elentári wrote:
So, if participation limits were lifted, the two largest populated countries would walk away with an even larger share of the medals than they already do at present.....

That is obvious. The point in question is why? Does population size play a part or is it irrelevant? Is it just because of better funding and investment in facilities and training, etc.?


I think that we also have to account for the possibility that it's because athletes from those two countries could have trained harder and smarter. It always amazes me when, in a conversation about differing results between demographics, no allowance is made for the possibility that the highest achievers simply worked the hardest. (At the micro-level, I'm reminded of how people spend more time discussing the size of Michael Phelps' feet and the double-jointed bones in his body as explanations for his achievement, while neglecting the fact that he trained double pool workouts daily for many years without taking a single day off, unlike virtually all of his competitors of every nationality, including his fellow Americans. The international training standard in his sport is roughly six days a week of training with two pool workouts/day, plus three to five dryland workouts/week. Acknowledging that his success is attributable in large part to his significantly exceeding his competitors' training, though, is an inconvenient truth. If his competitors acknowledge that, they have to acknowledge their own failings. Easier to state that he was born gifted with a specialized body - then it's not his competitors' fault that they have not enjoyed his level of success.)

As for funding and investments in facilities and training, I'm not sure if there's been a serious attempt to look methodologically at what is available to athletes from different countries. For instance, China funds the training of its elite athletes, but at great personal cost to those athletes and their parents (e.g., taking them away from their homes and making them live in full-time residential training facilities.) In contrast, the US provides almost no centralized funding to its athletes. Youth athletes are mostly dependent on what funds their parents can provide - in some cases, parents have to go into debt or devote all of their spare money to assist their child in following his or her dream. A few youth and adult athletes are lucky enough to be able to go professional, but in most Olympic sports this is not possible for most athletes until after they have attained Olympic success. The other adult athletes have to scrounge together the funds to support themselves. This gives rise to stories like Sarah Robles, an American Olympic weightlifter living - and struggling to eat - off a $400/month stipend. Our all-around gymnastic champion, Gabby Douglas, had her gymnastics bills paid for by a mother who recently had to declare bankruptcy. While USA Swimming will provide a monthly stipend to its National Team (because their training is so intense that most cannot hold full-time jobs), that stipend would barely cover my rent on a 1BR in San Francisco. So while the US might be a wealthy country, it's not clear to me that that wealth is trickling down to all of our elite athletes and can be used as an explanation for their success.

I cannot definitively state that population size is irrelevant to a country's cumulative athletic achievement. However, examples like Australian swimming and Romanian gymnastics illustrate that it is the stature of a sport in the country in question, rather than the overall population, that is most relevant to the country's ability to generate a competitive, medal-rich Olympic team. At bottom, you only need 2 or 3 or 5 or 10 or 15 elite athletes in an event to put up a very impressive showing. What generates that small number of elites is a cultural awareness that high achievement in that sport is worth striving for from a young age.

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So (but this is because the particular rankings of athletes in particular sports don't matter to me) I would regret a system in which there were more Americans and fewer Others.


I think that in order to say this, you have to be okay with a system that excludes some of the highest achievers in the name of diversity (here, by country of nationality.) You have to be okay with the unfairness to those highest achievers and the fact that the dream to which they have contributed a lifetime of work is ruined - subjugated to the cause of honoring less accomplished athletes because they come from a different country. I am never going to be okay with such a quota-based repudiation of merit, regardless of the context.

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'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:42 pm 
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I don't think anyone is suggesting eliminating participation of anyone that can meet the standards the sports set. Surely more competitors is better than fewer?

I think the "fewer than three" limitations are the particularly odd ones. That's not a "participation" limitation, that's a "winning" limitation. It's not about avoiding seeing a nation represented too much, it'a about avoiding seeing a nation win too much. This arbitrarily tries to alter who wins medals with entrance requirements.

You will see far fewer people complain about track athletes being excluded than swimmers, because the 4th best can't win a medal, although people do have good days and bad.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:46 pm 
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While Canada won "only" 1 gold medal in this past Olympics, Canadian athletes won a lot of gold medals in 2010's winter games, more than any other nation. We're a winter country, I guess.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:12 pm 
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halplm wrote:
I think the "fewer than three" limitations are the particularly odd ones. That's not a "participation" limitation, that's a "winning" limitation. It's not about avoiding seeing a nation represented too much, it'a about avoiding seeing a nation win too much. This arbitrarily tries to alter who wins medals with entrance requirements.


I want to illustrate in very clearcut terms what I'm talking about, so I will take the time over my lunch break to illustrate with real names and times which American women - who should have been 2012 Olympians in the below events - were arbitrarily excluded from the Olympic Games by the "two per country" limitation despite posting times in the finals of the US Trials in June 2012 that were faster than the eighth place finalist at the Games in August 2012. The same exercise could be repeated on the men's side. (This illustration of course excludes the additional Americans who could have swum fast enough to make the Olympic semifinals or faster than most of the swimmers in the Olympic preliminaries.)

Some of these women made the Olympic team in other events; most were forced to stay at home. Not because they weren't good enough to be Olympic finalists - not because they weren't among the very best swimmers in the world - but because they were American. That is wrong. It is wrong whatever the sport and whatever the nationalities involved. And it is a systemic problem.

My source for Trials results is here. Source for Olympics results is Google.

(1) 200 meter freestyle

The eighth place Olympian was Kylie Palmer of Australia, who swam 1:57.68. Our third-place swimmer at Trials, Dana Vollmer, swam 1:57.47 in finals.

(2) 400 meter freestyle

The eighth place Olympian was Lauren Boyle of Australia, who swam 4:06.25. Katie Ledecky swam third at Trials in 4:05.00.

(3) 800 meter freestyle

The eighth place Olympian was Andreina Pinto Perez of Venezuela, who swam 8:29.28. Haley Anderson swam third at Trials in 8:26.60; Chloe Sutton swam fourth at Trials in 8:28.12; and Becca Mann swam fifth at Trials in 8:28.54.

(4) 100 meter backstroke

The eighth place Olympian was China's Yuanhui Fu, who swam 1:00.50. Natalie Coughlin swam third at Trials in 1:00.06; Olivia Smoliga swam fourth at Trials in 1:00.46.

(5) 200 meter backstroke

The eighth place Olympian was Canada's Sinead Russell, who swam 2:09.86. Compare our third place Trials swimmer, Elizabeth Pelton (2:08.06) and our fourth place swimmer Bonnie Brandon (2:09.52).

(6) 100 meter breaststroke

The eighth place Olympian was Rikke Pedersen of Denmark, who swam 1:07.55. At Trials, Jessica Hardy swam third (1:06.53); Ellyn Baumgardner swam fourth (1:07.19); Annie Chandler swam fifth (1:07.28 ); Emily McClellan swam sixth (1:07.41).

(7) 200 meter breaststroke

The eighth place Olympian was Sally Foster of Australia, in 2:26.00. At Trials, we had Andrea Kropp (third in 2:24.82) and Laura Sogar (fourth in 2:25.56).

(8 ) 200 meter individual medley

The eighth place Olympian was Katinka Hosszu of Hungary, who swam 2:14.19. Compare third through sixth place Trials finishers Elizabeth Pelton (2:11.55), Maya Dirado (2:12.26), Elizabeth Beisel (2:12.37), and Celina Li (2:13.34).

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:12 pm 
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(I :love: nel)

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 11:30 pm 
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There are those who believe very strongly that opening it up would mean the death knell of the Olympics as they exist now.

That wouldn't break my heart, but the Olympics are important to a lot of people.

Gold medals are still seen as some sort of validation or proof that "our way" is better than "your way". Especially now that China has taken over the position once occupied by the USSR.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:18 am 
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vison wrote:
There are those who believe very strongly that opening it up would mean the death knell of the Olympics as they exist now.


Whereas I think that the Olympic ideal of striving for greatness is tremendously compromised by excluding many of the world's great athletes. I would prefer a system in which a certain number of athletes per event (40? 60? 80? 100? 120?) were allowed to compete. In timed race sports, those slots would be offered to the top athletes in the world regardless of nationality based on everyone's times posted over the past 12 months at any sanctioned competition. (This would also eliminate the issue of someone who has objectively shown they are among the best - over many, many competitions - being eliminated from Olympic qualification based on one poor outlier meet.) Every country who did not have an athlete among the top 40-120 (or whatever the number is), but could produce at least one athlete who met a minimum qualification time, could send one representative. This practice would strike a reasonable balance between ensuring representation of all countries who have at least one elite athlete to send and ensuring inclusion of all of the top athletes regardless of their nationality. It escapes me why satisfying both of these interests should sound the death knell of the Olympics.

(This latter idea is actually pretty close to the current practice in swimming; any country that cannot put up two athletes in each event who can swim an Olympic A time can still send one athlete per event, provided that he or she can swim an Olympic B time. If a country still can't do that ... well, at some level, this is an athletic competition, not an all-inclusive exhibition, and they simply don't have a qualifier.)

Quote:
Gold medals are still seen as some sort of validation or proof that "our way" is better than "your way". Especially now that China has taken over the position once occupied by the USSR.


Hmm, I can see why people would interpret the results this way. In my case, given the US-China duel at the top of the medal rankings, I've been thinking that the Olympics actually validate the existence of multiple ways to reach the top. We may each have our own view of which way(s) is/are preferable, of course.

Also, given many athletes' practice of training outside the Olympic country for which they compete, we'd have to look beyond the medal count to where athletes actually live and train to figure out which athletes count towards each training/political/lifestyle tally. After all, there are Olympians who have never lived in the country for which they are competing.

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While Canada won "only" 1 gold medal in this past Olympics, Canadian athletes won a lot of gold medals in 2010's winter games, more than any other nation. We're a winter country, I guess.


I think this might support the point I was trying to make earlier when I said, "What generates that small number of elites is a cultural awareness that high achievement in that sport is worth striving for from a young age." For obvious reasons, winter sports probably figure higher in Canadian awareness and cultural than summer sports; correct me if I'm wrong. In contrast, those sports seem to rank less highly in the Chinese awareness, so China took home five gold, two silver, four bronze. (FWIW, the host country always seems to take home a few extra medals - this was true of Canada in 2010 (relative to 2006), as well as the US, China, the UK, and Greece, comparing their host totals to their medal totals in adjacent games.)

The US medal count in the 2010 Games could be interpreted variously. We seem to have taken home the most medals overall (37), but tied for third in golds with Norway (9), behind Canada (14) and Germany (10). I would say that our performance there is partly because many parts of the country are tuned out of winter sports. For us in Virginia, getting an inch of snow was a huge, rare treat. I wanted to try ice skating, but we had only one expensive rink a decent commute away from my home; I tried twice and bruised every inch of my body. There was no easy access to skiing, snowboarding, etc. Given this, I never met anyone in my area who dreamed of growing up to be an Olympic speed skater or skier. In contrast, in northern California people regularly commute to Tahoe to participate in winter sports, and it wouldn't surprise me to hear that California chips in its share of winter Olympians (though I'm not sure.)

Again, though, the 2010 Winter Olympics medal count illustrates that population is not determinative of success in either direction. The countries which finished ahead of behemoth China in the medal rankings included the US, Germany, Canada, Norway (population 5 million), Austria (population under 9 million), Russia, and South Korea.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:18 am 
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The argument that "it means so much to the Olympians" is not very persuasive to me. Certainly, it matters a lot to them - why does it matter to me? They worked hard for it, true, but the object they work for - running faster, throwing things, whatever - is only tangentially relevant to everyday life of most people. All I want from the Olympics is a spectacle, and it's not much of a spectacle if the competition is between athletes from one or two countries.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 12:30 am 
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Frelga wrote:
The argument that "it means so much to the Olympians" is not very persuasive to me. Certainly, it matters a lot to them - why does it matter to me? They worked hard for it, true, but the object they work for - running faster, throwing things, whatever - is only tangentially relevant to everyday life of most people. All I want from the Olympics is a spectacle, and it's not much of a spectacle if the competition is between athletes from one or two countries.


Well, technically the most impressive athletes can put on the greatest spectacles - run the fastest, throw the furthest, perform the most impressive stunts and acrobatics. So if you want to see the greatest athletic achievements out there - the optimal "spectacle" - that should favor including all of the world's best athletes, rather than excluding some by country. Indeed there is an argument that I hadn't previously thought of - that country-based discrimination actually harms Olympic audiences by depriving them of the chance to see all of the world's best performances. (In gymnastics, for example, this becomes especially concrete. There are some moves that only one or two gymnasts in the whole world do. If they're removed from the competition because of nationality, people won't get to see anything similar to their routines.)

Now if by "spectacle" you mean, I just want to watch my country's guy/gal try to beat some guy/gal from another country, and watching multiple people from the same country is just not entertaining, that seems like a view that rather degrades the sport in question. What I mean by that is, it suggests that you aren't interested in seeing all of the finest, fastest, or most skilled performances in a sport (as anyone who truly appreciates the sport in question should arguably be), but want to see a random subset of those performances leading to the "spectacle" of a country-based ranking. The latter desire seems to me to violate the Olympic spirit.

(Incidentally, if we recast the purpose of Olympic striving from "running faster, throwing things, whatever" to "striving to be in the most strongest, optimal physical condition possible," there is a strong argument that we'd be better off if that striving were more than tangentially relevant to most people's everyday lives, especially throughout the Western world.)

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:14 am 
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Quote:
Now if by "spectacle" you mean, I just want to watch my country's guy/gal try to beat some guy/gal from another country, and watching multiple people from the same country is just not entertaining, that seems like a view that rather degrades the sport in question.


That's not at all what I mean. To me, the spectacle of the Olympics is about what happens off the fields, and that is enhanced by the diversity of the performances and performers.

Quote:
What I mean by that is, it suggests that you aren't interested in seeing all of the finest, fastest, or most skilled performances in a sport (as anyone who truly appreciates the sport in question should arguably be), but want to see a random subset of those performances leading to the "spectacle" of a country-based ranking. The latter desire seems to me to violate the Olympic spirit.


The Olympic spirit differs from the spirit of, say, World Championship in that it was imagined as a way of bringing nations together through sports, to promote a more peaceful world. IMO, natch. In that spirit, I don't care as much about seeing only the strongest athletes (which I would imagine would result in MORE emphasis on country-based rankings) than in seeing a greater variety of participants. Including those who have no chance of medals but signify a sea change in their home country, such as the female athletes from some Islamic countries.

As for spots being limited, well, each country fields a team. I'm sure there are basketball players in the US who are much stronger than their rivals from other lands. But you only get so many men/women on the team and that's it.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:30 am 
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Hmm, yeah, watching a competition that is dominated by one or two countries wouldn't really feel like watching the Olympics, IMO. Part of the idea of the Olympic spirit is that people from all over the world are doing this together. I'd say it's a big part of what sets it apart from Just Another Sports Competition.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 2:47 am 
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Frelga wrote:
Including those who have no chance of medals but signify a sea change in their home country, such as the female athletes from some Islamic countries.

Like that Saudi runner. She had no hope for a medal, but she was allowed to be there and that's important.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 3:08 am 
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Or the Saudi judoka. Her real victory was working out how she could compete without violating either the rules of the sport or the religious requirements imposed by her country. Would giving her spot to a stronger competitor be more on line with the Olympic spirit?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:34 am 
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I was reading these posts wondering how to put what I thought into words, but then Frelga said it.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:44 am 
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Frelga wrote:
Or the Saudi judoka. Her real victory was working out how she could compete without violating either the rules of the sport or the religious requirements imposed by her country. Would giving her spot to a stronger competitor be more on line with the Olympic spirit?


My objection is not to her inclusion; my objection is to world class competitors' exclusion. My point is that the latter is inconsistent with the Olympic spirit. Raising the former is a strawman response, as inclusion of the athletes who are suffering nationality discrimination does not require her exclusion.

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:53 am 
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I couldn't quite parse your last paragraph, nel, but you seemed to be favoring the system that would eliminate that woman, and probably the Saudi runner as well.

nel wrote:
Every country who did not have an athlete among the top 40-120 (or whatever the number is), but could produce at least one athlete who met a minimum qualification time, could send one representative. This practice would strike a reasonable balance between ensuring representation of all countries who have at least one elite athlete to send and ensuring inclusion of all of the top athletes regardless of their nationality.


The Saudi judoka, as I understand it, is not an "elite" athlete and would have not been included under "elite" requirement.

IMO, the place for limiting the competition to the "elite" athletes is the World Championship/Cup/Whatever in that specialty. Not the Olympics.

And that's all I have to say on the subject.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:03 am 
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Frelga wrote:
I couldn't quite parse your last paragraph, nel, but you seemed to be favoring the system that would eliminate that woman, and probably the Saudi runner as well.

nel wrote:
Every country who did not have an athlete among the top 40-120 (or whatever the number is), but could produce at least one athlete who met a minimum qualification time, could send one representative. This practice would strike a reasonable balance between ensuring representation of all countries who have at least one elite athlete to send and ensuring inclusion of all of the top athletes regardless of their nationality.


The Saudi judoka, as I understand it, is not an "elite" athlete and would have not been included under "elite" requirement.

IMO, the place for limiting the competition to the "elite" athletes is the World Championship/Cup/Whatever in that specialty. Not the Olympics.

And that's all I have to say on the subject.


As I stated, the proposal I set forth was explicitly referring to timed race sports. Any proposal that refers to a "minimum qualification time" quite obviously isn't made with judo in mind. My experience with judo is limited to a semester in college, I have no idea how competitive judo is scored, etc.

Your idea that the Olympics is NOT an elite athletic competition absolutely boggles my mind - coupled with your dismissive attitude towards the hard work of the athletes ("why does it matter to me?" and "running faster, throwing things, whatever"), I find it very disappointing. The Olympics is THE elite athletic competition, not a showcase symposium of important cultural breakthroughs coupled with a little bit of sports. I understand that what Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani did was historically important and I'm not arguing against her participation. But the bottom line is that the Olympics is a competition for which elite athletes train all their lives, and those athletes should not be excluded because of their nationalities.

ETA to add missing verb

_________________
I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


Last edited by nerdanel on Tue Aug 14, 2012 6:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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