Tag Archives: Olympic games

Countdown to London 2012…

Yesterday, our friend and fellow Olympics-nerd, James, mentioned on his Facebook page that the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England are due to begin exactly two years from now. Hooray! I know it’s a little early to set up a season pass on our Tivo — seriously, I would if I could — but, it’s never too early to start talking about the latest Olympic mascots!

Introduced to the world back in May, the official mascots for the London games are a pair of strangely-hideous, one-eyed blobs named Wenlock and Mandeville.

And while they are not nearly as cute as the Fuwa Friendlies from the Beijing games, or the epically-cool Quatchi and friends from the recent Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Wenlock and Mandeville do have a pretty interesting origin story, and the animated clip explaining it all (below) is even cooler!

I won’t spoil it for you by giving any of the plot away, but, their names do carry great meaning for folks in the UK and the story behind how they were “born” is really kinda cool. And on top of all that, the clip holds up very well on repeat views. We’ve watched it dozens of times already on YouTubeGreta is obsessed with the rainbows! — and I still get misty-eyed at the ending every time.

Anyway, though I probably won’t be dashing across the pond to buy plush figures of these new mascots (if they even come in plush!) when the games begin, I do heartily approve of them in concept.

So, check out the first of what I’m assuming will be many videos celebrating the world’s next big Olympic mascots…and by all means, let the countdown to London 2012 begin!

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Beijing ’08 Olympic Mascots

As any hard-core Olympic geek will tell you, the games are only as good as their cuddly little mascots…and this year’s batch is top-of-the-line, baby! Nicknamed the “Friendlies” or “Fuwa”, these Chinese “good luck dolls” outpace even the classic Nagano “Snowlets” from 1998 in the cute department.

Colored the bright hues of the Olympic rings, the “Friendlies” are Beibei (the blue fish), Jinjing (the black panda), Huanhuan (the red Olympic flame), Nini (the green swallow) and Yingying (the yellow antelope).

And though I jumbled up their names, when you put them in the proper order, it says “Beijing Welcomes You!” in Chinese. Or something like that…

Either way, as you can see, these guys are almost too cute for words. And though we only bought one of the plush “Friendlies” at the Chinese Pavillion at Epcot this past April — we have had Huanhuan, the red one, sitting on top of our TV since the games began! — I recently discovered a cool site where you can download desktop wallpapers of each and every one of the Chinese “Friendlies”.

And while you might not be crazy enough to place a stuffed one on your TV — or to have purchased a slew of “Friendlies” shot glasses, a softball and a crazy expensive “Friendlies” coffee cup at Epcot — you still might wanna have these guys on your computer screen for fun.

So, download away at the appropriately named: OlympicFunPage and, as those bad-ass, bronze-medal-winning Mexican diving chicas would say: “Que viva los “Friendlies”!

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“Smash” this, Frenchie!

Barely a day after cocky French swimmer Alain Bernard declared his intention to “smash” the American rely team in the men’s 4x100m Free Relay, Michael Phelps and company set the Frenchies straight with a record-breaking gold medal performance in the event.

As with the Latvian giant-killers the day before, this was a match for the ages, folks. The American’s and the French were neck in neck most of the relay, but in the last few seconds, 32-year-old Jason Lezak kicked it up a notch and managed to beat the former world-record holder — Bernard, who was swimming in the lane next to him — to the punch by 0.08 seconds. Insanity!

The look on Bernard’s face was priceless. And even with a silver medal spot on the podium for him and his team, that “smash” quote is gonna haunt his ass for a while. But the looks on the American team’s faces were just plain awesome.

Not only did they win the gold — Phelp’s second of a hoped-for eight at the Beijing games! — but the American Free Relay team also beat the world record by 1.30 seconds. Ha-ha…”smash” that, Frenchie!

Oh, and um…just for the record, I love French stuff, you know, movies, wine, bread, whatever. I don’t endorse “freedom fries” and any of that shit, but man, I could not have scripted a better comeuppance for that Alain Bernard punk. And you know what’s even cooler…?

At the medal ceremony, Phelps actually stepped off his gold medal perch beside his teammates and went over to shake the French team’s hands. A cool, classy move by a rock star swimmer who knows the true meaning of good sportsmanship, and yet another classic Olympic moment

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Warning: Olympic nerdiness ahead

Just wanted to give y’all a warning that there might be a whole lotta Olympic news coming your way in the next couple of weeks. With our Tivo taping round the clock — I’m not kidding, that red light is always on! — we have been insanely devouring Olympic coverage since the Opening Ceremonies on Friday night.

And though neither of us has cut or dyed our hair like this crazy cool Chinese fan below, Christine and I are all about the games, yo. So get ready for a whole lot of Olympic “See” action in the days to come…

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Opening Ceremonies in Beijing!

Just finished watching the epically cool Olympic Opening Ceremonies from Beijing and all I can say is, rock on Zhang Yimou!

The most acclaimed of China’s Fifth Generation of filmmakers, Yimou has always been one of my favorites, but after watching the magic he worked as director of this year’s opening ceremonies, well…wow! Give this dude a gold medal already!

I already knew Yimou was a bad-ass storyteller with a killer eye for detail — if you haven’t seen “Ju Dou”, “Raise The Red Lantern”, “Hero” and the shockingly subversive “Happy Times”, rent them, immediately! — but who knew he could create something so breathtakingly beautiful on such a gigantic scale?

Utilizing upwards of 15,000 individual performers, Yimou crafted an opening ceremonies for the ages, and whatever you think about China and the power-mad oldies running the country, that show kicked some serious ass! The costumes, the movement, the scope…this show had everything.

And unlike previous opening ceremonies where details tend to get lost in the mix, Yimou took the time to highlight some really delicate, intricately beautiful moments. The little girl with the kite? The old dude at the end running sideways to light the Olympic torch?

Hell, even the way those crazy dancers moved around that glowing globe while Sarah Brightman sang her heart out (in what sounded like Chinese!) with Chinese pop star Liu Huan…amazing!

And though Christine and I reached for the kleenex more than a few times during the four hour-plus show, I think our favorite moment of the night was when nine-year-old earthquake survivor, Lin Hao lead the Chinese athletes into the Bird’s Nest beside the towering Yao Ming. Oh…my…God…so awesome!

And best of all, that was just the first night of the Olympics! Yay! Bring it on, Beijing! We won’t stop taping till our Tivo catches fire!

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Olympic torch scales Mt. Everest!

Anyone who knows Christine and myself knows that we are huge Olympic geeks. I’m not kidding, we literally do not leave the house when they’re on. We Tivo EVERYTHING, and though we are total suckers for those “pull the strings” video bios on the athletes, we are also kinda crazy about the lesser events in the games. Seriously, the weirder the sport, the more we love it.

I actually watched every curling event during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. Especially the women’s, which, my apologies to American skip Pete Fenson, was always way more dramatic than the men’s games.

And while I could go on for hours about the dramatic final “end” (round) of the Gold Medal match-up between the Women’s Curling teams from Sweden and Switzerland — Sweden won, thanks to an amazing last-minute double take-out by their skip, Anette Norberg — I’ll spare you the details and simply say that we loves us some Olympics. My football-crazed friend Matt actually jokes that my favorite sport is Olympics…and he’s right!

So, you can understand our conflicted feelings this year when there has been so much drama about China hosting the Summer Games in Beijing. I mean, on the one hand, I feel kinda bad for the Chinese people. Here they finally score an Olympic games and all everyone wants to talk about is Tibet.

But on the other hand, why the hell did the International Olympic Committee (IOC) even grant them the opportunity to host the games in the first place? I mean, was China any less suppressive a few years back when they were selected to host the games? Hell no! If anything, things were worse then. So, why reward such bad behavior by allowing them to host the games at all? Crazy!

Of course, this is the same organization that held the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, so, I guess their record isn’t so hot. But, in my mind, the blame for this whole mess lies entirely on the IOC’s doorstep. As a hugely powerful organization, with the ability to take a stand for human rights by the very nature of their picks, they simply should not have picked China to begin with.

Or, perhaps they could have said: “Hey, China, we’ll pick you if you clean up your act.” At least that would have sent the message to the world. Treat your people right we’ll let you host the games…treat your people like hell and you get zip.

But since the IOC did neither of these things, we are now officially stuck with China as a host country. And as a super fan of the games, I think we might as well just accept the fact that the “bad guys” are hosting this year’s Summer Olympics and get on with it.

I’m not saying we should be happy about it or that we should not try to blow out that torch when it passes through our cities — rock on, SF! — but hey, the games are gonna happen one way or another, and if you’re a fan of the games and not the country where they are being held, well…you’re probably gonna watch them. Or, at least we are…

Anyway, since there has been so much controversy about the Olympic torch relay the last few weeks, I was kind of thrilled to see something good being written about it today when I read that Chinese hikers had lit the Olympic flame at the peak of Mt. Everest. And better yet, the woman who held the flame at the top of the peak was ethnic Tibetan, Ciren Wangmu. Rock on, Tibet!

I know what you’re thinking…propaganda much? Of course China let a Tibetan woman carry the torch the last few feet…what else they gonna do at this point?

But, whether it was a callous PR stunt or not, the fact that hikers climbed to the top of Mt. Everest with the Olympic flame secured in a little can and then lit a series of torches in the howling wind and snow at the top of the world is still pretty damn cool in my book.

Check out the video feed from the adventure at: Reuters.com and if that grainy, un-subtitled footage of those Chinese hikers schlepping up that mountain with the flame doesn’t fill your heart with the spirit of the games, then, well…maybe you just don’t like the Olympics, my friend.

Seriously though, that video is the spirit of the games in action, and even if you don’t support China’s heavy-handed tactics or their recent crack down on Tibet, you gotta admit that what happened on the rooftop of the world this morning is perhaps the first true Olympic moment of the games. Awesome!

The photos are taken from a number of sources online, many thanks to the brave photographers who weathered the cold to get them!

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