nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I have spent much of the weekend watching the Olympics and sewing a top. I haven't finished the top*, but I've seen quite a bit of sport. Some time ago [personal profile] frankie_ecap asked me (in a nicer way than this is about to sound!) what the interest is in skiing in watching a bunch of people go down the same course one after the other. Which is a fair point, even if your favourite sort of skiing is the one where people go along the same course one after the other. Sometimes for 50km.**

It is the Olympics. I like the Olympics. I mostly like the athletics, but in a dull moment I will watch pretty much anything. In the Winter Olympics I endeavour to watch absolutely everything bar curling and short-track speed skating.

You see, the thing about sport is that while it adds extra interest to have a technical understanding of what is going on, it isn't actually necessary. It's fairly easy in a lot of events (not sailing) to tell who is doing better, even if you can't really tell why. Tennis idiots like me could see this year that though the Wimbledon final was going with serve, Murray was winning his games more easily and so was going to win. It's like ballet: I'm sure that it adds to the experience of watching Swan Lake to grasp the technical finesse with which the prima ballerina executes those jumps, whatever they are, but personally I just enjoy the music and the spectacle. I can tell that that series of jumps was incredibly difficult and visually spectacular and harder than the jumps the chorus did. That suffices, as long as there's a plot. And the great thing about sport is there is always a plot. It may be a plot I don't give a damn about (most football*** and golf), but there's usually a plot, and it's a plot that you can follow.

Sometimes the plot is a simple one: how far can I throw this discus? But within even that simple plot there is strategy and risk and human outcome**** and a narrative that can be gripping. Take last night's men's 10,000m. There's an argument that with Mo Farah as favourite to win and retain his 2012 title, plus two World Championships in between, this would be a dull race, but that would be to mistake the outcome for the sole interest. For as well as the outcome what matters is how the race was won. In this case, the question of how the rest of the field can attempt to beat the unbeatable. What must they do? Knowing what they must do, can they do it? Often no, when the slim chance of victory comes with the high risk of sacrifice.

As a fan of cross-country skiing, how to beat the unbeatable is great. You get to see the superb performer perform. You get to see the competition trying to win, and sometimes even succeeding, albeit not at the moment against Farah. They can only win by going early, but to go early risks all. How much do you need to understand the theory and tactics of distance running to appreciate the magnificence when Farah unleashes those spindleshank legs with such power? And that's only the plot of one race, within a season, within a decade, within the history of the sport, within a life, and each of those has a narrative - and that's before you get to the human interest element.****** I have to admit that when it comes down to it what I like about sport is the atavistic element of the hunt, the person ahead who is mercilessly hunted down. 100m is exciting, but it's short. 5000m, or multiple rounds, and you can chase and pursue and destroy. Absolutely it's fascinating and courageous when Etenesh Diro in the steeplechase heats runs the second half without a shoe, but the really exciting bit to me is someone who has got behind and has only one shoe and then has to run to overtake as many people as possible. The hunt is on again.

I can't throw, I can't jump, though once I could run a little, but I really like watching other people doing it.

*The free Sorbetto pattern. It would have been quick had I not decided to add sleeves (additional pattern on the internet), and then chosen to add cuffs to the sleeves. With the hem, neck, and setting-in one sleeve to go I decided that I would like to do a few other things this weekend. It will look good eventually.

**You can get an amazing amount of ironing done to a 50km time trial. There's a reason I haven't had an empty ironing basket since April.

***Even so I can acknowledge the epic quality of Leicester City's Premier League victory this year, with bonus 'second time farce' Gary Linekar's pants story.

****I never thought I gave a damn about the discus until I was watching yesterday, when it was won by surprisingly dapper German Christoph Harting, whose brother won in 2012, as the penultimate competitor in the final round. And then the silver medalist (Piotr Małachowski, a man who looks like a proper old-fashioned discus thrower), who must surely have thought he'd won, gave an impressive display of dealing with unexpectedly not winning with great dignity.*****

*****Unlike the US women's football goalie, whose comments on losing to Sweden were hilarious.

******For a supreme example of this, Jörgen Brink's infamous collapse in the 2003 cross-country skiing world championships men's relay. Vindicated a decade later when it turned out that he had a heart condition.

Mixed media

Feb. 8th, 2016 08:59 pm
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Donmar Warehouse production) This was the highlight of a horrendous week at work, when having a ticket to the cinema broadcast meant that I had no choice short of plague but to go, despite feeling dreadful due to a combination of fighting off a bug and writer's block on a paper I was trying to do. The great thing about the cinema, and I must remember this and go more often, is that once you are there you not only don't have to do anything, you aren't allowed to do anything. You just sit there and absorb what is in front of you, and there is positive virtue in it.

Like everyone else who is too young for the original Les Liaisons Dangereuses, or lived too far away, or could have gone but didn't think of it until too late, I know the play principally through the film version with Glenn Close and John Malkovich, a film version that is very, very good even though it ought to have starred Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan. The play was terrific. Janet McTeer as Merteuil was magnificent, and Dominic West entirely convincing as Valmont. He had received slightly mixed reviews, and on watching the play I thought this both unfair and understandable. He acted the part very well, but the fact is that Dominic West is a tall and broad-chested man who looks like he ought to be wearing a rugby shirt, and though you can put him in a flowered frock-coat he is no-one's mental image of a decadent French aristocrat*. So he has to work past that in every scene, and has an easier job once he takes the coat off for the duel. But his height does work well with McTeer, with the two of them bestriding the stage like colossuses (not a good plural, that one), literally above the puppets they move about. With a strong supporting cast and good direction, I'm only sorry not to have seen it in the theatre.

The Young Montalbano. Perfect Saturday night in January/February fare. I could not love thee dear so much, loved I not Sicily more; and so Livia departs for Genoa and Salvo doesn't, and all they need to do now is break up properly and not torture themselves with an impossible relationship for the next twenty years. Except we know that doesn't happen.

Did the writers mean to write Mimì as in love with Salvo? Because that's what they've ended up doing, certainly with the way it was acted. 'Salvo, why don't you stay? I'd be much happier.' Poor Augello, forever running from his own feelings/Montalbano's rejection into the arms of beautiful women.

Next week we start Icelandic drama Trapped. I anticipate significantly fewer beautiful people, and even less beautiful weather and food.

War and Peace Spoilers )

Ski Sunday A slightly dispiriting broadcast from Jeongsang, where the 2018 Winter Olympics venues are being constructed. I want to think positively of the forthcoming games - which is more than I do for for China in 2022 - but it isn't altogether easy. Largely artificial snow, an underwhelming downhill course, I suppose we must wait and see.

*He could be a very good Avon in a TV/film adaptation of These Old Shades, though, since Avon despite his French trappings is English.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
This rant is brought to you by the sort of temper occasioned by being off sick with a cold in August...

So the 2022 Winter Olympics has gone to Beijing rather than Almaty. Or to be precise, rather than to Almaty, Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow, Lviv (the other formal candidate cities), or Sarajevo, Tyrol/Trentino, Nice, Quebec City, Graubünden (Switzerland), Helsinki, Santiago, and the various other places that showed an initial interest.

Out of all of which, the bid has gone to probably the worst possible option except the one in a war zone. Because the only reason, seriously, the only reason the Olympics are going to be in Beijing is because no democratic country could get the ridiculously bloated demands of the IOC past its population.* Norway was the last one in the ring, and Norway withdrew after, among other things, the IOC demanded specific cocktail parties with the king, and total control over all advertising in Oslo for the duration of the event. At which point, and not being prepared to pay for ever-ballooning venue demands, Norway said "Fuck off" to the IOC and the IOC put out some rather juvenile press releases about how Norwegian politicians just didn't understand.

Let's be clear, this was a spectacular own goal on the part of the IOC. Had Oslo been prepared to meet its demands, there was no way the Norwegian bid wouldn't have won. Norway has the weather, mountains, popular enthusiasm for the sports, and the money to make it work. Even the IOC couldn't be sufficiently bribed not to choose it. There was public support, as long as it didn't cost too much and made use of the already existing (fantastic) facilities. It would have been the best Winter Olympics since Lillehammer.** Anyone with half a brain in the IOC ought to have done anything they possibly could for the chance of running the Olympic cross-country skiing events at Holmenkollen, which would have provided the sort of crowds and atmosphere that even they can't buy. Instead, they are going to China, where there will be no snow and no spectators.

And so here we are, with the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in a place where there is no snow. Seriously. There is less than 1m a year, and they will have to rely entirely on artificial snow-making in a semi-arid area that receives about 15" of rain per year. You don't get a lot of rain out of what's left over when you've used that for such trivialities as drinking, washing, and agriculture.

This is a decision so utterly shit that you would be making a more sensible decision to award the Winter Olympics to any of the following: Beirut, Tehran, Glasgow or Aberdeen. I am not joking. Would it be a good idea to have the Winter Olympics in Beirut? Of course not - but it has more reliable snow and a more developed skiing infrastructure in the vicinity than Beijing does. Tehran has amazing snow just 40 miles away, but it might be a bit short on ice hockey stadia. So, of course, is Beijing. The Scottish mountains have more snow, a great deal more rain for emergency snow-making, are closer to the host cities, and already have the curling rinks. The howling gales might be a problem, but we could put up really big wind-breaks.

I truly cannot convey how absolutely ridiculous this decision is. Even with the European countries gone there was still a reasonable alternative to Beijing. Almaty wouldn't have been perfect (those pesky human rights again), but it was actually a credible bid. Kazakhstan has the (real) snow, the mountains, a winter sports culture, existing facilities, and has been running itself in through hosting the Asian Winter Games and the 2017 Winter Universiade. It might even have cleaned up the smog. It also has the sort of government that could just spend what it took to provide the latest Galaxy tablet for ever IOC official, or whatever they want. This factor obviously being the most important. It's just that the tablets Bejing provides will be even shinier.

Farewell, the Olympic movement! It was nice knowing you.

*And the shopping is better than in Kazakhstan

**Yes, I have a vested interest, because I would definitely have gone.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I may be the equivalent of a Manchester United fan living in Buenos Aires*, but that was an AWESOME result for Norway in the women's 30km cross-country race in Sochi today, taking first, second, and third place. Marit Bjørgen won in 1 hr, 11 min, and 5 seconds, taking her to ten olympic medals, six of them gold. I shall be attempting to cover the same distance on holiday in about 6 hours. It would help if I started doing some training. Silver went to Therese Johaug, bronze to Kristin Størmer Steira to break her four fourth places in individual olympic races (she has a relay gold).

Right, now to dash to the supermarket before the slalom starts.

*Although in my defence, in most races there is no British racer for me to support, and it makes it more interesting to follow someone. She says, defensively.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
(1) Golden retriever very, very young puppy cam. Mother Narnia and her eight pups or, as we should call them in solidarity with Norway, whelps.

(2) I am now older than all the English cricket team. I am older than almost anyone in professional sport (though not, of course, Ryan Giggs*). But I am not older than Noriaki Kasai, who is a ski jumper and at 41 years old won the silver medal in the men's large hill competition earlier this week, in his seventh olympics. It's not just that he's older than the average ski jumper that's impressive - it's that he first won an olympic medal in Lillehammer in 1994, when a good number of the competition hadn't even been born. I can't now find on the internet the stat the BBC gave the other day about the number of competitors who hadn't been born when Kasai first competed on the World Cup circuit in 1989. It was large.

(3) Guardian photos of really exhausted cross-country skiers.

*There are probably people in sailing, dressage, clay pigeon shooting, and archery, too.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
After a fortnight in the Bosom of my Family, I am now back in the land of no dishwasher. Once again, Christmas seems to have gone incredibly quickly. There were many presents, much food and drink, and entertaining a cheery baby is an excellent excuse for sitting on the sofa not doing much ("I would lay the table rather than watch Muppets Christmas Carol, but I don't want to wake him up"). There was also the opportunity to watch several good films.

The Hobbit (Cottage Road cinema) )

Midnight in Paris (the sofa) )

False Trail (Jägarna 2, Cubby Broccoli cinema, National Media Museum) )

2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony (the sofa )

Gymnastics

Jul. 30th, 2012 10:12 pm
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
Father!Nineveh_uk: I can't watch men's gymnastics: it's the rings. A sport that lets you survive being crucified is just wrong.

I take his point.

On other random gymnastics thoughts:

- that Kristian Thomas is a big lad for this sort of thing.

- there was a woman on the German team yesterday who is older than I am. I am deeply impressed. Mind you, I did get ID'ed in M&S on Friday attempting to buy wine. It does happen occasionally, but it is always the new staff, who I suppose don't pick up subtle clues like strands of grey hair. As ever, the supervisor took one look and passed me, but not before my outraged "Of course I haven't got proof of age! I haven't needed it in years!".

- gym, like ballet, is one of those things that I watch and can't help wanting to do. I have a pretty good sense of balance and good flexibility, but alas I am a chicken with no upper body strength. Mind you, with no aerobic fitness whatsoever at the moment, maybe I ought to concentrate on cutting the lawn without having to pause for breath. My new trainers have not go a lot of use over the past couple of months.

Non-gymnastics thought:

- why are Olympics boxers amateur only, when professional football and tennis players are able to play?

- interviewers, stop ambushing the dazed swimmers, and if you must, bear in mind the need to temper your questions to people who don't have English as their mother tongue.

- I see Syria has tipped the Olympics off the lead headline of the 10 o'clock news. I just don't know enough to know what should be done about it. I suppose there are places equally awful in the world that I know nothing about. Still, it's dispiriting. A couple of years ago the place was a serious holiday prospect - how things change. Mind you, my late grandmother took her first ever trip abroad in her mid-seventies to Yugoslavia.
nineveh_uk: Photograph of a bluebell wood (bluebells)
Apparently the olympic torch for 2012 has won the UK Design of the Year award. I can't honestly see what is that exciting about it. Apparently it "features 8,000 small cut-out circles, representing the 8,000 inspirational people who will carry it on its journey around the UK". That's nonsense for a start. One of those 8000 people is my brother-in-law. Now I like my brother-in-law a lot. He's a very nice man, and I wouldn't ask for a better brother-in-law, but his "inspirational story" involves his employer saying "We've been give a torch spot, who wants it?" I'm glad he's got it; he and my sister did enter the ticket lottery and won - quite aside from those tickets he got through work - and he is a keen sportsman who is no longer able to play his chosen sport due to injury. But an inspirational story? I suppose it is, in the sense of "make sure you get a job that gives you nice perks". To be fair to him, he also thinks it's ridiculous, but the firm had the spot and that wasn't changing, so he wasn't going to let it go to someone else.

So the torch: an award-winner, but pretty boring. The question remains as to how the big torch will be lit. We remember the ski jumper of Lillehammer (who brought it into the arena. The Crown Prince lit it, please don't let that happen in London), the flaming arrow of Barcelona (damn, we could have done that one), the flaming doves of Seoul.

Which leads, of course to a poll.

How will the 2012 Olympic torch be lit?

Answer at LJ, as I can't do polls here.


All of which is a lead in to a poll.

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