My Closing Ceremonies

Just one night left, but before we're forced to start paying attention to the real world again, there's still time for "Playback's" medals for the 2008 Games:

Biggest Winners (Organization or Nation):

Gold: China. Host country wins much-desired respect for standard-setting Games. Spectacular venues, spirited competition, minimal glitches. Protests and demonstrations kept out of sight, mind. Even the pollution cooperated. Plus, Chinese athletes win gold-medal tally. Wonders of state-planned, authoritarian system should prompt International Olympic Committee to consider North Korea for 2024 Games.

Silver: NBC. Glossy, super-sanitized presentation draws big ratings and online traffic. Even in tight economy, advertisers cough up more than $1 billion for Olympic ads, re-assuring bean counters at NBC parent General Electric Co. Downside: Viewers probably still won't watch NBC's fall shows.

Bronze: Great Britain. Arse-kicking performance by former Olympic weakling comes just in time for 2012 Games in London.

Biggest Losers (Organization or Nation):

Gold: NBC News. NBC turns news division into Olympic promo machine.

Silver: Germany. Former Olympic powerhouse fades further in Beijing.

Bronze (tie): Doping cynics, 2012 London Olympic Organizing Committee. Just a handful of positive tests in Beijing. Evidence that IOC has cleaned up the Games, or of harder-to-detect drugs?... British organizers have tall order if they hope to top 2008 Games.

Biggest Winners (People):

Gold: Michael Phelps. Duh.

Silver: Usain Bolt. Ditto.

Bronze: Jacques Rogge. Arrogant, elitist IOC chairman, nevertheless riding high after China's coup.

Phrases I'll Be Glad Never to Hear Again:

Gold: "The hopes of 1.3 billion people are riding on him/her/this team."

Silver: "Her Olympic dream...."

Bronze: "His Olympic journey..."

Best TV Analyst/Commentator:

Gold: Bela Karoly, gymnastics. Excitable, opinionated, possibly insane. He lit up the screen when he was on.

Silver: Ato Bolden, track. Added insight and excitement to already exciting sprint events.

Bronze: Karch Kiraly, beach volleyball. Knows his stuff and tells it well. Wisely refused to buy into NBC's relentless hype for Walsh-May duo.

Worst Analyst/Commentator:

Gold: Tim Daggett, gymnastics. Over-exposed and over-caffeinated. Added little to viewers' understanding, and did so in over-the-top fashion.

Silver: Cynthia Potter, diving. Snippy and jingoistic. Bought into NBC's overselling of Laura Wilkinson.

Bronze: Carol Lewis, track. We hear you, Carol. Stop yelling.

Best Ad Series:

Gold: General Electric Co. "Ecoimagination" series features a fire-breathing Chinese dragon, birds lined up to take off at the beach, and a mini-romantic comedy starring an injury-prone young man and his gorgeous object of devotion, a Chinese doctor.

Silver: United Airlines. Wildly colorful and imaginative animations set to beautiful orchestrations. Not sure it makes me want to fly Generic Airlines, but it sure was a sensual feast.

Bronze: No qualifiers.

Worst Commercials:

Gold: McDonald's Southern Style Chicken Sandwich. Fake Olympians (gymnast, boxer, runner, etc.) extol fried thing as if it were a gold medal ("I've been dreaming about it since I was a kid."). Trite and tiresome.

Silver: Visa, Michael Phelps. Slo-mo close-ups of the mighty Phelps in action shot in Visa campaign's signature gold tinting. Makes Phelps look as if he's swimming in a pool of urine.

Bronze: Home Depot, Athletes. Yes, athletes have to struggle to pay their bills (just like everyone). And, yes, it's great that Home Depot helps out by employing some American athletes. But bragging that 400-meter runner Mary Wineberg works in the garden department or marathoner Brian Sell is in lighting says what exactly? Thanks for spoiling the glamour and glory, HD, and reminding us about the 9-to-5 banalities.

Sports That Deserve Primetime Next Time:

Gold: Men's basketball. Ripping gold medal game between U.S. "Redeem Team" and Spain airs at 2:30 am EST.

Silver: Mountain biking. Grueling, brutal, aggressive. More spills than "Death Race."

Bronze: Softball. Oh, wait....

Sports That Should Be Banned from Primetime Next Time:

Gold: Synchronized diving.

Silver: Diving.

Bronze: Any other kind of diving (exception: cliff).

Worst Sportsmanship Award:

Gold: Taekwondo competitor Angel Matos of Cuba deliberately kicked a referee in the face after he was disqualified for taking too much time because of an injury. Then Matos was really disqualified: He may get a lifetime ban from his sport.

Silver: Matos.

Bronze (tie): Matos and wrestler Ara Abrahamian of Sweden. Abrahamian whipped off his bronze medal immediately after receiving it and dropped it in the ring as a protest over "corrupt" judging. He was disqualified and kicked out of the Olympics.

By Paul Farhi  |  August 24, 2008; 5:21 PM ET
Previous: Homestretch: Sex, Tattoos and Other Naked Truths |


Please email us to report offensive comments.

In regards to your "worst sportsmanship award" and Ara Abrahamian...

1) The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in his favor

2) This was not the first time he was denied gold for a questionable judging "error" in the Olympics

3) He shook hands with the gold medalist before laying his medal down in the center or the ring and waving to fans as he exited (as opposed to all these news headlines that he 'threw it down' or 'dropped it,' which just evidences how much the news media would like to sensationalize this story)

4) He was in the right. oh, did we already cover that? Fine, then, he was most likely cheated by a system of judging that is notorious for accepting bribes and 'doing favors'...again.

5) "Disqualified"? He renounced the medal and his placement! After wrestling all the way back to take 3rd! Seriously, you should be embarrassed of yourself for just regurgitating IOC nonsense.

6) did you see the match? did you see the protest? or is this entire Bronze "placement" based on headlines you read in online tabloids?

7) After Abrahamian protested this bronze, he would crush you

Posted by: Garrett | August 25, 2008 12:08 AM

Court of Arbitration for Sport says the IOC violated the Olympic Charter and rules of 'Fair Play'

In the future, it would do you well to be more familiar with the topics you write on rather than shooting from the hip and hoping that your readers are just as poor at discerning the media's sensationalized character assassination as you.

Posted by: Garrett | August 25, 2008 12:17 AM


Posted by: ma132zda | August 25, 2008 4:12 AM

Maybe Garrett should get the bronze in the Worst Sportsmanship category instead.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 7:32 AM

NBC's prime time coverage was a disgrace. They continually chose to televise secondary and tertiary sports with little followings - namely volleyball, rowing, and diving, to name a few.

It's not that these sports didn't deserve some coverage. They certainly did. It's just that the coverage NBC gave them was all out of proportion to the little coverage they gave primary sports like basketball, boxing, weightlifting, and especially track and field.

Take beach volleyball. Beach volleyball is essentially a niche sport played in wealthy conclaves in ocean-side communities. Elsewhere, it's utterly irrelevant. Really, can you think of one beach volleyball competition, outside of the Olympics, that's ever been televised, let alone anticipated by viewers? When was the last time you said to a friend, "I can't wait for the next world beach volleyball championship!" Yet, NBC devoted entire commercial-free swaths to this middlin' sport. Did we really need to see every single point of every single May/Walsh match?

Hardly, and especially when it came at the expense of track & field, which is clearly the centerpiece of any Olympics (see the 91,000 attendees at the sold-out Bird's Nest stadium). Would it have been so terrible to see more than a couple track and field events in a row? Take the way NBC covered the decathlon, one of the premier Olympic events. They unspooled it like a highlight reel, instead of a competition. There was no suspense, no drama, no anticipation of any kind. Just shots of Clay throwing a javelin and jogging his 1500 meter run to win the Gold. Pathetic. Likewise, the coverage of the gold winning women's discuss throw. Heck, I can't even remember the American woman who won the thing, the coverage was over so fast! And, speaking of field events, where were the shotput, javelin, hammer throw, long and triple jumps. If they televised them, I missed every long and high jump contest. And, believe me, I was looking for them. But, the equestrian I could find.

In previous Olympics, I and other friends always looked forward to the time when track and field assumed the mantle of the Olympics. Not this year. Not in these Olympics. It was Misty May, Kerry Walsh, and Michael Phelps all day, all night.


Posted by: BillinSanFran | August 25, 2008 1:59 PM

Yeah, they really did mess up the decathalon coverage.

I remember way back watching Bruce Jenner win and it was a marquee event.

This time around?

I doubt anyone in the country knows the name of the World's Greatest Athlete.

Still, that event is a tricky beast to cover.

Posted by: Georgetwoner | August 25, 2008 4:24 PM

bill in sanfran hit every point that really gave me problems....when did we get away from olympics and concentrate on women with bikinis jumping around in the sand?

Posted by: Jclabes | August 25, 2008 5:13 PM

NBC coverage of Olympics 2008 was horrible. Was easy to avoid watching -- once you got pass the knowledge that your viewing was being held hostage by NBC.

Gymnastics was a disaster! Coverage was as choppy as the comments from Daggget, et al -- who by the way, should be held to a performance assessment themselves! The way they all ABSOLUTELY TRASHED Alicia Sacramone is unforgiveable. Thank God for Johnny R -- the only person to offer AN ACCURATE explanation that although she made mistakes, she DID NOT cost the team their gold -- but an unhealthy and not so deep bench -- and an insufficient level of technical difficulty that in the end, was the difference between their score and that of the Chinese team.

Daggett, et al, came across mean spirited and embarrassing. Enough of them!!!

Posted by: playball | August 25, 2008 5:32 PM

I agree with BillInSanFran, but also, I am tired of the media talking about how wonderful Bela Karolyi was as a commentator.

Yes, we get it. You're upset you thought the Chinese fielded sub-16 year olds. Once was enough. Continued discussion sounded like sour grapes, because we know that you coached Nadia Comenici to her gold when she was 14. Obviously, you and your wife would like to do the same again.

I thought he was annoying and just as aggravating as Daggett in many respects. And wasting prime-time air time on watching HIS reactions? What was the point of that? Chris Collinsworth - who actually admitted at several points that he really was underqualified to be a commentator there - was easier to watch.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | August 25, 2008 9:11 PM

""Best Ad Series:

Gold: General Electric Co. "Ecoimagination" series features a fire-breathing Chinese dragon".""

This writer is just clueless or ignorant as the commercial creator.

Chinese dragon doesn't live in caves!
Chinese dragon will not eat bio-waste!
Chinese dragon doesn't serve human as slaves!
Chinese dragon is divine!
Chinese dragon is a symbol of auspicious power!
Chinese Dragon is ruler of weather and water!

Many Chinese people often use the term "Descendants of the Dragon" (龍的傳人) as a sign of ethnic identity.

That commercial and your praise of it are insulting to the Chinese and their culture. Why don't you be a little smarter and be less stereotype. Go to Wikipedia and get some understanding before you comment.

Posted by: jz | August 26, 2008 10:11 AM

Anonymous (Farhi) said: "Maybe Garrett should get the bronze in the Worst Sportsmanship category instead."

Sorry, Abrahamian's visual protest brought attention to the problems in the unfair wrestling rules in the olympics. And his act has changed the system to make it fairer for the athletes. It seems Farhi, I mean, Anonymous read the first articles about the wrestler and didn't bother to follow up and read the later articles. Heck, he probably still thinks Dewey won.

Posted by: Terry | August 26, 2008 1:30 PM


Steven Spielberg (quite as an adviser to the ceremonies. Zhang Yimao must be so glad)

Mia Farrow (Should do a Team Iraq now that UK will host the games)

joey Cheeks (Follow Mia Farrow)

Overseas Tibet Monks (Maybe less funding from the congress)

Clownish torch relay protesters (thanks for the advertisement, though, the TV ratings are great)

And last but not least, the western China-bashing media. Only BBC managed to put two people on electric poles for a banner in Beijing. You cheated the public. But people will know eventually.

By the way, the most annoying person during the olympics is Bela Karoly on NBC. I think he is at the forefront of embarrassing the American people.

Posted by: Charlie1111 | August 26, 2008 9:30 PM

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