High Altitude Soccer Back On

May 27, 2008

Almost exactly a year ago, Geek Buffet’s Sports category was inaugurated with the post “Altitude Discrimination?“, about FIFA’s controversial decision to ban matches at altitudes above 2500m. Today, I spotted this article saying that FIFA has suspended the ruling.

It appears the initial ruling had undergone some changes since I noticed the original article. According to the one today, the rules ended up going into effect this way:

Fifa imposed a limit for international matches of 2,750m (9,022 ft) altitude in December.

Under the ruling, players could only take part in matches above this altitude if they had had one week to acclimatise, rising to 15 days for games above 3,000m (9,843ft).

Clubs have to release their players for internationals only five days ahead of internationals.

Due to the protest from many countries in South America, particularly Bolivia, FIFA is now forming a committee to look further into the true effects of playing in extreme conditions, including high altitude, as well as “heat, pollution or humidity.”

Hopefully I’ll notice when those results get reported on, whenever that happens. I’d be interested to see what they find, and how they decided to test such things for the specific purposes of soccer-playing.

-posted by Dana

Local Olympic Torch Protest Follow-Up

April 10, 2008

Well, I did indeed get to come to work today and find out how the planned pro-Tibet vigil and pro-China counter-protest turned out last night. Both the campus paper and the local paper reported on it. The basic description from the campus paper:

Crowds of upset protesters flooded the Chapel Quadrangle Wednesday evening, interrupting a planned candlelight vigil supporting freedom in Tibet.

Members and supporters of the Duke Human Rights Coalition, led by juniors Daniel Cordero and Adam Weiss, marched from East Campus to West Campus, Tibetan flags in hand, to advocate for the region’s freedom from the People’s Republic of China.

In response, protesters bearing signs and Chinese flags filled the Chapel Quad, expressing patriotism and criticizing Western media through chants and song.

When the pro-Tibet faction arrived outside the Chapel, protesters swarmed them en masse with chanting and shouting.

The pro-China students had recruited compatriots from the two other large universities nearby and had them carpool over. Fortunately, yelling really loudly and in large numbers was as far as things went.

A bit more from the local paper, highlighting the frustrations of the Chinese students:

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Thoughts on Olympic Torch Symbolism

April 9, 2008

At this point, I’m sure everyone has seen or heard news about the Olympic torch relay being interrupted in both London and Paris. In London, a protester even came close to grabbing the torch away from the relay runner. Today, the BBC put up this interesting feature presenting the opinions of one of the London relay runners and of the executive director of Students for a Free Tibet, who plan to protest in San Francisco.

An excerpt from the relay runner’s side:

A peaceful protest on the sidelines – fine. But don’t try to stop the torch, because the torch is about more than the Beijing Olympics. It’s about the Olympic spirit and the importance of the Olympics in teaching youth, and teaching the world, what sport can do – how sport can bring people together, how it can overcome suffering, how it has overcome even wars in the past.

It’s a very powerful thing, and trying to stop the torch was trying to stop that message, so that was wrong.

The thing that made me laugh about this is not that I don’t think that’s a fine sentiment, but I had just finished listening to Frank Deford’s somewhat scathing comments on the Olympics on NPR’s Morning Edition, and the contrast with his opening part in particular was kind of funny:

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Blogroll Addition Extravaganza!

November 29, 2007

Okay, it’s been a while since I pointed out additions to the blogroll, and it appears that the advent of allergy/asthma/holiday/exam/video game season is cutting into our collective writing, so, if you find youself without fresh geekings to read here, try these other fine blogs.

Blogs by Grinnellians

Bittersweet, the personal blog of our friend Molly, a (currently) former middle school teacher and aspiring YA novel author. She blogs about life, books, dogs, and often posts very realistic criticisms of our public education system.

Brood, the always amusing blog of Sarah Aswell, MFA, former writer for Grinnell’s campus paper, current minion for the publishing industry, and part-time (working toward full-time) journalistic writer for a variety of publications. She has several ongoing features on her blog, including “Sarah vs. Britney Spears,” “Ripley: Cat on a Diet,” “Lifetime Movie Reviews,” and, of course, book reviews. You can peruse a list of her published articles here.

Puffery is yet another blog featuring our own kidsilkhaze/Jennie. It’s amazing she has time to keep up with all this blogging! Puffery is actually a group blog, too, again with mostly Grinnellians, about beauty and bath products. If you’re a girl who wants to acknowledge your girly side and get some practical advice about what and what not to buy, go read! If you’re a boy who wonders what all the fuss is about all this girly stuff, go read! Moisturizer, makeup, bubble bath, shampoo, soap… they’ve got it all.

Sports Guy Talkin’ Crazy Again, a blog by a Grinnell English professor. It is, as he describes it, “Erik Simpson’s commentary on the way people talk about sports.” Only updated as often as Simpson notices people saying something interesting about sports, but when it’s updated, it’s always good. (His non-sports blog is Underlying Logic.)

Blogs by Other Worthy People

The following are blogs by recognizable famous journalist authors that you may already be reading, but if you aren’t, you should check out.

gladwell.com is Malcolm Gladwell’s blog. Gladwell is the author of The Tipping Point and Blink, and writes regularly for the New Yorker magazine. He blogs, as he writes, on a wide variety of interesting subjects.

The Loom is Carl Zimmer’s science blog. Zimmer is a science writer who focuses on evolutionary biology. He is the author of Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, Parasite Rex, Soul Made Flesh, At the Water’s Edge, and The Smithsonian Intimate Guide to Human Origins. He also writes for the New York Times, National Geographic, Wired, and numerous other magazines.

Relatedly, From A to Zimmer is written by Carl’s brother, Ben Zimmer, a linguist who also writes for Language Log. From A to Zimmer is his column on the Oxford University Press blog. Mmmmm, linguistics and etymology.

More on karate in the Olympics

July 6, 2007

Oh, the irony. Not more than an hour after I posted about the differences between Taekwondo and karate and why I didn’t mind if karate wasn’t included in the Olympics, I picked up the free copy of the karate magazine I got at the school on Tuesday, but hadn’t read yet. What is one of its main articles? “Karate and the Olympics,” which went into great detail about what karate organizations need to do to petition to become an Olympic sport. The soonest karate could be included would be 2016.

Apparently, the USA National Karate-Do Federation (USA-NKF) is working to get adequate support from the US Olympic Committee (USOC) to attend the Pan American Games. The Pan Am Games are held in the year before the Olympics, as sort of a preliminary proving grounds for athletes in this hemisphere. The Pan Am Games are required to have competitions in all of the official Olympic sports, but they don’t have to have competitions in the other “recognized” sports. The ones they do decide to allow are then classified as Pan Am Only Sports, and must be renegotiated every four years, each time a new location for the next Pan Am Games is chosen.

This seems to lead to some panic amongst the Pan Am Only Sport organizations, because I get the feeling that they think if they don’t make the Pan Am Games, they’ll be even further from eventual official Olympic status. The article ends like this:

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Taekwondo vs. the Traditional Martial Arts

July 6, 2007

In the comments on poetloverrebelspy’s post about the Olympics, laikal and I got off on a tangent about martial arts in the summer Olympics. He (foolishly) stated that one of the reasons he prefers the Winter Games to the Summer ones is, “they actually put the Biathlon on tv, whereas they mostly try to pretend that the summer martial arts (fencing, judo, karate) don’t exist (mostly ’cause they suck).” I naturally responded in defense of karate, which he expected, given that I taught the karate class back when we were in college. He later noted, “Karate is, I guess, just a “demonstration sport” — it’s Taekwondo that’s official.” Which led me to begin a monologue on why the two are often viewed quite differently, at which point I realized I should just write a post. And here it is.

So, first of all, let’s look at the official Olympic sport information.* Indeed, judo and Taekwondo are the two Eastern martial arts listed. Karate shows up on the list of recognised sports.** I’m not terribly surprised by this, as much as I love, and indeed prefer, traditional karate over Taekwondo. Here’s what it comes down to, in my mind: Taekwondo is a sport. Karate is still a martial art.

I’ve recently started back to taking classes at an actual school, and so just this past Tuesday, I was having a discussion with some of the other people who have been in the karate world for a while about tournament culture in the US. A lot of these kinds of discussions end up focusing on the Taekwondo vs. traditional divide.

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Sochi to host Winter Olympics in 2014

July 5, 2007

Sochi 2014 logo The IOC announced yesterday that it had selected Sochi in the Russian Federation to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. You can read their press release here.

I have been to Sochi, just before the summer tourist season opened in 2001. I have a hard time believing that, even with 7 years head start and $12 billion that President Vladimir Putin has pledged to the project, Sochi will be remembered fondly by Olympians or guests. That comes simply from my experience with Russian project management and building practices. I expect the athletes to be sleeping in Potemkin Villages.

But here’s my speculation, and you heard it here first: the 2014 Olympics will be the impetus for Russia to reform its restrictive and ancient visa regime. I believe the international spotlight being shone on the country will bring Russia to scrap its Soviet-era invitation requirement and streamline application and registration processes. Heck, the Duma might even vote to bring back forms with English AND Russian instructions. Crazy, I know. I’m probably just an optimist.

Does anyone know of the long-term effects hosting the Olympics has for host cities or regions? Are there any examples — good or bad — of dramatic cultural or economic changes resulting from the investment and attention? Is China doing anything to loosen its visa restrictions for the 2008 summer games?

And just for fun: do you prefer the summer or winter games? And what’s your favorite event?

Perhaps we should reconsider the name?

July 4, 2007

Today is the Fourth of July, and a day on which Americans are encouraged to cook out, enjoy the sun, and engage in a little bit of unashamed national pride as they celebrate Independence Day. Today, however, I haven’t been able to really get into the spirit of the thing. How can any American stand tall with their head up, knowing that the Swiss, of all people, have won the greatest race in yachting, once again depriving America of the cup that bears her name.

The America’s Cup was founded in 1851, and first held off of the coast of the Isle of Wight. Originally named the Royal Yacht Squadron Cup, the trophy was renamed in honor of the America, the boat that won the race its first year. What is now known as the America’s Cup is the oldest active trophy in international competition in any sport. It predates the modern Olympics, which didn’t begin until either 1859 or 1895, depending on your definitions.

From the America’s victory in 1851, the cup was held by not only an American yacht club, but by the same single yacht club, until 1983, constituting the longest winning streak in any sport. Following a 132 year unbeaten record, a loss is hard to take. Even worse, the United States has not produced a winner at all since 1992. A 15 year losing streak is more than my sense of national honor is prepared to tolerate.

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Title IX Anniversary

June 7, 2007

Thirty-five years ago, in June, 1972 (about the time of the Watergate break-in), Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C § 1681 et seq.) into law. The US Department of Justice web site still describes Title IX as “…a comprehensive federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The principal objective of Title IX is to avoid the use of federal money to support sexually discriminatory practices in education programs such as sexual harassment and employment discrimination, and to provide individual citizens effective protection against those practices.”

Notwithstanding the DOJ’s description, Title IX mostly is known as the law that made sports, particularly college sports, more accessible to women. Some say that Title IX achieved this goal at the expense of men’s sports. Others say that without Title IX, women’s sports would be forced back to the bad old days (i.e., the time when I was at university) when our athletic opportunities were limited to such events as the intramural field hockey tournament.

I have always considered Title IX a good thing. Never having had the capability to play big time sports (far from it!), I was just an intellectual cheerleader for girl jocks like Mia Hamm and the US Olympic women’s soccer team. In my circle of acquaintances, though, I have found that Title IX is a topic that equals abortion rights in the intensity, emotion and sometimes rage exhibited by its supporters and detractors. Over the last few months, I’ve had some serious, thoughtful discussions with people whose intelligence and ideas I admire, and from these discussions I’ve determined that there are no easy answers. In fact, I’m not sure anyone even knows what the questions are. The fight over Title IX, like the fight over a woman’s right to choose, has taken on a life of its own.

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The third time’s the charm

May 31, 2007

With one jewel in the Triple Crown still undecided (the Belmont Stakes will be run on June 9th 2007) most people have already lost interest in horse racing for the year. Yes, there are still those fans that will watch the race for the shear love of horse racing but, due to the length of a horse’s nose, there will be none of the excitement that surrounded the Belmont in 2004 when Smarty Jones had a shot at the Triple Crown.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term ‘Triple Crown’ it refers to a series of three races on dirt tracks for three year old thoroughbreds. Although the races are open to three year old fillies (female horses), it is rare for them to run in the races. There have been Kentucky Derby winners that have been fillies and geldings (castrated males), but the field typically consists of colts (uncastrated males). Typically the trainers choose to run the fillies in the women’s version of the Triple Crown which starts with the Kentucky Oaks the Friday before the Derby. As is typical in most sports the female’s version gets much less attention than the male’s. So although as a female athlete this offends me, I am going to go along and choose to focus on the mostly boys’ races here.

The three races that make up the Triple Crown are: the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby run the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky; the mile and 3/16th Preakness Stakes run two weeks later at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland; and the mile and a half Belmont Stakes run five weeks after the Kentucky Derby at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. If one horse has the stamina and talent to win these three races it gets awarded the prestigious title of Triple Crown winner. The winner also receives a $5 million dollar bonus for winning all three races. This amount pales in comparison to the stud fees a Triple Crown winner could accumulate. Throughout the history of horse racing in America there have been eleven Triple Crown winners.

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