universality

What would you do about a table like this if you were the International Olympic Committee?

The table shows the complete domination of track cycling by one nation — Great Britain. The results are from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Britain’s 12 medals in this one sport were a touch over a quarter of the nation’s total medal count for the entire Games that year.

Also, what stands out in this list of track cycling events? Again from the Beijing Olympics:

•  Individual Pursuit Men
•  Sprint Individual Men
•  Keirin Men
•  Team Pursuit Men
•  Madison Men
•  Points Race Men
•  Olympic Sprint Men
•  Individual Pursuit Women
•  Points Race Women
•  Sprint Women

Notice how there are fewer events for women? Pourquoi?

Thanks to a number of changes, neither the domination by British cyclists nor the lack of parity in men’s versus women’s events will feature in these games. Rue Britannia. Read more

Everyone likes an underdog. The British, however, love them. It’s much more acceptable to cheer an unlikely winner than a likely one. How fitting then that Britain should host the Olympics — a competition where the entry mechanics ensure that underdogs will turn up by design.

We’ve already been treated to a number of spirited and inspiring performances. These are delicately chosen adjectives, for the winning attributes were admittedly not strength, speed, or precision.

In this, the XXX Olympiad, the crowds kept cheering all the way up to the 8 minute and 39 second mark in the men’s single sculls second repechage. For a full minute and 20 seconds of that, everyone’s hearts and minds were the sole property of a rower from Niger … until he also managed to cross the finishing line, that is.

On the same day, swimmer Jennet Saryyeva of Turkmenistan enjoyed a full minute and 18 seconds alone in the limelight at the end of her 400m freestyle heat.

Both are clearly impressive athletes, and both are clearly not up to Olympic standard. They will have known that when they signed up. Given this, how and why did they enter? Read more