I love the Olympics. I find it tragic that badminton, table tennis, hand ball, and field hockey are not treated like real sports in the United States; seriously, I think hand ball in particular could really catch on in American colleges if it were ever given a chance. But I have to say, I’m finding a few things annoying this year. And no, it has nothing at all to do with NBC’s coverage–look, people, you may not like the fact that the events are time delayed, but you wouldn’t like it any better if they were broadcast in the middle of the afternoon. Anyway, if I could fix the Olympics, here are the major changes I would make:
1) Pool Play Adjustments. A pool play tournament is one in which the teams are first divided into groups (or pools) and play a round-robin within their group, and then the winners from each group move on to a single-elimination quarter- or semi-final playoff to determine the medalists. I actually really like pool play tournaments–it avoids having people go half way across the world to watch their athlete compete in their favorite sport for exactly one match and be done. With the pool play, everyone is guaranteed three (usually) matches. It also better ensures that the best teams medal–the best teams can survive an early upset.
The problem with pool play is that the people who set up the single elimination portion of the tournaments don’t do a good job of it. For instance, in Men’s basketball, the USA is the dominant team; they will get the top seed from Group A. In the last game of the preliminary pool play round, Spain and Brazil should be battling for the second seed in Group B–but instead, the loser of the game actually gets the easier path to earn the better medal, because the second seed from Group B would have to play the USA in the semifinal, whereas the loser of the game doesn’t have to play the USA until the Gold Medal game (assuming that they win out). A similar situation led to the fiasco in women’s doubles badminton, where a Chinese team and a Korean team both fought so hard to lose a game that they were booed off the court and sent home from the Olympics in disgrace.
The best answer is to reseed the elimination round only AFTER the results from the preliminary rounds are all in. That way, during the preliminary rounds, no one knows exactly who will be playing who in the next round until the next round is about to begin. Moreover, that tournament should be set up, you know, logically, so that the two favorites (based on Group Play results) are likely to meet in the gold medal round–not before.
2) End all association with the AIBA–and maybe get rid of boxing all together. The AIBA is the International Boxing Association (the acronym dates from when it used to have Amateur in the name). The AIBA is just a flat-out corrupt organization. There’s no other way to describe it. There have been multiple fights just at this Olypmics whose results have been overturned after the fact; one referee was sent home and another suspended for five matched; one judge suspended indefinitely; and yet all of that chaos inside the ring just seems to be the result of shady deals going on behind the scenes. The worst was the boxer declared a victor on points in a match in which he was knocked down five times, and then the AIBA tried to pin the entire fiasco on the referee–as if the judges had nothing to do with awarding ten points in a round to a man who spend the entire round falling down. Corruption allegations have dogged the AIBA for decades, and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has done nothing; it’s time for the IOC to give the AIBA the death penalty. Find another organization to manage Olympic boxing–and get rid of boxing until they can. Olympic gold medals shouldn’t be bought and sold, and that’s exactly what seems to be happening inside the boxing ring right now.
3) Work with MLB to bring back baseball–with professional baseball players. I know that it would mess with the baseball season, but the international publicity and goodwill it would bring to the sport would be worth a lot–there has to be some kind of compromise deal they can work out.
4) Fix women’s gymnastics. It’s gotten better in my lifetime, but I’m tired of seeing these incredible athletes who can do these amazing things, feel that they have to get out there and wave there arms around vaguely in beat to Andrew Lloyd Webber. They look like they are landing airplanes, and frankly I find it a little insulting that we ask them to do that because they are women. We don’t ask the men to do it–instead, we simply marvel at their athletic ability. So get rid of the music, get rid of the “artistic” components, and let the athletes do their thing.
Also, get rid of the uneven bars. The apparatus looks cool–but it penalizes tall (and I’m using the word “tall” very loosely here) gymnasts. The uneven bars are the reason that all women’s gymnasts must be extremely short–you have to be able to rotate fully underneath the low bar and around the high bar without your feet hitting the ground or the other bar, and you simply can’t do that if you are even of average height. Instead, it’s time for the women’s gymnasts to grow up–literally–and go to the high bar.