Monday, August 18, 2008

1/100th of a Second

Mariel Zagunis(L) of the United States competes against her teammate Becca Ward during the
women's individual sabre semifinal 2 at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

What is so fascinating about the Olympics? Once every four years, I am suddenly overcome with an insatiable curiosity about shit I have never even bothered to consider the possible existence of beforehand. On the first night of the Olympics, I was up at two in the morning watching women's individual saber fencing, for Christ's sake. (The Americans swept all three medals, by the way). If there is a more boring spectator sport than competitive fencing, I can't imagine what it would be (these pictures make it look WAY more compelling than it actually is). But there I was, on the edge of my couch, watching two seconds of blinding action and trying to figure out who scored a point. Ultimately, I had to wait for the announcer to tell me what happened.

More after the break...

It might be the speed. I couldn't believe how fast a score happened in fencing and Jonah Lehrer observed over the weekend how amazing it is that the Michael Phelps win came down to the 1/100th of a second. Where else in the non-scientific world are differences made by such margins? It turns out that the clocks that measure the swimming can actually track down to the 1000th of a second, but that we are unable to construct pools whose length is consistent enough in all lanes to allow for a 1000th of a second variable. Fuck me! And I thought that that the fights about a tenth of a point on a job performance eval were ridiculous.

Lehrer also commented on the laid back attitude that the athletes take to losing by 1/100th of a second. Not quite so stoic, as it turns out since the Serbs challenged the result. To no avail, of course, since the challenge was based entirely upon how slim the margin of victory was; not any actual evidence that the Serbian had won. Had they upheld it, they would have had to throw all the results from every swim out.

Ara Abrahamian suggests a suitable location where the referee
might follow
the Swedish wrestler's suggestion to go and fuck himself.

Who knows what rules these officials will support in any situation anyway? Like any good rule of law in the third-world countries most of the officials come from (ed. note - Is that true? What is the makeup of Olympic officials? Fuck if I know - Skip), it is applied only when the rule accommodates the notions of the person making the ruling and ignored otherwise. All in all, it is surprising, given how much people love to complain and play the victim, that there isn't formal protests of the results in every event. You know, like we do for elections.

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