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Category: August 22, 2008

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Bryan Clay wins gold, eyes London's Games for history

In this combination of 11 photos, United States' gold medal winning decathlete Bryan Clay celebrates his overall win, centre, and is seen in each discipline of the men's decathlon. Disciplines are, clockwise from bottom left, 100-meters, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meters, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1500-meters.

You'd think it'd be enough to win a gold and a silver in Olympic decathlons. Only twice in history had anyone ever won two medals in the event (Britain's Daley Thompson, Bob Mathias of the U.S. each won gold twice). But now that Glendora's Bryan Clay has won his two, he is already thinking about 2012 and England and his third. "It's the start of something good and if my body holds up I'm hoping to be capable of doing this again in 2012," Clay told the Australian newspaper.

The baby-faced athlete will be 32 in 2012 and seems possible, but as Phil Hersh wrote in today's Times, it takes a lot more to win a medal in the decathlon than, say, a 100-meter sprint like Jamaican speedster Usain Bolt.

Bolt needed about 2 minutes and 10 seconds of running altogether to win gold medals in the 100, 200 and relay. Clay had endured two 11-hour days of competition to join a line of U.S. decathlon champions that began at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics with Jim Thorpe.

According to the AP, even though Clay became the first American to win the decathlon since Dan O'Brien did it in 1996 in Atlanta, the sport doesn't capture the attention of the masses the way it did when Bruce Jenner won it in '76.

The event no longer grabs the headlines back home. Case in point: Clay's triumph came just minutes before Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell led Jamaica to a world record in the 4x100 relay. When their news conference started, all but a handful of reporters left Clay.

"I hope the Wheaties box and all those types of things happen," he said. "I'd love for this to be a spark for the decathlon and bring it back to the forefront of track and field."

-- Tony Pierce

AP photo

Are things too black and white in Beijing?

Misty May-Treanor (left) and Kerri Walsh celebrate their gold medal beach volleyball win over China.

BEIJING -- The scene on the beach volleyball court, with gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor dancing and clapping and mugging for the crowd, felt like a giant embrace.

The scene later inside felt like just the opposite.

At the post-match news conference, an American reporter was the first to raise his hand. He was sitting in one of the front rows. He was large enough to be seen by everyone. He was even recognized by Walsh and May-Treanor, who looked directly at him for the question.

But Milo Bryant of the Colorado Springs Gazette never had a chance to ask it.

He was never called upon by the Chinese official directing the press conference.

That official instead called upon a reporter in the back, a reporter in the corner, a reporter crammed in the middle, seemingly anybody else but Bryant.

All those reporters are white.

Bryant is black.

It was the second time in these Olympics that I’ve seen Bryant inexplicably ignored, and afterward I asked about it.

"It’s happened more than that," he said. "I’ve been trying to figure that out since I got here."

I can guess. In a country where the government reportedly attempted to ban blacks from Beijing bars in a pre-Olympic crackdown, I can totally guess.

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NBC Universal: Beijing closes in on '96 Atlanta Games

Brazilian players remain on the field as U.S. players celebrate winning the women's Olympic soccer final match in Beijing on Thursday.

NBC's prime-time television broadcast on Thursday from the Beijing Games averaged 22.4 million viewers, up from 21.5 million during the comparable broadcast from the 2004 Athens Games. Both broadcasts generated a 13.8 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
The network's prime-time average viewership for the first 14 days of the Beijing Games is 28.6 million, up 11% from 25.7 million during the like period from Athens, according to Nielsen. The 14-day broadcast period has a 16.8 average rating, up from 15.6 in Athens.

NBC Universal also stuffed a bunch of other glowing numbers into its Friday news release.

Citing Nielsen data, the company said that 85% of all U.S. (television) households have spent at least some time in front of the tube watching Olympics-related broadcasts.

And, with three more prime-time broadcasts to go, NBC Universal says that its networks (NBC and the cable channels) have reached 207 million total viewers -- or just two million shy of the total number of viewers generated by 17 days of broadcasts from the 1996 Atlanta Games.

NBC Universal, again citing Nielsen data, described the Atlanta Games as "the most viewed event in U.S. television history."

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: Brazilian players remain on the field as U.S. players celebrate winning the women's Olympic soccer final match in Beijing on Thursday. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

One giant leap for Medals Per Capita

A lunging leap at the wire by U.S. runner David Neville, bottom, gave him a bronze medal in the men's 400-meter Olympic finals.

It’s just plain heartening when an athlete from an innocuous and irrelevant country refrains from self-pity and quite possibly decides the entire Olympics with one admirable, sacrificial lunge.

That’s why David Neville’s dive to bronze still resonated in the Medals Per Capita offices -- sorry, living room -- even 36 hours after it happened.

Neville hails from the United States, a hopeless Medals Per Capita straggler lurking around in the low 40s, trying to make a name for itself, hoarding medals but forever outpaced daily in the rankings by sudden, superior interlopers who join the list and immediately butt in up ahead, as on Friday with Ireland and Mauritius.

Did Neville dwell in the despondency of his country’s over-reproduction and its ruinous effects on Medals Per Capita? Not a jot. Reaching the end of the grueling 400-meter race on Thursday night, he left his feet, dove across the line toward hard earth, edged Christopher Brown of the Bahamas for the bronze, declined a kindly offer of a stretcher and said, “I did it because it was the only thing I could think of doing.”

Such undeniable Olympic spirit from a peasant MPC country prevented the ultimate MPC bully, the Bahamas, from halving its MPC rating from one medal for every 307,451 to one medal for every 153,725.
Seeing as how that 153,725 would’ve sent the world reeling into discouragement and pretty much clinched the real Olympic proceedings here, you would commit only medium-rare hyperbole if you claimed Neville sort of saved the world there.

After all, with the Bahamas stuck at 307,451, out to run on Friday night came Usain Bolt and three Jamaican countrymen in the men’s 4-x-100-meter relay. Bolt fretted not a whit over IOC President Jacques Rogge’s moronic comments lamenting his excellent celebrations, helped Jamaica to a world record and a gold medal and, most crucially, pared Jamaica’s MPC to a heavenly 280,433, enabling it to leapfrog the Bahamas for a tenuous lead entering the last two breathless days.

Then again, if Rogge weren’t such a suck-up to the “big” countries that lead the outdated, worthless, autocratic “Medals Table,” he might know by now that Bolt, Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell just bolted to No. 1 in the chic, telltale, fair-minded Medals Per Capita rankings, a feat worthy of enough celebration to make Chad Johnson blush.

Medals Per Capita minutiae after Friday after the jump...

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NBC broadcasts on West Coast still not live, market research to blame

Despite what that graphic in the top right corner of NBC's Olympics TV broadcasts might imply, the footage is not live — not for us on the West Coast and in the mountain time zone anyway. And you know who is to blame for that? You are! At least that's what NBC Sports spokesman Brian Walker says.

NBC conducted extensive market research on Americans interested in watching the Olympics, and it found that "primetime" — the sweet spot starting at 8 p.m. when the hottest sitcoms and reality TV shows are aired — is the ideal time slot for the international games, Walker said in an e-mail.

Walker says the Olympic audience is different than, say, that of the Super Bowl, a sporting event traditionally aired live in all U.S. time zones. "The audience makeup of the Olympics is very much like that of 'American Idol' and 'Dancing With the Stars,' which have 'live' season finales presented in much the same way," he said in an e-mail.

In fact, ratings for the Pacific and mountain time zones have actually been higher than those in Eastern and Central, Walker wrote. Perhaps the Olympics would have been even more success if they asked viewers to "text in" their vote for who should be awarded the gold. Hey, it worked for "Idol."

So, what about the text that reads "live," called a "live" bug, which appears on the three-hour delayed broadcasts? "It is, as a practical matter, impossible to remove the live bug graphic for the West Coast feed which is why we have time-coded it to indicate Live ET/CT," Walker wrote in an e-mail. "Time-coding" means NBC will occasionally — 10 times or fewer per night — state when the footage was shown live in the Eastern time zone.

CNN seems to have a much easier time zapping their graphical overlays, however. For footage they shoot, it's actually quite easy to remove those types of bugs, a CNN spokesman said. In the rare instance that CNN will show video from an affiliate station with a "live" bug burnt in, the station policy is to place a graphic next to the text reading, "Previously recorded."

"You've got to make sure the audience knows what's happening," the CNN spokesman said. "It sounds superficial, but that's what you do."

The Federal Communications Commission's official position is not to comment on specific allegations or incidents, a spokesman said. The FCC spokesman could not recall any prior situation in which viewers were misled by a "live" bug and did not provide information on whether there had been any complaints filed. So, I guess that means if you're upset about the issue, fire away.

-- Mark Milian

Photo credit: Tony Pierce / Los Angeles Times

Michael Phelps is not the best Olympian, sex in the Olympic village and other news from around the Web

As the Beijing Olympic Games take the final turn for the homestretch, here are some stories from around the L.A. Times and the Web that you might find of interest:

Philip Hersh writes here on The Times that as great as Michael Phelps is, he's still a few medals away from greats like Carl Lewis and is still not in a class of his own.

Phelps however was the king of all media coverage at these Games, accounting to more than 25% of all stories generated, says Editor & Publisher.

Sports Illustrated explains that there are six good reasons why the Jamaicans are cleaning up on the track in Beijing, including the fact that the best Jamaicans are actually running for their country (instead of for other nations, as they have in the past: Ben Johnson, Linford Christie, Donovan Bailey).

Why has BMX been so successful in Beijing? Because of its unpredictability that the best or fastest racer might not win, ESPN.com says. "The rider who wins is often the shrewdest, or most aggressive or fastest out of the gate. And, sometimes, it's simply the luckiest rider that day."

Two-time British Olympian Matthew Syed writes in the Times of London that the Olympic village is a hotbed for hooking up:

But let us get back to all the sex going down in the village. One possible explanation centres on the fact that Olympic athletes have to display an unnatural (and, it has to be said, wholly unhealthy) level of self-discipline in the build-up to big competitions. How else is this going to manifest itself than with a volcanic release of pent-up hedonism? It is a common sight to see recently knocked-out athletes gorging on Magnums and McDonald's, swilling alcohol and, of course, shagging like crazy.

Parachuting, surfing, netball, bowling, tug-of-war: Should these be the next Olympic sports? NBC.com has the slideshow that might leave you saying "are you kidding"? Yes, chess is on the list.

-- Tony Pierce

Photo: AFP

Another Lopez, another Olympic tae kwon do medal

Steven Lopez (right) and Italy's Mauro Sarmiento compete during the men's 80kg taekwondo quarterfinal at the Beijing Games on Friday.

After suffering his first-ever defeat in three Olympic Games, and first loss in six years, welterweight Steven Lopez today rebounded to win a bronze medal at the Beijing University of Science and Technology Gymnasium.

Italy's Mauro Sarmiento, the eventual silver medalist, defeated Lopez in sudden-death overtime in the quarterfinal round.

Sarmiento advanced to the finals, where he finished second. Lopez then entered the repechage (second chance) where he won bronze by defeating Ivory Coast's Sebastien Konan, 3-0, and Azerbaijan's Rashad Ahmadov for the bronze medal, 3-2.

With the bronze, the Lopez siblings from Sugar Land, Texas, will leave Beijing Games with three Olympic medals. Diana Lopez captured bronze in the women's featherweight division and Mark Lopez took silver in the men's featherweight class.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: U.S. athlete Steven Lopez, right, and Italy's Mauro Sarmiento compete during the men's tae kwon do quarterfinal today. Credit: Michael Reynolds / EPA

U.S. synchronized swimming in 5th place after technical event

The U.S. team competes in the synchronized swimming technical routine at the Beijing Games on Friday.

The U.S. Olympics synchronized swim team ended Friday's team technical event in a fifth-place tie with Canada. Both teams finished with a 95.167 score and will carry a 47.584 point total into the team free competition on Saturday afternoon in Beijing.

Defending Olympic champion Russia scored 99.000, while Spain finished second with 97.833 and China took third with 97.167.

“We did a great job,” team co-captain Kate Hooven of Pleasanton, Calif., told U.S. Synchronized Swimming after the competition. "We couldn’t ask for a better technical program. Our lift is quite difficult. The base stand is our arms. That makes it more risky than usual lifts. We did it to perfection.”

During the team free competition, the U.S. squad "hopes to push the envelope with a new free routine to the theme of 'light,' " according to U.S. Synchronized Swimming. "The routine features innovative and groundbreaking choreography which has never been brought to the competition pool before."

Hooven said that the routine to be presented on Saturday is "entertaining to watch and pleasing to the eye. It’s a lot of pressure to pull it off. We are really going for the free feeling.”

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: The U.S. team competes in the synchronized swimming technical routine at the Beijing Games on Friday. The squad is currently tied with Canada for fifth place. Credit: Julian Abram Wainwright / EPA

2008 Redeem Team vs. 1992 Dream Team


Click here to view graphic

The U.S. men’s basketball team starring Kobe Bryant and LeBron James heads into the medal round at the Beijing Olympics having faced no stiff competition. How the 2008 Redeem Team stacks up against the Michael Jordan- and Magic Johnson-led 1992 Dream Team.

U.S. will play Spain for Beijing basketball gold medal

LeBron James of the U.S. passes against Fabricio Oberto of Argentina.

The Team once known as Dream is back in the Olympics gold rush again.

The U.S. men's basketball team defeated Argentina 101-81 on Friday night in a Beijing Games semifinal game that was played before 11,083 fans.

Here is a link to Mark Heisler's game story online. The U.S. will play Spain for the gold on Sunday.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: LeBron James of the U.S. passes against Fabricio Oberto of Argentina during the men's semifinal baketball game at the Wukesong Indoor Stadium on Friday. The U.S. won, 101-81.  Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images


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