Well, there's a surprise
August 20, 2008 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Some of the female Chinese gymnasts are apparently under-age. It wasn't their skulls, their chins or their eyes that gave them away: it was the internet.
posted by chuckdarwin (130 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
We freaking pwned at female gymnastics this Olympics - this screams sour grapes.
posted by Ryvar at 7:56 AM on August 20, 2008


Is some random cached page at baidu really a smoking gun?
posted by chunking express at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2008


*strikes desk*
DAMN YOU INTERNET!
*waves angry Chinese fist at God, or whatever.*
posted by Jofus at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's also this article at Huffington Post from a few days ago
posted by wabbittwax at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2008


It's not really random, chunking express, it's cached directly from the Chinese government's own sport site. Note that the original (uncached) copies have been scrubbed mercilessly.
posted by empyrean at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2008


This is the money link that actually explains the context.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:03 AM on August 20, 2008 [12 favorites]


It is my opinion that any sport wherein it is actually advantageous to be a child shouldn't be an Olympic sport in the first place.
posted by Flunkie at 8:03 AM on August 20, 2008 [25 favorites]


We freaking pwned at female gymnastics this Olympics - this screams sour grapes

Actually no. This came up before the Games even started.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Next time, let's just have the folks at Pixar put on the Olympics.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:06 AM on August 20, 2008 [13 favorites]


Uh, "random"? It's a cache of an official document showing the birth dates of the athletes.

I have a couple of opinions: First, if they're 14, and they did that well, good on them (although, yeah, they may have been taken from their homes at age one and chained to the uneven parallel bars); second, if all the IOC goes by is passports, well, that's the IOC being a bunch of stupids.

Why can't under-16's compete, anyway? (Seems to me that rule can't have been around for very long.)
posted by Sys Rq at 8:08 AM on August 20, 2008


And uhh.. it wasn't really pwnage.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:09 AM on August 20, 2008


Well well well *taps fingers together* It seems the cheaters were finally undone by their own...cheatinghood. Ing. Ness.
posted by DU at 8:11 AM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Cheers, These Premises Are Alarmed. You are correct.

I was a bit worried about parroting the slashdot entry too closely... plus I didn't want to link to 'some dude's blog' as evidence.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:11 AM on August 20, 2008


How was 4chan involved in all this?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:11 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


second, if all the IOC goes by is passports, well, that's the IOC being a bunch of stupids.

The IOC is bound by the national federations in each sport. I don't know if there's a process for overriding that, and I'm not sure who would have standing to file a protest in the CAS.

Why can't under-16's compete, anyway? (Seems to me that rule can't have been around for very long.)

It's a relatively new rule, and aimed for two reasons: 1) letting kids be kids for a tiny bit longer, and 2) (IMHO) setting up for the World Youth Olympics, which start in a couple of years.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:11 AM on August 20, 2008


NO FAIR! WE WUZ BEATEN BY 14 YR OLD GIRLS!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:13 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Certain official documents have apparently been found before, and seemingly have been wished away by the IOC. While this appears damning to us netizens, why would they now pay attention to a mere cache, and that too something that will vanish away quickly?
posted by the cydonian at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2008


As for the age limit being instituted, I've read that this was also party due to the potential damage caused by impacts and stress on joints/ligaments in still-developing adolescents. I think of it as a PR move, since these kids are still training from ridiculously young ages, they just aren't flipping around at the Olympics at age 12 anymore. Except the Chinese, that is.
posted by empyrean at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2008


Yeah, I get that what the document is about, i'm just wondering how much of a smoking gun a cached page on baidu actually is. Can't the Chinese government simply say, "oh that excel file had incorrect data, some players birthdays were incorrect, so we replaced it with a proper one," and call it a day? That's what they did with a new report that reported one of the athletes ages as being 13 a few months back as well. I mean, if they found her birth certificates or old passports or something, that'd probably get more traction than some random cached page on baidu.
posted by chunking express at 8:16 AM on August 20, 2008


And yeah, the age limit always struck me as random as well, since it's not like the girls aren't competing and training elsewhere. (They have a similar rule in diving as well, which they instituted after 14 year old Fu Mingxia kicked everyones asses. Of course, she did it again when she was 18.)
posted by chunking express at 8:18 AM on August 20, 2008


second, if all the IOC goes by is passports, well, that's the IOC being a bunch of stupids.

Apparently it's almost impossible, at the moment, to prove age scientifically. So they have to accept documentation, which of course can be falsified

Still not as bad as those wacky North Koreans where one of their gymnasts didn't seem to age over three years so she could enter various tournaments.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2008


Well I'm happy for the little girls. Their families probably need to melt down the gold to buy food. That is if those commie assholes don't take it from them once they are off camera.... I really have a strong disliking for the Chinese government. Oppressive jerks!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2008


It's all kosher according to the Chinese Gymnastics 16-Year Plan: "SIXTEEN YEARS IN FOURTEEN, COMRADES!"
Yes, I know, different Communists.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


Lessee, we've learned that the PRC essentially held the 2008 Tai Chi masters in a prison camp for a year, that they humiliated the girl who actually sang their national anthem by declaring to the world that she was ugly, and we're supposed to be surprised that they'd lie about something as simple as the age of one of their gymnasts?

What the thugs who run China haven't quite figured out yet is that the era when it was possible to keep secrets is pretty much over. If more than one person knows something it *will* come out, the only real question is when, and the time horizon on that keeps getting shorter. For example, it was less than a week between the amazing performance by the Tai Chi masters and the discovery that they were imprisoned and badly treated because the PRC thought doing so would produce a better performance.

The PRC is a fascist state obsessed with gaining international recognition, as such it is not only unsurprising, but inevitable, that the PRC would do anything in its power to attempt to appear strong, capable, popular, etc. That their activities are backfiring will only be used in propaganda to the Chinese people emphasizing that the evil West is trying to humiliate them again; cuz' it wasn't that the PRC acted like a bunch of idiot thugs, nope its only because us evil Westerners noticed that they're acting like a bunch of idiot thugs.

Here's to hoping that the Chinese people can overthrow their fascist rulers as bloodlessly as the Russian people managed to overthrow their communist rulers; and that they can make it stick better than the Russians did.
posted by sotonohito at 8:24 AM on August 20, 2008 [24 favorites]


(They have a similar rule in diving as well, which they instituted after 14 year old Fu Mingxia kicked everyones asses. Of course, she did it again when she was 18.)

Alexandre Despatie did that too, and it was hilarious. I think you're wrong about the rules, though.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:24 AM on August 20, 2008


Why can't under-16's compete, anyway? (Seems to me that rule can't have been around for very long.)

Doesn't it also have something to do with the fact that the weight to strength ratio of kids around 12-14 is higher than the ratio for girls over 16? It would make it easier to pull off some of those gymnastics moves--and would sort of be cheating.
posted by reformedjerk at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


What the thugs who run China haven't quite figured out yet is that the era when it was possible to keep secrets is pretty much over.

What the thugs have figured out is that it doesn't matter if they can keep a secret. They put a 14 year old into competition at the Olympics and get the all around gold medal. They lock up tai chi performers for a year in inhumane conditions and everyone goes "ooooh, pretty." They bulldoze historical sites and displace thousands of people so they can build a stadium and everyone goes "man, that bird's nest sure is neat."

Put antifreeze in toothpaste and get caught? Just execute someone to show how tough on crime you are, until the next time it happens and then execute someone again.

So long as there are no repercussions and they can lie and get away with it, why wouldn't they? China has done fine with it until now, building one of the worlds largest economies on top of it. It's obviously working for them as long as nobody else calls them on it.

They've learned that all they have to do is keep up appearances and everything will be OK.
posted by mikesch at 8:39 AM on August 20, 2008 [40 favorites]


Have the gymnasts in question ever traveled outside China to compete before the olympics, and did they need to fill out official forms (e.g. VISAs) to enter those contries. I would assume birth date is part of those forms. Maybe some light could be shed on this by reviewing those forms?
posted by batou_ at 8:39 AM on August 20, 2008


This article on underage Chinese gymnasts also highlights the occasional problems in using just the last name to take about an article's subject:
If the age reported by Xinhua was correct, that would have meant He was too young to be on the Chinese team that beat the United States on Wednesday and clinched China's first women's team Olympic gold in gymnastics. He is also a favorite for gold in Monday's uneven bars final.

Yang was also on Wednesday's winning team. Questions have also been raised about her age and that of a third team member, Jiang Yuyuan.

Gymnasts have to be 16 during the Olympic year to be eligible for the games. He's birthday is listed as Jan. 1, 1992.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:41 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Child labour in China? I'm SHOCKED.
posted by gman at 8:43 AM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


>Doesn't it also have something to do with the fact that the weight to strength ratio of kids around 12-14 is higher than the ratio for girls over 16?

Yeah, I think that's right. Or to put it differently, prepubescent girls can do harder tricks than post-pubescent ones can. That didn't use to be as much of a problem, because the scoring emphasized execution as much as difficulty, so older gymnasts lost the advantage of being able to do the super-difficult skills, but they made up for it in having the experience to do their less-difficult routines better. The new scoring system increases the emphasis on landing really tough skills, at the expensive of execution. So if they didn't raise the age to where everyone could presumably be assumed to be post-pubescent, you'd just have a lot of tiny little girls doing fifteen twisting flips, but with terrible form. Raising the age limit is seen as a way to nix a trend that had been brewing in which execution had been sacrificed for difficulty.

I think it's also probably a bit of a PR thing. Women's gymnastics requires little girls to abuse their bodies in some pretty extreme ways. A general audience is only going to focus on that, though, if they see the little girls in high-profile competitions. Most people only focus on gymnastics during the Olympics. If the general public doesn't see gymnasts until they're older, people are less likely to ask hard questions about whether competitive gymnastics isn't inherently a bit abusive, especially in places like China where there's presumably a lot of external pressure not to quit.

Finally, I think there has been an age requirement for women's gymnastics for a long time. It was recently raised from 14 to 16, but I'm pretty sure it had been 14 for at least the past thirty years.
posted by craichead at 8:51 AM on August 20, 2008 [6 favorites]


@ mikesch: So long as there are no repercussions and they can lie and get away with it, why wouldn't they? China Pretty much every single nation in the history of the world, including the present U.S. government, has done fine with it until now, building one of the worlds largest economies on top of it. It's obviously working for them as long as nobody else even if somebody calls them on it.

Fixed that for you.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:02 AM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


1.) I have utterly no doubt that Hé Kěxīn (何可欣) is underage.
2.) Don't really care, since it was a recent and arbitrary limit anyway.

Even with cheating, it still came down to subjective judging and a baroque point system that no one likes; that's probably the best place to initiate reforms. I don't think they really fooled anyone and the record will always be tainted with an asterisk in the public mind.
posted by RavinDave at 9:07 AM on August 20, 2008


China seems to have learned what America has forgotten: in sport, winning is the only thing.
posted by three blind mice at 9:08 AM on August 20, 2008


"...the era when it was possible to keep secrets is pretty much over."

Now begins the era where it is possible to convince people to care about the revelation of these secrets, but unlikely. For reference, please see the past ~8 years of US administration.
posted by Eideteker at 9:14 AM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Child labour in China? I'm SHOCKED.

You might feel better to know that the Chinese do not discriminate based on age:
Two elderly Chinese women have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.
posted by peeedro at 9:15 AM on August 20, 2008


Alexandre Despatie did that too, and it was hilarious. I think you're wrong about the rules, though.

My mistake, she won when she was 13. They made the age limit 14 after that. (She won the platform and springboard in 1996. And just the springboard in 2000.)
posted by chunking express at 9:16 AM on August 20, 2008


Mastercheddaar writes "Their families probably need to melt down the gold to buy food"

Gold medals only have 6g of gold the rest is silver so they'll want to be careful to hit that sweet spot between the two melting points.
posted by Mitheral at 9:17 AM on August 20, 2008


The messed up thing is that a sixteen year old gymnast in the Olympics is probably already over the hill, and can remember being better. What's THAT like?
posted by Edgewise at 9:22 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's to hoping that the Chinese people can overthrow their fascist rulers as bloodlessly as the Russian people managed to overthrow their communist rulers

Erm, I don't think 'bloodless' is the term I'd use for the history of Russian political succession...
posted by FatherDagon at 9:26 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


It wasn't their skulls, their chins or their eyes that gave them away:

it was the plunging cleavage.
posted by quonsar at 9:29 AM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


The messed up thing is that a sixteen year old gymnast in the Olympics is probably already over the hill, and can remember being better. What's THAT like?

Speaking as a professional ballet dancer who probably peaked at 20 and retired at 23, it fucking sucks.
posted by sixswitch at 9:34 AM on August 20, 2008 [10 favorites]


I was actually upset about this at first, then I realized that every gymnast out there was practicing and competing at age 14, just not at the olympics. So any damage to their bodies has presumably already been done.

Speaking of damage, if you're dating a ballerina don't look at her feet unless you absolutely have to.
posted by mecran01 at 9:36 AM on August 20, 2008


Speaking of damage, if you're dating a ballerina don't look at her feet unless you absolutely have to EVER.

Fixed that for you. Lovecraft obviously took a lot of inspiration from ballet feet. The horror!
posted by sixswitch at 9:41 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the good old days of opera they'd have been soundly beaten with canes on a regular basis too; child performers these days have it easy.
posted by Abiezer at 9:45 AM on August 20, 2008


Pretty much every single nation in the history of the world, including the present U.S. government, has done fine with it until now, building one of the worlds largest economies on top of it.

Glad to hear it. The fact that every single nation in the history of the world has built one of the world's largest economies should come as a relief to people from Zimbabwe and North Korea.
posted by Dumsnill at 9:49 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


All this does is tell me that kids who have been around far less than me are winning olympic gold medals, while I waste a fine Wednesday lurking mefi...
posted by shoebox at 9:59 AM on August 20, 2008


The gymnasts would know how old they are, regardless, so they they are still cheating.

If they had any honour and belief in the Olympic Credo then surely they should have declared their pre-pubescence to the world, withdrawn from the competition, and taken their years in the salt mines like men.
posted by Rumple at 10:02 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


if you can't beat them, put an asterisk right next to their monster number of gold medals!

now, if you can find a cached page that says the Jamaicans have all taken steroids...
posted by matteo at 10:09 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


FatherDagon True, but the revolution in 1990 that kicked out the Communist regime did not involve a single shot fired, which is truly impressive. We really should have a statue of Gorbachev in every city on the planet, he had to know it was coming and was likely instrumental in keeping it bloodless.
posted by sotonohito at 10:10 AM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


ChuckDarwin - you might consider asking the mods to put the link above by These Premises Are Alarmed in your original post. TPAA's link goes to the blogger who dug this up and s/he does a very good job of interpreting the link you posted.
posted by bluesky43 at 10:12 AM on August 20, 2008


In the good old days of opera they'd have been soundly beaten with canes on a regular basis too.

There's a rather good Sammo Hung movie about their life at the school he attended with Jackie Chan, where Sammo plays the guy who used to be their teacher and did the cane beatings.

They clearly hold the guy in much esteem and affection despite the regular child abuse.

The movie's called Painted Faces, and is worth keeping an eye out for.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:20 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The thing I find irritating is that the commentators continually blather about how the Chinese girls do not look as old as certain other 16 year olds (mainly the American girls), completely ignoring the differences in size/developmental growth/onset of puberty between various geographic/ethnic groups. Since those girls don't have identical body development to the 16 year olds they're used to ogling, they MUST be twelve years old.

My three-year old Chinese daughter looks to be about 18 months old when placed next to the lumbering whitebread Kansas kids she goes to daycare with. It will be interesting to see how that continues through her childhood, or if it all disappears to a point where self-important morons can accurately divine her true age from across a gymnasium.
posted by daveleck at 10:21 AM on August 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


I think that most people will scroll down and see it.
posted by chuckdarwin at 10:22 AM on August 20, 2008


Flunkie: "It is my opinion that any sport wherein it is actually advantageous to be a child shouldn't be an Olympic sport in the first place."

This is exactly why I find it shocking that there's a minimum age. No one under 16 is any good at anything.
posted by Plutor at 10:26 AM on August 20, 2008


Why won't the individuals/team be disqualified and the medals redistributed to the rightful winners?
posted by A189Nut at 10:28 AM on August 20, 2008


I watched a little bit of the gymnastics (my son likes to watch the flipping and tumbling and stuff, give me a break!) and I found that the US commentators were the most blatant and over-the-top homers that I've ever seen. Every non-US gymnast received some kind of nasty jab or insulting "compliment", and the scores were never high enough for the US girls, according to the broadcasters. It was pretty revolting actually.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on August 20, 2008 [7 favorites]


Because, RTFA, the IOC is taking the word of the national federation and going by the (incredibly easily faked) passports.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:31 AM on August 20, 2008


Mister_A: if you get it where you are, watch the CBC coverage (or online at www.cbcsports.ca for many events). Vastly better coverage. We even cover events without Canadians in them! And are complimentary!
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:32 AM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Agreed, Mister_A, and it was especially annoying because the gymnasts themselves displayed better sportsmanship than the commentators.
posted by craichead at 10:39 AM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, and the CBC actually broadcasts live from Beijing.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:41 AM on August 20, 2008


The BBC coverage has been superb. They do mention Team GB's gold medals at the end of the broadcast, but they don't try and colour the actual events.
posted by chuckdarwin at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2008


The rule should be that the minimum age for the Olympics should be the same as the minimum age for sweatshop laborers in the hosting country.
posted by troybob at 10:58 AM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Mister_A wrote "I found that the US commentators were the most blatant and over-the-top homers that I've ever seen"

Really? Because I kept seeing major mistakes made by athletes from other countries, with little or no apparent deductions from the score. The inconsistency between scores was the biggest complaint any of the commentators had with the whole shebang. Inferior routines were scored higher than superior ones. In the vault finals for example, no way should a woman who lands on her knees score high enough to medal. No friggin' way. But it happened, while gymnasts who stuck (or nearly stuck) the landings were out of the running. It wasn't just with the Americans. It was with quite a few competitors. Sure, there's a home team bias, but this sort of screwed-up judging was not present in the diving, it's specific to the gymnastics. There will quite likely be some major complaints about the scoring system. Hopefully enough to get someone at the IOC to revise the current system enough to prevent a similar round of complaints happening again in 2012.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mister_A, I've found that the US coverage is pretty much nothing but RAH RAH USA USA all the way through. I usually watch the CBC, but occasionally flip over to NBC when the CBC's showing stuff I'm not really interested in. I was absolutely stunned to see the contrast in coverage. The CBC shows the whole competition and everyone in it, and the NBC coverage mostly tunes out everyone who isn't American if the event has an American competing. One of the diving events that wasn't shown live on NBC was basically here's the American divers, here's the Chinese diver who's the big threat for gold, and here's a couple more at random (Germany was one, I think). They didn't even show the other 3 or 4 divers in the competition, despite showing the standings after each round, so you knew there were more than the 5 divers you did see. And I watched a track and field race yesterday night on NBC, in which there was an American racing. The field of view for the camera was centered on the American from start to finish, to the extent that you couldn't see 4 of the 8 competitors for a good chunk of the race.

NBC is an American station, and it's their right to do it however they want, but I just found it to be so.... blatant... and in your face that it was quite a downer for me, a non-American to watch it.
posted by barc0001 at 11:10 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not just that NBC favors USA matches over all others, but they always seem to have room to go back and show when someone from another country has a screw-up. It's about as subtle as a bloopers show.
posted by troybob at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2008


Like daveleck, I find most of the coverage of this "controversy" pretty ignorant. You have a group of girls that look like pixies competing in various tumbling events, and American's complain that one set of pixies looks far too pixie like. Give me a fucking break. At least with this story there is something of substance to complain about, and not just the shock that Chinese girls aren't as big as American girls.

And yeah, I feel for people who don't get to watch the CBC's coverage of the games. NBC is fucking shit.
posted by chunking express at 11:16 AM on August 20, 2008


Inferior routines were scored higher than superior ones.

caution live frogs, you should probably read this AskMe, which largely explains why someone can fall like that and still win.

The short version: scores are in two parts; 'A' is degree of difficulty, built up from zero. 'B' is execution, deducted from perfect 10. The two scores are added together.

So, grossly simplified:

Jane
Flips about, but it's not very difficult, lands perfectly.
Difficulty: 5
Execution: 10
Overall: 15

Jill
Flips about, doing very difficult moves, bobbles the landing.
Difficulty: 6.5
Execution: 10 - 0.8 deduction for missing the landing = 9.2
Overall: 15.7
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:19 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


It's not just that NBC favors USA matches over all others, but they always seem to have room to go back and show when someone from another country has a screw-up. It's about as subtle as a bloopers show.

Eh, I think they're showing everyone's screwups equally. I must've seen that woman trip on that second to last hurdle about 50 times last night. (Not to say that NBC doesn't favor Americans in their coverage, but I don't agree with this point.)
posted by inigo2 at 11:22 AM on August 20, 2008


I hear Prince also lied about his age, back when he made his first album.

Turns out he was also a 14-year-old Chinese girl.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:27 AM on August 20, 2008


One of the diving events that wasn't shown live on NBC was basically here's the American divers, here's the Chinese diver who's the big threat for gold, and here's a couple more at random (Germany was one, I think).

Even that is better than classic American Olympics coverage, which would have been:

*Here's the American diver

*Here's half an hour of fluff about the diver's home life or upbringing

*Here's some filthy commie diver TWO MINUTE HATE

*Here's us talking to the American diver while dives continue to happen in the out-of-focus background. The diver will say something that boils down to "Me jump up, try fall pretty."

*Here's half an hour of fluff about past American Olympic diving medalists, and what they're doing now

*Here's the medal ceremony with two people we never saw dive
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:35 AM on August 20, 2008 [5 favorites]


chunking express: You have a group of girls that look like pixies competing in various tumbling events, and American's complain that one set of pixies looks far too pixie like.

Except that the complaint has an objective evidentiary basis beyond mere appearance.

How compelling that evidence is is another matter -- but it isn't imaginary.
posted by RavinDave at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2008


I think they're showing everyone's screwups equally.

I don't doubt that, but I'm more bothered that they'll break away to show a screw-up from a non-USA competitor without ever having planned to cover that athlete's participation in the event in the first place; and even when showing the screw-up, they won't show the whole routine, just the outtake.
posted by troybob at 11:45 AM on August 20, 2008


I generally watch a CCTV stream of the Olympics via UUSee and I can confidently proclaim that the Chinese commentators suck too -- though I admittedly got a kick out of the one guy who kept supplying inadvertent sound effects during the women's weightlifting event (either that, or he was broadcasting from the men's room and was hellaciously constipated).
posted by RavinDave at 11:50 AM on August 20, 2008


... the commentators continually blather about how the Chinese girls do not look as old as certain other 16 year olds ... Since those girls don't have identical body development to the 16 year olds they're used to ogling, they MUST be twelve years old.

Well ... in this case ... since there's evidence the Chinese girls were underage ... weren't ... they ... correct?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:57 AM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


Except that the complaint has an objective evidentiary basis beyond mere appearance.

But the commenters are not addressing that at all. They are solely dwelling on appearances and not presenting factual evidence.

Between the sheer idiocy of the commentators and the appalling lack of professionalism coming out of both Karolyis (with Marta screaming "Babies!" on the sidelines and Bela blustering about "half people"), it becomes even more laughable to hear about the lack of maturity that would be present in a 14-year-old gymnast.
posted by daveleck at 11:59 AM on August 20, 2008


Well ... in this case ... since there's evidence the Chinese girls were underage ... weren't ... they ... correct?

Except, they weren't talking about any of this stuff, they were just looking at little Chinese girls and being ignorant Americans. Shocking. The fact they may have been right is just coincidence, really.
posted by chunking express at 12:03 PM on August 20, 2008


Well ... in this case ... since there's evidence the Chinese girls were underage ... weren't ... they ... correct?

In this case, they've been trying to avoid making direct accusations based on evidence (real or imaginary), so they say veiled cutesy shit like 'Does that girl look 16 to you? Was that a baby tooth that just fell out?'
posted by daveleck at 12:06 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, the first whiff of scandal that I heard was not from a blog or newspaper. The NBC people commented that some participants were suspicious because of a discrepancy between the currently-supplied age data and data published a year ago in a Beijing newspaper. Granted, that's not a direct accusation, but then they're not there as investigative journalists -- they're there as commentators.
posted by RavinDave at 12:24 PM on August 20, 2008


I had no idea. I've been watching the olympic football coverage on Telemundo. Every time I flipped over to NBC there was this ranting Romanian guy sitting with Bob Costas. It would occur to me that if Bob grows the same mustache in a few years they'll look the same, but they'll still be equally annoying. Then I would flip back to Telemundo and forget completely about NBC, gymnastics and all of the strife in the world. Oh Telemundo and football, how I love thee.
posted by lazymonster at 12:26 PM on August 20, 2008


Apparently it's almost impossible, at the moment, to prove age scientifically.

Cut off a leg and count the rings.

Duh.
posted by rusty at 12:32 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]


The fact they may have been right is just coincidence, really.
I really don't think that's true. I think that they suspected the gymnasts were underage because they know a lot about gymnastics and can see the signs that someone is underage. For one thing, it's a little stupid to imply that people involved in top-level gymnastics have no idea what a 16-year-old Chinese gymnast looks like because they've only ever been exposed to white people. People who participate in top-level gymnastics encounter Chinese gymnasts all the time. The Olympics may be the only international gymnastics event that you pay attention to, but these gymnasts are actually competing against each other all the time. But also, there are other giveaways, like the Chinese gymnasts' lack of prior international competition experience.

I'm not denying that they're harping on it too much. But I don't think it's just a random coincidence that there's evidence for their accusations. In general, people who devote their lives to something tend to know more about it than random spectators. It's surprising how often athletes' speculation about things like who's doping turn out to be true.
posted by craichead at 12:32 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


What has been confusing me was that there were several other girls (from other countries) competing in gymnastics who were openly identified on the on-air bio as being under 16. How were they allowed to compete openly?

Additionally, I'm pretty certain one of the US women swimmers was 14 or 15.

And, as for the announcers...yeah, I get that the judging was questionable. When isn't it? It's a subjective system. It's always going to be up to debate. But I have to agree that the NBC crew's jingoism was way over the top. I guess they were afraid they weren't going to get to do their 15-minute flag-waving victory story if the US got shut-out.

The worst comment I heard was the NBC guy mentioning in his best "so disgusted I can't see straight" voice that none of the judges...NONE...came from countries that had ever produced an olympic medal winner. WTF? Did they borrow this guy from FoxNews?
posted by Thorzdad at 12:33 PM on August 20, 2008


What has been confusing me was that there were several other girls (from other countries) competing in gymnastics who were openly identified on the on-air bio as being under 16. How were they allowed to compete openly?
The rule is that you have to turn 16 in the calendar year. As long as you'll be 16 by Dec. 31, 2008, you're ok.
Additionally, I'm pretty certain one of the US women swimmers was 14 or 15.
Every sport has its own rules. The age rules for gymnastics only apply to gymnastics. There might or might not be age requirements for other events.
posted by craichead at 12:39 PM on August 20, 2008


True dat. Bob Costas could be an age/weight guesser at the Beijing County Fair.
posted by daveleck at 12:53 PM on August 20, 2008


the IOC is taking the word of the national federation and going by the (incredibly easily faked) passports.

Well, how should they do it? Birth certificate, drivers' license and passport are all state issued. It's not like the IOC could call a search engine's cached copy of a website more credible than state issued ID.

And I've got to say, if I was a member of the IOC and I was planning to criticise the Chinese authorities I would wait until I was outside china to do it.
posted by Mike1024 at 1:20 PM on August 20, 2008 [1 favorite]


The worst comment I heard was the NBC guy mentioning in his best "so disgusted I can't see straight" voice that none of the judges...NONE...came from countries that had ever produced an olympic medal winner. WTF? Did they borrow this guy from FoxNews?

I don't know if I heard the same rant, but I heard a similar explanation to the effect of, some of the judges were from countries that had smaller, immature gymnastics programs, and were therefore relatively inexperienced in judging international events. Like taking a high-school football coach and asking him to referee the Super Bowl.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:21 PM on August 20, 2008 [4 favorites]


As the father of an ex-gymnast, I saw that one of the big problems for girls hitting 14-15-16 was the way their body shapes changed. Their center of gravity literally changes and they have to relearn skills all over again.

But while everyone is going nuts over the low ages, I'm blown away by the 33-year-old gymnast! (haircut notwithstanding) That's truly amazing. I mean Dara Torres is getting lots of (justly deserved) ink for swimming at 41 but I think doing gymnastics at 33 might be harder. Don't even get me going on the 38-year-old woman who won the marathon.
posted by lpsguy at 1:45 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, how should they do it? Birth certificate, drivers' license and passport are all state issued. It's not like the IOC could call a search engine's cached copy of a website more credible than state issued ID.

I was merely explaining why the IOC had done nothing, per their own statements.

And yes, cached copy of a website... which would be backed up by hardcopy information from the relevant competitions.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:57 PM on August 20, 2008


When's the part where they start stripping medals left and right for violations of doping rules? It seems like that should be an official part of the ceremonies by now.
posted by goatdog at 2:11 PM on August 20, 2008


Let me guess: China beat the U.S. in women's gymnastics.
posted by Zambrano at 2:17 PM on August 20, 2008


Ugh.

So far there have been relatively few doping violations, and most of them were caught before competition. Obviously eyes are waiting for results (if they're not in yet) of Michael Phelps' and Usain Bolt's tests (I imagine those two have peed in more cups than toilets recently).

The Chinese shooter had his medal stripped, I believe. WADA isn't fucking around; they're conducting just shy of five thousand tests during these games. I'm not sure if that is five thousand individual tests, or five thousand individuals tested.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:19 PM on August 20, 2008


Let me guess: China beat the U.S. in women's gymnastics

Yes, but (again) this was news before any gymnast set foot on the floor.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2008


Let me guess: China beat the U.S. in women's gymnastics

Yes, but (again) this was news before any gymnast set foot on the floor.


Actually, no.
posted by found missing at 2:24 PM on August 20, 2008


The men, on the other hand...
posted by found missing at 2:29 PM on August 20, 2008


Let me guess: China beat the U.S. everyone in women's gymnastics.
FTFY

After the Sydney Olympics I made a spreadsheet (lost to time) of the top ten medal winning countries that adressed which country had the most medals as a proportion of population, and relative to GDP divided by population. Australia won on both counts.
posted by vapidave at 2:50 PM on August 20, 2008


Actually, yes.

But don't let facts stop you.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:50 PM on August 20, 2008


No need to get snippy. It is clear you aren't actually watching the Olympics. Here are the medal counts in gymnastics. The Chinese women won the high profile team event, but overall they are behind the US in medals.
posted by found missing at 2:56 PM on August 20, 2008


Don't even get me going on the 38-year-old woman who won the marathon.

Aw c'mon. Get going.
posted by netbros at 3:01 PM on August 20, 2008


I think you're all right. The initial concern was raised before the competition. The commentators really started harping on it when the Chinese team won the all-around, in part because of sour grapes. And they haven't been harping on it as much since then, in part because they've been too busy harping on the scoring and in part because the American women have been doing well.
posted by craichead at 3:03 PM on August 20, 2008


[comment removed - go to metatalk with your "piece of ass" remarks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:27 PM on August 20, 2008


It is clear you aren't actually watching the Olympics.

Way to go with the stupid fucking assumptions there, chief. I've been practically glued to the TV since day 2.

The Chinese beat the USA in the all-around, which means that overall the Chinese team is better than the USA. So, yeah, the Chinese team beat the USA team, you knob.

In any case, since comprehension doesn't seem to be your strong suit, if you had bothered following the link I was referring to your implication that it wasn't in the news before your commentators started crying that the big bad Chinese were beating them up.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:30 PM on August 20, 2008


Are you having a bad day?
posted by found missing at 3:31 PM on August 20, 2008


No, I just have little patience for fools.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:33 PM on August 20, 2008


which means that overall the Chinese team is better than the USA

Who says it means that? Why are you on the attack? I just pointed out that the US has won more medals, which is at least one important metric that the US team is better than the Chinese team.
posted by found missing at 3:34 PM on August 20, 2008


Who says it means that? Why are you on the attack?

In order: simple logic, and because the contortions to which Americans will go to 'prove' that they're better are mindboggling.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 3:37 PM on August 20, 2008


okay, I've had enough of the simplistic logic. You can continue your flamewar without me.
posted by found missing at 3:38 PM on August 20, 2008


I'd like to point out that this argument is stupid, even for the internet.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:44 PM on August 20, 2008 [3 favorites]


I've been pretty happy with the NBC coverage over all. Just....too....much....volleyball.

When you boil everything down, the real cause of complaint isn't the Chinese gymnastics team, but the IOC, which views the Olympics as an image that needs to be maintained and will happily do whatever it takes to uphold it. They're a private organization selling the "spirit of the games" and ignoring most anything that conflicts with their brand. Bah.
posted by Atreides at 3:51 PM on August 20, 2008


I'm actually quite good at divorcing myself from National Pride regarding the Olympics. I just wanna see good athletics; I don't much care if they're from Iowa or Botswana. I mean, it's not like I can claim a stake in an American "win" just by virtue of my geographic location. I suppose I might get caught up in their individual narratives a bit more, simply because I hear them more often.
posted by RavinDave at 3:56 PM on August 20, 2008


@ Atreides

I was just wondering why volleyball in the gym seems like a real sport, but volleyball in the sand feels like it's populated by people who didn't make the "hopscotch" team.
posted by RavinDave at 3:59 PM on August 20, 2008


Their families probably need to melt down the gold to buy food.

...only if they have spend the reward money they received on North American real estate.
posted by sleslie at 4:19 PM on August 20, 2008


I was just wondering why volleyball in the gym seems like a real sport, but volleyball in the sand feels like it's populated by people who didn't make the "hopscotch" team.

A) Frolicking in sand; B) No water, and yet: Bikinis. Seems like someone ought to be up in arms about that, but, meh.

I agree that on the surface, Beach Volleyball seems kind of silly (what's next, frisbee?), but it's in fact a much more challenging sport than regular volleyball.

Neither makes for a particularly compelling spectator sport, although the former obviously can be fairly ratings-friendly, what with point B) and all.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:37 PM on August 20, 2008


A) Frolicking in sand; B) No water, and yet: Bikinis. Seems like someone ought to be up in arms about that, but, meh.

Consider my arms raised. Wearing actual clothing certainly didn't slow down the men competing in beach volleyball, so I see no need for the women to go parading around like pieces of meat. It's supposed to be about athleticism, isn't it?

Anyway, I bet I'm not the only one who found their outfits quite offputting.
posted by marble at 4:49 PM on August 20, 2008


Jessamyn: Done
posted by ZachsMind at 4:49 PM on August 20, 2008


In a hundred years, who's gonna care?
posted by bwg at 4:53 PM on August 20, 2008


Why watch NBC's coverage when
I can read Metafilter instead?
ⓢ ⓝ ⓐ
  ⓡ ⓚ
posted by ryanrs at 5:27 PM on August 20, 2008 [2 favorites]




Note that is not quite the same as being allowed to wear what ever they want (IE: shorts and t-shirt like the guys). I guess if I had a choice between a single and a two piece suit when I had to do all that stretching I'd go the two piece too. Save a heck of a lot of Stretch and Tug.

Atreides writes "Just....too....much....volleyball"

I find it helps to think it of it as "racketless, team Ping-Pong played with an inflated ball and raised net while standing on the table"
posted by Mitheral at 6:31 PM on August 20, 2008


Note that most of the time women don't wear shorts and a t-shirt on the beach.
posted by Cyrano at 6:38 PM on August 20, 2008


Consider my arms raised. Wearing actual clothing certainly didn't slow down the men competing in beach volleyball, so I see no need for the women to go parading around like pieces of meat. It's supposed to be about athleticism, isn't it?

Anyway, I bet I'm not the only one who found their outfits quite offputting.


You wouldn't be the only one. But you'd still be in a distinct minority.

Frankly, I got nothing against seeing very good looking athletes bodies. In fact it's TRUER to the original spirit of the games as the athletes in ancient Greece practiced in the nude. El-buffo. It was ALL about the body. And there is nothing wrong with that. Simply nothing. But the rank hypocrisy of the network kills me. The dudes BVB should have been in Speedos rocking the banana hammock if the women were in bikinis.

Nike was the sponsor who made the BVB outfits and together with the network they conspired to get as many eyeballs to NBC as possible. And hot nearly naked elite athletes is a no-brainer. All their research shows a hug spike of viewership during women's beach volleyball. Not men's BVB. And it ain't interest in the "sport." Also why we had like 40 (guessing) ridiculous hours of god damned women's BVB coverage.

I'd loved to see women's Judo MUCH more. And they are covered head to toe in a Gi. And still much more interesting to watch than BVB, IMHO. But noooooooooo. Got to get them ratings!
posted by tkchrist at 6:38 PM on August 20, 2008


The dudes BVB should have been in Speedos rocking the banana hammock if the women were in bikinis.

Agreed. Not that I care much for caressing the contrours of men's genitalia with my eyes, but I'm sure there are others who do.

You wouldn't be the only one. But you'd still be in a distinct minority.

Sadly, I already realize this. Trust me, I know the world is run by and dominated by people who want as clear a picture of any available female body as they can possibly get (thus to judge their hotness and ultimate worth, naturally). It just gets tiresome sometimes. Especially when you have a specific activity that both men and women compete in in a way that is as similar as it could possibly be, yet their costuming is vastly different.

Oh well.

On topic, it's distressing that they have rules they don't bother keeping at all. What's the point of having rules, then? Bring on the 10-year-olds!
posted by marble at 7:18 PM on August 20, 2008


In other news: Two Women Sentenced to ‘Re-education’ in China

Stay classy, China.
posted by homunculus at 7:23 PM on August 20, 2008


"Holly McPeak, who has represented the U.S. at three Olympics and who won the bronze medal for beach volleyball at the 2004 Athens games, says women are allowed to wear a one-piece but choose instead to wear bikinis because of comfort."

...but beach volleyball's governing body specifies a maximum size for the bikinis. Which is why everyone wears those ridiculous little bands instead of sensible bottoms or the bottoms that track athletes wear: they are required to wear only those ridiculous little bands, or to abrade their skin off in a one-piece half-full of sand.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:49 PM on August 20, 2008


I just tuned into NBC and beach volleyball is on. Heh, but its raining so their outfits are surprisingly practical
posted by delmoi at 8:03 PM on August 20, 2008


I watched the team pre-lims and the commentators brought up the speculation about the Chinese gymnasts' ages, which yes, had pre-dated the beginning of the Olympics.

Just to add an anecdotal vote for "Not sour grapes."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:07 PM on August 20, 2008


Not that I care much for caressing the contrours of men's genitalia with my eyes, but I'm sure there are others who do.

Yo.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:52 AM on August 21, 2008


Watching the Beach Volleyball now (hey it's the final! Don't judge me!)... I see one of the Americans has the great porn-star name, Misty May.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:45 AM on August 21, 2008


Just wanted to follow up: IOC is re-"investigating" the underage gymnasts. China's answer: "You can't believe everything you read on the internet."

(Actually what they said was "If you trust every Web site but not a government.... There are so many Web sites, so much hearsay. These are not official. It is possible that all news on the Internet is accurate?")

They learn fast.

No word yet on whether the internet is, in fact, more trustworthy than the Chinese government.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:50 PM on August 22, 2008




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