Adult Gymnastics

21 08 2008

At dinner after the aerial silks open gym, we started discussing gymnastics, specifically the lack of Olympic adult women’s gymnastics*. The cutoff age for world class female gymnasts is generally thought to be around 20 years old. When you watch the Olympics, you’re not really watching real people** but kids who can do stuff that adults simply stop being able to do.

There do exist gyms that train adults. There are two in Massachusetts that I know of. One is Hampshire Gymnastics, which offers an hour class once a week, and the other is Jamnastics, offering approximately the same amount. A lot of places just boggle at the thought of *gasp* adults doing gymnastics.

But they can! Here’s a 35-year old’s floor routine after three years of training:

Yup, I’d say that’s about right for three years. I’m nearly there on everything except the flexibility, and I’ve been at it for two. Here’s another video. You can find ’em all over YouTube.

So, I think more and more adults should start pressuring gymnastics centers to let them take classes. Maybe even to start leagues and teams. I take it for the circus skills, but I bet others would be into the competitive athletics aspect. There are adult leagues for soccer, baseball, and almost every other sport. Why not more gymnastics?

(*) The other part of the discussion included the fact that no gymnastics gym would allow us to hang silks or a trapeze, claiming safety hazards. Aerial equipment is generally approached with an extreme amount of safety. Meanwhile, gymnastics sends some obscene number of thousands of children to the ER every year.

(**) I mean real people in the sense that they have not finished the major parts of physical maturation. Kids and teenagers are more intellectually and socially ‘real people’ than they’re given credit for.

“北京欢迎你!”: The Opening Ceremonies

9 08 2008

There are moments in every lifetime when an event happens, positive or negative, and those who are lucky enough to be alive and to bear witness to the event realize that they are watching history in the making.

Last night’s opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic games was one of those events.

Every Olympic opening ceremony becomes an important part of history. It’s a chance for the host country to have the eyes of the rest of the world upon them, and therefore, a chance to introduce the rest of the world to the host nation. There’s been a lot of talk about China hosting this year’s Games, which I mentioned before. But during last night’s ceremonies, China really showed the world what it could do. And it was history in the making.

China has always been a secluded nation, and there are a lot of Westerners who know almost nothing about the country itself. Oh, sure, they eat Chinese food and say “Nee haow” and can point to China on a map. And yes, they learned about the dynasties in their World History classes in high school. And they know that the people of China don’t share our same first amendment, and they know about the politics surrounding the country that grow increasingly more complicated. But most Westerners don’t know about modern China. Last year, when I was in China, my parents relayed questions to me that had been asked by friends of the family about my experiences living over there, one of which was “Does she have running water? Is there electricity?”

Last night’s Opening Ceremonies showed the world what modern China is like.

You can write the words “breathtaking”, “stunning”, “awe-inspiring”, but the words do not do justice to the spectacular show China put on for the ceremonies. The show was directed by the amazing visionary Zhang Yimou, who, for those of you who think you have no idea who this guy is, directed the movie “Hero”, a fantastic Chinese movie that was as beautiful as it was powerful. His vision was executed beautifully in the stadium last night: from drummers whose drums lit up as a countdown to the beginning of the games, to modern dancers drawing calligraphy with their bodies, to a choreographed series of boxes rising and falling to simulate everything from a drop of water rippling out to the Great Wall, to a perfect circle of men doing Tai Chi, to a great globe in the center of the arena with performers running in air around it.

And, of course, to a piece of artwork that was made by the entire world.

There were a lot of amazing parts of the Opening Ceremonies last night, but this is the one I want to talk about most. As I mentioned earlier, there was a group of dancers who drew calligraphy onto some sort of canvas during the beginning part of the ceremonies. (The canvas was stretched over an LED screen, which unfurled like a scroll around it.) Later, as school children sat on the same canvas, the calligraphy was filled out and colored in, creating a picture from the calligraphy. And even later, as the athletes marched in during the Parade of Nations, as they crossed the center of the arena, their shoes stepped in some kind of coloring, and they walked over the canvas from before, adding color to the picture made earlier in the evening. The result of which was, well…a beautiful piece of artwork that was made by the world.

Does that sound complicated? That was just ONE of the major points of the impressive opening ceremonies last night. And here’s the funny thing: that was probably the one that involved the fewest people.

There are…a lot of people in China. I mean, I’ve tried to get this across to people by telling them some of my favorite facts about China (such as, there are more English as a Second Language speakers in China than there are Americans), but it’s hard to get that across. But I think last night’s event not only gave a demonstration of how many people there are in China, but how a military country of precision and unification can truly create something beautiful.

This year’s Olympic motto is “One World, One Dream”. China is opening its arms to the rest of the world and inviting us in to share their dream of the new China, the modern China, a China that’s fast-paced and technologically hip, a country that is fast becoming a world power. A China that’s no longer secluded, but a true part of our One World. A China that’s ready to show the rest of the world what it can do. Last night’s ceremonies showed this.

And last night’s ceremonies blew the rest of the world away.

I really do urge everyone to try to watch parts of the ceremonies online if you missed them last night. It’s watching history unfold right before your eyes. China is making a stand and entering the world, people, and it’s an exhilarating and exciting thing.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are interested in today’s schedule of events…there’s a lot going on today, of course, and sadly, NBC is only able to cover maybe half of it. Here’s a quick list of the events that are happening in general, followed by the ones you can watch on your local NBC channel.

Events: Archery, Artistic Gymnastics, Badminton, Men’s Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Equestrian, Fencing, Field Hockey, Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Women’s Soccer, Swimming, Team Handball, Volleyball, Weight Lifting.

NBC: From 10am – 6pm: Women’s Volleyball (US vs. Japan), Beach Volleyball, Men’s Cycling, Women’s Fencing, Rowing. 8pm – midnight: Swimming, Beach Volleyball, Men’s Gymnastics. Midnight – 2am: Men’s volleyball.

USA Network: 2am – 2pm: Women’s soccer, Women’s basketball, Equestrian, Beach Volleyball, Women’s Fencing, Women’s Shooting, Badminton, Women’s Weight Lifting.

Last, a fun fact about the Parade of Nations: instead of having the countries walk in alphabetically, they had them walk in in accordance to the stroke order in the Chinese characters names of their country. Which meant we had things like Denmark, followed by Uganda. I LOVE IT!

Also, “Saint Vincent and the Grenadines” sounds the name of a rock band, not a country.

This blog’s got Olympic Fever, and I think it’s catching!

4 08 2008

Everybody has their irrational loves. Cats. Toast. Small elephant collectibles. Football. One-shot PARANIOA campaigns.

I. Love. The Olympics.

I mean, this is serious love. This is waiting-with-breath-baited love. This is printing-out-schedules-of-events-and-hanging-up-said-schedules-in-dormitory-lounges love. This is the kind of love that caused me to buy a cell phone dangley of this year’s Olympics mascots a year before the Olympics began.

You know what I love almost as much as the Olympics?


So, you can imagine the kind of mood I’m in this week. I have been following this year’s pre-Olympics news extremely closely this year, from the politics to the problematic visa situation to the mascots, and all that’s in between. I’ve done a lot of listening and a lot of reading and a lot of thinking about this whole upcoming Olympics. But this Thursday, all of that stigma’s going to take a step back for me, and I’m going to sit back, relax, and enjoy these Olympic games. And I’m going to be happy for China, for the people of China, for my students in Hefei and Shanghai who were so excited about China having the Olympics this year, because I know how much this means to them. And I’m going to be happy and excited for all of the athletes, particularly those from smaller counties, who are about to experience the biggest honor I think a sportsperson can experience; walking into that Olympic stadium, carrying their country’s flag.

But enough sentiment. Due to this being a very special Olympic year, where not one, but two of my irrational loves are coming together for a fantastic two-week period of personal unemployment, I have decided that this blog needs to get into the spirit of games. I had originally intended to attend the Beijing Olympics (true story, actually; I was in China last summer, but planned to return this summer with my family to see the games, but due to money shortages, visa complications, employment confusion and illness, we were unable to get out act together in time and so are sadly restricted to watching the games from the distance of our living room) and to do some very basic on-site blogging with news from Life At The Games. However, since that’s no longer an option to me, I have decided to do the next best thing: become the Conventioneers’ official Olympics Correspondent! HOORAY!!!!!

This exciting announcement comes with a bit of a warning, though. As much as I passionately love the Olympics….I know jack shit about sports.

This is probably not entirely accurate. I have dabbled in the sports world. I rock climb. I’m a great swimmer. I do gymnastics. I have dabbled in soccer, have attended baseballs games, and watch the Superbowl religiously. I have ice skated, cross-country skiied, tried to run distance, and longed to be a pole vaulter. That said, though…well, I’m a geek. I majored in linguistics. I get excited at the prospect of drawing a sentence’s D-structure. I’ve spent hours researching Chinese chengyu and reading about metaphor. Tonight I had a conversation about the LOLcat programming language.

So you can see why I would be a bit of an interesting choice to be our blog’s Official Olympics Correspondent.

But here’s what I promise: what I lack in sports knowledge, I will make up for in entertaining writing. I’ll report accurately and amusingly. I’ll include snippets of Fun Facts About China and smatterings of pictures and Chinese phrases that would be useful to you if you happened to be at the Beijing Olympics (for example, “我要休息一下” means “I want to nap”). Basically, I’ll make the Olympics fun. I’d like to take this opportunity to share my irrational loves of the Olympics and China with those who read this blog. I love sharing things that I like with people that I like, and I’m excited to do so in the coming fortnight.

So get excited everyone! 8/8/08! China LOVES the number 8! It’s good luck! Be ready for the games! 北京欢迎你!