Saturday, 28 July 2012

Who carries the flag tells something about your country

If you didn't stay up all night, that is if you are in India, you missed something. It was a lovely show. Olympic opening ceremonies have easily become the greatest show on earth. Beijing was awe inspiring in terms of sheer magnitude and scale. It was an almost impossible act to follow, but London did, in a very different way. You would have had to be a Brit or a complete Anglophile like me, to appreciate the nuances, but even otherwise, as a sheer spectacle it was magic.

This post is not about the ceremony, or the sport to follow. Its a lazy, and completely unscientific,  interpretation of national stereotypes from their choice of who would carry the country's flag in the parade !

Some nations simply go for glory - they give it to their most famous sportsman. Serbia gave it to Djokovic. Jamaica gave it to Usain Bolt. Veronica Campbell Brown, their senior sprinter amongst the women would have been a more logical choice, but who is more well known than Usain Bolt. Spain was led in by Pau Gasol, the NBA star.

Others gave it , not to their most successful athlete, but the one to whom their hearts went out. Australia let their women's basketball captain Lauren Jackson carry the flag. She'll never win gold , only because nobody can beat the US , but she has made Australia the second best team for so long and even in a country with so many gold medal winners, they let her lead them. The USA's choice was similar. Their logical choice would have been Kobe Bryant, their senior statesman in basketball and easily the most recognised and famous star. Or Michael Phelps, their most successful ever. Instead they gave it to Fencer Mariel Zagunis, who was voted in by their 500 strong team. So typical of that nation that they would elect their flag bearer . Both countries, sporting giants on whom success rests easily.

The individual class act was Switzerland. Roger Federer is easily the most well known Swiss athlete. He carried the flag in Beijing, but this time, he gave it to his doubles partner Stanislas Wawrinka. Trust Federer to do something as classy as that.

The award for boldnesss should go to Zimbabwe. Kristy Coventry, their champion swimmer, carried the flag and she is easily their most successful and best sportsperson. But she is in virtual exile in the US , and is opposed to Robert Mugabe, although he has embraced her as a national treasure. Here she was, carrying their flag.

India's was easy. Leander Paes should have been the obvious choice as this is his fifth Olympics, but the man has aged badly and nobody likes him anymore. Abhinav Bhindra, Gagan Narang, Saina Nehwal and Vijender Singh, other possible candidates are all competing on Saturday or Sunday and had to miss the ceremony. So it fell on Sushil Kumar, bronze medalist from Beijing to carry the tricolour.

But the most disappointing act was China's. They had a clutch of great sportsmen and women who deserved to lead them in. Lin Dan, perhaps the greatest badminton player of all time. Liu Xiang, the 110 metre hurdler who is China's favourite sportsman - but they are so paranoid about the guy winning, that they wouldn't even let him go to the loo unchaperoned. No way they would let him risk four hours standing around. What about Li Na, French Open Champion from 2011. Or Sun Yang, the champion distance swimmer. Instead their criteria was that the flag bearer had to be male, had to be tall and had to be handsome. Yuk ! Yi Jianlian, a second rate basketball player led them in, even though China has won nothing in basketball and will never win either. His sole redeeming feature is that he is some 7 ft tall ! Come on China; you are the greatest sporting nation on earth. Do you have to be that insecure ??

The Games have begun. Ahhhh.; two weeks of sheer bliss.

19 comments:

  1. Oh wow. now thats a perspective. You know what Ramesh, I am making my son go through your blog, so that he learns something more than what the school teaches him and the news dailies would give a peep into.

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  2. Loved the post ! :) it's my weekend plan to watch it on YouTube. I heard about it in bits n pieces on the radio. I heard London philharmonic experimented with all national anthems, eager to see them play! :)

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  3. I did not watch them yet (recorded on DVR)...took the kiddo to the local state fair which closes this weekend.....but awesome update on the flag bearers....I'll see if I can add to your observations :).

    I think US made a great choice...I read her interview as well and she was so humble....

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  4. thala..the first comment is the absolute compliment for this blog :) all our voices for u in her words :)

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  5. Business news and sports news - the more the merrier :) Thank You.

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  6. @Vincy - Awwwww, that's one of the kindest comments ever. Much honoured.

    @Deepa- Watch the whole thing if you can. Unlikely to be on YouTube - the broadcasting monopolies will ensure that it won't be available easily unless you taped it like Shachi.

    @Shachi - She was a great choice indeed. And notice Kobe, LeBron, et al walking in the parade mingling with everybody else. The Dream Team of Jordan, Magic, etc never did that. Much interested in your take, knowing that you are a sports expert.

    @Gils - Yes; I am still awwwed by that comment. Thanks Gilsu

    @Asha - Yeah - that's a random combination isn't it !!

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  7. Sandhya Sriram29/7/12

    I too hope, my little one grows up fast and starts reading your blogs too. he would start off his life with a unparallel advantage.

    yes, i am desperate to watch the opening ceremony. i have been flipping channels whole of yesterday to see a relecast but they are yet to show it again. and its not yet on You Tube :-(

    I would tend to agree with China's choice. they have so many of them. The last they would want to do is to declare a first among equals at this stage of the event and let that play on the minds of their contestants.

    End of the day, isnt it a mind game. someone who has practiced all life for something, fails or outperforms at that nth moment.

    happy viewing and we are waiting for your next blog on today's schedules maybe your take on how italy finally made it in archery yesterday:-). and we would have several more of these moments through out these two weeks and your take on them can create a self help book by itself.

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  8. Nice post. The China opening ceremony was grand and I was certain that London had a a tough act to be even noticable, let alone beat the standard set in 2008. However yesterday's opening ceremony was nice (and very Brit in some respect) and did certainly match up to Beijing. The crowning glory was they played Pink Floyd, the quintessential Brit Band that redefined classic rock. Yesterday being the birthday of one of PF's founding members(Richard Wright, RIP Rick, wish you were here, or perhaps you are onto the Great Gig in the sky) was poignant

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  9. @Sandhya - Awww.You won't get to see it for a while. The broadcasting rights are such that there would be no repeat telecasts. There will come a CD soon that you can buy !!

    Wow you watched the archery. Much impressed !!

    @kiwi - Oh it was very british. Somebody who didn't know Britain very well wouldn't have appreciated half of it. Churchill's statue waving was my cutest moment :)

    I thought Mark Todd would carry your flag, but maybe these days he's like our Leander Paes.

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  10. Oh I missed it big time. Hope to catch up soon. As usual, was expecting your blog to make up for what I missed and I could visualize each word of yours. Immensely blessed is what everyone on this space is.

    That Sushil Kumar carried the flag for us tells indeed about the country. Simple, unassuming, down to earth and full of courage and talent :-)

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  11. I thought the opening ceremony was very cleverly done and enjoyable. While the scale of the Chinese ceremony was grand, I didn't want that kind of pomp and show to be the norm. That's not what the Olympics are about. Luckily budgets don't permit in the first place. It was very interesting to see who was the flag bearer in each case. But I was surprised by how many athletes seemed to have turned down the opportunity.

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  12. I figured! But I will surely find a streaming link online hopefully. :(

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  13. @Vishal - Real pity you missed it - it was very enjoyable. Yes Sushil Kumar was a fitting flag carrier for India.

    @J - Yes this one cost one tenth of the cost of Beijing. Many athletes turned flag carrier duty down, only because their events were in the next two days and such a late and long night would simply hamper preparations

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  14. Boss, am too tempted to invite u fr a movie promising a two hour bliss *devilish grin*

    We expecting the badminton scandal or your take on it :))

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  15. i am here after a month long break again :) downloaded and watched the ceremony with awe.. loved the spectacle of industrial revolution. Loved every bit of it.

    Song choices could have been better and the queen looked bored than ever, may be she wanted lady gaga :P

    And to top it indian marched with a stranger who nobody knew and she led the whole team :) now thats for democracy.

    Even with worst flag bearer in the run we manage to steal the show :P

    loved ur view on the flag bearer :

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  16. @Zeno - Ha Ha. No movie can come remotely close, but the company of Gils and Zeno is a tempting thought !

    @Sri - Welcome back. Delighted to see you again here.Yes there were a few antics by that crazy woman - that's one of the cheapest things to do.

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  17. Anonymous3/8/12

    hmm...interesting perspective!

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  18. Hi Ramesh - long time and I am sure you are well...

    This olympics is special - my son is there covering the event as a BBC student reporter...I asked him to read your blogs now and it is my fondest wish that he has your knowledge mixed with the right words that make the reading that much more worthwhile.

    A fantastic coverage of the opening line up - only you can do this.

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  19. @Priya - Delighted to see you here again - trust you are doing fine in whichever corner of the world you are in :)

    Wow - that's some accomplishment by your son. Must be a great experience. Where can I read his reporting ??

    Thanks for all those kind words. As ever, you are charmingly gracious with compliments.

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