Olympics Continuum: Why not joint hosting bids?

I stumbled across an article today that caught my eye: a city councilor in Toronto, worried about the gigantic cost that hosting an Olympics brings to a city, has suggested that there be a joint bid between Toronto and an American city, such as Buffalo or Detroit.

I have written of this before back at the Courier, but seeing this news item has brought it back to my thoughts: why not? Why can’t and why hasn’t there been a joint Olympics bid, featuring cities relatively near a national border?

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What type of Olympians would MLB stars be?

Getting into the Olympic spirit, the folks across the pond at the BBC have created a neat little website that lets you enter your height and weight and it then tells you which Olympian is similar to you. Well, in theory, anyway. I’m sure their bodies are made up of way more muscle than the average Joe. I mean, I certainly am not built like a weightlifter, but it said I’m most similar to one.

However, let’s do a far better use of this already useless technology: find out what type of Olympic sport baseball players would play. Now, as I said, there is a difference between having the same height and weight as somebody and actually having the same type of body and abilities as them, but in general some things hold true: somebody who is smaller is more likely to be a gymnast or a weightlifter, while somebody tall is more likely to be playing hoops.

So, let’s get down to business:

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Olympics Continuum: The insane greatness of Michael Phelps

Throughout the Olympics, the Baseball Continuum will branch out to give the occasional look at the XXX Summer Olympic Games. This is the Olympics Continuum.

Michael Phelps won two more medals “last night” (actually early afternoon EST, but don’t tell NBC that), bringing his total to 19, making him the greatest Olympian of All Time, as he passed Soviet gymnastics great Larisa Latynina for most medals of any kind.

So now is as good a time as any to note just how great Phelps’ accomplishment is, using one of my favorite methods: fun trivia and facts:

  • Phelps first competed in 2000 at Sydney and has had only himself and his relay teammates to gain medals. Despite this, he has only one fewer medals (19) than India, which first sent a competitor in 1900 and has sent them continuously since 1920. Oh, and India has 1.2 billion people. So, yes, it’s entirely possible that, by the end of these games, Michael Phelps will have as many or more medals than the second-largest country in the world has had in history.
  • He already has more medals than Venezuela, Chile, Algeria, Pakistan, and various post-Soviet republics.
  • His now-15 gold medals is as many Golds as such all-time Olympic greats as Paavo Nurmi (9), Jesse Owens (4) and Jim Thorpe (2) have combined, although admittedly they were in different sports and eras.
  • He’s swam 3,500 meters in races that he’s earned a medal- not counting heats and preliminaries. That’s about 2.175 miles. Or about 70 times across the pool.
  • It’s the equivalent of him swimming over 38 football fields (not counting end zones).
  • He’s won a gold in 71% of all of the events he has done in the Olympics.

Amazing, huh?

Useless Research: Ben Sheets and Olympic Years

Ben Sheets first came into the eyes of casual baseball viewers when he stunned the Cubans with a complete game shutout for the Olympic Gold. And, as I stated earlier, he has seemingly resurrected his career this year.

Last night, Sheets got his third win in as many games for the Braves. Upon hearing this, I said (or, rather, tweeted):

This led me to wonder if it was indeed true, and if, indeed, Ben Sheets does better in Olympic years (AKA Leap Years, AKA Presidential Election Years). If I were a member of SABR, and if SABR gave out a version of the Ig Nobel Prize, I would totally be on my way to getting one. More after the jump.

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Off-Topic- Olympics Continuum: Stuff to Keep in Mind (HUMOR)

Opening Ceremonies are Friday, but already the Games of the XXX Olympiad (which are really going to mess up some internet content filters with those Roman numerals) have begun with some early-round soccer games. While you can find Olympic previews everywhere, only here will you get the unique Continuum perspective. So strike up the John Williams music and go below the jump for the (rather tongue-in-cheek) inaugural installment of Olympics Continuum:

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Why the IOC should add baseball (and softball) back to the Olympics

The London games are coming up later this summer, but for the first time in years, baseball won’t be a part of it. When baseball, along with it’s sister sport* softball, were kicked out (to later be replaced by golf and rugby), the most often cited reasons by the International Olympic Committee were (in no particular order):

  1. A lack of popularity outside of the Americas and certain parts of Asia
  2. A steroid problem
  3. Not having the highest level (i.e. MLBers) play like the NHL and NBA do.

All of these reasons are, to put it some way or another, total crap, and also full of hypocrisy. The real reason for the ejection of the ballgames can be summed up as: “The European dominance in the IOC”, “disputes with the USA over money” and “overzealous cost-cutting”. You see, until recently, the United States Olympic Committee had been in a dispute with the International Olympic Committee over how revenue from the mega sponsorship deals that the USOC has would be distributed. This dispute, more so than any other factor, is believed to have been one of the main reasons that the Olympic bids by New York and Chicago failed. At the same time, the IOC has over the past decade or so been focusing on keeping the costs down on the Olympics, with the admittedly-noble goal of having future games be economically sensible enough that previously priced-out countries could host games. So, when it came time to cut the fat in 2005, it’s hardly surprising that baseball and softball- two sports that often require new facilities, and that are most identified with the USA (who, remember the IOC was in a money dispute with at the time), were cut, and that Golf (which could utilize pre-existing courses) and Rugby (which could use soccer stadiums) were added.

That, according to most observers, were the real reasons. Because the reasons that IOC generally cited were, for the most part, full of crap and hypocrisy.

A lack of popularity outside of the Americas and areas of Asia.

This is relatively true. I say “relatively” true because baseball is, indeed, not as popular as soccer, basketball, etc. in most countries in Europe, Africa, South America, etc. However, there’s a difference between “not being as popular” and “not being popular at all”. There are baseball fans outside of the traditional “baseball countries”, and there are players. Heck, there are full-fledged leagues in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Australia, and amateur leagues in almost every country that is larger than Rhode Island. Being popular does not mean “unknown” or “not played”.

In addition, the Olympics have several sports that are far less popular globally than baseball and softball. Team Handball, for example, is hardly practiced outside of Europe (especially Eastern Europe, although France does well too) and portions of the Middle East and Asia. And even where it is played, it is a secondary sport, having nowhere near the impact baseball has on the countries where it is popular. I also highly doubt it has ever had as many participants or spectators as baseball/softball has. I also recall reading somewhere that rhythmic gymnastics is rarely practiced outside of the former USSR, to the extent that I can only count three individual medalists from outside of Eastern Europe who have ever won a medal in the sport, and two of those are from 1984, where most of the Soviet Bloc wasn’t even participating!

A steroid problem

If you show me a Olympic sport that doesn’t have problems with performance enhancing drugs, I’ll show you a sport that is delusional. Every sport is going to have drug scandals. It’s just that we make a bigger deal out of baseball drug scandals due to the long history and importance of statistics.

The highest level league doesn’t stop the season and let the best players play.

This is true. But it’s also true for with plenty of other sports. Boxing only lets amateurs box (which is probably for the best, given all the shadiness that surrounds pro-boxing sometimes), and soccer (you know, the most popular sport on the planet?) actively has tried to make Men’s Olympic soccer as irrelevant as possible. This apparently all stems back to how, years and years ago, the Olympics wouldn’t let soccer teams use professionals, so FIFA decided to create the World Cup. Once professionals were allowed, FIFA didn’t want to dilute the shine of the World Cup and didn’t want to delay or interrupt any previously scheduled tournaments such as Europe’s continental championships. So it has made it so that men’s soccer teams in the Olympics have a limit of three players above the age of 23, the rest have to be 23 or under. In essence, every Men’s team in the Olympics is a mashup of prospects with the occasional guy who is over-the-hill.

This is essentially the same setup that baseball had: with MLB going on, the players who were in the Olympics were prospects and over-the-hill guys who had found themselves in the minors. However, the Japanese, Koreans and Cubans were sending teams with players from their top-flight leagues, so, if anything, it could be argued that baseball actually was having better players go to the Olympics than soccer had.


I know, I know, soccer is a sport that is so popular across the world that perhaps it should be allowed to be exempt from the requirement that the best player compete in the Olympics, but it remains hypocrisy, especially as one of the reasons that major soccer players aren’t in the Olympics (Europe has competitions going at the same time) is much the same as why major baseball players couldn’t go (MLB is going at the same time).

 

But what if they could go? Is there any way that MLB could have at least some presence in the Olympics? I’ll have such a posting sometime in the future.

*Technically, softball isn’t so much a sister sport as it is a child of baseball. It was originally formed as a way of playing baseball indoors during the winter, with a heavier ball so that it would be less likely to be hit far enough to break things.