Friday, February 28, 2014

Disconfirming Amphibious Methodology Of Boolean Micrologic Access Farms, Or Something

Now, folks, I'm not saying I'm some sort of scientific expert or anything. I'm not. I post a fair number of scientific stories here, and it will happen every so often that I can't quite parse out some part of what's going on, or at least, can't do so in a sufficient enough way to simplify it for retelling here. In those cases, I'll tend to just toss you to the paper itself or someone who can explain it better than I can.

However, one thing I won't do is post a story I don't understand at all. I'm going to make sure I at least know enough about what's happening to be sure that something of consequence is happening, and that I can understand enough of it to be able to pass along the part of it that I do know. I'm not going to just say 'this looks important, but I don't understand any of it, WELP, AWAY I GO'.

Apparently, this at least partial check makes me superior to the guys who actually run a couple of the scientific journals that publish these studies. Two of them, Springer and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), have pulled over 120 of their previously-published papers from their subscription services, after discovering that the papers in question were actually computer-generated gibberish. There's a piece of software developed at MIT called SCIgen that strings sentences and phrases together to create papers full of intelligent-sounding blather. It was created in 2005 by Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn and Dan Aguayo pretty much just to see if someone would take the total nonsense it spit out (they did), and ever since, as you can see at the software's website, they love gloating every time someone fails the quality-control test. Springer and IEEE failed that test over 120 times, presumably reasoning that the total lack of understanding was on their end.

To show you what this looks like, have a look at the three PDF files showing the four talks they got through in 2005. Note things such as:

*A Che Guevara headshot leading off a presentation supposedly concerned with computer science
*"In theory, time since 1980 should balloon by 35%"
*"Random massive multiplayer online role-playing games allow Markov models"
*"We hope that this section sheds light on Juris Hartmanis’s development of the UNIVAC computer in 1995."
*METHODOLOGY: "This model is not feasible"
*A reference that includes themselves listed alongside, among others, Stephen Hawking and Erwin Schrodinger, dated 2003. (Schrodinger died in 1961.)

Things that, if you'd even taken one thorough look through the pieces, you might have flagged as slightly ridiculous-sounding. The Che Guevara headshot should have been an immediate red flag.

Score one for at least basic reviewing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

How To Fake Being A War Hero

1. Do not fake being a war hero.
2. Seriously. My dad served in Vietnam and my cousin served in Afghanistan and I will personally come beat your ass despite my personal total lack of physical... anything... because I will just be that pissed, and also I'll probably have a baseball bat or something. I'll figure it out.
3. If you are in the market for buying a war medal, understand that it's just to, you know, have. I'd suggest learning the story behind who got it and how he earned it. It's probably a pretty good story anyway. Do not go wearing it around like you're the guy who earned it.
4. Do not act like you're the guy who earned it.
5. Or them, in the case of having six of the things on you.
6. Do not tell any stories about how you came about them that are not 'I bought them online'.
7. Do not act like you served overseas.
8. Do not act like you earned the medals in the service overseas you didn't serve.
9. Do not act like you saved lives overseas.
10. Do not begin to believe your own tall tales.
11. Jesus Christ on a poopstick don't go around giving speeches about how you won medals for saving lives overseas while serving in the military when you're actually just some dude who bought the medals online.
12. When the military calls you and lets you have it about what a stupid you are, take it to heart.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Everything Is Lossome

I need to get back to doing some Kickstarter prep work after the Olympics... well, it ate up some time on me, which I in a sense don't mind THAT much, because I always seem to get some pretty decent writing done for it, but now it's gotta be back to regular business. So I'm giving myself some time and making today a quickie.

So... I'm going to give you 15 minutes. With Oscar season coming up fast, I'm going to give you the task of picking a movie recognized by the Academy in each year from the inaugural 1928 ceremony up to 2010, when this particular person made the quiz.

The catch: 'recognized' does not mean 'won Best Picture'. For each year, you have to name one of the Best Picture losers. The movie that actually won will not count.

Not that it likely makes a difference these days as to whether you've watched it or not, because this Oscar season you've probably just watched Frozen and the Lego Movie. (For those of you that have only watched the Lego Movie... please recite the lyrics to the song Everything Is Awesome.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Places Where You Can't Breathe Right Now

*China, because the air pollution has gotten to the point where Beijing is being declared by a quickly-censored state-run study as "unsuitable for human habitation", and China Agricultural University's He Dongxian has warned that the food supply as a result may soon resemble that of the aftermath of nuclear winter. One guy in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, just up and sued his local government for damages (needless to say, don't expect the lawsuit to get anywhere). That is a pattern being played out a lot these days: the public screaming behind their face masks for the Chinese government to do something about the crippling levels of smog, the government quickly moving to censor the screaming by whatever means necessary, and the public not even being fazed by the censoring because it's not like they have a long life expectancy anyway what with all the smog around, and therefore getting right back to screaming.

*India, particularly New Delhi, because they're really not any better than China. The problem here isn't so much censorship as apathy, both on the part of the public and the politicians.

*Sofia, Bulgaria, where the cause- as it is in India and China- is too many cars on the road. In India and China, the issue is more their sheer volume; in Bulgaria, while that's still true, the crux of the issue is a little different: the cars on the road are ancient and lack decent catalytic converters, or any at all. That, for the non-car people amongst us (myself included), is the device that takes the exhaust a car makes and converts the stuff in the exhaust to something less toxic. When cars in Western Europe become too beat-up, they get sent east, where regulations on cars are more lax, which means Bulgaria gets a lot of cars that are considered no longer good enough for Western European roads. (One of my more recent book purchases, My Mercedes Is Not For Sale, explores how particularly beat-up cars get shipped to Africa, where residents will generally take basically any car that they can bash and pound into working condition regardless of how much pollution it spits out.)

*Actually, you know what, here's a link to the World Health Organization's report on air pollution levels in a variety of world cities, with annual means between 2003 and 2010. What you want is a count of fine particulate matter (smaller than 10 microns) to be smaller than 20 particles per cubic meter; above that, it's a safety concern. The EPA actually prefers the count to be 10 or less, and that's a count you're really only going to find in the North American west. In the data set, Santa Fe, NM; Clearlake, CA; and Whitehorse, YT, Canada lead the pack worldwide, and they sit on 6 particles per cubic meter. Canberra, Australia is the most notable city to come in at 10 per cubic meter; in the United States, think Santa Cruz, CA. A far larger segment of locations comes in when you're looking at the sub-20 set; cities at the 20 level include St. Louis, Helsinki, Milwaukee, Belo Horizonte, and Atlanta. At 25, you're looking at Los Angeles. The worst location in the United States, Bakersfield, CA, sits at 38.

Beijing? 121. Delhi? 198 (New Delhi isn't listed). And that's an average taken from 2003 to 2010. Between this past November and January, New Delhi clocked in at 575... when measuring to a maximum of 2.5 microns. Beijing scored 400.

500 is the equivalent of smoking three-quarters of a cigarette every day.

Not-Random-At-All News Generator- Brazil

Okay. Olympics over. Back to regular programming around here. I say we fire up the Random News Generator.


Come on, I know I haven't used you in a while, but you can do it. Come on! Randomize!


Don't you rust at me when I'm talking to you! Now MOVE!

(PANNNGG) (fwip)

Well, technically that was movement, yes, but now you've gone and embedded a crucial part in my eardrum. That was mean of you. Well, fine, I'll pick the country myself. We'll just go ahead and pick the next Olympic stop, Brazil, and cut out any Olympics-related news so we can see what else is going on there right now.

...oh Christ the Redeemer, why is this plaguing my news feed. Sigh. Fine. So as you all know, Adolf Hitler died by shooting himself in his bunker in Berlin shortly before Soviet forces got there. This is basic knowledge about World War 2. What you also know about World War 2 is that a number of Nazis managed to flee Europe and there are still to this day people trying to hunt down the last couple that haven't died of old age yet so they can ship them back to Germany to face trial for thousands and thousands of murders each. A popular hiding location was Argentina; that was where Josef Mengele and Adolf Eichmann wound up. So of course there's a guy conspiracy-theorying that Hitler somehow got himself to Brazil and that's already more attention than I ought to be giving this.

A far more credible conspiracy theory is the one regarding spying by the NSA. Foreign governments have gotten understandably skittish recently about the potential for the United States government to look in on affairs that don't involve the United States, and as such, they're looking for solutions. Brazil and Europe have come up with one way to move forward: an undersea cable linking Fortaleza to Lisbon, Portugal. A lot of undersea cables link to the United States, and because they do, the United States- and the United States government- have access to them. Brazil's Internet access currently relies almost totally on cables linked to the United States. Get a cable down that the United States isn't connected to, and there's a way to secure Brazilian Internet access from American eyes. Europe, meanwhile, has better connections but a lot of the same concerns. However, there has to be some agreement they have to come to yet on who's putting up how much money to pay for it before they can lay it down; Brazil has more to gain here than Europe does, so they'll probably have to foot more of the bill.

It's certainly a better investment than looking for Hitler.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 16: Sochi: Denouement

We've done it in Vancouver, we've done it in London, and now, with the Olympic cauldron shut off for another two years, it's time to step back and process everything we've been through over the past two weeks.

You will note two different timelines in the headline and here: in the headline, I use a timeline that pegs Day 1 as the first full day of competition. In the Denouement, a timeline is used that pegs Day 1 as the first day of any competition. Never you mind my wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff.

That said, this is your official Denouement of the Games of the 22nd Winter Olympiad.

 DAY 1: Ready or not, the 2014 Winter Olympics commence with qualifying in men's slopestyle snowboarding. The event begins without two of the highest-profile riders, Shaun White of the United States, who pulled out citing an injury risk to concentrate on the halfpipe competition; and Torstein Horgmo of Norway, who injured his collarbone during a practice run. Between heats, among the music played over the PA system is 'Do what U Want' by Lady Gaga, the first of many times her music will be played over the course of the Games.
DAY 1: During slopestyle qualifying, Alexey Sobolev of Russia poses with his snowboard after his run. The image on Sobolev's snowboard depicts a knife-wielding woman in a ski mask, an image widely thought to resemble a member of the band Pussy Riot. Whether this was a form of protest by Sobolev is unknown, and Sobolev refuses to elaborate. He finished 10th in his heat, not good enough to advance directly to the finals. Meanwhile in the team figure skating session, one spectator seated just above the teams can be seen displaying a mainly light-blue flag with a rainbow on it.
DAY 1: A training session for women's downhill skiing has to be delayed for over an hour after one of the jumps on the course proves to be too big to safely navigate by the athletes. Forerunners sent down the course beforehand were not able to match the speeds or jumping distances of the athletes, and Laurenne Ross of the United States and Daniela Merighetti of Italy are injured on their training runs before training is halted and the offending jump altered.

DAY 2: During a training run, luger Shiva Keshavan of India, competing as an independent due to the IOC's dispute with India's Olympic association, crashes on the course, coming off his sled, but manages to get back on his sled and resume his run at speed.
DAY 2: Four activists are arrested in St. Petersburg, and 10 more in Moscow, for taking part in a gay rights protest. The protest consisted of displaying a banner citing Principle 6, the Olympic Charter's section dealing with anti-discrimination.
DAY 2: A flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine to Istanbul, Turkey is subject to a hijacking attempt by a Ukranian man trying to divert the plane to Sochi with a bomb threat. The pilot and crew trick him into thinking they are complying, while actually flying the plane to its original destination.
DAY 2: The Opening Ceremony takes place, marred slightly when, at the point that five snowflakes are supposed to expand to form the Olympic rings, only four do. The incident is not shown on Russian broadcaster Russia-1, who cuts to rehearsal footage where all five rings form as intended. Team Germany marches into the stadium in brightly-colored outfits that many take as a depiction of the rainbow flag, although their designer says they were designed before the controversy over Russia's anti-gay policies began. Hockey player Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Irina Rodnina are the final torchbearers. Rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, also one of the last torchbearers, is conspicuous by her presence as, despite a resume not on par with the other five final torchbearers (though it does include a 2004 gold medal), she is the rumored girlfriend of Vladimir Putin.

DAY 3: The first gold medal of the 2014 Olympics is awarded to snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg of the United States in men's slopestyle. Staale Sandbech of Norway wins silver. Mark McMorris of Canada overcomes a broken rib to win bronze.
DAY 3: The first medal sweep of the Olympics is achieved by the Netherlands in men's 5,000 meter speedskating. Sven Kramer wins gold, setting an Olympic record of 6:10.76 in the process. Jan Blokhuijsen wins silver. Jorrit Bergsman wins bronze.
DAY 3: Adding to the list of construction issues, bobsledder Johnny Quinn of the United States becomes trapped inside his hotel bathroom when the door jams. Quinn, a former practice-squad wide reciever for the Green Bay Packers, escapes by breaking down the door. Meanwhile, bobsledder Rebekah Wilson of Great Britain opens an elevator door to find an open shaft.
DAY 3: At age 40, the oldest man in the field, biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway equals the record for most all-time medals in the Winter Olympics, winning gold in the men's 10k sprint for his 12th winter medal overall, tying cross-country skier Bjoen Daehlie of Norway. He also becomes the oldest gold medalist in an individual winter event. Dominik Landertinger of Austria wins silver. Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic wins bronze.
DAY 3: French sports publication L'Equipe makes an allegation that figure skating judges from the United States and Russia have conspired against Canada in order to help each other win gold medals. According to the allegations, Russia is to win the pairs and team competition; in exchange, the United States is to win in ice dancing.
DAY 3: Sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe of Canada take gold and silver in the women's moguls competition: Justine the gold, Chloe the silver. A third sister, Maxine, is eliminated in the semifinal, finishing 12th. Hannah Kearney of the United States wins bronze.
DAY 3: Reporter Dan Wolken of USA Today visits the designated 'protest zone' in Khosta, seven miles from the nearest Olympic venue. He finds out that he is the first foreigner to arrive in town, that Khosta has seen a grand total of one small protest to that point, and also that Khosta is a nicer place than any of the actual venues.

DAY 4: Despite a rowdy, unforgiving course, only two of the 49 skiers who start the men's downhill fail to complete it. Matthias Mayer of Austria wins gold. Christof Innerhofer of Italy wins silver. Kjetil Jansrud of Norway wins bronze.
DAY 4: The Russian team lodges a protest against the results of the men's cross-country skiathlon, 15 km classic/ 15 km free. The allege that Martin Johnsrud of Norway impeded the progress of Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia in the race for the bronze medal, which Johnsrud narrowly won. The protest is unsuccessful. Dario Cologna of Switzerland wins gold. Marcus Hellner of Sweden wins silver.
DAY 4: Snowboarder Jenny Jones wins Great Britain's first-ever medal in a snow-based event, winning bronze in women's slopestyle. Jamie Anderson of the United States wins gold. Enni Rukjarvi of Finland wins silver. Meanwhile, Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic suffers a fall in the second of her two runs that causes her helmet to crack. Pancochova finishes 5th, on the back of her first run.
DAY 4: Speedskater Olga Graf gives Russia its first medal of the Games, taking bronze in the women's 3,000 meters. She begins to unzip her racing suit in celebration, before realizing that she's wearing nothing under it. She promptly zips back up. Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, one of only seven openly gay athletes competing at the Games, wins gold. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic wins silver.
DAY 4: Italian flagbearer Armin Zoeggeler becomes the most decorated Olympic luger ever, taking bronze in the men's singles for his sixth medal at his sixth consecutive Olympics. He is the only athlete to ever win medals in the same event in six consecutive Olympics, summer or winter. Albert Demchenko of Russia wins silver, becoming the oldest individual medalist in Winter Olympics history, and ties the winter longevity record by competing in his seventh Winter Games, alongside ski jumper Noriaki Kasai. Felix Loch of Germany wins gold. Shiva Keshavan of India, competing independently, finishes 37th.
DAY 4: Kasai, also in competition, finishes 8th in the men's normal hill. Kamil Stoch of Poland wins gold. Peter Prevc of Slovenia wins silver. Anders Bardal of Norway wins bronze.
DAY 4: The United States overcomes a poor early showing by Jeremy Abbott in the men's short program to salvage bronze in the inaugural team figure skating competition. Russia wins gold, the host nation's first. This result, for what it's worth, matches L'Equipe's earlier allegations. Canada wins silver.
DAY 4: India holds a rerun of leadership elections for their national association, to the seeming satisfaction of the IOC. It is hinted that India may be reinstated in time for their athletes to march under their own flag by the Closing Ceremony.

DAY 5: The temperature in Sochi is 61 degrees.
DAY 5: During an interview of short-track speed skater Lui Pan-To Barton of Hong Kong, the production crew on the global feed display next to his name the flag from the era when Hong Kong was a British colony. Lui would go on to finish 5th in his 6-man heat, failing to advance in the 1,500 meters. Charles Hamelin of Canada wins gold. Tianyu Han of China wins silver. Victor An of Russia wins bronze.
DAY 5: Alpine skier Laurenne Ross of the United States loses a ski during her run in the downhill portion of the women's super-combined. Ross had been on pace to take the lead at the time of the incident. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany wins gold. Nicole Hosp of Austria wins silver. Julia Mancuso of the United States wins bronze.
DAY 5: Off the field, it begins to be noticed just how singularly national the crowd is. In any given event, when fans display national flags, some 90-95% of them will be Russian, drowning out all the other nations at a rate far above previous Olympics. It is also noticed how many empty seats can be seen in any given event, with some entire sections going more empty than full.
DAY 5: Biathlete Martin Fourcade of France wins the men's 12.5 kilometer pursuit. Ondrei Moravec of the Czech Republic wins silver. Jean Guillaume Beatrix of France wins bronze.
DAY 5: On the back of a dominating performance from team captain Liu Rui, an unheralded Chinese men's curling team opens their tournament run in convincing fashion, defeating Denmark 7-4 in a match that was not nearly as close as the score indicates. Meanwhile, the perpetual-favorite Canadian team is upset by Switzerland 5-4 after defeating Germany 11-8 in their opening match. The other perpetual favorite, Great Britain, also goes 1-1 in the first day, beating Russia 7-4 before losing to Sweden 8-4.
DAY 5: The Dutch speed skating team achieves its second medal sweep in three days, taking all the hardware in the men's 500 meters, bringing their total to seven medals in three events. Michel Mulder wins gold. Jan Smeekens wins silver. Ronald Muller wins bronze. Between heats, a series of three consecutive Lady Gaga songs play over the PA system: first Poker Face, then Applause, then Just Dance.
DAY 5: Bobsledder Johnny Quinn of the United States gets stuck in an elevator. He wisely elects not to break down the door this time.

DAY 6: The final training run for the women's downhill is cancelled due to unacceptably warm temperatures melting too much of the snow.
DAY 6: The Great Britain women's curling team scores an Olympic record seven points in one end, out of a theoretical maximum of eight. Great Britain would go on to defeat the United States 12-3, with the United States conceding after the minimum allowable amount of ends.
DAY 6: Norway doubles up in gold in the men's and women's cross-country freestyle sprints. For the women, Maiken Caspersen Falla wins gold, with Angvild Flugstad Oestberg winning silver as well. They are almost joined on the podium by Astrid Uhrenholt Jacobsen, whose brother died on Day 1, but Vesa Fabjan of Slovenia wins bronze to avoid the Norwegian sweep. For the men, Ola Vigen Hattestad wins gold. in the wake of a three-man crash in the latter part of the course involving contenders Sergey Ustiugov of Russia, Marcus Hellner of Sweden and Anders Gloeersen of Norway. Teodor Peterson of Sweden wins silver. Emil Joensson wins bronze. The three crash victims finish in positions 4-6.
DAY 6: Fighting a deteriorating course that collected, among others, gold-medal favorite Kaya Turksi of Canada, freestyle skier Dara Howell wins gold in women's slopestyle. Devin Logan of the United States wins silver. Kim Lamarre of Canada wins bronze.
DAY 6: Luger Erin Hamlin of the United States becomes the first American to ever medal in a singles luge competition, winning bronze. Natalie Geisenberger of Germany dominates the field to win gold. Tatjana Huefner of Germany wins silver.
DAY 6: Speedskater Sang Hwa Lee of South Korea sets an Olympic record of 74.70 seconds in the two-race women's 500 meters. Olga Fatkulina of Russia wins silver. Margaret Boer of the Netherlands wins bronze.
DAY 6: The men's snowboarding halfpipe competition is marred by a high number of crashes, many brought on by the warm snow turning to slush, causing riders to lose speed and control. Shaun White of the United States, who had pulled out of slopestyle to concentrate on the halfpipe, finishes out of the medals in 4th. Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland wins gold. Ayumu Hirano of Japan wins silver. Taku Hiraoka of Japan wins bronze.
DAY 6: India is reinstated by the IOC. Indian athletes who have not yet completed their competitions are now able to compete under the Indian flag.
DAY 6: The inaugural women's ski jumping competition, on the normal hill, is won by Carina Vogt of Germany. Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria, another one of the seven openly gay athletes in attendance, takes silver. Coline Mattel of France wins bronze.

DAY 7: There is a tie for gold in the women's downhill, with alpine skiers Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland finishing in a dead heat of 1:41.57. Lara Gut of Switzerland wins bronze.
DAY 7: The Dutch domination of the long track continues as they bring their total to ten medals out of a possible 15, with Stefan Groothuis winning gold in the men's 1,000 meters and Michel Mulder winning bronze. Denny Morrison of Canada wins silver.
DAY 7: In what is widely expected to be a preview of the gold-medal match in women's ice hockey, Canada defeats the United States 3-2.
DAY 7: Eric Frenzel of Germany wins gold in the Nordic combined individual, normal hill. He holds off his only real rival, Akito Watabe of Japan, who settles for silver after trading the lead back and forth with Frenzel for most of the race. Magnus Krog of Norway wins bronze.
DAY 7: The halfpipe course continues to collect rider after rider due to the slushy conditions. Kaitlyn Farrington of the United States is the one who comes out of it with gold. Torah Bright of Australia wins silver. Kelly Clark of the United States wins bronze.
DAY 7: Germany takes their third luge gold in the men's doubles, with victory coming by way of Tobia Arlt and Tobias Wendl. Only the team relay stands between Germany and a sweep of the luge golds. Andreas Linger and Wolfgang Linger of Austria win silver. Andris Sics and Juris Sics of Latvia win bronze.
DAY 7: The men's hockey competition gets underway, with Sweden defeating the Czech Republic 4-2 and Switzerland defeating Latvia 1-0.
DAY 7: It is estimated that the post-Olympic maintenance bill for the Olympics may run about $7 billion, approximately the amount Vancouver had spent to host the Olympics four years prior. Vladimir Putin had told Sochi two days earlier that they should not expect further federal funding for anything beyond maintenance of current facilities.

DAY 8: The United States, which has been beginning to catch heat for a high number of losses from expected medalists, sweeps the medals in men's freestyle skiing slopestyle, next to which green grass can now be spotted, as temperatures in the 50's and 60's are expected for the remainder of the Olympics. Joss Christensen wins gold. Gus Kenworthy wins silver. Nichols Goepper wins bronze. Meanwhile, the coach of freestyle skier Jesper Tjader of Sweden wears a pair of rainbow-flag buttons on his jacket during qualifying of the men's slopestyle competition. Tjader does not advance out of qualifying, placing 24th overall.
DAY 8: Despite a fractured foot, cross-country skier Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland not only wins gold in the women's 10-kilometer classic, she dominates, winning by over 18 seconds. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden wins silver. Therese Johaug of Norway wins bronze. Due to the temperatures in the 60's, many of the athletes opt to compete in short sleeves or even tank tops.
DAY 8: Short-track speedskater Li Jianrou of China wins gold in the women's 500 meters, being the only skater in the final to remain on her feet for the duration of the race. Arianna Fontana of Italy wins silver. Park Seung-Hi of South Korea wins bronze.
DAY 8: The semifinals of the men's short-track 5,000-meter relay eliminate pre-race favorites South Korea and Canada. Canada crashes out; South Korea is disqualified for their role in a crash that collects the United States, who is advanced to the final at South Korea's expense.
DAY 8: A track worker at the bobsled venue breaks both legs and potentially suffers a concussion after being struck by a bobsled driven by a forerunner. Surgery occurs the next day; he is conscious and in stable condition.
DAY 8: Skating from out of the 'also-ran' pairings, specifically pair 7 of 18, speedskater Zhang Hong of China shocks everybody by setting a gold-medal time of 1:14.02, a time that can barely even be approached by anyone else in the field and was only two-tenths off the Olympic record, set at altitude in Salt Lake City 2002. In the process, China wins their first ever long-track speed skating gold. The Dutch bring their long-track haul to 12 medals out of a possible 18, as Ireen Wust wins silver and Margot Boer wins bronze.
DAY 8: Figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, who previously won medals in Salt Lake City, Torino and Vancouver, and who came back from 12 surgeries to help Russia win gold in the team event, injures his back attempting to land a triple axel in final warm-ups before the men's short program, and is unable to compete. After withdrawing, he announces his retirement.
DAY 8: Germany completes its gold-medal sweep of the four-event luge program, winning the newly-introduced team relay. Russia wins silver. Latvia wins bronze.
DAY 8: Efforts to rescue the many stray dogs in Sochi become particularly highly publicized, with offers pouring in from throughout Russia to adopt as many dogs as can be transported out of the city. Several of the athletes are similarly inclined to adopt.
DAY 8: The IOC asks Russian authorities for information on why environmental activist Yevgeny Vitishko, protesting the long-term impact of the Olympics on the region, was sentenced to three years in prison. A week earlier, Vitishko had been arrested for swearing at a bus stop, and was subsequently jailed for what was claimed by the court as violation of a suspended sentence from 2011 in which he and other members of an environmental group spraypainted what they considered to be an illegal fence in a public forest, behind which logging of protected tree species was occurring.

DAY 9: The softening snow proves so problematic in the downhill portion of the men's super combined that organizers start the slalom portion earlier than scheduled. 12 of the 46 who begin the slalom don't complete it. Sandro Viletta of Switzerland wins gold. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia wins silver. Christof Innerhofer of Italy wins bronze.
DAY 9: Cross-country skier Nadeem Iqbal becomes the first athlete to compete under India's flag in these Games, competing in the men's 15-kilometer classic. He finishes 85th. Dario Cologna of Switzerland wins his second gold. Johan Olsson of Sweden wins silver. Daniel Richardson of Sweden wins bronze. Like the women, many of the men opt for short sleeves.
DAY 9: Disaster nearly strikes the United States men's curling team as a passing official calls Jared Zezel for touching one of the stones twice during a match against Germany. They are, however, able to recover and beat the Germans 8-5. Meanwhile, the British women's team sets an Olympic single-game scoring record for the second time in the tournament, beating Japan 12-3 in seven ends. They tie their own record, set earlier when they beat the United States 12-3.
DAY 9: The IOC vetoes plans by Russia's organizing committee to give tomorrow's gold medal winners a piece of the Chelyabinsk asteroid, which exploded one year ago on that day over Russia and sending out a gigantic shock wave. Any giveaway of the asteroid fragments must be done separately and after the Olympics have closed.
DAY 9: After becoming the first figure skater to break the 100-point barrier in the short program the previous day, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan overcomes a mediocre free skate to take the country's first figure skating gold in a fall-filled men's competition. Patrick Chan of Canada wins silver. Denis Ten of Kazakhstan wins bronze.
DAY 9: Belarus makes its first-ever two-medal win in the same winter event when biathlete Darya Domracheva wins gold and Nadezhda Skardino wins bronze in the women's 15-kilometer individual. Selina Gasparin of Switzerland wins bronze.
DAY 9: Australia loses an appeal filed against the Russian skeleton team in which they charged that Russia had built a practice push track nearby and replicating that of the top of the Olympic course, giving them an unfair advantage. According to regulations, all athletes must have access to all training facilities on Olympic grounds. The appeal is rejected on the basis that the push track had not been ratified for competition and was therefore not part of the field of play. At the close of the day, Alexander Tretiakov leads the men's competition, and Elena Nikitina has won bronze in the women's competition. Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain wins gold. Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States wins silver.

DAY 10: The women's super-G course is alarmingly brutal, causing seven of the first eight skiers to DNF, and 18 skiers overall, compared with 31 who complete the course. Anna Fenninger of Austria survives the course to win gold. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany wins silver. Nicole Hosp of Austria wins bronze.
DAY 10: The heavy pre-race favorite Norwegians end none of the four legs in medal position in the women's 4x5-milometer cross country relay, finishing 5th. Instead, it's Sweden that win gold, Finland the silver, and Germany the bronze. It is 62 degrees.
DAY 10: The Russian women's hockey team suffers is eliminated in the quarterfinals, losing to Switzerland 2-0. The men go to a shootout against the United States in a group-stage game, tying 2-2, before falling in the 8th round of the shootout.
DAY 10: Short-track speedskater Viktor Ahn, who competed for South Korea in Salt Lake City and Torino but is now competing for Russia, gives the nation their first short-track gold medal, winning the men's 1,000 meters. Earlier in these Games, he had given Russia their first short-track medal of any color, winning bronze in the 1,500 meters. He is also the oldest man to win a short track medal at the tender age of 31. South Korea's representative in the finals, Sin Da-Woon, is disqualified. Vladimir Grigorev of Russia wins silver. Sjinkie Knegt of the Netherlands wins bronze.
DAY 10: The United States speedskating team gets approval from the International Skating Union to change out of the Under Armour suits they had been previously wearing, which they believe to be at least partially to blame for their failure to medal on the long track so far. They switch to an older design, also by Under Armour. It doesn't work, at least not in the men's 1,500 meters, as Brian Hansen places 7th, Shani Davis 11th, Joey Mantia 22nd, and Jonathan Kuck 37th in a 40-skater field. Zbigniew Brodka of Poland wins gold. Koen Verweij of the Netherlands wins silver, making it 13 medals overall for the Dutch. They have yet to fail to medal through seven events on the long track, with five events to go. Denny Morrison of Canada wins bronze.
DAY 10: Freestyle skier Maria Komissarova of Russia suffers a broken and dislocated spine during practice for women's skicross. She undergoes emergency surgery at a hospital located near the event site.
DAY 10: Ski jumper Kamil Stoch of Poland completes his singles sweep, adding the large hill gold to his normal hill gold from a week earlier. Noriaki Sakai of Japan, at age 41 and in his seventh Olympics, wins silver, his first medal since Lillehammer 1994. Peter Prevc of Slovenia wins bronze.

DAY 11: A second tie on the alpine skiing medal stand occurs in the men's Super G, as Bode Miller of the United States and Jan Hudek of Canada draw even for bronze. Kjetil Jansrud of Norway wins gold. Andrew Weibrecht of the United States wins silver. In a post-run interview, Christin Cooper of NBC catches heat for repeatedly asking Miller about his dead brother, a line of questioning that causes Miller to break down in tears to NBC's complete obliviousness.
DAY 11: With Vladimir Putin in attendance, the Russian cross-country team wins silver in the men's 4x10-kilometer relay. Sweden wins gold. France wins bronze.
DAY 11: India's national flag is raised in the Olympic Village.
DAY 11: The time-trial qualifying round of women's snowboardcross sees Helene Olafsen of Norway blow out her knee and have to be stretchered off the mountain, and Jackie Hernandez of the United States get knocked unconscious on impact with the snow. Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic wins gold. Dominique Maltais of Canada wins silver. Chloe Trespeuch of France wins bronze.
DAY 11: The Dutch continue their long-track domination, taking three more medals in the women's 1,500 meters to make it 16 out of 24. 16 sets a Winter Olympic record for the most medals by a single nation in one discipline. In fact, if there were a fourth-place medal, the Dutch would have won that too. Jorien Ter Mors wins gold, setting an Olympic record time of 1:53.51 in the process. Ireen Wust wins silver. Lotte van Beek wins bronze. Marrit Leenstra beats everyone who isn't Dutch and still fails to medal.
DAY 11: Maria Komissarova is airlifted to Germany for further treatment on her fractured spine. She is in grave but stable condition.
DAY 11: The men's 15-kilometer mass start biathlon is pushed back a day due to fog.
DAY 11: Vladimir Luxuria of Italy, Europe's first openly transgender member of parliament, is arrested in Sochi while displaying a banner reading 'Gay Is OK'. She is later released.
DAY 11: Snowboarder Michael Lambert of Canada makes the following statement to the media: "I am all for the purest form of sport in which all other distractions are shed with no consideration given to anything but your own process. At the same time, to act like there aren’t a lot of other very controversial things at play here, it’s ignorant. It’s not real, it’s not a reality. It’s not my reality. Just because I am a part of [the Olympics] doesn’t mean I ignore it. These things are real and they still exist. We just don’t see them because we are inside the bubble. Which is the goal--and that’s fair. We are here to compete and they want to keep us completely detached from all of that. But that stuff is still real. That controversy is still real. The only people on earth who are probably going to hold perfect [Winter] Games are people from Scandinavia. They are going to be green, sustainable, be under budget and all of the buildings and services are going to be used afterwards. A perfect Games isn’t someone who blows the budget through the roof for no reason, has people suffer, shuts people up. How is that a perfect Games? Spends ungodly amounts of money and then we are all going to watch it rot over the next 10 years.”
DAY 11: Footage from a security camera at the speedskating venue is unearthed from October, four months prior to the Olympics. In the video, a section of the roof collapses under the weight of a single cat.

DAY 12: The men's 15-kilometer mass start biathlon is pushed back again, due to heavy fog. The seeding runs for men's snowboardcross are cancelled outright; when the event gets going, they will go directly to the elimination rounds.
DAY 12: Police in Sochi arrest activist David Khakim for holding a solo protest against the arrest and conviction of Yevegeny Vitishko. Vitishko, meanwhile, goes on a hunger strike.
DAY 12: As expected, the American and Canadian women's hockey teams cruise to the gold medal match, with the United States defeating Sweden 6-1 in the semifinals and Canada defeating Switzerland 3-1.
DAY 12: A biathlon does eventually take place, the women's 12.5-kilometer mass start. Darya Domracheva of Belarus wins her third gold of these Olympics, becoming the first person ever to do so in a single Olympic biathlon meet, and Belarus' first triple gold medal winner in either winter or summer. Gabriela Soukalova of the Czech Republic wins silver. Tiril Eckhoff of Norway wins bronze.
DAY 12: The men's team ski jumping competition comes down to the wire, with Germany barely holding off Austria in a see-saw battle for gold. Japan wins bronze.
DAY 12: Alexey Voevoda and Alexander Zubkov of Russia win gold in the two-man bobsled. Alex Baumann and Beat Hefti of Switzerland win silver. The United States wins its first medal in the event in 62 years as Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton win bronze.
DAY 12: Belarus sweeps the freestyle skiing aerial golds, as Anton Kushnir wins the men's competition. David Morris of Australia wins silver. Zongyang Jia of China wins bronze.
DAY 12: Figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White score a world-record 116.63 in the free dance of the ice dancing competition, one day after setting another world recod of 78.89 in the short program, for a gold-winning total of 195.52. For what it's worth, this result causes the figure skating winners to line up perfectly with L'Equipe's earlier allegations of conspiracy against Canada. Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada win silver. Elena Bobrova and Nikita Katsalapov of Russia win bronze.

DAY 13: From a starting field of 89 skiers, 67 complete the women's giant slalom. The on-course attrition rate of 24.7% improbably proves to be the lowest for this event since Sarajevo 1984, which recorded 20.4% attrition. Tina Maze of Slovenia- who was the first skier out of the gate in the first of two runs, thereby getting the "best" conditions- wins gold. Anna Fenninger of Austria wins silver. Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany wins bronze.
DAY 13: The Dutch achieve their fourth medal sweep on the long track by owning the men's 10,000 meters, making it 19 medals out of 27. Jorrit Bergsman sets an Olympic record time of 12:44.45, only three seconds off Sven Kramer's world record, which was set in Salt Lake City. Kramer wins silver. Bob de Jong wins bronze.
DAY 13: The unheralded Slovenian men's hockey team, which has been turning heads so far, rolls to the quarterfinals with a 4-0 defeat of Austria.
DAY 13: After a day's delay, men's snowboardcross gets underway, albeit with fog rolling in several times throughout the competition. Pierre Vaultier of France wins gold. Nikolay Olyunin of Russia wins silver. Alex Deibold of the United States wins bronze.
DAY 13: After two days of delay, the men's 15-kilometer mass start biathlon is finally held amidst an actual honest-to-God snowfall, which actually isn't helping, as visibility from that plus fog proves only barely enough to hold the race. The race for gold ends in a photo finish, with Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway holding off Martin Fourcade of France. Svendsen thought he had it won more comfortably, and raised his arms in victory just as Fourcade got out from behind him and made a desperate lunge for the line. Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic wins bronze.
DAY 13: With snow absent everywhere but within the confines of the track, the men's large hill/10-kilometer Nordic combined is won by Joergen Graabak of Norway in a wild race to the line. Magnus Hovdal Moan of Norway wins silver. Fabian Riessle of Germany wins bronze.
DAY 13: Members of Pussy Riot are arrested after recording a music video in Sochi for a song called 'Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland'.
DAY 13: The men's freestyle skiing halfpipe is held in heavy snow, which proves to not be much better than the slush, as either way it scrubs speed and reduces stability. David Wise of the United States wins gold. Mike Riddle of Canada wins silver. Kevin Rolland of France wins bronze.

DAY 14: The attrition rate in the men's giant slalom is 33.9%, as 72 of the original 109 starters complete the course. Ted Ligety of the United States wins gold. Steve Missillier of France wins silver. Alexis Pinturault of France wins bronze.
DAY 14: Biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndahlen of Norway breaks the all-time Winter Olympics medal record with his 13th overall, as Norway takes gold in the mixed relay. He also ties cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie of Norway's all-time winter gold record with his 8th gold medal. The Czech Republic wins silver. Italy wins bronze.
DAY 14: A late fall that effectively eliminates Germany and slows Russia permits cross-country skiers Sami Jauhojaervi and Iivo Niskanen of Finland to steal the gold in the men's team sprint. Nikita Kriukov and Maxin Vylegzhanin of Russia salvage silver. Emil Joensson and Teodor Peterson of Sweden win bronze.
DAY 14: The Russian men's hockey team, heavily expected by the home crowd to win gold or bust, goes bust by losing 3-1 to Finland in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Sweden beats Slovenia 5-0, Canada beats Latvia 2-1 and the United States beats the Czech Republic 5-2.
DAY 14: It's now 21 medals for the Dutch speedskating team out of a potential 30, as Ireen Wust wins silver and Carien Kleibeuker wins bronze in the women's 5,000 meters. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic wins gold.
DAY 14: Vancouver silver medalist figure skater Mao Asada of Japan meets with disaster in the short program of women's singles, slotting into 16th place.
DAY 14: In recognition of political violence erupting in Ukraine, that nation's athletes request to wear black armbands to mourn those killed. As this is deemed a political gesture, the request is denied by the IOC. However, a moment of silence is observed in the Olympic Village under the same line of thought.
DAY 14: Snowboarder Vic Wild of Russia, who formerly competed for the United States but switched in order to marry fellow Russian competitor Alana Zavarzina, wins gold in the men's parallel giant slalom. Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland wins silver. Zan Kosir of Slovenia wins bronze. Meanwhile, Zavarzina wins bronze in the women's competition. Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland wins gold. Tomoka Takeuchi of Japan wins silver.
DAY 14: Six members of Pussy Riot attempt to perform again. Cossack security attacks them with horsewhips.
DAY 14: A correspondent for the Colbert Report travels to the official protest zone outside Sochi, and chants "I want a drink! I want a drink!" while holding a martini glass. He is quickly swarmed by police who order him to stop protesting without a permit.

DAY 15: France takes a turn at sweeping the medals, taking all the prizes in men's ski cross. Jean Frederic Chapuis wins gold. Arnaud Boloventa wins silver. Jonathan Midol wins bronze.
DAY 15: Luger Kate Hansen of the United States claims to find a wolf outside her room in the Olympic Village. It later turns out to be a prank perpetrated by Jimmy Kimmel.
DAY 15: Norway wins gold in the Nordic combined team event by 9.3 seconds over silver medalist Germany. Austria wins bronze.
DAY 15: Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska of Ukraine withdraws from the women's slalom in favor of heading home early and joining the anti-government protestors in what has become a repidly deteriorating situation. About half of the Ukranian team has already left simply due to their programs being complete; the remaining athletes intend to stay in Sochi as a measure of solidarity. Matsotska placed 27th in the Super G, and 43rd in the giant slalom.
DAY 15: The medals are handed out in women's curling. Canada wins the gold medal game, defeating Sweden 6-3. In the bronze medal game, Great Britain defeats Switzerland 6-5.
DAY 15: The final trip to the notorious Sochi halfpipe sees many athletes dedicating their performances to pioneer freestyle skier Sarah Burke of Canada, who died in 2012 of injuries sustained crashing in a training run. Burke's ashes are spread on the bottom of the halfpipe and in the mountains. Maddie Bowman of the United States take gold. Marie Martinod of France wins silver. Ayana Onozuka of Japan wins bronze. After the event concludes, the slippers- skiers tasked with sliding slowly down the halfpipe to smooth it out- slide down in the shape of a heart to honor Burke.
DAY 15: The Canadian women's hockey team first ties the gold-medal game with the United States by scoring with 54.6 seconds remaining in regulation, and then scores the game-winner in overtime for a 3-2 victory. It's Canada's fourth consecutive gold medal in the event. Switzerland wins bronze, defeating Sweden 4-3.
DAY 15: The effective main event of the Winter Olympics, women's figure skating, having effectively decided the medalists in the short program, is controversially won in the free skate by Adelina Sotnikova of Russia by a suspiciously wide margin. Yuna Kim of South Korea, who ends up winning silver, is the popular choice among fans, and it's thought that scores for the Russian skaters, Sotnikova included, were inflated, noting that four of the 13 judges hailed from Russia, Estonia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan, and that the Ukrainian judge, Yuri Balkov, had been suspended for a year after being caught trying to fix the ice dancing competition in Nagano 1998. Neither Kim, nor bronze medal winner Carolina Kostner of Italy, lodge a complaint.
DAY 15: Biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndahlen of Norway and hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser of Canada are elected to the IOC to eight-year terms by a vote of the athletes. They replace cross-country skier Rebecca Scott of Canada and hockey player Saku Koivu of Finland, who conclude terms began after Torino 2006. Turnout was 80.87%.

DAY 16: Short-track speedskater Viktor Ahn of Russia wins his record fifth gold medal in the discipline, and becomes the first person to win all four individual short-track events, by taking gold in the men's 500 meters. Dajing Wu of China wins silver. Charlie Cournoyer of Canada wins bronze.
DAY 16: The highly-touted American long-track speedskating team completes its Sochi excursion without a single medal of any color, as both the men and women's pursuit teams lose in the first round. The men lose to Canada; the women lose to the Netherlands, who set an Olympic record of 2:58.61 in the process.
DAY 16: The American short-track skaters, however, come through with a silver in the men's 5,000-meter relay. Russia wins gold, setting an Olympic record of 6:42.100, with Viktor Ahn winning his fourth medal in Sochi and eighth overall, tying Apolo Anton Ohno as the most decorated person in the discipline. China wins bronze.
DAY 16: Freestyle skiing closes out with women's ski cross. With the temperature at 37 degrees and a wintry mix coming down, two athletes are carried off on stretchers, Stephanie Joffroy of Chile and Anna Woerner of Germany. Marielle Thompson of Canada wins gold. Kelsey Serwa of Canada wins silver. Anna Holmlund of Sweden wins bronze.
DAY 16: The men's gold medal match in curling isn't much of one, as Canada defeats Great Britain 9-3. Despite Canadian domination of the sport outside of the Olympics, this is the first time they've actually won gold in both the men's and women's competitions. Sweden defeats China 6-4 in the bronze medal match.
DAY 16: Two athletes fail a drug test in separate incidents: bobsledder William Frullani of Italy, and biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle of Germany. Sachenbacher-Stehle had placed fourth in the women's 12.5-kilometer biathlon and fourth on Germany's mixed relay team. Frullani slated to be on the Italian four-man bobsled team; he is replaced by Samulele Romanini. Sachenbacher-Stehle has one gold and one silver from Salt Lake City, one silver from Torino, and one gold and one silver from Vancouver. It is not yet known whether any or all of these medals will be stripped.
DAY 16: Pussy Riot releases the music video of 'Putin Will Teach You How to Love the Motherland'. The music video includes images of their earlier beating at the hands of Russian authorities.
DAY 16: Canada eliminates the United States for the second consecutive day in a hockey tournament, with the Canadian men winning their semifinal match 1-0. Meanwhile, Sweden, taking advantage of Finland missing starting goalkeeper Tuukka Rask, defeats Finland 2-1 in the other semifinal.
DAY 16: An emotionally-charged Ukrainian biathlon squad wins gold in the women's 4x6-kilometer relay. Russia wins silver. Norway wins bronze. At the post-race press conference, the athletes ask the gathered media to observe a moment of silence.

DAY 17: Norway puts up the seventh medal sweep of these Games by owning the women's 30-kilometer in cross-country skiing.  Marit Bjoergen wins the first gold Norway has seen in this event, her third gold in Sochi, and becomes the most decorated female Winter Olympian of all time with six gold, three silver and one bronze. She passes cross-country skier Lyubov Egorova of Russia. Therese Johaug wins silver. Kristin Stoermer Steira wins bronze. The final person to finish is Aimee Watson of Australia, who places 54th, ahead of three DNF's. Meanwhile, Holly Brooks of the United States competes in a tank top. Few join her in rolling up their sleeves this time, with the temperature being 48 degrees, a bit colder than earlier in the Games.
DAY 17: Snowboarder Vic Wild of Russia sweeps the parallel race events, adding gold in the men's parallel slalom to go with his gold in the parallel giant slalom. Zan Kosir of Russia wins silver. Benjamin Karl of Austria wins bronze.
DAY 17: The Dutch speedskating team, to nobody's surprise by now, wins gold in both the men's and women's team pursuit, both setting Olympic records in the process. The men, setting a time of 3:37.71, defeat South Korea in the gold medal race. Poland wins bronze. The women, setting a time of 2:58.05, defeat Poland in the gold medal race. Russia wins bronze. They complete their time in Sochi with 23 long-track medals: 8 gold, 7 silver, 8 bronze, along with one bronze in short-track.
DAY 17: Russia takes gold in the final biathlon event, the men's 4x7.5-kilometer relay, pulling away from Germany in the final straightaway. Austria wins bronze.
DAY 17: South Korea lodges a protest contesting the results of the women's figure skating competition. Regulations require a protest to be filed immediately following the event, not two days later.
DAY 17: With Tuukka Rask back in as goalkeeper, the Finland men's hockey team decimates a dejected American squad 5-0 in the bronze medal match.
DAY 17: The Alpine skiing competition ends with the men's slalom, which knocks out an astonishing 74 of the 117 starters, a 63.2% attrition rate. The event is won by Mario Matt of Austria. Marcel Hirscher of Austria wins silver. Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway wins bronze.

DAY 18: Hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs of Latvia, and cross-country skiers Marina Lisogor of Ukraine and Johannes Duerr of Austria, are the third, fourth and fifth athletes to fail a drug test and get expelled from the Olympics. The Latvian men's hockey team placed 8th. Duerr was disqualified shortly before the men's 50-kilometers. Lisogor had finished well out of medal contention.
DAY 18: Sans Johannes Duerr, the men's 50-kilometer cross-country race, the winter equivalent of the marathon, is a blisteringly fast affair swept by Russia, making for the eighth and final medal sweep of these Games. This is the most medal sweeps at any Olympics since Moscow 1980, which saw 11.  Alexander Legkov wins gold, with a time of 1:46:55.2. Maxim Vylegzhanin wins silver. Ilia Chernousov wins bronze. They all finish within one second of each other. The final athlete to finish, ahead of 4 DNF's and one DNS, is Wenlong Xu of China, finishing in 2:08:02.0... a time that would have qualified for a silver medal in Lillehammer 1994.
DAY 18: The four-man bobsled is won by Russia, completing that nation's medal collection. They end with the most medals, with 33, and the most golds, with 13, along with 11 silvers and 9 bronzes. Latvia wins silver. The United States wins bronze.
DAY 18: The final event in Sochi is the men's hockey final, won emphatically by Canada 3-0 over Sweden.
DAY 18: The official Sochi memorabilia suction site goes online. One of the early items, a game-used puck that was used in a goal by Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic against Sweden in an early-round game (won 4-2 by Sweden), is bought with a single bid for the equivalent of $38.
DAY 18: The cauldron is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony. The Olympic Flag is passed from Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov to Lee Seok-Rai, mayor of Pyeongchang, South Korea. NBC opts to skip the part where the flag is lowered from its flagpole, as well as the Greek national anthem.

See you in Rio, two years hence. And see you back in Sochi four years hence, when Russia hosts the 2018 World Cup. Or in October, when Sochi hosts the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix. Or in a few weeks, when Sochi hosts the Paralympics, after which construction will begin on the Formula 1 track.

God help us all.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 15: The Cross-Country Marathon

During my coverage of London 2012, I brought up the subject of the marathon, the most iconic event of the Summer Olympics. The men's edition is traditionally saved for the last day of the Games, and if possible, it's made the last event period. (It wasn't in London; as it happened, the last gold medal was handed out in the men's modern pentathlon.) Last or not, the men's marathon is elevated to a spot where the medal ceremony for it is conducted during the Closing Ceremony.

For the Winter Olympics, the last event is, at least in Vancouver and Sochi, the men's hockey final, but that event's medal ceremony is done right there on the ice. The Closing Ceremony saves itself for the winter equivalent of the men's marathon, the men's 50-kilometer in cross-country skiing. The women go the previous day in a 30-kilometer race.

In London, what I did was note that the marathon is a damn difficult event, as anyone who's tried to run one, or even been scared off of running one, will attest. The Olympics, as I've said over and over, are not just about the medals. They're about the participation. And completing the Olympic marathon is a hell of an achievement no matter where you fall in the rankings. So two years ago, I named the last people to finish the race in both the men's and women's editions, along with how many people proved unable to complete the course in each instance.

Today, I present the cross-country equivalents. We'll begin with the women, who competed today.

Albertville 1992- Ines Alder, Argentina, 1:50:50.6 (55th place, 2 DNF's)
Lillehammer 1994- Suzanne King, United States, 1:45:27.9 (51st place, 2 DNF's, 2 DNS's)
Nagano 1998- Alla Mikayelyan, Armenia, 1:44:03.6 (58th place, 5 DNF's, 5 DNS's)
Salt Lake City 2002- Tomomi Otaka, Japan, 1:50:00.3 (43rd place, 5 DNF's, 2 DQ's)
Torino 2006- Monika Gyorgy, Romania, 1:35:25.4 (50th place, 11 DNF's, 1 DNS)
Vancouver 2010- Eva Skalnikova, Czech Republic, 1:44:47.8 (47th place, 5 DNF's, 2 DNS's, 1 DQ)
Sochi 2014- Aimee Watson, Australia, 1:34:00.1 (54th place, 3 DNF's)

Chamonix 1924- Szczepan Witkowski, Poland, 6:25:58 (21st place, 12 DNF's, 10 DNS's)
St. Moritz 1928- Stane Bervar, Yugoslavia, 6:46:48 (30th place, 11 DNF's, 1 DNS)
Lake Placid 1932- Robert Reid Sr., United States, 5:26:06 (20th place, 12 DNF's, 18 DNS's)
Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936- Tadao Okayama, Japan, 4:30:28 (34th place, 2 DNF's, 9 DNS's)
St. Moritz 1948- Jaroslav Zajicek, Czechoslovakia, 4:44:35 (20th place, 8 DNF's, 2 DNS's)
Oslo 1952- Matthias Kristjansson, Iceland, 3:55:50 (33rd place, 3 DNF's)
Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956- Richard Aylmer, Great Britain, 4:11:40 (30th place, 3 DQ's)
Squaw Valley 1960- Theodore Farwell Jr., United States, 3:49:56.6 (31st place, 8 DNS's)
Innsbruck 1964- Hidezo Takahashi, Japan, 3:14:31.4 (35th place, 6 DNF's, 1 DNS)
Grenoble 1968- Yun Jong-Im, South Korea, 3:27:22.5 (47th place, 4 DNF's, 9 DNS's)
Sapporo 1972- Bob Gray, United States, 3:01:15.37 (33rd place, 7 DNF's, 1 DNS)
Innsbruck 1976- Maksi Jelenc, Yugoslavia, 3:05:05.94 (44th place, 15 DNF's)
Lake Placid 1980- Shiro Sato, Japan, 2:48:33.2 (37th place, 6 DNF's, 4 DNS's)
Sarajevo 1984- Ricardo Holler, Argentina, 3:05:41.2 (50th place, 4 DNF's, 2 DNS's)
Calgary 1988- Roberto Alvarez, Mexico, 3:22:25.1 (61st place, 9 DNF's, 4 DNS's)
Albertville 1992- Roberto Alvarez, Mexico, 3:09:04.7 (67th place, 6 DNF's, 6 DNS's)
Lillehammer 1994-  Janis Hermanis, Latvia, 2:36:11.1 (61st place, 5 DNF's, 6 DNS's)
Nagano 1998- Guido Visser, Canada, 2:33:49.7 (62nd place, 13 DNF's, 4 DNS's)
Salt Lake City 2002- Alexander Penna, Brazil, 3:23:58.7 (57th place, 2 DNF's, 3 DNS's, 2 DQ's)
Torino 2006- Ren Long, China, 2:16:15.0 (63rd place, 16 DNF's, 3 DNS's)
Vancouver 2010- Jonas Thor Olsen, Denmark, 2:25:00.9- only a tenth of a second behind Franscesc Soulie of Andorra, with whom he sprinted to the line despite being at the very back of the pack (48th place, 5 DNF's, 2 DNS's)

Friday, February 21, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 14: Two Athletes Fail Doping Test

"Those were the worst hours of my life. I had won at the Olympic Winter Games on the small tower. Then the doping control. My God, what I went through. Will they catch you? Or was the timing correct once again? Was everything for nothing? Will you be the one they place the blame on, the idiot that is the butt of laughter for everybody? Nobody can imagine what you go through. You even forget that you have won."

-Ski jumper Hans-Goerg Aschenbach, East Germany, in 1989, on the aftermath of winning gold in the individual normal hill at Innsbruck 1976 (he passed the doping test and was by 1989 outside of the statute of limitations)

Two athletes have become the first two- and hopefully the only two, though there are unconfirmed rumors of a third floating around out there- to be ejected from the Olympics for failing a doping test. First is a bobsledder who hasn't actually competed yet, William Frullani. He was slated to be on Italy's four-man bobsled team, and will be replaced by Samuele Romanini.

Second is a little more significant: biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle of Germany. Sachenbacher-Stehle is rather decorated up until now, and Germany, which has been long trying to shake the legacy of the old East German teams of the 60's and 70's, is particularly embarrassed. She has no medals from Sochi- though she does have a pair of fourth-place finishes- but she has five medals in cross-country skiing, which she won before switching to biathlon last year. As of right now, none of those medals have been stripped, and there's no guarantee that they will be, but in the interest of noting, here's what would happen to the standings in the relevant events if they were.

*From Salt Lake City 2002, she has gold in the 4x5-kilometer relay. Remove Germany, and it means Norway is promoted to gold, Switzerland to silver, and the Czech Republic to bronze.
*Also in Salt Lake City, she has silver in the individual sprint. Yuliya Chepalova of Russia, of course, remains in gold, but delete Sachenbacher-Stehle and it means that Anita Moen-Guidon of Norway moves up to silver, and Claudia Kunzel-Nystad of Germany gets a bronze medal in the mail.
*In Torino 2006, she has silver in the 4x5-kilometer relay. Russia still has gold. Remove Germany, and Italy is promoted to silver while Sweden is awarded bronze.
*In Vancouver 2010, she has gold in the team sprint. With Germany removed, Finland would be the new gold medalist, Russia would move up to silver, and Italy would get bronze.
*Also in Vancouver, she has silver in the 4x5-kilometer relay. Norway still has gold, but with Germany out, Finland would be promoted to silver and Italy would be given bronze.

So, Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Italy as far as people who would be getting a medal who didn't have one to start with, if any or all of her medals get stripped.

The IOC's goal these days, particularly in the runup to Sochi, is first to prevent users from getting to the Olympics in the first place; then, if they can't do that, to at least keep them from reaching the medal ceremony. You can only hold the medal ceremony once. After that, the business of stripping medals and apologizing to those who were robbed of a celebration, possibly a rendition of their national anthem, that they will now never receive gets much, much messier.

Let's hope we don't end up with any of those. Let's have at least that go right.

OLYMPICS, DAY 13: Why You Don't Send Three-Man Moroccan Ski Teams

As you have surely discovered by now, one of the Winter Olympics' longest, bitterest enemies is the very weather on which it depends. Timing for good weather is impossible. You're announcing a location seven years out. Competition dates are announced long, long, long ahead of the actual competition. Weather forecasts see their accuracy reduced to the point of blind guessing as little as ten days out, which is less time than the Olympics take to hold. You have to hope it's cold, but not too cold. Snowing, but not too much. For God's sake, don't warm up. As a result, when the weather doesn't cooperate, the organizers have to start rescheduling: moving things up, moving things back, cancelling the odd training run or cutting multi-run events like luge and bobsled short by a run or two if they must.

Which means the rules of an event might get played with a bit. The inaugural edition of the men's combined pursuit (now converted to the skiathlon) took place in Albertville 1992. The leading skiers- and I'm going off David Wallechinsky's Winter Olympics almanac here- thought the playing with rules had happened when, it being a pursuit event, the leaders had been sent off first. It was a two-day event back then, instead of the single race it is now, with a 10-kilometer classical-style race taking place on Day 1, and a 15-kilometer freestyle race on Day 2, with the leaders getting a head start based on how they did in the 10-kilometer classical. The problem was, if you'll scroll to section 314.6.4 of the rulebook (PDF), as a principle, the top skiers are entitled to the most advantageous segment of the starting order of a cross-country race, whenever it is that may be. Sometimes it's early, sometimes it's late. In this particular instance, late would have been better, and the leading skiers made that known. Odd Martinsen, head of the Nordic Skiing Commission of the International Ski Federation, had to point out to them that pursuit events don't work that way. The leaders always go first in pursuits. The end.

But that wasn't the big fiddling. (And Bjorn Daehlie, the fourth man to start, ended up winning his first gold medal in that event, with wingman Vegard Ulvang, the first man away, taking silver, so it didn't matter that much.) The fiddling took place at the other end of the ranking table. You see, the women were scheduled to get on the course for their pursuit event as soon as the men were done. The second-to-last man to take off, Andrea Sammaritini of San Marino, was scheduled to begin 20 minutes, 1 second after Ulvang. Not all that big of an issue; this was only five seconds behind third-to-last Mohamed Oubahim of Morocco. Fellow Moroccan Mustapha Tourki was 18 minutes, 39 seconds off the pace. The last man to take off, though, was the third Moroccan on the course, Faissal Cherradi.

Cherradi was 43 minutes, 31 seconds behind.

Had he been started on schedule, not only would Bjorn Daehlie already have been wearing gold for about the last five and a half minutes of his wait, 40th-place Dany Bouchard of Canada would be crossing the finish line right as Cherradi would have taken off. And again, they had the women right there waiting for the men to wrap up so they could hit the snow. In the interest of time-saving, the organizers wound up sending Cherradi off right alongside Sammaritini, 23 minutes and 30 seconds ahead of schedule.

Sammaritini had no problem fending off his newfound rival, crossing the finish line about 42 minutes before him. Cherradi repeatedly fell down trying to navigate the course, finally staggering over the line 2 hours, 4 minutes, 7.8 seconds after Ulvang had originally set off (though officially it was 2:27:37.8), and about a half hour after next-to-last-place Oubahim had finished.

As it turned out, had the first of the women been sent off in their 10-kilometer pursuit as soon as Oubahim crossed the line (1:12:02.2 into Cherradi's run), the last-place finisher in THAT event, Jenny Palacios-Stillo of Honduras, who in fact finished in 48:49.6, would have stopped the clock at 2:00:51.8 ...still 3 minutes, 16 seconds ahead of Cherradi.

Stricter qualifying standards were put in place for Lillehammer.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 12: Please Rise For Everything

Have you been frustrated by not seeing enough medal ceremonies so far these Olympics? Tired of not hearing anything that isn't the Star-Spangled Banner? Well, I've got a solution for you.

For London 2012, composer Philip Sheppard had to get all 200+ national anthems of the competing nations created, just in case. So as to catch you up, here are all of them, with a random John Williams performance from the 1990's provided as backdrop.

Because you're likely very strapped for time, though, they're all going to be playing at the same time.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 11: The 2022 Winter Olympics

The Olympics are awarded seven years in advance. Rio 2016 was awarded in 2009; Pyeongchang 2018 was awarded in 2011; Tokyo 2020 was awarded in 2013. 2015 is coming up at about the same rate it always has, so next year, we'll be deciding who to hand the 2022 Winter Olympics to.

Although it doesn't seem like very much of a decision this time around. There are, these days, always multiple cities bidding, multiple places to choose from, but some are clearly more capable than others. Some years, the decision as to who can host can be rather rough, and come down to the specific technical aspects of each city's bid. The decision for 2012 was particularly difficult, with a high-caliber field of capable cities bidding against each other. London had to go up against Paris, Madrid, New York and Moscow in the final round. Selecting one from them would take a lot of work.

The field here is not so tightly-packed. There are three phases to this process: applicant, candidate, and host. Right now, we're at the 'applicant' phase, which is simply any city that wants to host submitting a bid. The applicants are then assessed on a range of criteria to figure out how capable they are of hosting; the less-capable cities, the cities the IOC decides would be an obvious disaster to have host, are weeded out. Their various aspects are rated from 1-10, with an overall score of 6 or higher required to get a recommendation from the evaluation committee. A qualifying score doesn't necessarily mean you're in, nor does a lack of one mean you're out, but it falls largely along those lines. In 2016, despite a score of 6.9, Doha was knocked out at this stage (eventual winner Rio scored 6.4). In 2008, despite not hitting the 6.0 standard (the committee opted not to give exact scores for anyone that year, but you can see they scored Istanbul somewhere in the 5 range), Istanbul was advanced anyway.

The survivors of this initial screening are deemed 'candidate' cities, at which point they can start using the Olympic rings in their bid materials. These cities are further assessed, personally visited by a committee (which cities often in turn test to see how easy they are to bribe; these visits aren't exactly unannounced), and then at the end, final voting takes place. By this point, you're rather familiar with the process: if a city gets a majority of the vote, they win; if nobody does, last place is dropped and they vote again; repeat until someone does get a majority. IOC members from the candidate nations are prohibited from voting unless their city has been knocked out in a previous round.

The applicants that we have for 2022 are: Beijing, China; Astana, Kazakhstan; Oslo, Norway; Krakow, Poland; and Lviv, Ukraine.

The official candidates will be determined in July, but at first glance, it seems rather obvious that Oslo would be the natural choice, based on some basic, immediately observable issues:

*Beijing just hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, and the IOC prefers to spread hosting duties around geographically. With South Korea hosting in 2018 and Tokyo in 2020, expecting them to do China next seems a tall order. The smog that kept some athletes at bay in 2008 is even worse now, not just in Beijing but seemingly anywhere you'd want hosting, including the place I might pick if I were selecting a Chinese city to host a Winter Olympics, which isn't Beijng, but Harbin.

*Krakow's bid involves some events being hosted in Jasna, Slovakia. The IOC does not permit multinational bids, as San Diego and Tijuana found out the hard way when they attempted to bid for 2024. Anything involving Jasna would have to be stripped out of the bid, which would potentially damage Krakow's plans beyond repair.

*Lviv has had... issues today. You can host an Olympics with the cauldron on fire. You can't host them with everything on fire. Really, they're toast. I don't care what they're telling everyone. Done. Out. I doubt they even get out of the applicant stage. (Check back in a year when they get picked to host, because as we've already established, I am terrible at predicting things.)

*Astana hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games, and some of the facilities they'd use are thus already built... but then again, the bad taste likely to be in the IOC's mouth regarding Sochi may make them loathe to hand the Olympics to another former Soviet nation in the near future. They've begun to abandon the general boilerplate talk about how well the Games are going and attacking detractors in exchange for beginning to attempt to defend themselves for selecting Sochi, even if it has to be couched in language such as clarifying that political protests aren't allowed on Olympic grounds "whether we are sympathetic or not", a statement that one wouldn't think would be made unless that sympathy existed.

Which leaves Oslo. After problems like the ones faced here, the IOC seems to me to be about ready to run screaming into the Alps and Scandinavia, places everybody knows for a fact can put on a well-run Winter Olympics. And because Oslo is the only city in the field in that region, it stands to reason that they'd be the natural choice.

But that's only if the people of Oslo are on board with it. In September, Oslo voters had a referendum on whether to bid, and it passed, but only by a 55-45 margin. There's a sizable contingent of residents who just do not want to put up the kind of money it takes to host the Olympics. Another Scandinavian city, Stockholm, pulled out a month ago for just that reason.

Should Oslo remain in for the duration, I don't see how they don't win, barring corruption. If they pull out, the options get ugly fast. If Krakow would be able to revamp their bid to remove Jasna as a hosting site, they're probably runner-up, but if not, the IOC will likely cross their fingers, pray like hell, and reluctantly give it to Astana.

Please stay in, Oslo.

Monday, February 17, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 10: The Worst Judge Ever

In any judge-based sport in the Olympics, sooner or later there will be a dispute regarding what the judge thought of some performance or other, especially if the difference between what they thought and the athlete thought would cause a difference in medal positions. Figure skating and gymnastics can consider themselves lucky if they can get through an Olympics without a huge argument on their hands from somebody who felt they got slighted, especially if they share a nationality with whoever it was that benefited from the decision.

But these usually tend to be over often technical matters that the average person needs explained to them. An incorrectly-recorded starting value, a particular element of the routine that may not have been taken into account, the average score of the judges not being calculated correctly, something like that. You ever see an instance in a baseball or football broadcast, where people are assumed to be generally up on the rules, and then some rather obscure rule comes into play and the commentators have to stop and explain what exactly this rule is that's being invoked? That's pretty much all the time in not just a gymnastics or figure skating broadcast, but really any Olympic sport that isn't immediately familiar to the local audience. How many times have you gone over the basic rules of curling with someone online so far, or had them explained to you by what is inevitably a Canadian or a Scot?

That said, the worst judge of all time does not need any technical talk to claim the prize. The judge, who goes unnamed by history, presided over gymnastics in London 1948. As you know, at that time scores were judged on a 10-point scale, with Nadia Comaneci making history in Montreal 1976 by being the first person to max out.

She didn't set the record for highest score from a judge, though. Because an unnamed female Czechoslovakian gymnast in London beat her by 28 years, when the Worst Judge Ever gave her... a 13.1.

Out of 10.

If it helps narrow it down as to who it might be, Zdenka Honsova ranked first overall in the individual standings, though there was only a team event for women that year. She also ranked first in the balance beam and the rings (they just competed in those and the side horse, which none of the Czech women scored all that great on, though Honsova was the strongest there too). A score that high would surely have bumped someone up, and she's the highest up, so she's the most likely. But that's pure speculation and guesswork.

Whatever your beef with the judge, if they stay within the scale provided to them, that's at least a start.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 9: The Opening Ceremony Repository

In Vancouver and then again in London, I compiled a list of videos of the moment the Olympic Cauldron was ignited and how it was done. Today I'd like to do similar for the Opening Ceremony overall.

Because yes, those videos do exist. The funny thing is, though, I expected to have to brute-force my way through compiling a list of videos off YouTube. But I don't have to, because someone has already done it for me. A guy named Bryan Pinkall has created a site called the Olympics Ceremony Database, in which he has done the work of gathering up all the video he can of every single Summer Olympics ceremony and, well, most of the Winter Olympics (he's missing some winters) and hosting it himself. Some of the ceremonies are not complete, but he's included as much as he can get. I'm not going to step on his hard work. I'll simply send you over to him.

What I will do, though, is go find some other opening ceremonies so that I have something to contribute to the effort. I'll only include complete videos, or at least, Part 1 of video series that collectively provide a complete ceremony and which I can see you're easily able to get to the other parts.

Obviously, I am not expecting you to even come close to watching everything here. That would take days. Without sleep.

Asian Games, Beijing 1990
Commonwealth Games, Kuala Lumpur 1998
Asian Games, Bangkok 1998
Pan-American Games, Winnipeg 1999
Commonwealth Games, Manchester 2002
SAF Games, Islamabad 2003
World Games, Duisburg 2005
Commonwealth Games, Melbourne 2006
Asian Games, Doha 2006
Paralympics, Beijing 2008
World Games, Kaoshiung 2009 
Commonwealth Games, Delhi 2010
Youth Olympics, Singapore 2010
Asian Winter Games, Astana 2011
Pan-American Games, Guadalajara 2011
Summer Universiade, Shenzhen 2011
Winter Youth Olympics, Innsbruck 2012
Paralympics, London 2012
Summer Universiade, Kazan 2013
Maccabiah Games, Jerusalem 2013
Southeast Asian Games, Nay Pyi Taw 2013

Saturday, February 15, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 8: All Aboard The Fail Train

The United States has yet to earn a medal on the speedskating long track. If you ask the speedskating team, it's the fault of their suits provided by Under Armour, unproven prior to the Games. They swapped to an earlier suit, also from Under Armour, starting with today's event, the men's 1,500 meters.

The Americans came in 7th, 11th, 22nd and 37th. So that's at least one data point saying it wasn't the suit's fault.

If you ask Dan Jansen, the suit wasn't the problem. It was the training site. Team USA trains nearly exclusively at an oval in Park City, Utah, training at altitude. American athletes in general tend to train at altitude whenever possible. The thinking goes, you're taking in less oxygen at altitude, it's tougher to train up there, so when you're down at lower altitudes, things seem easier. Altitude training is seen as adversity training: train under the biggest pain-in-the-ass conditions you can create for yourself, and come gameday, everything you'll actually confront is a piece of cake by comparison.

For summer sports, that's fine and dandy. But it's a different matter on the ice. Skating at altitude means you're passing through fewer air molecules, meaning you get less resistance. When you get less resistance on the ice, you slide farther, faster. That's not adversity training. On the ice, adversity training would be done at sea level, where you see what's known as 'worker ice'. You have to push harder for every step and every meter. The United States does have a lower-altitude oval, the Pettit Center in West Allis, Wisconsin, that is the second-choice facility for American speedskaters. I pass by it every time I drive into Milwaukee. West Allis isn't at sea level, though people like to claim it is- it's some 728 feet above sea level- but it comes close enough to serve the purpose. The Dutch, who have been dominating the medal podium, train at actual sea level by way of nature. That's where the Netherlands is. Much of it is below sea level. Hence the dikes.

Nobody was training at the Pettit Center.

So when everybody got to Sochi- which is at sea level- the Dutch were ready, having trained at that altitude by way of birth. The Americans, who had skated on Easy Mode in the Rockies, were caught unprepared for the conditions they'd actually be competing under.

Which brings up the real issue here. Adversity training is one thing, but what really pays off is simulation training. Practice under conditions as similar as possible to what you will actually face on gameday, and there will be no surprises. Every last element you can replicate helps more and more, and of course, training at the competition site itself is always a good idea.

South Korea's legendarily-dominant archery team loves doing simulation training. When preparing for Sydney 2000, they went out to a baseball stadium, filled it with spectators, and had them get rowdy while the archers took their shots. For Beijing 2008, they went so far as to build a replica of the venue they'd be competing at and trained there. They did it again for London 2012. They also love their adversity training, as the links will show by telling about things like staring at dead bodies, cleaning up sewage, running military courses, bungee jumping, and going through haunted houses.

The Russian skeleton team has done similar... though in a way that stretches the rules to their absolute limit. According to Olympic regulations, all practice facilities on Olympic grounds must be open to all athletes. This is why the Australians lodged a protest that the Russians had a push track nearby and replicating the luge/skeleton/bobsled course, that they'd been using to perfect their takeoffs. The protest was denied, but on the technicality that the push track had not been officially certified by the sport's governing body, the FIBT, and therefore was not part of the field of play.

Elena Nikitina would go on to win bronze in the women's skeleton; Olga Potylitsina finished 5th and Maria Orlova finished 6th. In the men's competition, Alexander Tretjyakov won gold, Sergei Chudinov finished 5th and Nikita Tregbyov finished 6th.

Pyeongchang is about 1,250 feet above sea level. West Allis is 728 feet. Park City is some 7,000 feet.

You tell me what the better option is when training for 2018.

Friday, February 14, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 7: Team Rainbow

Ireen Wust, speedskater from the Netherlands, made history by becoming the first openly gay athlete to win Olympic gold, taking the women's 3,000 meters, followed by silver in the 1,000 meters. She could potentially add more to her souvenir collection in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters later on in the Games. Though she isn't really one to make a big thing of that, a first is a first when it comes to these things and so, like it or not, she plays the role of pioneer.

It was noted when she won gold that she's only one of seven openly gay athletes at these Olympics. But you haven't really heard about the other six. So since my Plan A article (NBC's coverage of Moscow 1980) ran into some technical issues (me being unable to hunt down video of NBC's coverage of Moscow 1980), this seems like a fine Plan B.

The other six, and how their Olympic programs have gone:

*Snowboarder Belle Brockhoff, Australia. Competing in snowboardcross. Has yet to compete.
*Ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, Austria. Won silver in the women's normal hill.
*Speedskater Anatasia Bucsis, Canada. Placed 28th in the women's 500 meters out of 35 competitors.
*Short-track speedskater Sanne van Kerkhof, Netherlands. Competed in the women's 3,000 meter relay, fell during the race. The Netherlands did not advance to the final.
*Snowboarder Cheryl Maas, Netherlands. Competed in women's slopestyle. Placed 9th in her 11-person qualifying heat (the top four advanced to the final), finished 12th in the semifinal, ahead of only three DNS's (the top four advanced).
*Cross-country skier Barbara Jezeršek, Slovenia. Placed 19th in the women's skiathlon, in a field of 61. Placed 41st in the 10-kilometer classic, in a field of 76. Still has the women's 4x5 kilometer relay to come.

Overall, the 7-woman team (no openly gay men competing in Sochi) currently has one gold and two silver. Three medals is equal to what the Czech Republic has right now, and they have two silvers and a bronze. Japan has one gold, two silver and one bronze.

The Czech Republic sent 85 athletes to Sochi. Japan sent 113.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 6: Horse Sense

In the standard packet of Olympic stories you tend to get every Games, you'll probably see the name Felix Carvajal, a Cuban marathon runner from St. Louis 1904. He raised money to pay his way to St. Louis, but lost the money gambling on a steamboat in New Orleans and had to hitchhike the rest of the way. Then he showed up at the starting line in wool pants, which some onlookers cut into shorts for him, because it was really really hot that day. He stopped to chat with spectators, ate some bad apples during the race, got stomach cramps, and still came in fourth.

You will also hear, in any given Olympics, about a number of athletes who similarly had to pay their own way to travel to the host city, probably a fraction of the actual number of such athletes. You've likely heard about several of them by now.

This is not about any of them. And this is not a story about raising the money to pay for the trip to the Olympics. For you see, when you are the Soviet equestrian team, you're getting some help getting yourself to Mexico City 1968. That's simply a given.

Ivan Kizimov was competing in the individual dressage event. Normally, this is among the most boring events according to popular opinion, in fact maybe THE most boring event on the entire program. This is because viewers are only watching the event. They did not get to see Kizimov's plane ride to Mexico City.

Because Kizimov also had to bring his horse, Ikhor.

Because of the high altitude of Mexico City and the long time it was discovered it would take the horses to acclimatize, athletes were asked to bring their horses several weeks in advance of the Games. The Soviets were among the first to arrive.

Horses are rather temperamental creatures. Plane rides can spook them easily, and long travel for the horses was still a relatively new thing in the Olympics. Most of the time, the majority of the horses were from Europe and got to remain there, and there weren't many horses called upon to fly to Los Angeles in 1932. But just in the Olympics prior to Mexico City, Tokyo 1964, three horses had to be destroyed in transport. Markham of the United States never even made it onto the plane in Newark. An unidentified Chilean horse had a heart attack on the flight to Tokyo. An unidentified Argentinian horse had to be destroyed on the flight home.

Kizimov and Ikhor had also made that flight to Tokyo, where they finished 10th in the individual dressage competition, and assisted in helping the Soviet Union win bronze in the team.

So it was a bit of a surprise when, according to David Wallechinsky's account, as the Soviet plane neared Mexico, the athletes heard loud noises coming from the cargo hold. It turned out to be Ikhor banging against the walls. The team vet, Anatoly Doilnev, managed to calm him down enough to get him on the ground and off the plane without having to destroy him. However, Ikhor still came off the plane with his legs covered in blood.

It was a lucky thing they had so much time on their hands before they had to actually compete. When it came time to do so, Ikhor had by then made a full recovery, and in fact, he won gold for Kizimov.

Another horse on the Soviet team wasn't so lucky. The cross-country course, used in the three-day event, would today be unsuitable for competition. Originally, a course at the city of Oaxtepec was selected for eventing, but it was moved away from there when the terrain was deemed to be too rough and the subtropical climate to be too much. The course was then moved to Avandaro Golf Club, which wasn't much better. It had a milder climate, but nobody realized that it rained there constantly in that time of the year, and a tropical rainfall swamped the course right on schedule. But Soviet horse Ballerina, ridden by Svetozar Glushov, didn't even last that long, collapsing of exhaustion on the course. Irish horse Loughlin, ridden by Penelope Moreton, suffered the same fate, and several other horses had cut it close themselves. In all, nine of the 48 horses that began the cross-country course didn't finish it, and two didn't survive it.

Maybe Ikhor knew what was coming.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

OLYMPICS, DAY 5: Pyongyang 1988

As you know, the 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea. As you also surely know, South Korea is bordered by North Korea, then led by Kim Il-Sung. North Korea did not attend the Olympics in Seoul, as they were boycotting.

Why did they boycott? Because they wanted to co-host the Olympics.

Nagoya, Japan was the favorite to host the Summer Olympics of 1988; however, Seoul upset them in the vote at the IOC meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany in 1981. South Korea didn't have nearly the reputation they do now- they were in 1981 a dictatorship, and as the Games tend to be, it was seen as an opportunity for South Korea to reinvent itself in front of the world. North Korea knew this, and wanted a piece of the pie for themselves. The Olympics, coming off a string of boycotts in Montreal, Moscow and Los Angeles, as well as the tragedy in Munich, were not at the high point of their popularity, and North Korea knew that it was vulnerable to yet another boycott.

So a plan was hatched. In exchange for not boycotting, North Korea demanded to co-host the Olympics between Seoul and Pyongyang. They wanted at least 11 of the 23 sports to be held in Pyongyang. They wanted their own separate Opening and Closing Ceremony. They wanted a unified Korean team (in all the bluster North Korea makes, their stated aim is to 'reunify' the Koreas; the two marched under a unified flag in 2000, 2004 and 2006 but competed separately). The plan was that if the demands weren't met, not only would they boycott, but so would China and the Soviet Union, North Korea's main allies, whose absence, along with other ideologically allied nations at the time such as Cuba, would heavily damage the legitimacy of the Games, which were already seeing competition in the form of the Goodwill Games.

Juan Antonio Samaranch, then-head of the IOC, was keen on offering none of this. For one, the Olympics are awarded to a single city, and Seoul was that city. They're especially not awarded to multiple nations. He started talks with the North Korean representatives by laying out that fundamental position. Full stop. His opening offer was that the two could march consecutively in the Parade of Nations, and that the Opening Ceremony would feature themes of unification. This, North Korea balked at; they wanted a fully joint Olympics. And also they demanded that the official title of the Games be "Korea Pyongyang Seoul Olympic Games." (Note how they put Pyongyang before Seoul in the title.) The representative, Park Song-Ch’ol, also warned that failure to comply might trigger an "accidental error that would have disastrous effects on the peaceful celebrations of the Games."

You know this nowadays as your standard North Korean boilerplate saber-rattling. In the mid-1980's, though, it sounded more frightening, especially to Samaranch, who must have wished by now that Nagoya had won in the first place. He knew how damaged the image of the Olympics was, and he was rather concerned that North Korea, if not at least offered something, could actually bomb the Olympics, which was a completely unacceptable option. And North Korea's "offer", at least on its face, sounded halfway high-minded and idealistic. He was kind of in a box as to what to do. So Samaranch, IOC vice president Ashwini Kumar, and Seoul organizing head Roh Tae-Woo, had a huddle, organized by Kumar. Kumar suggested that they could at least offer some sort of concession to the North, as if they at least offered some events to them, they looked like the reasonable ones in front of the world, and the onus would be on the North to either accept or reject. And if they rejected, well, hey, you were offered. Samaranch was on board with this, though he wanted to keep the number of events offered as low as he could. Specifically, he wanted to offer enough events for it to look like a perfectly reasonable and idealistic offer, and high enough to keep North Korea from keeping with the bomb threats, but not enough to where they would run the risk of North Korea actually saying yes. And of course, Seoul was looking to lose as few events as possible for obvious reasons.

The opening offer to North Korea, announced by Roh, was that they could hold some handball and volleyball preliminaries. During talks in Lausanne in 1986, the offer went up to include the entirety of soccer, archery and table tennis as well, subject to the approval of the specific sports federations involved. The events involved would also be billed as part of the "24th Olympic Games in Pyongyang". North Korea could have said yes right here and gotten it.

They did not say yes right here. They were offered three events and two preliminaries. In January 1986, they pulled back from 11 events... to eight events.

By March, they were down to six.

By April, some accounts say they were willing to go to five.

The problem was, though, that the clock was running out on them, as the two-years-out mark is starting to cut it close on preparation time. Not only that, but their leverage- China and the Soviets- was bailing out on them. The Soviets, by April, were prepared to go to the Olympics with or without North Korea. They knew how damaged the Olympic movement was. They'd caused some of the damage themselves. They didn't want the Olympics to be killed entirely, which they feared might happen if they boycotted again. Besides, they were rather warming to South Korea. Besides that, they were hoping to hold the 1996 Winter Olympics in St. Petersburg (they had yet to change the Winter Olympic scheduling to happen in Summer Olympic off-years) and they didn't want to mess that up.

And so was China. South Korea, in a democratic movement spurred by the awarding, was starting to take off economically, which translated to business opportunities there for China... opportunities they might miss out on if they boycotted. In June 1986, China attended the Asian Games, which were also being held in Seoul, a good indication that they'd be at the Olympics. Besides, they were gearing up to bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics and they didn't want to mess that up.

In addition to all of this, the still-in-charge South Korean strongman president, Chun Doo-Hwan, was busy talking Samaranch off the ledge in regards to the North Korean threats. He assured Samaranch that without China and the Soviets, North Korea has zero leverage, and that if they tried to start a war, they would get clobbered and they knew it. Chun also warned him about North Korea's tendency to move the goalposts even when they get what they want. Samaranch still wanted to offer something, though, if only because it put the onus on South Korea to either take or leave the offer on the table. They would be forced to give a flat no and isolate themselves.

North Korea, meanwhile, went in June to talk to the Soviets, with their representative, Hwang Jang-Yeop, telling them that North Korea was now hoping for 3-4 sports. This is something that had already been offered by the IOC, but that was before. By this point, pressing leverage, Samaranch was only offering two.  And in any case, the Soviets were no longer interested in North Korea's demands. The Soviets were attending. The end.

In the next round of talks later that month, Samaranch offered table tennis and archery, along with some soccer preliminaries. Hwang may have had told the Soviets they wanted three or four sports, but North Korean Olympic committee head Kim Yu-Sun was now proposing six to Samaranch. And Kim balked at how the offer had gone down; they had previously been offered the entire soccer tournament. Samaranch was playing full-on Godfather by now, in essence saying, 'what soccer tournament? I never offered that.'

Samaranch had altered the deal. Pray he does not alter it further.

Somewhere along the line in the talks, the lightbulb went off. Kim began to realize that the game was quickly becoming up. He appeared, at least to Samaranch, to agree to the offer, provided that North Korea got their own organizing committee for the sports they were hosting, and the right to call the events they were hosting "the 24th Olympic Games in Pyongyang". The latter demands were fine by Samaranch, and as far as he was aware, that meant they had a deal. He laid down what he understood the terms to be as a confirmation... only to be met with evasion of the question. He repeated himself... only to be met with a request for ten minutes out of the room to consider the offer.

What in the world was going on here, thought Samaranch. He may not have liked the idea of North Korea co-hosting, but he thought this was done now. He thought he had something he could take to South Korea, who he figured would pretty much have to go with it. The problem was, Kim was still wanting three full sports, not two. At this point, Kim could either take the two and get something, or demand three and potentially get nothing. He very likely knew this. But for whatever reason- a lack of authority, a lack of guts, a fear of losing face by accepting the now-reduced offer- he didn't pull the trigger. When he returned to the room, he demanded three sports.

Kim Il-Sung continued to work the Soviets, personally campaigning to Mikhail Gorbechev about the demand for what he was calling eight sports, saying that because the North had a third of the population of the Korean peninsula, they should get a third of the sports. Whatever the number, Gorbechev wasn't interested, telling Kim, "I will tell you frankly that the issue is in the principle, and not in the arithmetic." To him, a multi-Korean Olympics was a multi-Korean Olympics even if they only got one lousy preliminary. And besides, they weren't boycotting, period. They didn't want to be the ones to kill the Olympic movement and take the PR hit that went along with that. Getting rather panicked, he went running to China, only to get a business lecture in response about how South Korea was the equivalent of the old cartoon profit graph with the arrow going straight up.

The lesser powers, meanwhile, knew where this all was heading and started drifting away from North Korea's side as well. East Germany backed away. Hungary backed away. Czechoslovakia backed away.

The fourth round of talks with the IOC saw North Korea demand eight sports. Samaranch offered them four pretty much just to see what would happen (not knowing about the '3-4 sports' claim made by North Korea to the Soviets, who got behind Samaranch at this stage). North Korea said no, clearly gearing up for a boycott at this point, and hoping that the now-increasing political unrest in South Korea would result in a failed Olympics and they could walk away with the 'win'. Talks had well and truly broken down by now.

The remainder of the time before the Olympics was spent by Samaranch trying to line up security and hoping to hell that North Korea wouldn't actually go through with the threats that they had now returned to making. South Korea, now led by Roh Tae-Woo after the democratic revolution, and who had never been hot on the idea of giving North Korea anything from day one, concentrated on just putting on the best damn Olympics possible and showing up Pyongyang that way, being just as confident as Chun that North Korea wouldn't actually try it.

Come the Opening Ceremony, North Korea was not in attendance. Cuba wasn't in attendance. Madagascar wasn't in attendance. The Seychelles were not in attendance. Albania wasn't in attendance, but as Albania had also boycotted Montreal, Moscow and Los Angeles, their absence wasn't a big surprise to anyone. North Korea had no other allies by now, though Ethiopia and Nicaragua had their own reasons to boycott as well. Everybody else showed up, making for a then-record 159 nations.

The Olympics were a success; in fact, Seoul did so well that they were the place that well and truly launched the Paralympics into a big-time event that would from then on always share a host city with the Olympics. And North Korea did not attack.

South Korea will be hosting again in four years. They have no intention of sharing. Kim Jong-Un is relegated to trying to build his own ski resort. If anyone will let him have the parts.