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The Winter Olympics and Eileen Gu Appreciation Thread


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She's singlehandly got me invested in the event, pissing off Americans in every way possible while getting a gold medal, being a great person and also one of the most stylish people alive.

Is anyone watching and what events should I look out for this year, who's the other stand-out stars?

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Shaun White in Mens Snowboarding Half-pipe. He says this is not just his last Olympics but last ever snowboarding event for the most famous snowboarder off all time.

Kamila Valieva figure skater competing under whatever Russia are called this year, even though they are banned. Could break all records in Womens singles aged 15. When very few women can do quad jumps, she is apparently planning to do 4 in her routine.

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Thanks @Frankie Crisp and Happy Chinese New Year to you all. Been a busy one as you might expect but really enjoyable all the same. If I say nice things about any of the goings on here I'm absolutely not being pressured to say them by the Chinese government so please, whatever you do, don't send a search party out to come and rescue me, definitely don't send them to the inner city area of Beijing where I'm based, and may I just take this opportunity to wish you all extra bean sprouts in your next chow mein and may the ten sacred virgins shower you all with lotus blossom. And Peng Shuai is absolutely grand, lads. 


Team GB


In a nutshell, we've been rubbish. 

As I type this on Sunday evening, GB have yet to win a medal. A Summer Games is a different story in that we usually bring home between the region of 50-60 medals across the various sports and disciplines. By contrast, our most successful modern Winter Games was in PyeongChang 2018, where we secured just five in total. The medal target set by UK Sport here was apparently between 3-8...

The biggest disappointment came in the snowboard cross, where Charlotte Bankes was seemingly a dead cert for the podium off the back of a decent World Cup season. However, she bottled it on one of the final bends in her semi final race and came third. Only the top two go through, so that left her on the scrapheap. 

Our earliest medal hope came in the mixed curling as Jenn Dodds and Bruce Mouat found themselves in the bronze medal match. Favourites for gold pre-Games, the Swedes absolutely battered them in the final, we played some absolutely nonsensical shots and deserved to lose. 

Perhaps the biggest disaster has been in the skeleton - unofficially our signature discipline over the years. We've won a skeleton medal every year since 1998, but despite some clean runs from the likes of former bronze medallist Laura Deas, the sleds have been too bulky and we've been far, far too slow despite some clean runs. Questions have been asked about the equipment and coaching, plus the governing body (GB Bobsled/Skeleton). Bear in mind that the sport gets millions of pounds of funding for each cycle (as does curling), so it's being viewed by some as a bit of a crisis and a waste of dosh. 

To give you an idea of funding levels - the likes of cycling, swimming and athletics get millions of pounds pumped into them on the promise of multiple medals for a summer Games. Sports that don't get as much coverage, like modern pentathlon for example, get only a fraction of the same wealth, but still have access to decent facilities and coaching and there's still the potential there for an athlete to prosper. However, the gap in funding between the winter sports is absolutely vast, and in some cases an athlete isn't even funded at all by UK Sport. The bobsled crews have had to entirely sort their own funding for example. Our ice dancers have been given a few pennies for flights and hotels, but little else. This means you get a lot of GB athletes that are really, really low in the pecking order in final rankings and they are dwarfed by other winter-centric nations. 

Despite the above, there's still some hope. The team curling is going very well as I type this - both the men's and women's teams are in good runs of form and firmly on course for the semi finals and the chance to play for medals - I think at least one or both of them will take a medal from that. Our bobsled crews (we've got a men's four man team and a two-women entry) are also looking strong. Dave 'The Rocket' Ryding might pull off an upset in the skiing at his fourth Olympics. We've also got the skiing slopestyle to come (Day 1 of that competition was cancelled today because of too much snow. At a Winter Olympics. I shit you not) and there's some potential there too. 

Kirsty Muir - the youngest member of the GB delegation at 17 - was bloody brilliant in the skiing big air (fantastic sport to watch). She finished fifth, way above what was expected, and didn't look out of place mixing it up with the likes of Eileen Gu and company. The most impressive performance so far from anyone from our shores. She's from Aberdeen and learned to ski on the dry slopes in those parts. To go from that to challenging for the podium here is madness, and it's not even her signature discipline. She goes up against Gu and co again in the skiing slopestyle, which is her favourite event. 


Russian drug scandal


The biggest story people are latching onto at the moment centres around a 15-year old Russian ice dancer called Kamila Valieva. She's tested positive for a banned substance relating to some angina treatment and the whole thing has been handled appallingly by all involved. It's a bit of a complicated case to explain, but in a nutshell - the Russians have tried to cover it up and it's backfired. Coming into Beijing she'd be tipped as the face of the Games, but she's been badly looked after and badly advised by her officials and staff, and now it's an absolute pile on from other nations calling her a cheat, calls to be banned, etc. A hearing took place this evening and a decision will be made tomorrow on the rest of her Games participation - but it's almost certain she'll be sent packing. 

It's been pretty uncomfortable seeing how it's been covered in all honesty - more media have been turning up to her recent training sessions than actual Olympic events, and have tried to doorstep her as she exits venues. She's been followed around constantly and the ROC (and the IOC) have done little to protect the onslaught. Expect this to blow up tomorrow once the verdict from the hearing goes public. Grim. 


International flava


Lindsey Jacobellis' double gold haul is one of the stories of the Games so far. In 2006 she was on her way to a gold in the snowboard cross, only to showboat near the finish line, stack it and miss out. After winning the individual event ahead of the likes of GB's Bankes, she also won the mixed team event with fellow yank Nick Baumgarter. In doing the latter, she re-created her showboat celebration before crossing the line properly this time. Redemption and peak shithousery. 

There's too many highlights to cover off her in one post but as was pointed out in the OP - Eileen Gu has been great and looks set to add more gold in the slopestyle. The ski jumping was magnificent, the Dutch have been dominant in the speed skating. I went to watch USA/Canada in the ice hockey, which was a great slugfest. 

Of the more interesting events coming up, snowboarding big air is one I'd highly recommend and the previously mentioned slopestyle skiing. Aerial skiing might also be a hidden gem to watch because of the science-defying tricks you'll see. And we all love a bit of bobsled (Jamaica have THREE bobsled teams heading into this one). But really, most of the sports in the second week should be good as we wave goodbye to most of the qualifiers and get down to the nitty gritty of the finals and medal moments. 


In the future there will be robots

There are robots everywhere around the main press centre. There are self-propelled cleaning robots that scurry about all over the place, robots at the hotels that bring you room service, and robots that cook and serve you food in the press centre. 

However, the novelty of these has well and truly worn off. There are long queues and they regularly break down, and even when they are working it takes about 45 minutes minimum to even get side dishes. I don't have the most eclectic tastes and I appreciate a robot's right to earn a living, but 30 minutes for undercooked chips and rice is too long to wait when you've been freezing your bollocks off waiting an hour for a bus back from the cunting curling. I really, really miss a home chippy tea (though I'm told there's cod on the menu here some days, though I've yet to be there to witness it.)


Closed loop/Testing


A lot has been made of this closed loop business and the perceived horrors of the daily testing, firewalls, etc. I was definitely a bit apprehensive before heading out, mainly because the rules are pretty strict on if you catch the you-know-what during your time here. 

But generally it's been absolutely fine. The main press centre where I'm primarily based is a lovely environment where you meet terrific people from all over the world and the atmosphere is exciting. We can't really go sightseeing out of the loop, so no last-minute jaunts to the Great Wall of China for instance, but to be honest you're always so busy at these events you'd barely have any time anyway. Going to the different venues and seeing the different sports is your sightseeing, if that makes sense. 

Access to/from all of the different venues has been fantastic within the Beijing radius. Security checks are minimal at the venues and not at all invasive. I've been able to cover everything I need to without fuss and watch a lot of sport on my sessions off. Highly recommend the short track speed skating which is surprisingly enjoyable. I find the curling a bit sterile, but it's a good place to knuckle down and get your work done with something to watch in the background. 

We're tested every day, which initially I was fucking dreading. During my second pre-flight PCR test, the elderly Chinese maiden ruined me with her nasal swab (you can have that one for free in the out of context thread) and I was left sneezing like a complete cunt for the next 24 hours.

Thankfully, the testing here has been very gentle, and it's been throat-swab only (and even then it's been very gingerly applied. Either that or I've just got a good gag reflex...). Essentially you go down to a portakabin outside the hotel reception, do your quick swab and temperature check which takes about as much time as spending a penny, then you go about the rest of your day, usually spent by hopping on buses between venues. 

In terms of the distancing, there's barely any policing of this. Which is a good and bad - it's good because you're not constantly looking over your shoulder worrying about being too close to people, but it's also bad because buses and venues get cramped quite quickly, so it feels a bit like the London Underground at times. 

The volunteers are mostly quite young at the hotels, press centres and venues and are a really lovely bunch. These guys make or break a Games experience for people. Also they're very diligent - my colleagues have lost phones, wallets, keys, train tickets and all sorts and the level of detail they undertake to try and help you would put our Police to shame. 

The pictures of people walking around in hazmat suits look like something out of a horror movie. Again though, the staff/volunteers wearing them are primarily quite young and to them it's just part of a wacky daily uniform. On the day I arrived, groups of them had loads of writing on their suits - I asked one of the staff, and they'd all been signing each others suits and leaving messages for each other because it was Chinese New Year and like an Olympic souvenir for them, in the same way that you'd sign your mate's polo shirt on your last day at a school. I thought that was lovely. 

As you can also tell via this post, internet in the press centre and venues is completely fine and all of the regular western social media channels can be accessed freely. The only place you can't get on them is from your hotel room. And actually, that's alright with me - I'd even go as far to say that I'm going to try and adopt it as a more regular practice when I get home. Being forced to completely switch off for a bit has done absolutely wonders for my sleep and general peace of mind. 

My brain is mush at the moment but it's surreal being here and it's a wonderful assignment. A bit embarrassing having to show a media pass with 'Fatty Facesitter' on it to gain access to places, mind you. 




Edited by Fatty Facesitter
Fixed a few typos because jet lag
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7 hours ago, Cousin Jim Bob said:

@Fatty Facesitter if you don't mind the question. Whats the reaction in the press and people over there in general on Valieva being allowed to compete ?

The vast majority of it is negative. The whole thing is seen a huge mess from the point of several governing and anti-doping bodies, allowing her to compete is seen to be sending all of the wrong messages, etc. 

There is sympathy for Valieva personally and what she's being subjected to at the age of 15, though I think many of the press that express this view have a funny way of showing it with regards to following her around to training venues and doorstopping her. But since the decision was confirmed more athletes have been voicing concerns about level playing fields, the scrutiny it's put the sport under, the Russians are at it again, etc. 

Aside from the physical case itself, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) haven't played this very well during Games time. Journalists and media are accredited to attend training sessions in venues for all sports and they often have mixed zones (note = this is where the press gather for immediate interviews post competition) present at the training venues, where press will gather things like preview videos and quotes from athletes. But I think because of the sheer amount of scrutiny being placed on a minor here from a worldwide perspective, this should have been closed off (not just for Valieva but for the rest of the field). It would be perfectly easy for the different nations' respective communications teams to make additional interview opportunities available via alternative means, and for the IOC to make footage to be made available from the training sessions on request (they record most of these and upload them to a central hub). 

As you might expect, the vast majority of the world's press turned up to watch her last night and to attend the post-competition press conference (thankfully I was on a different filming assignment). However, she didn't appear in the conference and apparently as never going to be put up. Whilst I think that's actually the right call, the IOC printed off one of those placards for the press table with her name (seriously, who in their right mind would go aheads with that?) and had indicated to people that she would speak (I did get a kick out of my colleagues rushing over there only for her not turn up). Also, the result won't be confirmed because the case is still open from a couple of the anti-doping bodies. So technically nothing will be official, there'll be no ceremony at the end, etc. That's a shame for the other athletes more than anything I think. 


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Great Post Nicko. I think it's very important to remember that we're essentially talking about a 15 year old here, who let's be honest has little to no control over her life.

We've seen and heard over the years that gymnastics can be a vile sport. Girls in particular are no more than racehorses for their respective organisations/clubs/teams. The coaches, parents and organisers are the ones culpable here and in all likeliness the state too- given the fact they have previous. I don't think she should be competing given her failed test (and it absolutely opens a huge can of worms for future anti doping) but the spotlight should not be placed directly on her as it has been. 

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