U.S. Squeaks By Spain for Basketball Olympic Gold, 118-107

Photo credit from foxsports.com

It wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the final score would seem to indicate. The Spaniards fought gallantly, and kept apace of the Americans with every basket and rebound, and the game went down the wire. This wasn’t a replay of the earlier blowout suffered by Spain in the hands of the U.S. during the eliminations. The Americans reached the finals with a 7-0 card and won by an average of 30 points. This was supposed to be a walk in the park. It wasn’t. Continue reading

Manny Pacquiao to Head Philippine Sports Commission

In your dreams (or nightmares, depending).

But now that I have your attention, let me get to the point of this post, which is to jump right into the inevitable finger-pointing bandwagon on our dismal showing in the Beijing Olympics. Not that medal shutouts are anything new to us. The country has failed to win a single medal in any of the past three Olympics (Sydney, Athens and now Beijing).

And with Mongolia winning its first gold at the 2008 Olympics (in judo), the Philippines now holds the dubious record for the most medals without a gold. Even war-torn Afghanistan managed to break into the medal tally. Continue reading

China Downplays Tragedy at Beijing Olympics

Life changes can happen in an instant. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Beijing Olympics, where the amazing record-breaking achievements of world-class athletes like American swimmer Michael Phelps, with seven gold medals and counting, are attained with only fractions of a second to spare. For instance, Phelps roared back from seventh place at the 50-meter mark to out-touch Serb Milorad Cavic by one-one hundredths of a second to win his seventh gold medal, tying Mark Spitz’s record haul from the 1972 Munich Games.

But misfortune also takes mere seconds to unfold. Behind the glitter and hoopla of the “greatest show on earth”, are tragedies which occur without warning, changing people’s lives forever. American tourist Todd Bachman, father of former UCLA All-American and 2004 volleyball Olympian Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman McCutcheon, was killed while sightseeing in Beijing by a 47-year-old, knife-wielding Chinese assailant, who later committed suicide by leaping 130 feet from a balcony on the 13th-century Drum Tower, located 5 miles from the Olympic Games site. His wife was gravely injured, although Elisabeth was unharmed.

Surely one of the more poignant tales behind the Olympics is that of Chinese dancer Liu Yan, who was seriously injured during a rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic games just days before the show, and faces the prospect of being paralyzed for the rest of her life. Considered one of the country’s top classical Chinese dancers, Liu Yan, a graduate of the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy, was preparing for the performance of a lifetime: the only solo dance in a four-hour spectacular that was expected to be seen by a global audience of more than one billion people. During a rehearsal, she leaped toward a moving platform that malfunctioned and plunged about 10 feet into a shaft, landing on her back and breaking her spine. Continue reading

Typhoon Frank Lashes Visayas and Luzon but Spares Me and Leads to Girls in Bikinis Forming the Olympic Rings

Typhoon Frank (international code name: Fengshan) hit the Visayas region yesterday, killing at least 17 with scores missing, including the passengers of an inter-island ferry which sank off Sibuyan Island in Romblon province, and continues to lash Luzon as I write this. Thankfully, while it slammed Metro Manila full force early this morning , with maximum winds of 120 kph and gustiness of up to 150 kph., our abode suffered no damage as far as I can see. It blew part of the roof off the church annex being built across the street, but spared our house. The debris now hangs across the utility wires adjacent to our neighbor’s house. It could have hit our residence but didn’t, thanks to divine providence.

Read also: Typhoon Frank, the MV Princess of the Stars Tragedy and the Culture of Disaster

My good fortune was compounded when I found this video in the Far East Economic Review’s Travellers’ Tales while surfing. In the run-off to the Beijing Olympics in August, the Chinese have set new standards for taste and class in promoting the games, this time involving around 1,200 girls forming the iconic Olympic rings.

Something to brighten up an otherwise gray day. Such is life.

China Cracks Down Hard on Tibetan Demonstrators; Violence to Escalate as the Beijing Olympics nears

Newsweek did a cover story two weeks ago on the resurgence of Buddhism in Asia and elsewhere and its rise as a potent –even militant- political force. This is a revolutionary development for a religion known for its pacifism and contemplative character. Buddhism espouses detachment from the material world, and thus eschews all but the most rudimentary political institutions. It does not have a formally organized central political authority, like the Vatican. Yet it has morphed into a political movement, the “armies of the enlightened” as Newsweek terms it, as events in Burma and lately, in Tibet, have shown.

Last week, protests in Tibet turned violent as Chinese security forces clashed with hundreds of Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans protesting continued Chinese rule. According to the Tibetan protestors, at least 80, and perhaps many more, people were killed; Chinese authorities placed the official death toll at 10. Rioting has spread to neighboring provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan, and has mobilized sympathizers internationally.

The protests began March 10, the anniversary of a failed 1959 Tibetan uprising. The People’s Republic of China took Tibet by force in 1951, and has implemented a policy of resettlement of Han Chinese from the east, who now far outnumber ethnic Tibetans.

At the center of the conflict: Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China called for an international investigation of the Dalai Lama, accusing him of masterminding the violent Tibetan protests spreading across China. Beijing’s position was summarized as “Tibet has long been part of China, that Tibet has benefited from modernization, and that the Dalai Lama should not be allowed to return because he aims to split Tibet from China.” Continue reading