Friday 27 July 2007

Security for Universiade 2007

As I was heading out today I noticed a large crowd of people buzzing around in the courtyard of Interzone, which is a small plaza with administration offices and shops that service the Asiangames Dormitories at the Thammasat campus.

There was a large gathering of police in riot gear doing drills in preparation for the upcoming World University Games. A few dozen civilian volunteers had gathered to stage a minor mock riot. They pelted the police with empty plastic bottles instead of rocks and emergency workers "rescued" a few injured onlookers.

I missed most of the festivities but managed to get a few shots.

Riot police training for Universiade 2007

Medical staff helping "injured" woman

The security measures being taken for the games are thorough and are going to end up impeding my ability to move around easily in the next few weeks. 8 foot high chain link fences are going up everywhere and are going to force me to take circuitous routes to get to various places. Even leaving the campus will be more difficult due to part of the main road being closed off to buses and other traffic.

All necessary I suppose. With 10, 000 athletes from more than 100 countries arriving in a few weeks, this is the kind of high profile event that could be targeted. The troubles in the south, the political problems in the last year or so and liability issues mean nothing will be spared in keeping the athletes and spectators as safe as possible.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Sports Nightmare

I had a bad dream last night. Barry Bonds was trying to club cyclists Michael Rasmussen and Alexandre Vinokourov with a corked bat. Michael Vick was siccing a pack of angry dogs on them as disgraced NBA ref Tim Donaghy simultaneously bet on the action while claiming he was the best choice to officiate the entire farce.

Legions of disgraced, broad-shouldered, bearded female, former Olympian freaks from Eastern Europe cheered on the action. Similarly shamed Chinese swimmers and gymnasts and inhuman American track and field specimens joined in the nasty free-for-all. Gun-toting, sneering, tough-talking NBA and NFL criminal filth started swinging with abandon and firing shots into the air while the ghosts of the 1919 Chicago White Sox spat tobacco juice on them from above.

I don’t buy the narrative that all sports are crooked and it’s gone beyond the tipping point.

It’s part of the game, the drama that mixes in with the wins and losses. Rooting out the cheats, filth and crooks is part of the fun. Some will be forever disgraced, some will gain redemption while others will occupy that surreal anti-hero position as they carry on relatively unscathed in their bid to achieve all-time status in their chosen sport.

For many of them, the insane wealth on offer and the thrill of trying to pull off their scam without getting caught is half the fun. Recognition is what all humans are after to some degree and that desire in professional athletes is ramped up times a thousand. Desire and ambition on steroids.

Many of them will pay with an early death as their drug-bloated hearts explode prematurely. Others may come to the realization that the millions of tokens they accumulated, and which they couldn’t spend in a dozen lifetimes, won’t make up for the other things they sacrificed such as pride, honour, trust and dignity. All those things that are so easy to shrug off early in life but have a habit of coming into sharper focus as the years remaining start to diminish.

Let the games continue, and with them the ongoing attempts to lance the cancerous filth from the insane spectacle of competitive and professional sports.

Monday 23 July 2007

Universiade 2007 Update

I now have little doubt that all renovations and preparations will be ready for the games which begin in just over 2 weeks. It's really quite simple. As the deadline approaches and various locations are lagging behind, dozens of human mules are brought in and put to work 14 hours a day for a pittance. Not sure how that fits in with the whole spirit of fairness and equity that universities are normally associated with but I'll leave that discussion for another day.

As mentioned in a previous post, the bulk of the competitions are taking place at the Thammasat University campus which is located in Rangsit, about 30 minutes north of Bangkok (when traffic is good.) The facilities here are impressive and will have no problem housing the 10, 000 athletes and support staff that are expected to descend.

The only problem of course, is that the thousands of students who attend Thammasat and normally live in the residences have had to clear out. The games are taking place during the middle of the first semester. The time off that is usually allotted for the semester break has been brought forward and the actual break between semesters will now only be about one week in October, long after the games have finished.

Most of the students are gone now. The campus is deserted. It's kind of peaceful.

The calm before the storm.

Saturday 21 July 2007

The Bettman/Basille Saga Continues

No surprise regarding the revelations that NHL commissioner Gary Bettmann likely tried to dissuade the owner of the Nashville Predators from selling his team to Canadian billionaire Jim Basille.

There has to be something fundamentally wrong with the core principles of a league that turns away from almost guaranteed success. A failed franchise that has been a drag on the league and its revenue sharing plan over the past few years and an individual owner losing tens of millions of dollars every season. The alternative? The most rabid, hockey-mad region in the world dying to spend their combined billions of disposable income on a new team in the Hamilton area.

And what does the marketing genius in charge of the NHL feel is the best thing to do in such circumstances? Why, try to pressure all parties involved to remain in the place where financial failure has taken place or... sell to someone who will move the team to another relatively small market in the US where an NHL team already failed many years ago. The chap who offered to pay well over market value and move the team to a location where it will instantly be one of the most financially stable franchises in the league is being accused of being disrespectful?

Of course, it's slightly more complicated than that, with a certain franchise in the vicinity of Hamilton that has just entered its fifth decade without winning a Cup determined to maintain a stranglehold on losing in the region. Still, it comes down to choosing ensured success with an existing population of millions of fans or probable failure as you try to force hockey into a disinterested location. Enough people want this within the league and together with an already willing buyer and countless fans, there is no good reason this shouldn't happen. It seems a few individuals only need to be liberated of their bizarre and unrealistic fixations.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Drugs in golf!!??

What a shocker! The faux outrage from Retief Goosen will certainly convince many that Gary Player's comments were way out of line...

Any sport where there are millions of dollars at stake will have its fair share of drug cheats. The very fact that the top performers, earners and endorsement leaders in numerous sports (baseball, cycling and track and field, for example) eventually go on to be outed as brazen cheaters jacked up on steroid cocktails is motivation enough for many. That they may be one day caught is irrelevant. Their dreams will have been realized and their hundreds of millions stashed.

That the athletes who end up as professional golfers somehow hold themselves to a higher standard is laughable. Where does this supposed iron-clad resistance to temptation come from? The pretension surrounding the game?

There are always indignant outbursts from people like Goosen whenever subsequent sports come under the inevitable rumblings regarding drug cheats. It only makes those with insider info and an axe to grind all the more likely to bring evidence to the forefront sooner rather than later.

Universiade 2007

The world university games are coming to Thailand in a few weeks. I have posted a few pictures of the preparations on the main page:

It should be interesting for a few reasons. The chance to see some top level amateur sports being played is the main attraction. Also, seeing if the games can be pulled off without any major problems. I'm a bit skeptical about the preparations and the logistics of the whole 10 day event. I truly hope they do put on a good show and that it is a success, but from what I see around the campus and what I've witnessed here in the past 5 years, I have my doubts.

Oh, the fact there will be hundreds of fit, university aged women gathering here from around the world is something to look forward to as well!

Sunday 8 July 2007

Burke and Bertuzzi: Together Again

A championship winning coach or general manager takes on a new aura of respect, a cachet that makes all his moves and pronouncements seem worthy. Just as with successful businessmen, people have a habit of casually waving aside any questionable tactics that helped them get to the top.

There's always been a kind of smug defiance from Brian Burke regarding the whole Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident in Vancouver a few years ago. Despite the fact that Burke and Bertuzzi will be in civil court one day regarding the whole nasty affair, or perhaps partly because of it, Burke has brought the big forward into the Anaheim Ducks' fold for the 2007/08 season. Burke tries to avoid discussing the Moore incident as much as possible. When forced to, he becomes abrasive and agitated. While he tries to avoid talking about it directly, it's clear he feels a sort of bond with Bertuzzi for having gone through the wringer of media lynchings and public outrage together.

Bertuzzi, on the other hand, has never been the same since. Having his psyche ripped open for the whole world to dance around inside his head has left him appearing, at times, a barely functioning automaton. As a hockey player, he hasn't fared much better. Shipped out of Vancouver with that most dreaded of stigmas, "the locker-room cancer," a flop at the Olympics, little success in Florida and not much better results in Detroit.

As much as a person may despise him for his actions, it appears Bertuzzi has suffered emotionally, will continue to do so and no doubt will take a huge and well deserved financial hit. It's clear he has not forgiven himself for an incident that, by degrees, was barely outside of standard conduct in the NHL. However, Burke may just be able to convince Bertuzzi of the benefits of shamelessly moving on at all costs for the good it can bring to himself and others. If Bertuzzi can learn the trick that separates those who put trauma behind them to those who are forever defined by it, he may have a second chance at being an impact player in the NHL. If Burke can help him say goodbye to the person he once was, the dreams he once had and the way he viewed the world, it could be an interesting season for Bertuzzi. If not, it will be more fodder for those who will forever loathe Bertuzzi and secretly delight in having someone to so starkly rank themselves against.