Saturday, August 16, 2008

Watching the Olympics in Europe

The following article is from our European correspondent, Hoosierfan, as he lives in Europe during this summer.

Moving to another country, especially when you don’t know the language, is a little bit like walking out of a atomic bomb bunker and being in the future. It also feels a bit like the awful movie Encino man, where you wake up after being frozen for a thousand years.

For example – take a trip to the grocery store, where you have to have a 1 Euro deposit, inserted into the handle of the cart in order to unlock the chains on it, and you have to purchase each plastic bag for your groceries. Plastic and glass bottles all have a 20 cent deposit, and since I have no idea how to return them, I just give them to the homeless.

I’ve been attempting to follow the Olympics on Eurosport TV. It’s really irritating when they dub over the English interviews in German. Even the broadcasters actually speak English, since its an EU-wide channel – but they dub over them in German. Sometimes, they don’t show actual races, they just show the last 3 seconds of a race, or they show these “highlights” of fans, each shown in 1-2 second clips, separated by a really irritating graphic and sound effect. They also love to show post-race celebrations, and medal ceremonies, without actually showing the races. It’s really horrible – there is just no good way to describe it.

I attempted to go to a sports bar to watch the U.S. – Greece basketball game. I was told that the only game they were showing is Lithuania – Russia. They also were showing the women’s swimming preliminaries of the 800m (where Katie Hoff and the other girl didn’t qualify), the 200 fly, and all kinds of other really boring irrelevant swimming prelims.

Speaking of pointless preliminaries shown on TV: props to Stany Kempompo Ngangola, of the Congo, who finished seconds behind the other 50M swimmers. Ngangola finished at 35.19, which is, I estimate, a good 10 seconds slower than decent U.S. high school swimmers, and a good 14 seconds off of the top preliminary times. Do the dictators of these countries get up and say: "All right folks – can anyone swim? We need someone for the Olympics!" I also really wonder who the genius is at Eurosport who decides they should show guys thrashing around in the water, practically drowning, rather than showing a handball match, a soccer game, or the U.S. - Greece basketball game.

I also wonder why do the swimmers, after they are finished, duck their mouths into the water, and gargle pool water that they know all the swimmers pee in? Michael Phelps – I’m watching you.

Germany is a place of very different standards. First of all, they love sausage. And I’m not just talking about blood sausage, veal sausage, pork sausage, or curry pork sausage. Germans love to be naked. Whether it is frolicking naked at the park… or going to co-ed naked saunas (apparently bathing suits in saunas are forbidden!)… or taking their clothes off in clubs… they really don’t mind being naked. For example, when going to play ultimate Frisbee, Germans, who travel by bike, will arrive in jeans and a shirt. They proceed to get completely naked, changing into their athletic wear. When they’re done, they will get completely naked again, and then change back into jeans – just to ride their bikes home. Apparently, it’s not OK to be wearing dirty, sweaty clothes in public (even while riding a bike or taking the subway), but it is completely OK (perhaps even encouraged) to be naked. Anyhow, coincidentally, Germans all think Americans are very prudish. I've been told that the nudist culture really got going once the East Germans joined up. The further east you go, the more they love to be naked.

The other bizarre thing is that I see so many European men wearing purses, wearing eyeliner, wearing Capri pants, eating sausage, and frolicking naked… and it's funny because in America, there's a greater chance they would be considered gay. But here, it appears that wearing Capri pants and having a purse is just part of being European.

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