Day Seven was, according to the ATHOC media chief Serafim Kotrosos, "Super Friday". Twenty-six sports in twenty-nine venues. "And we are ready," said Kotrosos to the great surprise and astonishment of everyone. But where are the spectators?
Shot upon television shot of pristine, empty, grandstands at sport after sport has been a major source of discomfort to the chieftains of the NBC Empire. Perhaps the most heartwarming moment of the first week of the Games came on Wednesday when the emperor of NBC Sports, Dick Ebersol, requested that the ATHOC officials start giving tickets away for free so that they could fill the grandstands. Ebersol was told more or less to get stuffed. An event worth of the NBC Kleenex Moment of the Day Award, surely.
According to figures issued by ATHOC late on Thursday night, 16 of Friday's sessions were sold out. A total of 75% of available tickets (190077 out of 252940) were sold. Yet the gold medal session for the women's weightlifting was only 32% sold. As 70s ABC cricket commentator Norman Blundell once said, "A huge crowd has missed a great day's action by turning out in such small numbers."
The judo finished on Friday night with (surprise surprise) Japan winning 8 out of 14 gold medals. The super-heavyweight champions were Maki Tsukada in the women's 78+, and Keiji Suzuki in the men's 100+. See the Agence France-Presse report of the day's judo proceedings.
Two female athletes were sent packing by the IOC on Friday for failing drug tests. Thingbaijam Sanamacha Chanu of India, who finished fourth in the 53kg weightlifting, tested positive for a banned diuretic. Among other things, she has been instructed to return to the IOC her commemorative diploma. Uzbek shot putter Olga Shchukina tested positive for anabolic agent Clenibuterol. Oops sorry, said Olga, I took some cough medicine. The Disciplinary Commission "appreciated Ms Shchukina's openness in admitting how the prohibited substance was found in her body", and kicked her out of the Games.
The day's Great Moment in Olympic Cynicism belongs to The Phelpster. Five gold medals under his belt, El Phelporama gave up his spot in Saturday's 4x100 medley relay final so that Ian Crocker. Awww shucks was the general reaction from the US media. Thing is, Phelps will score a medal for the medley relay anyway because he swam in the US team in the heats. Crocker, incidentally, has already outdone Phelps in the Athens Games with six gold medals.
The women's soccer semi-finals will be USA v Germany and Sweden v Brazil. The Matildas lost 2-1 to the Swedes, Brazil beat Mexico 5-0, and the USA beat Japan 2-1 (see the University of Florida Gators report). Germany beat Nigeria 2-1. I watched the last part of that game live, it was getting rather spiteful, and Nigerian fans were throwing beer bottles onto the running track towards the end of the game. Which begs a question: why were the spectators allowed to have beer bottles in the first place?
With the swimming carnival almost at an end, my attention turned to the Unofficial Pieter van den Hoogenband website (pietervdh.cjb.net). This is run by a 23 year-old girl from Perth named Caite, whose least favourite thing is "when the computer freezes and I haven't saved my work". Ah yes, what 'tis to have lived a full and exciting life! Anyway, she has this quizzical quote on the homepage:
Pieter's designated charity is the Kidney Foundation as it is a cause close to his heart.
What's close to his heart, the foundation or the kidney?
It's good to see the track and field under way, for me this is always the True Olympic Games. But there's one event that I think needs to be reinstated to the olympic roster (well, two including cricket). More about that shortly.