Search This Blog

Saturday, November 08, 2003

The 2004 Athens Olympic Games

Yahoo! Sports has an AP story about Friday's quarterfinal loss by the US national baseball team in the Olympic Qualifying tournament.

Because the tournament became single elimination after the pool play, and because only the top 2 teams qualify for the Olympics, the US will not be represented in the 2004 Athens games.

The US won the 2000 gold medal.

Fans who watched the World Series might remember the announcers for Fox speculating about whether Roger Clemens might pitch in next year's Olympics after retiring from the majors. Clemens will not be winning an Olympic medal in Athens.

The US had been undefeated (3-0) in pool play and the team lost to Mexico who had been 0-3 in pool play. Why bother with a pool if a team with zero wins can still win the championship, you might ask? Well, Mexico was apparently replacing the Bahamas, which failed to show up for its game!

The tournament's structure is certainly flawed. Major league baseball plays 162 game regular seasons because it takes a lot of games to determine baseball's best teams. In a small sample of games, even outstandings teams can lose a game or two or three.

Just over halfway this past season, my KC Royals had the biggest lead in baseball (7 games, as I recall) at the All Star break. Because the Minnesota Twins had the best AL record after that dividing point, KC watched the playoffs on TV.

Of course, mlb's playoff system is not perfect either -- even if it manages to get the best teams into it. The last two World Series were won by "wild card" teams (and 3 of the last 7 or 8), which by definition were not as good as the first place team in their division. By comparison, wild cards have rarely won the Super Bowl. In football, home team advantage makes a much bigger difference. Plus, in baseball, a good start by a pitcher on a given day can make a huge difference in determinining a game's outcome.

The other Olympics-related story for yesterday concerned the visit to Athens by FBI Director Robert Mueller. Given the new concern with terrorism and the past history of violence at the games (Munich 1972 and Atlanta 1996) many analysts have great security concerns about the Greek games. Back in August, The Guardian quoted a security expert who said Athens would be a "peach of a target."

So far, the visit has not been reassuring. Mueller's visit was marked by several bomb explosions at downtown banks.

Time Europe had a fascinating story about Olympics security in August 2002. Mostly it retold the story of the Munich terror, but it very strongly suggested that it's almost impossible to secure the event against determined terrorists.

No comments:

Post a Comment