“The Fastest Race Ever Run”

That’s a headline piece from the Economist. An excerpt:

Nate Silver, a blogger for the New York Times and sports statistician, points out that only five world records in track and field were broken in Beijing out of 47 events. Even that was a decent tally: the previous four Olympics saw a total of just seven new world bests, compared with a whopping 22 world records in swimming. Mr Silver attributes this disparity to economic inequality. “An athlete with the perfect swimmer’s build,” he writes, “and a world-class work ethic would still stand little chance of competing in this year’s games if he happened to be born in a poor nation like Cameroon or Panama—he might never have gotten into a pool, let alone an Olympic-size one.”

Running, in contrast, is more democratic […]

Read the rest here. I’m not a big fan of the Olympics, just because of the nationalistic impulses it taps into. Why shouldn’t these sports become completely separated from the state?

With that obligatory libertarian statement out of the way, I can’t help but admire the feats accomplished by some of these athletes. A lot of hard work goes into training for the Olympics, and I think that pushing the state out of the way would help to reduce the obvious inequalities associated with national competitions. Did anybody see the US basketball team play Nigeria?

If sports were separated from the state we’d see more games like the NBA: very competitive, cosmopolitan and lucrative (unlike the bloodbath between the US and Nigeria).

Anyway, I like it when individuals from poor states win big in the Olympics. Nothing like seeing an underdog win, especially an underdog with a name like Usain Bolt!

Update: I spoke too soon about the level of competitive play at London’s basketball tourney. Check out this piece in Grantland about the semis between Spain v. Russia and the US v. Argentina. And ESPN has a brief recap of the Russia v. Spain game. I’ll keep my eye out for a more passionate recap, though. Spottieottiedopalicious!

Update 2: Spain’s leading daily newspaper, El Pais, reports on the game with Russia. The Russian press spilled a lot of ink on their team’s quarterfinal win over Lithuania, and not so much ink on their semifinal loss to Spain…

What? You don’t surf with Google’s Chrome browser? I hope you have fun looking for some sort of translating software instead having Chrome do it for you on the spot…