Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Sports of the 2016 Olympic Games - Official Power Rankings, Part Two

Last timeWe came up with an Official Power Rankings criteria for Olympic sports, and determined there are either 39, 41 or 42 sports, before duly counting down from 41 to 25.

This time: The rest of the Sports of the 2016 Olympic Games Official Power Rankings.

24. Shooting
The sport of shooting seems a bit archaic, considering that in the developed world (excluding the United States) guns are generally frowned upon and are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. But it's come a long way since live pigeon shooting at the 1900 Olympics.

23. Tennis
The reintroduction of tennis at the 1988 Olympics finally marked the start of the modern, professional Olympics after decades of eroding amateurism. There is a lot of criticism of tennis as an Olympic sport, mainly on the grounds that nobody playing tennis cares about a gold medal. But the players mostly show up, and while the event may lack prestige compared to the grand slams, it provides an audience and commercial opportunities for the Olympics most other sports cannot.

22. Badminton
21. Table Tennis
The long list of Olympic sports is still largely Eurocentric - that is, European countries or their former colonial settlements dominate most events. Badminton and table tennis somewhat correct the balance. Both sports are huge in Asia, and this is reflected in their high score for popularity.

Imagine this but more blue.
20. Judo
Competition Judo is the martial art involving throws instead of punches and kicks. It was introduced in 1964, when Tokyo hosted, but its participation extends far beyond Asia.

19. Hockey
It's like ice hockey, but played on astroturf.

18. Fencing
Also known as sword-fighting. This is one of the five sports to have appeared at every Olympics. 

17. Football
The only even bigger than the Olympics is the FIFA World Cup. This power relationship is how the men's event is restricted to squads of just three senior players, with the rest under the age of 23.

16. Greco-Roman Wrestling
15. Freestyle Wrestling
Where's Hulk Hogan? lol

14. Handball
Just about the only sport Australia never competes in, which is odd, because it looks like something we'd be good at. Quite a popular sport across continental Europe, in Arabic-speaking countries, and with South American and East Asian countries also competitive.

13. Water Polo
This is handball with drownings.

12. Boxing
Boxing now allows professionals, although I don't think we'll see too many anytime soon. Scores well on tradition and inclusiveness, not so well on popularity, as a sport where the aim is to punch your opponent senseless can be polarising.

11. Archery
Archery seems like a classic Olympic sport, based on the ancient activities of hunting wild boar and shooting an apple off a persons head for kicks. Which makes it surprising that it was pulled from the Olympics in 1908 and not restored until 1972.
Archery in 2016.

10. Road Cycling
Road cycling is approximately 58 hours of boredom followed by a five minute scramble to the finish line.

9. Weightlifting
Do you even lift bro?

Since the dawn of time man has attempted to lift really heavy things and hold them in the air for a designated period of time until two lights flash. The lights make it a surprsingly dramatic spectator sport. 

8. Diving
It's jumping into a swimming pool. From different heights. Sometimes with another person jumping beside you.

7. Rowing
It's like canoe sprint except you go backwards. It is a key part of the lives of privately educated white people, so it fits in beautifully with the traditional rich amateur ethos of the Olympics. Events start really early, which with the timezone difference means it's just about the only thing you'll see live if you keep normal hours.

6. Volleyball
Even as a member of the 1997 high school junior boys championship winning team, I was a little surprised with how high volleyball got on the rankings. But it ticks all the boxes. It's a globally popular sport with lots of nations competing that has the Olympics as its main competition. It's also quite good to watch.

5. Basketball
Scores high on account of being my favourite Olympic sport to watch. If you discount the fact that the United States are almost guaranteed to win both golds, it's super competitive, even in the qualification stage. I could see Australia finishing anywhere from 2nd to 9th in the men's event. 

4. Artistic Gymnastics
This is a major focus in the United States and Europe for the first week of the Olympics. Artistic gymnastics has been at every Olympics, and only loses points because of its reach (not really including athletes from Africa, South and Central America, most of Asia) and the fact I don't really want to watch girls do flips to music and cry when they don't stick the landing. Nor do I want to see this happen.

3. Track Cycling
The track cycling has everything. The cat and mouse drama of Sprint, the sheer speed of Pursuit, and crazy stuff like Madison and Keirin, with origins of promoters developing events to maximise paid attendances and gambling revenue.

2. Swimming
The main event for Australia really. Dominates prime time in week one, along with the gymnasts.

My only criticism of the sport is that there are a lot of swimming events. Michael Phelps has 21 gold medals and rising (it was 19 when I finished my draft). It would be impossible for, say, Usain Bolt to ever get 21 gold medals. Because they don't have 100m running races for different strides, like running backwards, or with your legs flailing sideways. Nor do they have 50m races. Or medley relays involving other athletic events.

1. Athletics
The most popular Olympic sport, dominating the second week coverage. The appeal of athletics is its simplicity. For the most part, athletic events are basic activities like running fast or throwing far. These are ancient competitions, requiring minimal equipment and expense. The whole world competes and the whole world can watch and easily understand the action.   

In theory, anyone can grow up to be an athletics world champion. In practice, genetics and elite sports funding and sometimes drugs play a significant role.

It's coming right for us!
There are only two flaws with athletics.

Firstly, I worry that one day a javelin throw is going to harpoon a middle-distance runner or spectator in the premium seats.

Secondly, race walking. This is a bizarre sport akin to trying to whisper the loudest. It looks unnatural and idiotic, has complicated rules requiring highly subjective judgment, and basically everyone cheats anyway.

But not even walking is enough to prevent athletics from being the number one sport of the Olympic Games.

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