Dave Barry

We'd never win the name game

BY DAVE BARRY

The Olympic Games are not about winning or losing. The Olympic Games are about improving international friendship and understanding, by which I mean: winning.

Unfortunately, as I write these words, we are not winning. We usually win, which is why the Olympics are on television. But right now China, our new arch-rival, is beating us. Of course, they're getting gold medals in mutant events such as the 10-meter air pistol, which, if I understand it correctly without doing any research, basically means shooting a BB gun. Now I grant you that the BB gun is a fine tool for minor vandalism, but how can it be an Olympic sport? Why not Frisbee or lawn darts? Why not beer pong? We would KILL China in beer pong.

Another problem is that, in addition to China, our team is competing against a lot of smaller, noncelebrity nations, including, to name just a few that I personally never heard of, Comoros, Principe and Timor-Leste. I'm wondering how carefully the Olympic authorities checked these so-called ''nations'' out before letting them compete. I suspect that you and your friends could show up here in matching track suits and claim to be the team from, say, the Republic of Spaldoon, and they'd let you be in the Olympics, as long as you brought BB guns.

Speaking of interesting names: The winner of the gold medal in the women's 53kg weight-lifting event was a competitor from Thailand who lifted a total of 221 kgs, which, if you know anything about kgs, is a lot of them. According to China Daily, last year the woman changed her name because ''a Thai nun told her the new name would bring her good luck.'' Her old name was Chanpim Kautatian; her new name, which I am not making up, is: Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarak.

Those wacky Thai nuns! They are known pranksters. Although if I were you, I would not mention this to Prapawadee Jaroenrattanatarak, because she could crush your skull like a grape.

If there were an Olympic event for best names, Thailand would dominate the world. They have a men's badminton player named Poompat Sapkulchananart and a women's player named Porntip Buranapraseatsuk. I don't know if Poompat and Porntip are romantically involved, but they should be, and I for one intend to make every effort, as a journalist, to start that rumor.

I actually went out to watch the badminton competition, even though I have been trying not to let the Olympics interfere with my busy schedule of going to restaurants and tourist attractions. When I got to the stadium, Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia was just about to defeat Boonsak Ponsana of -- it goes without saying -- Thailand. (I saw no sign of Poompat or Porntip, but you know how those two lovebirds are about their privacy.)

The big match I saw was between Bao Chunlai, who is one of China's top men players, and Kevin Gordon of Guatemala. The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Bao, because (a) we are in China and (b) the entire population of Guatemala is smaller than the staff of the typical Beijing restaurant. There was a small group of cheering Guatemalans on hand, but they were mostly drowned out by the Chinese fans, who were chanting the traditional Chinese fight chant, which goes: ''Something! Something something!'' (Literally, ``Ref you suck!'')

The match was exciting for a while, but Bao ended up winning pretty easily. Badminton is another sport where China wins medals and we don't. We need to do something about this. I mean, it's all well and good that we have Michael Phelps dominating the swimming events, but we should also have a national plan for winning medals in the fringe sports. Fortunately, I have such a plan: We should enter Michael Phelps in all the events. I mean ALL the events: track, archery, volleyball, horse-riding, women's field hockey, everything. We should also use him extensively in the Winter Olympics. That's how dominant he is.

Of course, it's too late to follow that plan this year. For now, we should root for the team we have. We should also remember that the Olympics are just getting started; there's plenty of exciting competition ahead. Tonight, for example, I'm representing the Republic of Spaldoon in the men's 10-meter beer pong.

©2008 Dave Barry

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