Olympics

The Olympics, Part II: Inspiring Or Discouraging?

There was a lot of complaining – justifiable complaining – about the media coverage of the recent Rio Olympics. The coverage was sexist; a television commentator attributed the success of swimming gold medalist Katinka Hosszu to her husband’s coaching, and a Tweet referred to bronze medalist trapshooter Corey Cogdell not by name but as the “wife of a [Chicago] Bears lineman”. The coverage was ageist; 56-year-old coxswain Lesley Thompson-Willey, competing in her eighth Olympics, was characterized as “old enough to be the competitors’ mother” in a story headlined “Too old for the Olympics”? And then there was the NBC network’s chief marketing officer for Olympic coverage, who got roundly criticized for claiming that women, the primary viewers of the Olympics on TV, were “not particularly sports fans” and “less interested in the result and more interested in the journey”.

But it wasn’t just the media coverage of the Olympics that had problems. The Olympic Games themselves have very big problems, to the point where (more…)

What Skating Judging can Learn from Workplace Performance Evaluation

At every Winter Olympics, it seems, there are complaints about figure skating judging. Occasionally those complaints lead to something more – as in 2002, when a second gold medal was awarded in the pairs event because of alleged bias in the judging. But usually the complaints are along the lines of “The judging was unfair because my favourite skater lost”, or “The judging was unfair because I didn’t understand it” – that second one often coming from sportswriters and commentators who don’t regularly follow figure skating, or who can’t be bothered to learn how the judging system works.

At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, there were complaints about the judging in every one of the figure skating events, including allegations of fixed results in at least two of the events.  The purpose of this post isn’t to argue about those results. Instead, I want to look at the judging system itself, and analyze it using the model of an effective workplace performance evaluation system. I’m using this model for two reasons: (more…)

How Latvian Mythology Contributed to the Olympic Silver in Bobsleigh

Fascinating insights from the designer of the graphics on Latvia’s Olympic bobsleds. And how great is it that all that attention to detail helped the Latvian bobsled team win a medal!!

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These past Olympics have been mind-blowing for the Latvians. A very small country, with the third most medals per capita of all participating countries, Latvia also managed to induce partial heart attacks to 35million Canadians with the show-stopping Canada vs. Latvia hockey game, drawing all eyes on Latvia (similarly to the last summer Olympics when Latvia won gold in men’s Volleyball – “Wait, do they even have summer?”)

Edit: not gold in volleyball, bet bronze in beach volleyball, beating the US team in the quarter finals. Thanks to the readers that spotted that mistake!

Bobsleigh Ornaments

A satisfying end to the Olympic run was when team Latvia’s bobsleigh team nabbed Silver on the last day. The bobsleighists had been a favourite and everyone had hopes for the team. They didn’t let us down, and just missed gold by a sliver.

But my rooting for the Latvian Bobsleigh team has a backstory, and…

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Activism: It’s Not Just for Labour Day

It’s Labour Day weekend, and as many of my colleagues ruefully note, this is the one time every year when labour and union issues are guaranteed to get some attention in the news. And it’s usually mentioned in this news coverage that unions’ activism doesn’t just benefit their own members, but also improves society at large. When I teach industrial relations, I always talk about how workplaces don’t have things like minimum wages and regulated working hours because employers woke up one morning and voluntarily decided to give these things to their employees. Those things are required by law – and while unions were among the activists fighting to get those laws passed, the unions wanted better working conditions not just for their own members, but for everyone.

I’ve been thinking about this kind of activism in a very roundabout way recently, because of (more…)