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What have you done for me lately?

The answer, of course, is not much. Been busy working on annual contest entries BS.

I do see a trend forming. The first two weeks of every January will be spent trying to figure out if the previous year was worth it visually. Or to quote Pietsch again, “Is there any there there?”

I just read what I wrote this time last year and I have the exact same feelings about my contest submissions for this year.

Thanks to all my super talented friends who helped me process 1,713 select images. My hope is that I haven’t wasted your time.

In the end, I took a little of everything I learned from them and wrapped them up into my final edit. Again, this may not be the winning formula, but it is my formula – and what I want to showcase from my body of work.

The first series is my entry for Sports Portfolio. The second is a series of images from Beijing during the Olys.

Part of the hallucinatory opening ceremony for the Beijing Paralympic Games includes hundreds of colorful, imp-like creatures moving en masse across the floor of the Bird’s Nest.

At Exxxotica – an adult festival held each year in Miami – a pro wrester preparing to enter the ring takes a peep at the surreal scene of strolling sex workers.

Members of the CTDL (Cardboard Tube Dueling League) fight on the battlefield of Gas Works Park in Seattle. The individual winner will receive a swanky, custom-made cardboard tube. Losers risk bruised egos and annoying papercuts.

Professional pillow fighters follow a code of ethics. Unlike in a cat fight, biting, scratching and hair pulling are strictly forbidden – and could result in suspension by the Pillow Fight League.

Students celebrate with the girls basketball team from Jefferson High after the top-ranked Democrats rallied to topple Hermiston in the Oregon state championship game.

Taking place at the end of January in rural England, Tough Guy consists of a cross country run followed by an assault course. Running the course involves risking cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones. There have yet to be any recorded deaths.

A break in action at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials allows future Olympic hopefuls to have a run of the place at Hayward Field. Unfortunately for some youngsters – and their parents – start times can interfere with a normally scheduled nap.

Football 5-a-side – one of the more impressive events at the Paralympic Games in Beijing – is an adaptation of soccer for athletes with visual impairments, including blindness. Unfortunately for those players riding the bench, this is not an ideal spectator sport.

Golfers take to the streets to participate and celebrate World Urban Golf Day. The sport involves tennis balls and beaten-up golf clubs on a course off the beaten track, er, path.

The Fiery Holes section of the Tough Guy challenge involves passing over a series of ice-cold ditches in a course engulfed by smoke from burning bales of hay. Nobody said being ‘tough’ was easy.

For nearly 50 years, hockey fans in Detroit have been throwing octopi onto the ice after a big win by the Red Wings. In South Florida, fans will toss a rat after a big goal. And once a year in Portland, fans of the Winter Hawks toss thousands of teddy bears into the rink after their team’s first goal. The stuffed toys are then collected and handed out to local children’s charities for the holiday season.

***

STORY SUMMARY: Since 2001 when Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympic Games, China has been preparing for its big chance to show the world that it has arrived as a global power.

An airplane pilot takes a photo of a colleague standing next to Huanhuan, one of the Olympic mascots greeting travelers at the Beijing airport. The number of foreign tourists visiting China in 2008 fell by two million, despite a much-anticipated tourist boom as a result of Beijing’s hosting of the Olympic Games. The main reason for that was new, tighter visa restrictions created after protesters disrupted the Olympic torch relays in Paris and London.

Most Chinese have been looking forward to a successful Summer Olympics in Beijing, one that will improve China’s image and result in victory on the playing fields, according to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. However, that same study reveals that nearly one-third of those questioned said that too much attention was being paid on the Olympics.

China has 1.3 billion people, and perhaps more importantly, a government that sees sports as a vehicle “to affirm its strength,” says Shi Fenghua, vice principal at Shichahai Sports School. Shichahai is one of 221 elite, state-funded training schools in China. Here, 600 kids as young as 6 years old live and train in a variety of sports, including gymnastics. The school estimates that about a dozen of its former students were representing China in the 2008 Olympics.

Security for the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics is considered top priority by the Chinese government, which fears having its grand celebration spoiled by protestors and terrorists. As a result, the general public is not allowed on the Olympic Green – where half of the competition venues are located – leading to accusations that the Chinese authorities are squeezing the joy out of the Games through overzealous policing.

One of about 75,000 Chinese volunteers sweeps a sand court during a beach volleyball match as cheerleaders – many of them trained by their American counterparts – entertain the crowd. Olympic organizers and volunteers continually tried their best to make the Games as perfect as possible – and to do so with a smile. “Fun? I’m not sure the Games will be fun,” said volunteer John Marshall Wu. “At times I’ll be bored. At times I’ll be tired. At all times, though, I’ll be happy.”

A young girl sports an authentic Olympic souvenir T-shirt. During the Games, Beijing cracked down on street vendors peddling counterfeit products. Many of the Beijing shops that regularly sell pirated goods told regular customers to return after the Olympics ended, when the government would lessen its grip and businesses could operate as before.

The place to purchase Olympic souvenirs is at one of the few government-run stores. On a busy day, hundreds of customers would wait hours outside in long lines simply to enter the “Super Store” on the Olympic Green. There was more fun in store later: long lines for the cash registers.

Chinese weightlifter Cao Lei collects herself prior to winning a gold medal in the 75kg division. Her country grabbed its first-ever Olympic gold at the 1984 Los Angeles games, when the Chinese team took home 15 gold medals. In 2008, China dominated the field with 51 gold medals, followed in second place by the United States with 36.

Beijing launched a crackdown on ticket scalping for the sold-out Olympics, threatening to detain serious offenders for up to four years at re-education labor camps. That threat has not deterred many scalpers, who often ask up to ten times the ticket value. Local media reported that a single ticket for the Opening Ceremony was going for as much as $70,000.

While most sporting events are sold-out, noticeably large numbers of empty sections remain at each venue. Many sections are occupied by Chinese workers in yellow T-shirts – “cheer squads” – deployed by Chinese Olympic organizers to create atmosphere and disguise blocks of unused seats. Meanwhile, overseas visitors are relegated to buying tickets from scalpers outside the venue at highly-inflated prices.

In preparation for the Games, Beijing removed many eyesores from public view. Several old villages were demolished. Rundown buildings received a fresh coat of paint for the exterior. The few slums that have not been touched up or destroyed are hidden from view by billboards displaying green pastures and blue skies.

Hundreds of millions of television viewers across the world saw China for the first time in August, or at least they saw a new side of a huge nation of 1.3 billion people. Meanwhile, the Beijing Olympics spurred deep national pride in many ordinary Chinese citizens.

  • Scott Strazzante - January 17, 2009 - 12:12 pm

    I remember liking 3 of those photos ;)

    Reply

  • Sol - January 17, 2009 - 1:14 pm

    I think I’m going to be punished by the judging Gods for straying from proven talent like yours, buddy. Just felt like that edit didn’t say everything I wanted to say about sports, for what little that’s worth.

    I will say this: those 3 you liked, well I liked them. too. And more so after your approval.

    Reply

  • Ian MacLellan - January 31, 2009 - 7:52 pm

    I’ve had this open in my tabs for like two weeks… I kept meaning to come back and comment and loved coming back and looking through the photos again. I’ve got to say for the weird sports category, you win. forever.

    Reply

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