Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 11 a.m. ET

Beijing Olympics 2008

Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 20, 2008; 11:00 AM

Washington Post sports writer Les Carpenter was online Wednesday, Aug. 20 at 11 a.m. ET from Beijing to take your questions about the Summer Olympics.

A transcript follows.

Full Coverage: 2008 Olympics


Les Carpenter: Hello, greetings from Beijing where the time is 11 pm and I am sitting in a press room at the Beijing Workers Gymnasium trying to write a story about the great machine that remains Cuban boxing.

These last two weeks I've been in what we call "the Olympic bubble" meaning I have seen little of those things I am not covering. Therefore I know little about swimming, track or gymnastics. I can't imagine what else anyone would want to talk about. But lets give it a shot.


Bethesda, Md.: Do all of the athletes have to stay in the Olympic Village? Are there rules in the Olympic Village to ensure that it is quiet at night and the athletes can get good sleep? Do athletes continue to stay in the Olympic Village after their events are over?

Les Carpenter: A good question, Bethesda. Almost all the athletes stay in the vilage -- there are a few exceptions, such as the men's basketball team and maybe some top tennis players. Usually everyone else stays in the village. Most of them enjoy it too, they find the experience to be something like living in college dorms on the craziest football weekends of the year. Apparently it's pretty lively.

No one has ever said they didn't get good sleep and each sport has its own curfews. But there's also a lot going on late at night as you may recall from the Gary Russell, Jr. story. He went out for a run at 1:30 in the morning and was working out in the lobby of his building just before he passed out.


Washington, D.C.: When you publish "medal count," how do you count medals won by teams? In other words, when four swimmers win a relay race, does that count as one medal or four medals in your tally?

Les Carpenter: we already have an answer for this...

_______________________ From Jon, regarding the medal count question: "The medal count is provided by our good friends at Stats LLC, but I am pretty sure it's one medal for a relay team. Just like one medal for the baseball team or whatever."

Les Carpenter:...and here it is


Arlington, Va.: So Bolt broke the WR in the 200. Was he showboating?

Les Carpenter: I just saw it a few minutes ago here on a television they have in the press workroom. It was amazing, probably more impressive than the 100. As he turned the corner he just exploded, much like he did the other night. Television had a great shot from the roof of the Birds Nest, which hopefully you will get to see tonight (more on that in a moment), you can see these tiny sprinters running along the track when suddenly this brilliant yellow jersey just shoots away from the pack. You see him running all by himself with everyone a good 10 feet or more behind him.

And no he did not showboat. He ran straight through, though he did some dances with the Jamaica flag draped across his shoulders. Of course he also did his famous thunderbolt pose


Washington, D.C.: Any idea of NBC is going to broadcast sync swimming live?

Les Carpenter: I'm going to assume it won't because I believe the synch swimming freestyle is in the afternoon here which would make it in the very early morning back home.

_______________________ U.S.'s Solo Out to Beat Brazil, Not Her Past


I-270, Exit 1: Thanks for the article on Hope Solo and the US Women's soccer team. How does the rest of the team feel about the final? Redemption? Just another match?

Les Carpenter: I find this women's team fascinating because it is very different from the group we're so accustomed to seeing. The players on this team are rather chippy, they know they are unknown and not nearly as loved as their predecessors and, of course, that bothers them. I get the sense they are feeding off those negative feelings. Strangely, they also seem more cohesive since their best scorer, Abby Wambach went down just before the Olympics.

So it's hard to get a read on exactly what they think about this game. I don't get the sense they have revenge in mind as much as they just want to win a gold medal and prove to the folks back home that they can be America's darlings too. Hope Solo did a great job of deflecting the controversy from last year's Brazil game and channel it into those same feelings of unity and togetherness.

If I had to guess, I'd say they're a little relieved to not have Wambach on the field right now. Her absence has allowed the rest of them to rise a little more.


DC: No live coverage of the mens 200m final?! Are you kidding me! NBC must be stopped.

Les Carpenter: really? Not even on CNBC? Or whatever they are showing back there? I understand the need to generate ratings with primetime coverage but everyone is going to know what happened anyway. This race was really remarkable, Bolt just kept pulling away faster and faster. It's something to see. Hopefully NBC will let it be seen before evening in Washington.


NBC analysts: Hi Les -- thank you for taking my question. I don't know if you watch much of NBC's coverage, but if you do, who do think is an outstanding analyst? My vote is for Cynthia Potter and diving...I feel like I actually learn something from her when I watch. On the other side, I feel like the gymnastics crew (Al, Elfi, Tim) get a little too hysterical sometimes. What do you think?

Les Carpenter: I'm sorry, part of my Olympic bubble has kept me from all of the Olympic coverage. My wife keeps calling me from back home complaining about how NBC only shows Americans and seems to have forgotten there is a whole other world out there. I can't comment. I just don't know. We have a computer set up in our office at the Main Press Center and it constantly has Channel 4 on, but it's too far away from me and I usually don't have time to sit and watch it.


Washington, D.C.: You've been covering boxing and must be aware of the controversy over the scoring system. Is it as bad as it seems? And what can be done to fix it?

Les Carpenter: Oh my lord it is horrible. You sit here watching these fights are are CERTAIN a fighter has landed not one but three or four punches and you see nothing appear on the scoreboard. Then someone will fall down and that person will get a point. It makes no sense and AIBA knows it's a disaster. I'm sure there will be changes after the Olympics.

But then again boxing is boxing. You have to love a sport where the head of judging holds a press conference and his first words are "I can't definitively say our judges aren't favoring Chinese fighters."

Some advocate video judging. That would seem to make some sense. It would be easier to score a fight if you can actually see replays but I suspect that has all sorts of obvious problems attached as well -- most significantly a long lag time between the fight and the results. There is a concern AIBA has too many old judges who can not grasp this system of quickly pushing buttons when a boxer lands a punch. It says it is training much younger new judges.


Silver Spring, Md.: I never thought I would say this, but after your article this morning, I can't wait to see the synchronized swimming event. In the Pool, a Thing of Beauty: For U.S. Synchronized Swimmers, It's Anything but Routine

Les Carpenter: Well thank you. I must admit I never expected to ever tell a fellow writer as I did the other day: "sorry I can't have lunch with you I have to get over to that synchronized swimming practice."

That said, I have seen the routine -- and believe me I am no synchronized swimming expert, or even really know what's going on -- but it is a pretty wild routine.


Washington, D.C.: Are these your first Olympics? How has it compared to your expectations?

Les Carpenter: My first summer games. I covered Turin as well.

I always imagined the Olympics would be the greatest collection of wonderful stories a writer could ever find. Friends would go to the Olympics and then write these beautiful pieces about people you had never heard of in your life, with tales so improbable you couldn't believe they were true. I've found it isn't quite that easy here. There are plenty of stories -- and good stories -- but you still have to work to find them. They don't find you.

The mixed zone can be a horrible experience. Basically athletes, after all competitions, are forced to walk a maze of metal barriers while we stand on the other side and try to get them to stop and ask questions. I suppose it's the easiest way to do things but it can be tedious. Some mixed zones -- soccer for instance -- are crowded and terrible places to be. Others, like synchronized swimming, are pretty empty.

I do have to tell one funny story. When I went to do the interview with Stephan Miermont, the synch swimming choreographer, very strict Olympic rules prohibited me from going into a space reserved for athletes and coaches and he couldn't come into one for journalists. So basically we met in a wide open lounge area at the Water Cube that was separated by a red piece of tape like you would see in a line at the bank. We had to pull up two chairs -- he on one side, me on the other and speak across the tape in this otherwise giant, empty space.


Washington, D.C.: Are athletes who don't compete until later in the games allowed to show up for the opening ceremonies and just hang out in the Olympic Village, sightsee, and watch other events until they compete? Or does the IOC coordinate arrival and departure times of athletes to reduce expenses and crowding?

Les Carpenter: No athletes are allowed to stay in the village. They can also remain after they have been eliminated. many choose to go home when they are done but that is not a requirement.


Introductory Sport?: Hey Les, doesn't the host nation get to 'introduce' a new sport at the Olympics? If that still holds, what did the Chineses pick? Also, what is your favorite 'weird' competition? The don't have power tidly winks, yet, do they?

Les Carpenter: I am sorry to say I don't know the answer to your first question. Perhaps somebody else does. I am not aware of any new competitons but please don't hold me to it.

There's been a few head scratchers here but I have to say I was overwhelmed the first time I walked into the table tennis venue and walked into the press section near the top of the gym. Down below were eight tennis tables, all with matches and little white balls going back and forth. It was overwhelming. How the crowd could follow this is beyond me. Maybe I'm getting old.


Men's Volleyball: Hi Les -- thanks for your coverage of coach Hugh McCutcheon after his in-laws were attacked and his father-in-law killed by that guy with the knife. Has there been any follow-up about the attacker, and how is McCutcheon and family doing?

Les Carpenter: I have not heard anything in the last few days. McCutcheon has been terrific in his dealings with us - very understanding of our need to ask questions that would rather not face.

The last I heard the family had gone back to Minnesota and was trying to put the pieces back together. His mother in law is still recovering from cuts and stab wounds. It sounds like she is improving significantly but that she had some very serious wounds.


Takoma Park, D.C.: Oh wow - I just read your column about the synchronized swimming routine, and now I can't wait, either!! It sounds amazing. Yay for innovation, eh?

Les Carpenter: Thanks. What little I understand of synchronized swimming itt seems this is very innovative.


Arlington, Va.: How much does the US Women's team miss Wambach?

Les Carpenter: Its really a good question. I get this strange feeling from the women on the team that they seem relieved she is not here. Then again, it is just a feeling. As I said earlier, other players are starting to emerge and their games are developing at a faster rate. But I think sometimes when you have one big superstar that persons' personality can be so oversized it becomes a strain on the others.

Again, this is just a feeling but I've asked around to writers who spend a lot more time than me around that team and they seem to think there is something to this thought.


Omaha, NE: Thanks for the great coverage.

Since Phelps is sooo dominating, are there any sentences about him that include the word 'doping'? His endurance seems otherworldly.

Les Carpenter: For the obvious reason, there is no evidence that he is. It's impossible for anyone to make that allegation without proof. That said, there have been some stories on all the broken world records in swimming that have at least thrown doping out there as a reason, along with the new swimsuits and deeper pool.


village question: Wait, I don't understand your answer: " No athletes are allowed to stay in the village. They can also remain after they have been eliminated."

They aren't allowed to stay in the village? Isn't that what the village is for? Is there a word missing somewhere?

Les Carpenter: oops, it's almost midnight here. Some things get a little sloppy.

What I meant to say is that athletes can stay in the village the whole Olympics whether or not they are competing at the time. If someone's event isn't until the last weekend, they are allowed to spend the whole two weeks in the village.


Downtown DC: Do you have any pull with to get them to stop putting results of events on their home page during the day? They're ruining the evening viewing for those of us who don't want to know in advance that Bolt set a record in the 200, or that Shawn Johnson won a gold medal, or that Lolo Jones didn't win her race. It's unbelievable that any news site is still doing this -- just have the results on the dedicated Olympics page for those who want to know in real time and stop ruining it for the rest of us!

Les Carpenter: I'm afraid that ship has sailed. The days of holding on to Olympic results until television can show them are long over. The internet will not permit it.


Les Carpenter: Well it is getting late here in China, they want to close the press room soon and I must get back to the Cuban boxers.

Great scene here tonight. An Indian boxer won at least a bronze and the whole press contingent from India went nuts, piling into the mixed zone, cheering and high-fiving the boxer and his coach. It was amazing. But then again, when you have won two medals in an Olympics for only the second time since 1952 I guess everyone celebrates.

Thank you for your time and questions. Good night.

Or is it good morning?


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company