Thursday, June 22, 2017

Its Time for Full Pool Play in Team Ninja Warrior

So here at GBS, we've tend to focus on sports with sanctioning bodies who have giant rulebooks, scoring mechanisms and usually years of record books and statistics we can dive into.

Today is going to be a little different as we're going to dive into one of the most relatively young sports out there, and a competition withing that sport even younger (2 years old), that to my knowledge, does not have today have a literal rulebook.

So lets talk obstacle courses, specifically Team Ninja Warrior.

For any readers unfamiliar with "Ninja Warrior," it is competition that originated in Japan in 1997 as Sasuke. (this competition would be re-branded and shown with subtitles in the USA as Ninja Warrior). The concept is simple to understand/watch, there are 100 competitors who take turns trying to conquer a ridiculously difficult obstacle course that is split into 4 levels. Only people who complete level 1 move on to level 2 and so forth until all competitors are eliminated or until they all try level 4. Some levels have time limits, some do not. Sasuke has been on for some time now going well over 30 seasons. eight years ago they started making a version in the USA simply known as American Ninja Warrior; with the biggest difference being that ANW starts with several hundreds of competitors in qualifiers around the country qualifying for one of the final 100 spots that get to try the 4-level competition course located in Las Vegas.

The competition/show gets great reviews and at this point there's 20+ countries that have their own national version. While there is some backstory elements to its Tv production, at the end of the day its a sport/competition with concrete rules. Someone who is a genius however realized that there could be a fun out-of-season off-shoot, whereby they team competitors ("ninjas") up, and put them head to head on parallel courses and its generally one of the most exciting sports you will ever see in person or on TV. Honestly it will likely make it to the Olympics within the next decade or 2, or so we hope (remember parkour is currently fighting for a place with the IOC).

Team Ninja Warrior (TNW) competition is simple: you have teams of 3 (2 males 1 female) who take turns matching up against another team to run the course together. Each team member runs once.

The problem, I assume this presented the producers, is that if one match started out 2-0/0-2 then the 3rd race would become pointless. As a result Team Ninja Warrior is formatted as:

Heat 1: 1 point
Heat 2: 1 point
Heat 3: 2 points

If a match ends in a 2-2 point tie, then there is a 4th race to break the tie. You may already see how this is flawed as a "team" competition, but lets keep going before we get into that.

The tournament is comprised of 4-team pools like the World Cup/World Baseball Classic, however only 1 team advances much like the 1st and 3rd rounds of the NCAA College World Series. The big difference being the NCAA baseball tournament pools operate on double elimination. Team Ninja Warrior, for either timing or editing constraints, limits their pools to only 2 rounds/matchups as follows:

Round 1:
A vs. B
C vs. D

Round 2: winners vs. losers of round 1
A vs. C
B vs. D
OR
A vs. D
B vs. C


The 2nd round is the elimination round meaning whoever loses that matchup is out. The two Round 2 winners then go to a single "relay showdown" wherby all 3 members of the teams participate together in a head-to-head relay race on an extended course.

The show has gotten very good ratings considering it was first on the widely unknown Esquire Network, and now moved to USA-Network. Its likely the ratings will stay up, and more tournaments/seasons are coming, which is why we want to take this time to tell the Ninja Warrior governing body that its time to take this seriously as a sporting format, which means fairness should be of the utmost importance. If this is truly meant to be a team competition it should value the best teams...

So what's the problem?


The format of the dual courses is great, the teams of 3 is nice and balanced, its simply the fragmented pool structure/point scoring that needs corrected. In the current format, all four teams can end with a 1-1 record, yet 2 get to advance. If you went down to individual races/matchups (3 per round) you can literally have the teams end:

Team A: 5-1
Team B: 5-1
Team C: 1-5
Team D: 1-5

match result via americanninjawarriornation.com
...and have Teams C and D go to the final showdown. How? Because the way it is setup, the only matchup that really matters is the anchor run in the 2nd round. You can go 0-5 in your first 5 matches, win the final match (worth 2 points) which forces a 2-2 tie-breaker and then you win that tiebreaker to move on. If you count the tie-breaker as its own race it doesn't look much better:

Team A: 5-2
Team B: 5-2
Team C: 2-5
Team D: 2-5

Teams A and B are still clearly the better teams, and they won more scheduled races than both their opponents, so why aren't they advancing?


In the first season of Team Ninja Warrior, this format generally held out ok as the better teams tended to win the 2nd Round anchor matches anyhow. Most winning teams went some variation of 6-0, 5-1, or 5-2 in their races.

But season 2 of Team Ninja Warrior has been a very mixed bag and in some cases a mess from a sporting/fairness standpoint. There have been multiple instances of 5-1 teams being sent home. then there's also been a wild card pool in which they brought back teams who did well but didn't win their pool (some of them those aforementioned 5-1 teams) and those teams proceeded to go 5-1 again without advancing. Multiple instances of teams advancing only due to their captain/anchor. Why?

The point of difference between the Team competition and the normal show is that its supposed to be based on a team collective effort. There was a team one night that went 1-5 where one member literally couldn't get past the 3rd obstacle in 3 different matches, yet they made the final showdown. Why?

So potentially due to time constraints and/or the fear of "pointless" 3rd matches TNW has created a larger issue on the opposite end, only 1 match matters in fragmented pool play. Frankly, if this were a big-time sport with money on the line, a team GM would just have the team sit out the first 5 matches, and put everything into the 2nd anchor run since its the only match that truly matters.


But we here at GBS don't just point out problems and walk away, we need to present a workable solution, so here goes.

Our proposal:


Rule #1 - Team Ninja Warrior should award 1 point for all races, thereby assuring that a better team wins a matchup, not just the team with the strongest anchor.

You may ask: Won't that make the 3rd match pointless if a team is up 2-0? ... don't get ahead of us...

Rule #2 - TNW should adopt round-robin pool play like all other major sporting events. Every team contests a match against all the other 3 teams in the pool.

So what would this look like?

Round 1
A vs. B
C vs. D

Round 2
A vs. C
B vs. D

Round 3
A vs. D
B vs. C

Rule #3 - Final pool rankings decide who moves on to the relay showdown, no more extra races needed, break ties with race results.

Just like the World Cup, WBC, CWS, name any big tournament and that is what pool play looks like. This means each team faces the other 3 in the pool, each team member has 3 matches no matter what.

But what about breaking ties? Like any tournament with pool play, ties are a possible occurrence, with TNW this is no different as follows if looking at the team matchups these are the two most common ties in pool play:

W/L
Team A 3-0
Team B 1-2
Team C 1-2
Team D 1-2
OR

W/L
Team A 2-1
Team B 2-1
Team C 2-1
Team D 0-3

Turns out breaking ties is very easy to do in TNW; go right into what would be the most obvious tiebreaker, cumulative race records. Each team would have 9 races overall ending in records/points like 9-0, 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, 5-4, 4-5, etc.

So now you see how that 3rd race match-up matters even if you are down 0-2. Winning that 3rd match might break a tie for you in the pool.

So now look at the pool with more context:


W/L Points (Race W/L)
Team A 3-0 8-1
Team B 1-2 4-5
Team C 1-2 3-6
Team D 1-2 3-6


Team A dominated, everyone else was even-ish except Team B was able to steal a run from Team A thus winning more races than C and D, tie broken. You can quickly see how this is hugely beneficial.

Solving the "only has a strong anchor" issue: So now what happens when a team has some weaker members but a strong anchor as we've seen a bit this season? Overall they'd go 0-3 with a race record of 3-6.  So the pools would start with standings like this after Team D (strong anchor) has completed all their matches:


W/LPoints
Team A1-02-1
Team B1-02-1
Team C1-02-1
Team D0-33-6

Then the remaining match-ups by default are going to determine who advances. so then lets assume Team A wins all its other matches:


W/LPoints
Team A3-08-1
Team B1-12-4
Team C1-12-4
Team D0-33-6

...that leaves the B vs C match-up to determine who goes to the relay showdown, with your only 2 options being a 3-0 win or 2-1 win by one of those teams:


W/LPoints
Team A3-08-1
Team B2-15-4
Team C1-22-7
Team D0-33-6

OR

W/LPoints
Team A3-08-1
Team B2-14-5
Team C1-23-6
Team D0-33-6

Now we have a clear separation of teams thats in the hands of the teams without making any one member more important than the others. Teams have to take care of winning races/points and not throwing any away and relying on a 2nd anchor run.

Worst Case Scenario... what about ties? So yes, its not always going to end in a perfect 4 team ranking to look at total win/loss and then break ties with points/races. but that doesn' mean we don't still have easy solutions to implement. What if one team dominates and then the remaining 3 teams are closely matched? Mathematically, yes you can end up in a 3-way tie like this:
  • Team A goes undefeated against everyone
  • B beats C 2-1
  • C beats D 2-1
  • D beats B 2-1

W/LPoints
Team A3-09-0
Team B1-23-6
Team C1-23-6
Team D1-23-6

OR
  • Team D loses to everyone outright
  • A beats B 2-1
  • B beats C 2-1
  • C beats A 2-1
W/LPoints
Team A2-15-4
Team B2-15-4
Team C2-15-4
Team D0-30-9


So what do we do about ties in points? Its actually very easy. If 1st and 2nd are tied it doesn't matter, and if 3rd and 4th are tied it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is ties for 2nd place. In that case we have 2 options:

Option A:

  • Break a 2-way tie by who won their head-to-head match-up.
That works just fine, but also leaves a problem with 3-way ties which leads us to...

Option B:
  • Break ties in points by which team hit the most buzzers
  • Break ties in buzzers hit by least amount of time to hit the buzzers

This would incentive teams to still go out and hit buzzers even if their opponent has fallen. So now we're looking at this:

W/LPointsBuzzersTime to Buzzer
Team A9-05-46
Team B1-23-65
Team C1-23-633m44s
Team D1-23-634m13s

Now we have a clear 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place team all done via how they performed on the course. It would be rare to need to go to this level, but if needed, its so easy to understand by casual viewers, competitors and there is no gray area. Most importantly it leaves us with no asterisk situations like


So we have very clear and easy and FAIR rules for a tournament to happen within. I don;t think anyone would debate this, and am curious how the ninjas themselves would feel about it.

The last obstacle, how do they fit this into a 1-hour TV show? This takes the most thought but its not hard really, considering many episodes already have 12 races + showdown at a minimum but 16 races + showdown at most, we're really only talking about adding 2-6 races to a pool because the current existing tiebreaker matches would go away, no need for them. If adding 2-6 races is too much there are easy options from there that we don't think are too crazy:

a. extend TV time, the show does well on ratings, it could possibly justify it.

b. editing.  -   They run background pieces on every team and competitor, maybe don't do that and instead just let the announcers announce and talk about it during runs. OR just edit some runs down and do less reality show "here is whats coming next" stuff. They already edit some runs down as it is, and lets be honest, while people watch ANW for stories + competition, anyone watching TNW is pretty much watching for the pure competition. Just look at the amazing Race for an example, not every competitor needs a 3 minute backstory. Just do like modern sports and have the announcers talk competitors' backstory during the competition.

As Team Ninja Warrior grows, this is only going to become more of an issue as fans become connected to teams and their teams get "screwed" so take this opportunity now to adjust.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Is the World Baseball Classic Accomplishing its Mission?

A quick glance at Twitter these days surrounding the World Baseball Classic and you see a lot about Israel's amazing 3-0 start including wins over 3 teams they were highly expected to lose and lose badly to (S. Korea, Netherlands and Chinese Taipei). Considering Israel was ranked #41 in the world going into this, yeah its pretty big on the scale of unexpected upsets, lets see if they can keep it up.

But you'd be remiss if you ignored a lot of hubub about whether or not this team should really be called United States B-squad or "Israel." This of course making light of the loose rules in international sporting competitions about who is allowed to represent which country. The IOC has done a lot to shore up their rules, and are in fact doing even more requiring residence and passports for those moving etc. The WBC, maybe not so much...

I figured it was worth an interesting dive in, so I went over and exported out all the rosters of all the WBC teams, and charted them by the birthplace of the players. This is of course flawed out of the gate, but lets take it at face value because that's how many people do:

Team
Roster
Born in Country Represented
Born in Country or Neighbor Territory
Chinese Taipei
36
36
100%
36
100%
South Korea
28
28
100%
28
100%
Japan
36
36
100%
36
100%
Cuba
35
35
100%
35
100%
Venezuela
36
36
100%
36
100%
Australia
34
33
97%
33
97%
United States
32
31
97%
31
97%
Netherlands
36
34
94%
35
97%
Canada
29
27
93%
27
93%
Dominican Republic
34
30
88%
31
91%
China
28
24
86%
24
86%
Puerto Rico
35
27
77%
35
100%
Colombia
32
22
69%
29
91%
Mexico
35
24
69%
35
100%
Italy
32
8
25%
8
25%
Israel
36
1
3%
1
3%
TOTAL
534
432

460


Some Notes:

  1. Why were China and South Korea so cocky they didn't even use the full limit of roster size and stopped at 28?
  2. "Born in Country represented" is literal. So even if someone moved to a country when they were a baby, it wasn't counted. 
  3. "Born in Country or Neighbor" was where I gave a little wiggle room to allow for times when someone is born near their country. For example some of the Mexican players are born in Southern California. that makes a lot of sense that a family might still commute across a border that close, many Colombian players born just across border in Venezuela
  4. The Netherlands, for this tournament is "Kingdom of the Netherlands" which means it includes Curacao (17), Aruba (4), and the Netherlands (14); their 2 outliers are from the Dominican Republic (counts as neighbor) and Utah
  5. Canada's outliers were from Florida and California, nowhere near the border
  6. Why place of berth is dumb?  You'll note that the US team is not 100% from the US because Alex Wilson was born in Saudi Arabia, just like Australia's Justin Erasmus was born in South Africa. Both moved to their represented country when they were kids.
  7. Why it gets abused. Erasmus' brother has represented South Africa before, but they lived together. 
  8. China has a bunch of players who technically have no listing info for birthplace but all of them play in the Chinese Baseball League so I just assumed they were from China.
  9. Puerto Rico is an odd situation because its part of the United States, but for the WBC its separate therefore I did not count anyone born in the 50 states total, only included them as neighboring. 
  10. Bruce Chen... wtf? Dude is born in Panama, played in two WBCs for Panama, but somehow qualified to play for China this time around?
  11. Just about every team is represented by natural born citizens as a majority, and the ones that dip (Puerto Rico, Colombia and Mexico) come up to 90-100% once you account for neighboring distance.
So lets talk about the outlier teams, or better said: How many Americans does it take to make an Israel or Italy?

Italy's team only has 8 players born in Italy, but its worth noting that 4 of its players born elsewhere currently play professionally and live in Italy. (more on this later)

Israel has only 1 player born in Israel? yep. But remember this situation is roughly where Italy used to be, and frankly the Netherlands for that matter. In fact this was the point of the WBC all along, to spread the game of baseball. both Italy and the Netherlands had breakout years in past WBCs and that's partly what sparked their uptick in baseball leagues and players. Their rosters used to look a lot more like Italy, and Italy used to look a lot more like Israel. That's progress.

How can you tell there is progress? Less than half the total players (534) in the WBC this year are playing professionally in the Major Leagues (150) or MLB farm system (109). That's progress in a sense for expanding the game of baseball. More professional baseball leagues are popping up or getting more serious now that there is a big tournament to play up to. These countries and their teams are being represented more and more by players from these leagues, rather than stretches of eligibility. Players who then grow to get a few MLB players just like soccer has tons of leagues but everyone wants to get to 2-3 top tier leagues.

24 Professional Leagues are represented in the list of where the players normally play. Three of those leagues were founded shortly before or after the first WBC in 2006, and 4 of the other leagues in the 80s/90s around when baseball was getting competitive in the Olympics before it was removed as a medal event. Some of the other leagues had been around for a while but added teams or added layers and more professionalism in the last 2 decades but there is expansion for sure.

Here's the top represented leagues:

MLB (US)
MLB Minors (US)
Nippon (JPN)
CNS (CUB)
KBO (KOR)
CPBL (TAI)
CBL (CHN)
ABL (AUS)
Honkbal Hoofdklasse (NDL)
IBL (ITL)
LMB (MEX)
CPBL (COL)
LVBP (VEN)
Chinese Taipei
3
3
25
South Korea
1
26
Japan
1
35
Cuba
1
34
Venezuela
26
5
1
4
Australia
1
12
18
1
United States
32
Netherlands
6
6
2
14
1
Canada
4
14
1
1
DR
29
3
China
1
1
20
1
Puerto Rico
20
7
1
1
Colombia
5
16
1
7
1
Mexico
14
11
4
6
Italy
7
9
10
2
Israel
4
22
TOTAL
150
109
47
34
27
27
20
19
14
11
10
7
6


You read that right, the most important thing in this entire post... There's a league named Honkbal Hoofdklasse, and our next mission is to figure out how to get it televised so we can hear announcers say it... that is all.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fun Fact: Andreas Toba is a tough dude

One of my favorite stories of the Olympics so far is German gymnast Andreas Toba, who tore his ACL in a floor routine, only to return for the pommel horse event to help Germany qualify for team competition. If you missed it, check it out...


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Italy's Adrian Carambula has the BEST volleyball serve

Although Virginia Thrasher (shooting) has just taken the first gold medal for USA, the highlight of my morning so far is definitely the "skyball" serve of Italy's beach volleyballer Adrian Carambula. At first, it might look like a kid who has given up and said, "Forget it! I quit!" But no, it's an actual strategy that works! If you haven't seen it, check it out for yourself in this video...


Friday, August 5, 2016

Olympics Time!

August 5th is finally here. Although we've been trying to watch some of the soccer the last couple of days, the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics officially begin tonight with the Opening Ceremonies. If you missed Wedge's updated piece on the history of the Olympic Cauldron, definitely check that out.

There will be a lot to keep up with over the next two weeks, and I don't know much about a lot of the sports other than the fact that track cycling duels are the best thing ever. I'm also confident that I'll have the whole TV channel rotation figured out right around the time that it all wraps up. (It won't help that I'm trying to switch cable providers ASAP, possibly giving me a new set of channels to learn in the middle of the Olympics!)

For now, though, here are five interesting notes that I discovered this week... (I'm sure some of this is common knowledge for some readers, but I'm just a dumb American baseball fan!)

1. There is a Refugee Olympic Team. This is amazing, and I can't wait to see them in tonight's ceremonies and will hopefully catch some of them competing.

2. The U.S. has never medaled in several popular sports, including table tennis, handball, and badminton. Maybe this is our year! (Have I ever posted about my college intramural badminton experience?)

3. Apparently a guy on the sailing team has to regularly hold a section of rope in his mouth throughout the race. This year's water issues aside, imagine growing up wanting to be the mouth rope guy!

4. Apparently the crowd in Rio will boo an Olympic goalie who is currently shutting the other team out simply because she doesn't really want to catch the Zika virus.

5. Baseball is coming back!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Lighting the Olympic Cauldron - What History Does Rio Have to Live Up To?

Two years ago, we went down a journey to walk through the history of one of our favorite sporting events in the Olympics, but alas it wasn't athletics themselves we walked through, so much as it was a moment to reflect on something that technically isn’t sports, but very much sports related. Its a tradition I'd love to continue.

The opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics is just over 24 hours away, and even though the ceremony is all about aesthetics, throwing a party, art, history and theater, and not specificaly sports which is what we generally write all about, it’s something that the large majority of sports fans have grown to love and anticipate.

However I’m not really going to be talking about the ceremony itself, but cover something much more specific, something that has always intrigued me specifically on “opening” night: The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron that signifies the beginning of the games.

I'm not talking about the relay of the torch for days and/or months but instead, the literal time from whence the torch enters the stadium to the cauldron being lit, its arguably one of the best moments that happens in the Olympics, It’s a monumental moment, and I really can’t wait to see what Rio has in store for us, can they truly raise the bar, can they do their own unique thing, what will it be memorable for?

In order to properly judge this, I feel like GBS should take you through the full and very interesting history of the Olympic Torch. Why do we have war and conflict to thank for much of its elements and what it has become, and the ceremony and now surprise of lighting of the cauldron. So join me on this trip through history will you?

The Ancient Games
As per Wikipedia:
“In the time of the original games within the boundaries of Olympia, the altar of the sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Hera maintained a continuous flame. For the ancient Greeks, fire had divine connotations—it was thought to have been stolen from the gods by Prometheus. Therefore, fire was also present at many of the sanctuaries in Olympia, Greece.”

The Modern Olympics Begin - No Flames, Just Games

In the early years there was only a "Summer" Olympics (first Winter games were 1924) and during these early years ther flame tradition had not yet been rekindled.

Summer Games in black, Winter Games in blue.

1896 – Athens, Greece
1900 – Paris, France
1904 - St. Louis, United States
1908 – London, England
1912 – Stockholm, Sweden

1916 - Not held - World War I – Scheduled for Berlin, Germany
1920 – Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - Chamonix, France
1924 – Paris, France
1928 - St. Moritz, Switzerland


Interesting to note that the first ever Winter Olympic Games went to France along with Summer Games in the same year. In fact, this dual hosting repeats itself in 1932 with the USA getting both and in 1936 with Germany; It was also scheduled to dual host again that way in 1940 for Japan, but those games were never held (see below).

A Flame is Simply Lit as Commemoration

1928 – Amsterdam, Netherlands   

 

In 1928, for the first time they decided to have a continuous flame buring during the games in Amsterdam, but it wasn’t the ceremony it is now of deciding who got to light it and making it a big deal as evidenced by this historical footnote: “An employee of the Electric Utility of Amsterdam lit the first Olympic flame in the Marathon Tower of the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam.”

That’s right, the first modern Olympic flame was lit by... some guy... because it was his job…
It actually switched over to being famous people or famous athletes in time giving us the “who will light the cauldron?” suspense, but that’s what some of the lightings looked like through the early years of the tradition.

1932 - Lake Placid, N.Y., United States
 
1932 - Los Angeles, United States 


1936 - Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

War Brings an Everlasting Tradition - The Torch Relay Begins From Olympia, Greece


In the previous 4 Olympics, the cauldron was simply lit up. Believe it or not, the tradition of lighting the torches from the lasting flame in Olympia, Greece and transporting it to the host site came from questionable intent. Why is that, who is to thank for the torch relay? The Nazis. In 1936 the Germans were hosting the Summer Games and hoped of showing their Aryan theory of superiority. Hitler specifically thought lighting the flame from Greece was a way to connect his Aryan Nation directly with the gods as that’s where the original flame came from, but the Nazis had and claimed a different agenda publicly, which though it may have been a facade of an intention, ended up sticking.

The Nazis knew they were getting closer to war, and in an attempt to sway public opinion, historians note they devised the relay as a way to make many countries feel included in their Olympic games by running the torch through their country on the way to Germany, increasing goodwill and gettingg a sense of togetherness. The Olympic flame was lit by a concave mirror in Olympia, Greece and transported over 3,187 kilometers by 3,331 runners in twelve days and eleven nights from Greece to Berlin, but not entirely as planned as there were protests in Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia on the way.

So the Nazis gave us the torch relay, but when it comes to the actual lighting of the torch during the opening ceremony, its generally ho-hum, person runs up and lights that cauldron, cool mement but not quite the spectacle it has become.

1936 – Berlin, Germany




So while the new addition to the ceremony signifying the beginning of the games was nice, Jessie Owens kicked some ass, the Boys in the Boat kicked some ass and; Hitler then got mad and started a terrible war because Hilter was stupid, and thus...

1940 - Not held - World War II  - Scheduled for Sapporo, Japan
1940 - Not held - World War II – Scheduled for Tokyo, Japan
1944 - Not held - World War II  - Scheduled for Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
1944 - Not held - World War II – Scheduled for London, United Kingdom


So while the Nazis may have had political/tactical charged intentions behind the torch relay, their “bringing everyone together” via the torch relay remained even after World War II, even if that’s not what they actually intended. Through this time after war, the lighting of the cauldron was still 100% of the time an athlete running into the stadium, sometimes doing a lap of the track and then running up the steps to the top of one end of the stadium or a grandstand and lighting a standard cauldron wherever it was, usually within basic reach of height.

1948 - St. Moritz, Switzerland
 

1948 – London, England

1952 - Oslo, Norway

1952 – Helsinki, Finland





1956 - Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

1956 – Melbourne, Australia

Australia begins the "who will light the torch" build up, by not telling anyone who will light it, and surprising everyone with a 19-time World Record holder: ron clark. 





1960 - Squaw Valley, California, United States

1960 – Rome, Italy


The First Winter Relay from Olympia, Greece


1964 - Innsbruck, Austria  

While Innsbruck wasn't a change in the standard running up and lighting of a basic cauldron with a flame from Greece, it was just the first Winter Olympics to do so. Does that mean the previous Winter Olympics had no flame relay... why certainly not, the previous Winter Olympics had quite an interesting history:
“1952 and 1960 had torch relays starting in the fireplace of skiing pioneer Sondre Norheim, and one (1956) had a relay starting in Rome. The 1984 Winter Games were preceded by two torch relays, one from Norheim's fireplace, and the other from Olympia. The plan had been to mingle the two flames, lighting the cauldron with the combination, but this was disallowed; instead, only the Greek flame was used.” 
Yeah thats right, the flame came from some dude's fireplace!!! They put an end to that short lived tradition...  Sadly the IOC had the video of this ceremony pulled from YouTube for some reason...

1964 – Tokyo, Japan





1968 - Grenoble, France
 

Innovating Socially

1968 - Mexico City, Mexico

Leave it up to the Mexicans to break a huge barrier as Enriqueta Basilio became the first woman to light the Olympic Cauldron


1972 - Sapporo, Japan
 

1972 – Munich, West Germany
 

Most anything people remember from Munich is the tragedy during these Olympic Games, but as you can see they started moving that cauldron up higher, starting to pave the way for a trend in putting that cauldron in sight of everyone and making it bigger. 



1976 - Innsbruck, Austria
 

1976 – Montreal, Canada

The Canadians then give us dual cauldron lighters for the first time.



War and Conflict Ups the Gamesmanship of the Cauldrons and Lightings

So after World War II, the lighting of the cauldron runs largely on tradition, a torch relay from Greece where a surprise athlete from the host country does the final leg into the stadium and lights the basic cauldron. but much like the relay itself coming from conflict/politics, Leave it to conflict/politics again and the threat of war to once again push the way into torch/cauldron innovation. Going into the late 70s and early 80s the Cold War came upon the world. With it brought a giant pissing contest between the Soviet Union and the United States in the forms of the Space Race, technology advancement, espionage, communications and encryption advancements, economic advancements and failures, nuclear advancements and lastly of course… Olympic Cauldron lighting advancements.

The athletes themselves are already competing, but why stop there? We need to prove who is better, at everything. So in comes the perfect storm in 1980 at the height of the Cold War, with the U.S. hosting the Winter Games and the Soviet Union was hosting the Summer Games later that year. The  U.S. had the standard lighting of the Cauldron... or so everyone thought. Charles Morgan Kerr, A doctor from Arizona who had been elected from all 52 torch bearers to run the final leg, he wasn't even an athlete, barely even important in retrospect.




He was able to walk up steps to light the cauldron, but it was no ordinary Olympic Cauldron, it was the first ever movable Cauldron in Olympic history, so after it was lit it raised high, like really, very freaking high, above everyone, higher than any flame ever before as if the U.S. was saying we have the best cauldron that has ever been done, highest ever, no one else could do this.

1980 – Lake Placid, United States
Cauldron lighter: Charles Morgan Kerr
The Surprise: Whoa look how high that cauldron goes!!
The Cauldron: ditto to above
The Lasting Memory: Literally the cauldron itself amidst all the athletes rising up above everyone. The cauldron was amazing and having it go up too, but the person lighting it is somewhat forgettable. By the days standards though it was amazing on cauldron alone.

Sadly the only video I can find of this is in the first 5 seconds of the 1984 Olympic broadcast here.

Its On!!!

So that pretty much set the stage, how could everyone, namely the Soviets, one up the Americans, and the modern history of things has been entertaining to say the least since. The U.S. went on to boycott the Soviet Summer Games but it didn't stop people from watching and seeing how the Soviet Union would reply to that?


1980 – Moscow, Soviet Union
Cauldron lighter: Sergey Belov (4-time olympic medalist in basketball, including gold in 1972)
The Surprise: How in the world is anyone going to get up to that cauldron, its behind all the people in the stadium!? Whoa where in the hell did that floating pathway come from!?
The Cauldron: Very tall and very large above the stadium
The Lasting Memory: Watching Belov run atop the crowd as the colors change in his wake then the magic pathway disappeared after he was done running on it.




1984 –  Sarajevo, Yugoslavia
Cauldron lighter: Sanda Dubravcic (Yugoslavia's champion figure skater)
The Surprise: The torch arrives via cross country skiers
The Cauldron: Like Moscow and many before it, its tall and atop the end of the stadium seemingly out of reach
The Lasting Memory: Dubravcic running through the performers and up an incredibly steep incline that is actually disappearing behind her





1984 – Los Angeles, United States
Cauldron lighter: Rafer Johnson (Winner of the 1960 decathalon) also the first black person to light the caldron
The Surprise: How in the hell is anyone getting up there to light that thing!?
The Cauldron: It was standard, but it was atop the arch of the rose bowl but seemingly, inaccessible to anyone
The Lasting Memory: It went a little like this, 1) we see the cauldron but no one can get up there.. 2) ok that's a staircase, that gets him higher but it is a stairway to nothing... 3) whoa the whole Olympic symbol is on fire!

Imagine if they did it at night. Imagine what they could do if L.A. wins the 2024 games they are bidding on.




1988 – Calgary, Canada
Cauldron lighter: Robyn Perry (12 year old figure skater)
The Surprise: Leave it to Canada to go "eh, just lighting this thing is still good enough for us" Ok but really watch this whole opening ceremony, it just has Canada written all over it from mountee riding on horses to the base stadium floor.
The Cauldron: Big copper/bronze color and it kept rising up after lit
The Lasting Memory: Seeing the lit cauldron between the giant intersecting spires






1988 – Seoul, South Korea
Cauldron lighters: Track and field and dancing athletes Chung Sun-Man, Sohn Mi-Chung, and Kim Won-Tak
The Surprise: There is no way in hell anyone can get to that cauldron!
The Cauldron: read above, it was this incredibly tall stem maybe 20+ stories high
The Lasting Memory: Seeing the torch bearers get on the platform and be elevated up the entire stem so they could light the torch. Also hoping the birds would get off the cauldron so they don't get fried. And if that wasn't enough a perfectly timed flyby just as it was lit.




1992 – Albertville, France
Cauldron lighter: Michel Platini and Fran├žois-Cyrille Grange (a footballer and a 9 year old who remains the youngest cauldron lighter in history)
The Surprise: This was the first time we got to see a fireball (fire on a guide rope) that Grange lit and it then flew into the cauldron.
The Cauldron: like a giant musical instrument honestly
The Lasting Memory: It was the first night time ceremony which allowed them to do the fireball



1992 – Barcelona, Spain
Cauldron lighter: Antonio Rebollo (paralympic archer)
The Surprise: He shot a freaking flaming arrow into the cauldron!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Cauldron: It was tall, and high above the stadium, overseeing it, and inaccessible to anyone but that did matter because...
The Lasting Memory: He just shot a flaming arrow into the cauldron to light it!!!  I really like to think this will forever remain one of, if not the, coolest lighting ever. It took a massive amount of skill to pull this off and that's what made it so damn impressive. I really like to think this was the pivotal moment that took us from really cool, to holy shit no one could have dreamed thats how we were going to do it pushing the envelope. This will always be my favorite, mostly just from the level of difficulty and bad-assness of it.



1994 – Lillehammer, Norway
Cauldron lighter: Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway
The Surprise: He just ski jumped in with the flame in hand!!!!
The Cauldron: It was just a white cylinder, not even that remarkable, it was all about the delivery on this one.
The Lasting Memory: Its silly to lay the importance to Prince of Norway who lit the cauldron because no one cares about that, you can barely even find that part on YouTube, the part people care about was Stein Gruben ski jumping with the flame in hand to deliver it to the games. The insane part is that he wasn't even supposed to do it, he was just the understudy that filled in due to injury.



1996 – Atlanta, United States
Cauldron lighter: Muhammad Ali
The Surprise: Muhammad Ali
The Cauldron: A Large french fries from McDonalds??? Seriously, that's what it looked like
The Lasting Memory: For many people it was obviously Ali holding the flame and then lighting a little fireball the shot up to the very odd, McDonalds french fry holder looking shape. The anticipation of "who will it be" was so great on this one, I remember people visibly trying to figre out who was last in the line.



1998 – Nagano, Japan
Cauldron lighter: Midori Ito (1992 silver medalist)
The Surprise: Chris Moon (a mine explosion survivor) delivers the torch into the stadium and eventually it goes up but then its Ito in gorgeous Japanese traditional outfit from under the stage who does the lighting, not the one who delivered it up there
The Cauldron: Actually very unique with the colors and the way it had a bunch of spurs of sorts
The Lasting Memory: A basic but perfect lighting, proving that you don't always have to be in a running suit, you can look elaborately elegant



2000 – Sydney, Australia
Cauldron lighter: Cathy Freeman (Winner of Olympic silver in 1996 and went o to win in Sydney too, the only person ever to light a cauldron and win a gold medal in the same games.)
The Surprise: the Australians built a freaking waterfall into their stadium but forgot to build a cauldron!!! Where is the flame going to go!!!?
The Cauldron: A hidden from view saucer under a waterfall that rose up and connected to its stem.
The Lasting Memory: My personal favorite cauldron to date, it was completely hidden, yet perfectly in view, the entire time hidden under the water so that final torchbearer Cathy Freeman literally set water on fire. Think about that for a second. She set water on fire, then the flame arose around her, made its way up to the top where it got attached to a stem and rose even higher, its just awesome.



2002 – Salt Lake City, United States
Cauldron lighter: The Whole 1980 U.S. Olympic ice hockey team
The Surprise: Mike Eruzione recreates the famous 1980 medal ceremony with the entire 1980 hockey team
The Cauldron: A beautiful swirling spire very high above everything
The Lasting Memory: Many people remember the torch being skated around the rink, but it seemed silly when you noticed they were just doing circles. But then it got really cool, for Americans at least, when the final torch bearer was captain of the 1980 hockey team, Mike Eruzione. What made it awesome was that he recreated, to the detail, the exact scene of the 1980 medal ceremony, because back then only captains were awarded the medal but in 1980 he waved up the entire team, and did the same with the torch setting the record for the most ever cauldron lighters.



2004 – Athens, Greece
Cauldron lighter: Nikolaos Kaklamanakis (Sailing gold medalist, and won silver in these games)
The Surprise: the flying torch bearers
The Cauldron: I'm sure its not what they were going for but it looked like a giant joint until it was made vertical.
The Lasting Memory: not only did a bunch of torch bearers fly out from the crowd, but Kaklamanakis ran up a shaky staircase to what looked like the biggest joint ever and lit up. The torch then made a 120ish angle turn upward to soar over.



2006 – Torino, Italy
Cauldron lighter: Stefania Belmondo (cross country skier, one of Italy's most decorated olympians with 10 medals)
The Surprise: The whole freaking stadium lights up!?
The Cauldron: Uhh technically the whole stadium got lit up, the cauldron looked like it exploded, but if we're talking just the cauldron it was a cool set of spiraling pipes high above everything.
The Lasting Memory: The stadium blowing up into a giant fireball to light the torch was just awesome.



But lets take a second to awe at this opening ceremony, A Ferrari F1 car did a pit stop and donuts in the stadium... Pavarotti rocked everyone's socks off this was an awesome night. I man McCartney doing "Hey Jude" in 2012 was cool, but Pavarotti doing Nessum Dorma under the light cauldron... I have no words.


On second thought if it were China, the donuts would have made a perfect Olympic rings on the ground... speaking of...

2008 – Bejing, China
Cauldron lighter: Li Ning (China's most decorated athlete, gymnastics, with six medals)
The Surprise: What the hell is going on, are the chinese even human, this whole thing looks like a science fiction thriller, people are flying, the torch is gigantic but it was literally not there 2 seconds ago!!!
The Cauldron: an amazing paper spiral look, but crazier is that it literally wasn't there until it was time for the lighting.
The Lasting Memory: The memory everyone in the world had was spending the next 2 weeks trying to pick their jaw up off the floor from the opening ceremony, the dancing, the drumming, the blocks, the largest LED screens ever, the projected videos, the dancing calligraphy, and to top it off their torch lighter was suspended and ran the entire length of the stadium's rim sideways, and then lit a cauldron that appears out of freaking nowhere.



2010 – Vancouver, Canada
Cauldron lighter: Catriona Le May Doan, Steve Nash, Nancy Greene and Wayne Gretzky...ish
The Surprise: Soo... I guess only 3 torch lighters needed?
The Cauldron: It was supposed to be, and eventually was, 4 leaning towers around a master cauldron, but one of them got stuck so eventually they gave in and just lit the 3 that were up. After wards they fixed the 4th and got it done.
The Lasting Memory: Sadly all video of this ceremony is being pulled off youTube, and the collage below doesn't fully show the awkward million hours everyone stood around waiting to see if the 4th tower would show up. It was awesome of Canada though to have the idea of having 4 towers leading up to a master cauldron.



2012 – London, England
Cauldron lighter: Seven unknown aspiring young athletes
The Surprise: After high stakes gambling, worldwide speculation, the Britians turn to 7 unknown young athletes to light the numerous cauldrons, rather than a single one.
The Cauldron: One mini cauldron for every country participating in the Olympics
The Lasting Memory: London did what they do, they saw what China did and knew they couldn't compete with the scale so they brought their ingenuity. Rather than a famous athlete they sent their youth to do the lighting, and rather than one big cauldron, the made a ring of small ones that each country was able to take home. Innovation in spades those Brits.



2014 – Sochi, Russia
Cauldron lighter:  Irina Rodnina and Vladislav Tretiak (triple gold medalists for Russia in figure skating and hockey respectively)
The Surprise:  None really outside of who would light it, everyone was convinced it would be Putin's girlfriend. But the cauldron was built in plain sight outside the stadium, and it lit up just about as expected. It was awesome to see the way the flamethrowers crossed patterns going up to the cauldron.
The Cauldron: A leaning spire in the center of all the indoor facilities of the Olympics.
The Lasting Memory: Everyone will always remember that 5th ring that never opened, and that Russia has inspired some great music... but in terms of the torch it was so very pulled back from expectations of recent ceremonies, and if anything the lasting memory was that they left the stadium and lit a torch no one there could see, literaly. Sure it could be seen during the day but not by anyone attending the ceremony; this is a video shot by someone in the ceremony, watch the runner disappear and then you have to watch the rest on a TV screen.

I also sadly can't embed anything because the IOC and Russia are deleting any video of this ever happening from the internet.Well sort-of, you can click this link of the complete opening ceremony,, then fast forward a few hours in and find the cauldron lighting.

...

So this all brings us to Rio, Brazil then doesn't it?

2014 – Rio, Brazil 
Cauldron lighter:  ???
The Surprise:  ???
The Cauldron: ???
The Lasting Memory: ???

What do you have in store for us Rio...? We await in great anticipation for tomorrow night!!!

2018 - Pyeongchang, South Korea
2020 – Tokyo, Japan

2022 - Bejing, China