Tag Archives: Olympics

The Archers Of Bhutan

6 March, 2015

Untitled

Just watched this documentary from the early 2000s about Bhutan featuring archer Tshering Choden, who competed for the Himalayan nation in the Olympics. It might be the only country in the world where archery is the national sport, but it takes serious dedication to be an archer in a region where the selection competition might be a terrifying 20-hour bus journey away.

Tshering, born on 1st January 1979, had an interesting Olympic career which you can read about here (no spoilers). The film also covers a traditional archery competition in a nation where literally every village has an archery field. Most archers compete hit-or-miss at a distance of about 145 meters (476 feet) – interestingly, the same standard distance as Korean traditional archery.

Archery, luck, tradition and religion are closely intertwined in Bhutan. I’m willing to bet your local county tournament doesn’t involve specially composed songs sung by everyone’s wives, ritual magic involving menstrual blood, or a ban on sex the night before. The star of the film is really the extraordinary country and its culture, poised on the precipice of modernity – although it’s reassuring to see that rude jokes and playing cards for cash are cultural universals, amongst much else. Enjoy.

FYI: this seems to be a re-voiceovered version of a German documentary called Die Bogenschützin von Bhutan (The Archer Of Bhutan) – with a barely-edited English translation, and the credits stripped off for some reason. Anyway, enjoy. 

More on Bhutanese archery: this article on the national championships from the New York Times in 2013. 

 

The sound of sport

27 November, 2014

Parabolic-Mic

So I got tipped off about this incredible audio documentary about sound design in sport, on the 99% Invisible radio website. Originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2011, it explores modern sports broadcasting and the various techniques used to heighten the atmosphere. In some cases, the sound design employed entirely changes our perception of what the sport is ‘about’. If you have time, it’s worth listening on headphones, or at least in stereo:

The amplified sound of a ball bouncing on grass at Wimbledon over a hushed crowd, with just the faintest trace of reflections from the court, is as much an essential sensory part of the Championships as the white clothing and the beautiful green grass filling the screen. This was brought home to me last year when I watched a game under the closed roof of Centre Court, which was only installed in 2009. Since an outdoor court effectively becomes an indoor court,  the reverberations change completely, and it suddenly feels alien and strange. Memory and expectation become part of the audience experience (and indeed, the players experience too).

Other TV sports, such as darts, with the heavily amplified thud of the dart hitting the board over a tense crowd ‘hush’ turn out to be enhanced by sample trickery. The sliding sports at the Winter Olympics are similarly tweaked to improve the audience experience, and curling, with its distinct vocal repertoire and constant team communication is one of the few sports where the entire team are miked up individually. For a different experience, Olympic diving now switches to underwater microphones along with an underwater camera shot as soon as the athlete hits the water; to catch the bubbles and the isolation of the diver returning to the surface.

Of course, many effects which are now essential to the character of sports broadcasting are denied to the audience who have actually turned up to watch. Although there’s stiil some things you can’t get through the TV. I was at Twickenham as a teenager to watch England v France in 1991, and the roar that went up when the England team ran onto the pitch has been imprinted on me for good. “Energy is pure delight.”, as William Blake wrote.

And yes, there is archery. If you want to skip straight there, it’s about 28 minutes in. From the 1990s onwards the Olympic event started using boundary microphones out on the field to catch the sound of the arrow in flight: a subtle, but engaging effect. The announcer, the crowd and the sound of the arrow striking the target become part of the experience. Personally I think they should bring back the heartrate monitor trialled at the World Cup Final in Tokyo in 2012, but apparently it wasn’t popular.

Finally, I will never forget being in the stands at London 2012, where I recorded just a brief bit of audio on my phone; part of the action at the women’s individual final. See what you can hear:

Archery Lords 2012 004

I wish I had had a microphone sensitive enough to pick up the sound in the stands at Lords: the eyelets on the flag rattling gently in the breeze against the metal flagpoles, casting a distinctive, exotic tinkling over the arena, and at the moments of greatest tension. It’s stuck there in my memory forever though. Wish I could share it with you.

Thanks to John Hirst for finding this. 

archery stamps

11 November, 2014

Archery stamps from round the world across the 20th century. The image of a bow, usually at full draw, never loses its appeal – and the universality of that image works well at small sizes. Just look at this lot:

ABNCBelgianCongo98ArcherSG129-EVloors

Archer using a hunting bow, designed by Belgian artist Émile Vloors (1871-1952), engraved and printed by American Bank Note Company, and issued for use in Belgian Congo in 1923.

Indonesia1653Archery-5-15-96Photo

Woman archer, printed by photogravure, and issued by Indonesia on May 15, 1996 to publicise the Olympic Games, held in Atlanta, USA.

Bhutan-2Archer-5-16-62SG2Litho-HarrisonSons (1)

Traditional archer, printed by lithogravure, and issued by Bhutan on May 16, 1962.

MracekCzech798WomanArcher-4-30-57SG975-JanCerny

Woman archer, designed by Czech artist Jan Cerny, engraved by Jan Mrácek, and issued by Czechoslovakia on April 30, 1957 to publicize the World Archery Championships, held in Prague. 

PheulpinChad163RockPaintArchers-11-19-68

Stamp depicting a petroglyph of prehistoric archers found in the Ennedi Plateau, designed and engraved by Jean Pheulpin, and issued by Chad on November 19, 1968.

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from Ajman

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Lithographed in Moscow, 1927

Indonesia805RamaBow-8-31-71Photo

Stamp depicting Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu in Hinduism, printed by photogravure, and issued by Indonesia on August 31, 1971 to publicize the International Ramayana Festival.

20120902_cyprusarchery20120831_RareStamps020

Cyprus stamp for Munich ’72 featuring the pictogram from the famous Otl Aicher set. Read a whole lot more about archery pictograms here.

Japan2538Archer51stNatAthMeet-9-6-96Photo

Issued by Japan on September 6, 1996 to publicise the 51st National Athletic Meet.

Poland-1879WomanArcher-5-20-72Photo-WSwierzy

Designed by Polish poster artist Waldemar Swierzy (1931- ), printed by photogravure, and issued by Poland on May 20, 1972 to publicise the Summer Games in Munich.

NikitinaRussiaUSSR-3863WomenArchery-6-24-71Z3945Litho-MLukianov

Designed by Russian graphic artist Yuri A. Lukianov, and issued by Russia (USSR) on June 24, 1971 as one of a set of five stamps publicizing the 5th Summer Spartakiad.

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from Monaco for the Tokyo Olympics 1964

Japan1419ArcheryMtNantai-35NatAthMeetTochigi-10-11-80Photo

Woman archer and Mount Nantai, printed by photogravure, issued by Japan on October 11, 1980 to publicize the National Archery Meet, held in Tochigi.

Korea798Archers52NationalAthMeet-10-8-71Photo-ChunHee-han

Three archers (wearing some very interesting outfits) and target, designed by Chun Hee-ban, printed by photogravure, and issued by Korea on October 8, 1971 to publicise the 52nd National Athletic Meet.

KoreaSouth113Admiral-LiSun-sin-10-1-49SG126Litho_zps626fadcd

Stamp depicting Admiral Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598), a Korean naval commander famed for his victories against the Japanese navy during the Imjin war in the Joseon Dynasty, designed by Pak Choon-kyo, printed by lithography, and issued by Korea on October 1, 1949.

Japan-603-Archery-9thNatAthMeet-8-22-54_zps72ddcd22

Engraved stamp depicting an archer, issued by Japan on August 22, 1954 as one of two stamps in a set publicising the 9th National Sports Festival of Japan, held in Hokkaido.

PZ-MA1804

 

Kyudo based postmark from Japan.

stamp_of_moldova_178

Moldovan stamp celebrating Natalia Valeeva‘s bronze medal in Barcelona ’92 for the Unified Team.

paralympics-archer_1468262i (1)

Painterly London 2012 Paralympic archery logo. (I have a badge of this one…)

There’s many more stamps out there if you want to get Googling. Almost all of the above and much of the text information came from this incredible thread at stampcommunity.org, with special mentions for users rod222 and especially nethryk. The dedication of people on the internet to their particular craft never ceases to delight and amaze me. Thanks very much indeed.

 

Archery & Money

3 November, 2014

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At the recent Asian Games, Korean archers and coaches collectively received nearly 880 million won (over £500,000 / $800,000) in bonuses from their sponsor Hyundai for the five golds, three silvers and one bronze medal they took home from Incheon.

The going rate for a gold medal is 70 million won (about £41,000 / $65,000), with 60 million won for a silver and 50 for a bronze. Not bad, and apparently more than the government bonus for Olympic gold medals in 2012 –  although in Korea that also gets you a monthly stipend for life. Hyundai handed out similar bonuses to the medallists after London, and indeed Korea’s big corporations step in with cash for all kinds of Olympic sports, and become fairy godfathers to many types of athletes.

Many nations dole out cash for Olympic success. The top payer is Singapore, who sent just 26 athletes to London, offering $800,000 dollars to any of their sportsmen who take home a gold medal (although in 2012, this prize went unclaimed). The ‘table’ looks like this:

  • Singapore $800,000 (gold)
  • Thailand: $314,000 (gold)
  • Philippines: $237,000 (gold)
  • Kyrgyzstan: $200,000 (gold)
  • Italy: $182,000 (gold)
  • Uzbekistan: $150,000 (gold)
  • Ukraine: $100,000 (gold) / $75,000 (silver) / $50,000 (bronze)
  • Tajikistan: $63,000 (gold)
  • China: $31,400 (gold)
  • Ghana: $20,000 (gold)
  • Australia: $20,000 (gold)

However, of the developed G8 countries, the gold payout table looks like this:

Pic from canadianbusiness.com

more countries’ bonus details here

(Yes, that’s right. Unlike almost every country in the world, Britain pays nothing at all for Olympic achievement.)

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As for Korea, I am increasingly convinced that the main reason that that nation dominates the sport isn’t the training regime, or the talent identification system, or the professional leagues – it’s the money. In the case of the KAA, something like half the operating budget ultimately comes from Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia Motors. The historical reason for this is that in the early 1980s the authoritarian government leaned on their big corporations to fund Olympic sports – specifically, less popular sports – by giving them tax breaks to do so. This involved Hyundai actually taking over the NGB – thus began the Korean archery machine.

The governments changed, but over time the corporations came to see funding Olympic sports as both an excellent overseas marketing opportunity and a useful, very public exercise in social responsibility. The success of Korean archery and the success of Hyundai/Kia reflect each other; a win-win situation. The KAA and its powerful sponsor remain deeply entwined today, as was seen in Incheon when its formidable patron and chairman Chung Eui-Sun – vice-chairman of Hyundai – took the extraordinary step of rebuilding sections of the archery field after complaints were raised by the attending media. The immense amount of corporate funding allows for a deep pool of dozens of professional athletes to develop to their fullest potential, rather than the two or three per generation in every other country. That’s the real ‘secret’.

So, how can any other nation compete with that?  I still think archery in the UK could attract sponsorship money, because it is invariably intriguing and dramatic to laymen – it’s saleable, and it’s hot right now (certainly compared to many other sports). The entry barriers are lower; partly because it needs much less ‘explaining’ than some other sports. World Archery has managed to pull in long-term deals from a wide variety of international brands with very different markets and brand values.

Of course, the Korean national team is the only archery squad in the world with that kind of cash ‘carrot’ at the end of a non-Olympic competition, and indeed,  that kind of patronage, but it is ultimately indicative of a culture. South East Asia highly values its Olympic sportsmen and women and sees international achievement as a deep source of national pride, and its oligarchical system rewards that accordingly (it should be noted that the Asian Games is played out against a daunting backdrop of fierce historical rivalries). In the UK, unless you play cricket or football you receive little more than a pat on the back and a ‘jolly good show’ from the establishment.

The cult of the amateur is over.  Unfortunately, international success in sport needs money, spent professionally and ruthlessly.

Thanks to DarkMuppet at Archery Interchange. 

 

amazon

12 December, 2013

Interesting, and somewhat strange, recent article from the Telegraph about Brazilian archery. Read it here.

 

“The quiet teenager is one of 12 boys recruited from the rainforest for his remarkable skills with a bow and arrow, honed since the age of nine and passed on to him by generations of ancestors.” Okay. I can’t make out if this is a genuine attempt to recruit more indigenous Amerindians to the Brasilian Olympic team, or some kind of well-meaning PR exercise. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, though. Good stuff.

(ba ba ba ba) fashion

5 December, 2012

Following on from last week’s NYT article about the archery ‘explosion’ in the US – which appears to be replicated in many other countries – someone alerted me to what Louis Vuitton has been up to. For the last seven years LV has been the world’s most valuable luxury brand, and it appears that someone there has been noticing which way the wind is blowing.

Borche plume bleue_non opt_PJ

Broche plume verte_non opt_PJ

From the pitch… “LV releases a pair of archery-themed accessories to complement their men’s Fall/Winter 2012 runway collection. The feather pendant decorating the brooch comes in two color combinations and resembles arrow fletches, imparting a seasonal outdoors feel to whichever garment they accompany. In addition to a silver arrow-shaped pin, the brooch features a Louis Vuitton logo bangle attached to the pendant. The brooch pins are now available for purchase at Louis Vuitton outlets.” 

But that’s not all. At LV’s Boston store, amongst others, someone has been building arrow based window displays in order to sell, um, handbags.

IMG-20120326-000661-270x300

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pictures from The Savvy Bostonian. 

Does it stop there? Hell no. Hermès has been sticking archery on the runway recently – as, naturally, the perfect accessories to accompany a decidedly Robin Hood-ish winter collection.

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Not to mention a variety of Olympics themed / tagged daftness, flogging beauty products and accessories. Google Images is now full of models/actresses/whatever wanging bows, posing dramatically with compounds against moody skies, and, famously, shooting sighted recurves as if they were barebows…

 

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As to what to make of all this, meh. Archery has been sexed-up this year – rather against its will – by a now familiar combination of films, TV and the Olympics coverage. The fashion world of course has no interest whatsoever in archery as a sport. If, say, fencing had been similarly treated, you’d be seeing sabre brooches and models badly wielding foils on the runway (actually fashion runways are a bit like fencing pistes… this could work…).

On one hand, the aesthetics of archery is a big thing for me. I think bows (particularly recurves) are beautiful things both in use and in their own right; and that’s one of the things I wanted to bring to this archery blog. I can understand why someone would want a piece of that. And if it brings more people into archery, or indeed any sport, all the better. Everyone has to find some route in. It’s not like people don’t quickly find out that ‘being Katniss’ is difficult. On the other hand, it trivialises and reduces an ancient tradition and a modern sport into something – anything – to flog handbags and monograms with.

Still, maybe I could pull off one of those brooches…