The ‘Californization’ of the Olympics

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California Today

Friday: A look astatine wherefore California has agelong been a ascendant diversion and taste unit astatine the Games.

Jill Cowan

July 23, 2021, 9:20 a.m. ET

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The skateboarder Nyjah Huston from Davis is 1  of the galore  Olympians from the Golden State.
Credit...Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Good morning.

Stop maine if you’ve heard this 1 before: If California were its ain country, it would fertile 5th successful an Olympic medal count.

Dr. Bill Mallon, who had precocious landed successful Tokyo erstwhile I reached him by telephone this week, couldn’t accidental for definite whether that was true. But, helium told me, the authorities would fertile “almost surely successful the apical 10.”

What helium could accidental for definite was that, successful presumption of producing Olympians, California’s universities are astatine the apical of the list. As of astir 2012, Mallon said, Stanford had sent 289 American athletes to the Games, the astir of immoderate school. That was followed by 277 from U.C.L.A., 251 from the University of Southern California and 212 from U.C. Berkeley.

He had maine conjecture the fifth-place university. I couldn’t, but it was Harvard. “They nutrient a batch of rowers,” Mallon said.

In different words, adjacent earlier skateboarding and surfing were added to the Games, which person their opening ceremonial today, the Golden State was a robust beingness astatine the Olympics — a testament, Mallon said, to the state’s perfect upwind for year-round training, its ample colonisation and the beingness of a benignant of snowball effect for athletes astatine apical universities. (Athletic occurrence begets much success.)

But the “Californization” of the Olympics dates each the mode backmost to the 1920s, according to Mark Dyreson, a prof astatine Penn State who specializes successful the past of sport.

In a 2013 paper, Dyreson wrote that it was a precise intentional strategy by the government, sports promoters and firm entrepreneurs.

“During the 1920s, American economical and taste powerfulness began a westward shift,” helium wrote. While New York and Washington were inactive the nation’s centers of concern and government, “Los Angeles operated arsenic the halfway of the nation’s burgeoning manner industry.” That included fashion, celebrities, tourer sites and recreation.

California dominated successful Olympic swimming excavation construction, “and swimming pools became symbols of some American affluence and American power,” Dyreson wrote.

By the clip Los Angeles hosted the 1932 Olympics, California had travel to correspond to the satellite a imaginativeness of American affluence, of a bully beingness — 1 that would yet stay retired of scope for most.

The debuts of skateboarding and surfing astatine the Games this year, Dyreson told maine successful an email, reenforce this pattern.

No substance their humanities origins (in the lawsuit of surfing, that’s successful Hawaii, not California), enactment sports person tended to “take disconnected erstwhile they get sucked into the California taste accumulation manufacture and transformed into ‘lifestyles’ implicit with covering lines, iconographic narratives and wide doses of California ‘cool,’” Dyreson wrote.

Thus, the sports are extensions of American — and specifically Californian — consumerism delivered to the satellite via the “mega-spectacle” that is the Olympics.

Neftalie Williams, a postdoctoral student astatine U.S.C. and a visiting chap astatine the Yale Schwarzman Center who studies skateboarding culture, had a much generous assessment. The inclusion of skateboarding successful the Olympics signals designation for athletes of divers backgrounds who person been marginalized and criminalized, helium told me.

“It makes you deliberation astir the information that present are Olympians that tin get arrested skating down the street,” helium told me. “No one’s getting arrested playing h2o polo.”

Unlike athletes successful different sports, elite skateboarders aren’t siloed from the remainder of the community, which means young skaters tin prosecute astatine immoderate level they want. So practice astatine the Olympic level has a antithetic benignant of resonance.

Williams acknowledged concerns that skateboarding successful the Olympics represents a benignant of mainstreaming and commercialization of a athletics “born successful the streets” with a countercultural ethos. But for now, including skaters successful the Olympics is simply a mode of giving the sport’s progressivism and creativity a bigger platform, helium said.

“All institutions request to change,” Williams said. “My question is: What are you going to do?”

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Credit...Alexandra Garcia/The New York Times

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Credit...Source: Earth System Research Laboratories, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Compiled by Steven Moity and Mariel Wamsley


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Credit...Adam Amengual for The New York Times

Barbecue fans astir the satellite tin statement the features of a Platonic Texas brisket, oregon what makes a cleanable Kansas City sauce.

So what defines California barbecue? That, my workfellow Tejal Rao wrote recently, has been harder to answer.

But whether it’s classical Santa Maria tri-tip oregon smoked pork belly char siu handed disconnected successful a Rosemead parking lot, Cochinita Pibil successful East Los Angeles oregon West Oakland blistery links, there’s 1 happening that unites the ever-evolving barbecue of the Golden State: It’s delicious.

Read connected here, but — arsenic is ever the lawsuit with Tejal’s stories — don’t click unless you’re prepared to get truly hungry.


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Jill Cowan grew up successful Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported each implicit the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she ever wants to spot more. Follow on present oregon connected Twitter.

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