Tea and the Olympics: Track and Field

Read all about a Gyokuro Face-off (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Read all about a Gyokuro Face-off (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Track and Field is an extensive Olympic sport, consisting of 47 separate events: 26 running events, 3 walking events, 16 field events, the decathlon (men) and heptathlon (women). They are spread over ten days during this Olympics, but if you are only going to watch one, I would suggest the 11th of August, as all eight events on this day will see gold medals awarded. These events are: men’s 50km walk, women’s 20km walk, women’s high jump, men’s javelin throw, men’s 5000m run, women’s 800m run, and both men and women’s 4x100m relay (for a full schedule of when each of these events will happen, see here).

The day’s offerings are rich and varied, and, especially if you are watching the evening session, the events will happen in quick succession. So, if you are planning on taking some tea with your Olympics, what does this flurry of high stakes events mean for your tea drinking?

2012 Olympics Track and Field (Photo source: screen capture from site)
2012 Olympics Track and Field (Photo source: screen capture from site)

Given the range of events, I would suggest picking one of your “go-to” teas—a tea that you find suits just about every occasion. If you don’t have one of these, or if one does not come readily to mind, my suggestion would be a pure Japanese green tea.

If you want to go all out, Gyokuro is the highest quality Japanese green tea. I find its grassy, slightly sweet taste to be more favourable than that of Sencha, the medium grade Japanese green tea. However, there are many subtle taste distinctions between the different varieties of Gyokuro and Sencha out there, and many times you might find the latter is preferable.

A pure Japanese green seems appropriate for track and field due to its traditional, time-tested qualities. Some of the events that fall under track and field, such as running, javelin and discus throws, were staples of the original Olympic Games in Ancient Greece. You can’t get much more time-tested than that! Additionally, track and field events might lend themselves to comparison of human achievement over time better than other sports. In a recent New York Times article, Nate Silver posits that track and field events are less prone to continuously producing record-breaking performances because they reflect the “intrinsic barriers of human achievement” better than other sports. There is less room for increasing performance through technological improvements, or socio-economic advantages: a more level-playing field, if you will.

Interesting stuff! I’m glad I’ll have some Gyokuro to sip while I ponder those thoughts and watch the track and field events unfold!

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