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Pinnacles of civilization - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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November 3rd, 2002


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05:23 am - Pinnacles of civilization
Computer still performing OK. Monitor is sizzling a bit intermittently, but if it's going to go "pop" then I'd like it to do so in the next three or four weeks, within three years of receipt, not that I can find the warranty information easily.

Made a bit of a schoolboy productivity error yesterday. In a fit of upset about only being able to use 640x480 with the little monitor and not being able to watch TV, I started playing Civilization which works in a suitably low resolution. (Well, kind of works - Windows 98 won't really free up enough memory to run it properly and it wouldn't save either.) However, that was enough to play the interesting gamestart part. There was also the game I started where the numbers went wrong and I ended up producing a militia unit every turn, which was interesting, but not very interesting.

So today I compounded the error by installing Civilization II on this PC and giving it a go. The installation didn't complete fully - specifically, the video parts. (I suspect I have got some more recent video facilities on this PC which didn't take too kindly to having 1996-vintage video playback software installed alongside them.) The game played well, though; I played and played and ended up playing the whole day. I managed to play an entire game in a day - I estimate between 8 and 10 hours to go from BC 4000 to AD 2020, which is a lot less than I remember. I was playing on Warlord level (the second, so effectively "easy" but not "very easy") and managed to get myself somewhere towards a winning draw without actually winning. Indeed, I was playing more to reacquaint myself with all the cool things in the game than to actually try to win through either route.

It was a lot of fun. My Greeks got a size 33 city and about 38,000,000 citizens all told. Final score 773, so a not-too-impressive-but-not-bad-for-one-day 38% for Hippolyta the Cruel. Unfortunately I'm rather tempted to play again and try out all the useful and interesting things that I didn't try out this time but have just read about in the manual instead. If I'm going to be doing some sort of displacement activity then it may as well be Civ II, but it would be a lot better if I could get on with something useful instead... :-(

Incidentally, there's a Sid Meier's Civilization board game (nothing to do with either the Civilization board game or the Advanced Civilization board game) which came out about a month ago. Not a lot of buzz about it so far, but what there has been hasn't been too great. If I'm going to be playing board games for 4-6 hours then I'd generally rather play more than one game, possibly with more than one group.

If the Olympic Games are the biggest sporting event in the world, then the bidding process for them might be the biggest contest in the world. People are talking now about the 2012 Olympics, due to be awarded in 2005. The US Olympic Committee has made New York its candidate for 2012, according to the linked recent BBC News story. London might bid but is still thinking about it. The BBC claim that New Delhi are throwing their hat into the ring and that "Other cities which have shown interest in hosting the 2012 Oympics are Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Washington, Houston, San Francisco, Budapest, Paris and Rome." Googling for Olympics 2012 gives quite a few sites from disappointed US cities, but also suggests Moscow are keen as is the Frankfurt RhineMain area. For a really wacky choice, the Washington Times suggest Baghdad is interested.

OK. Let's start by scrubbing out the US cities apart from New York. I also think that Brazil is in such financial peril that their bids would be very hard to take seriously. This leaves a list of something like New York, New Delhi, London, Paris, Rome, Budapest, Frankfurt, Moscow and, ha ha, Baghdad. The Guardian also suggest Madrid. A quick search reveals that there doesn't look like much prospect of Canada or Australia putting in a bid for 2012. Now the workings of the IOC are legendarily byzantine, but I do think there is a strong element of "Buggins' turn" to the proceedings these days. There is no formal scheme to rotate the Games around the continents, though IOC dictator Juan Samaranch is apparently mooting installing one. (Or am I thinking of the FIFA bloke? These sporting politicians are a dodgy bunch.)

All the same, New Delhi is extremely unlikely given that 2008 is in Beijing/Peking and even given Asia's size, two consecutive games within even a continent and a quarter of each other seem very unlikely these days. Taking this one step further, given that the Olympics are coming to Athens in 2004, I would have thought it unlikely that a continent would get two games just eight years apart. (The last time this happened was either 1980 Moscow, 1988 Seoul, if you count Moscow as more Asian than European, or 1976 Montreal, 1984 Los Angeles if you don't.) If you take out the European bids then you're left with New York and not very much else. The Games have never been to New York and there is still a lot of sentimental favour for the city since the events of 11/9/01. (He said, deliberately writing it D/M/Y to confuse.) Rome and Milan have suggested that other entries should withdraw in favor of New York if it is the U.S. nominee, say USA Today, and I've heard that elsewhere too. The games haven't been to North America since 1996 (Atlanta) and a 16-year gap between North American visits is starting to get quite large.

However, Atlanta '96 was generally regarded as a poor set of games, not just because of the terrorist incident within, but also because of perceived overcommercialisation. The fact that they were thought poor means that they were, relatively, probably the worst for a long time; it is traditional to decry each set of Olympics as the best yet and Atlanta did not get such an accolade. That would seem to be the major stumbling-block to New York's chances, though if there is another major security incident between now and then, God forbid, then security might well be an issue. (Alternatively, it's possible that the USA might do something really diplomatically stupid and burn lots of bridges with the rest of the world.) I don't regard those as very likely to happen, though, and expect to see New York in 2012 and somewhere European in 2016. It's interesting that the New York bid expects to spend about GBP 5*10^9 on the games, whereas the London bid's worst-case cost estimate is just GBP 4*10^9. The difference in money will tell.

Unfortunately, I don't think that the people who make the decisions tend to agree with me. With reference to recent report by the BOA, The report makes it clear that to delay a bid for 2016 would raise the serious threat of blighting much needed regeneration in East London making it "politically unattractive". The conclusion is that no other area in London has the necessary transport capability nor land availability to be able to be a viable alternative for a delayed bid. The international desire for continental rotation means that if a European city were to win the nomination for 2012, it would be extremely doubtful whether the Games would return to this continent before 2024 at the earliest. I'm rather worried about the concept that not bidding for 2012 might cause problems for regeneration in East London.

Where the next European games might go is an interesting question. Manchester's failure and Birmingham's failure before it tend to suggest that cities which are not at least very nearly the most high-profile in the country do not stand much chance. (Can you estimate the populations of what might be called Greater Barcelona and Greater Madrid off the top of your head? The results might surprise you. Manchester and Birmingham are so much smaller than London that they don't really compare.) Likewise, I think that Frankfurt and the Rhein-Ruhr blob at large has so little identity compared to Munich that they too are always going to be seen as second class. I also don't like Budapest's chances because nobody rates Hungary or Eastern Europe in general. (Athens would never have won were it not for tradition.) Rome is also less likely given that Italy are getting the Winter Olympics in 2006 (Turin) and Madrid must be seen as a very long shot by virtue of being in the same country as Barcelona. This therefore leaves London and Paris. Whichever of the two gets it next will be the first city to have had it three times and so will crow about being Best City In The World Ever to all and sundry for a long time. I do hope it isn't Paris.

There is the question why a country might want to bid for the Olympics at all - after all, it tends to end up being extremely expensive to put the facilities in place. You do end up with nice facilities and a big tourism boost, but there have been lots of cases in which the costs have exceeded the benefits. I recently heard a description that a common thread among the recent successful cities is that they have been very slightly second-rate and keen for the extra attention to get themselves noticed: Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens. Are they names that spring to mind when you think of "a world city"? Do they have strong claims to being "world cities" apart from having recently hosted the Olympics? I do see the point, but it's only a recent trend - I think you can far less quibble with the strength of the seven beforehand: Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles. At least four, maybe five of them are definitely what I would call "world cities". I guess people just want to host the games because countries tend to do so much better when they're at home. Again, see the BOA report.

There is also the repeated-bid effect. The very useful GamesBids web site, which ought to be the #1 stop for this sort of thing except that doesn't seem to work nearly as well in IE as it does in Mozilla, has a page of past election results. Beijing lost very narrowly to Sydney for 2000 and that certainly can't have hurt its chances for 2008. However, Manchester's two defeats were real signs of weakness, and I wonder if the defeats of Paris for 1992 and 2008 aren't good indications that the city doesn't have what it takes. Another defeat for Paris in 2012 would be very embarrassing indeed.

Here's a pessimistic prediction. Much as Athens came back from close-ish defeat for 1996 to win it for 2004, Rome will think that they can come back from close-ish defeat in 2004 to win it for 2012 - except that, because New York are standing, they won't stand for 2012 and will stand for 2016 instead. Paris will never go up against Rome, so Paris decide to stand for 2012, third time lucky, all or nothing. It does look like London will stand for 2012 and I think they really will. The European vote will therefore be split and New York will win 2012 handily, with London a distant second. London will then fancy its chances and enter a very similar bid for 2016 to their 2012 bid but come second again, this time to Rome who have been preparing their bid for even longer and will have the "we stood down for New York for 2012" global public sympathy on their side. Well, there's always London 2028...

Lastly, a couple of quick dreams from last night. The first one was set in the Rovers Return, a pub used in the "Coronation Street" soap opera. For some strange reason there was a board game storyline. I noted that they were using the pieces from the modern and highly-rated Puerto Rico board game on a map gameboard which apparently came from the game as well. (There is no such map gameboard in real life.) Other people in the pub were playing it as well, with a character who left the soap maybe ten years ago (Percy, the cantankerous old grandfather) making a very strange long warbling noise which incorporated lots of real words in a very amusing fashion. It made no sense.

The second was set in a water theme park which apparently had some connection with professional wrestling. It turned out not to be so much of a water park as a park full of inflatable bouncy castles. The one I spent most time on was the shape of a giant tyre, perhaps twenty feet high, which rotated slowly and vertically (er, around the axis through its centre parallel to the ground). I have a feeling that falling (or being thrown by other people playing on the inflatable) from a considerable height but not hurting yourself because you're landing on a big bouncy castle airbed was somehow meant to be connected with the predetermined nature of pro wrestling bouts, but that's a stretch of dream logic even for me.

Off to bed now. Let's see if we can dream up something for tomorrow!

(8 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


From:philonightmare
Date:November 2nd, 2002 09:57 pm (UTC)

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OMG, you even DREAM games?! Now that's something I'd like to be able to do! Dreaming about your favourite hobby in the world...GAH. YOU.ARE.LUCKY. ;)

Sweet dreams!

~Eram
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From:missingdonut
Date:November 2nd, 2002 10:09 pm (UTC)
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Two quick things:

(1) The Civilization 2 video problems are not the fault of the software. The process called "backwards compatibility," where more modern equipment can take dated software, ensures that software that worked on a computer in 1996 works on one in 2002. I mean, look at me. I'm using Lynx to make this comment, and I can programme in QBasic despite using Win98 as my shell. (LONG LIVE DOS)

(2) Sheboygan Falls, WI will beat London for Olympics in 2028. Yeah, you heard us right. Our little town of 5823. Better wait until 2032 :^)
[User Picture]
From:jumbach
Date:November 3rd, 2002 03:44 pm (UTC)

Old Games and New Computers: Not a match made in heaven

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I LOVE the classic computer game, Pirates! and have played several incarnations of it since the early Commode 64 days. Regrettably, I finally upgraded to a decent computer system several months ago (Win98, but still pretty good for my needs). I wasn't able to install Pirates!, and then finally when I did get it running it crashed several times, early in the game. I've given up, and decided to just stick to all of my sports games instead--I have almost all of EA's collections. (I especially love the NHL '(year) series and the NBA (year) series.

Turns out I don't have a whole lot of time for games, anyway. :-
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Nothing but love for QBasic here.

Seriously!
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From:bateleur
Date:November 3rd, 2002 01:18 am (UTC)

Not Civ

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"it would be a lot better if I could get on with something useful instead"

Which is what, out of interest ? I don't approve of people tidying their rooms when they could be playing pooter games !

Incidentally, I agree with you that NY will win the 2012 bid, but I'm surprised you make no mention of 9/11 as a possible factor. I consider it highly relevant. 'Evil terrorists cannot crush our spirit', and all that.
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From:ringbark
Date:November 3rd, 2002 02:10 am (UTC)

Bad dreams

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Chris, please may I point you in the direction of baddreams.
Also, possibly based on my geographical position, I would probably have to say that Sydney is a "world class" city along with Melbourne. New Zealand does not have the capability to run the Olympics at all.
And Wellington just lost out on Interhash 2004, which is now going to Cardiff. The other bid came from Perth, WA.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:November 6th, 2002 06:55 pm (UTC)

Re: Bad dreams

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I like the name and concept of baddreams. Not just for bad dreams after all, it seems. Nothing spectacular dream-wise since then. One that the world would rather not know about simply because of its faecal nature, but the rest have been utterly forgettable.

Might go to bed very soon and try to get some more.
[User Picture]
From:calliaume
Date:November 3rd, 2002 07:06 am (UTC)

Slight Update

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Washington, D.C. and Houston have already been eliminated from consideration. As a regular reader of The Washington Post, I can assure you there was much gnashing of teeth from the sports columnists over San Francisco beating them out. (Thomas Boswell might have something about it; the Post's web site does a splendid job of archiving.

Frankly, I don't see New York getting the games. The safety logistics would be a nightmare, the city would have to all but shut down for a month, and there are budgetary issues -- they would have to build a full new domed stadium for the games, which would eventually go to the football New York Jets, or dome the Meadowlands in New Jersey, where the Jets and Giants currently play. (They're also bidding for the Super Bowl in a few years -- a poor idea, in my opinion, as I remember some freak snowstorms when Atlanta hosted it a couple years ago played havoc with people's schedules. Snowstorms in New York in late January aren't freaky.) Finally, what does one do with the Mets and the Yankees during the Olympics? Baseball wouldn't stop during that period. And forget about new stadiums for the baseball teams; Giuliani (a baseball fan, especially for the Yankees) put the wheels in motion for new stadiums for both teams during his tenure, only to have Michael Bloomburg (not a baseball fan) call a halt to them a week after the change of the guard.

If anything, it'll be San Francisco. Northern California has at least two stadiums that won't be in use during the summer (Candlestick Park and wherever the University of California plays), plus Stanford's stadium if pushed. Plus the weather is generally more cooperative.

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