Oh, the Olympics & All of Its Cover-Ups

February 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Yes, this blog is still up! With the news about the approaching Winter Olympics in Sochi and the big mess going on, I dug this story of mine up I wrote for this now-defunct website Listicles.com on other “preparations” made by host cities. Check it out:

5 ‘Cleanup Jobs’ by Olympic Host Cities

By Van Sias

You know how you want to make sure your house is nice and tidy before welcoming relatives for the holidays? Well, just imagine you’re a city and you’re playing host to the next edition of the Olympics, and you have, oh, let’s say, a gang problem, like in Rio de Janeiro, where authorities are already working to wipe that out before the 2012 Summer Games.

Having millions upon billions of eyes scrutinizing you can be a lot more stressful than making sure your mom doesn’t stumble upon your pile of dirty laundry!

Speaking of “dirty laundry,” though, here’s a look at some of the host cities have and what they’ve had to cover up:

Sydney, Australia (2000 Summer Olympics)

Swept Under the Rug: The homeless

No city ever wants to look like it can’t provide housing for its population, despite the sad fact that more than often that is the case. Sydney officials compiled dossiers on the homeless there to get them to shelters or hostels, with social workers helping those who are willing and police “helping” those who aren’t. Sydney Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Sartor had this to say around the time, regarding the hopefuls seeking jobs during the Games: “You could shine lights on them to make life uncomfortable, but they will only move to another hole somewhere else.”

Beijing, China (2008 Summer Olympics)

Swept Under the Rug: Pollution

Images of citizens wearing surgical masks in day-to-day life was probably something officials in China didn’t want the world to see heading into the ’08 Olympics. Don’t athletes perform better when they’re doing their thing in air they can actually breathe? Beijing shut down many of its factories heading into the Games, as well as limited the number of cars that could be on the road. While not every rogue particulate was removed from the sky, the show still went on—but under a gray curtain.

Athens, Greece (1896 and 2004 Summer Olympics)

Swept Under the Rug: Financial and political turmoil

Man, Athens will do whatever it takes to put on an Olympics, even at the cost of its economic and political stability. At the first Olympiad, burgeoning costs put the Games in jeopardy, along with the practice of alternating prime ministers. A grass-roots effort helped raise enough funds for the Olympics to be put on. More than 100 years later, it looked like there were athletes were going to be competing in partially built venues—if any at all—as doubt crept in over whether preparation would be completed in time. But Greece pulled it off in the nick of time. Sad to say, though, that as the nation has fallen upon some hard times, many of those venues have fallen into a state of disrepair.

Vancouver, British Columbia (2010 Winter Olympics)

Swept Under the Rug: Weather issues

Ummm … isn’t there supposed to be more snow than you could imagine at an edition of the Winter Games? Well, just blame it on that old warm-weather bringer El Nino, which almost wreaked havoc on some of the outdoor events in Vancouver. Luckily, the city’s officials were able to enlist the aid of heavy-duty helicopters to dump tons of the white stuff on some of the mountains there. Still, it was kind of weird seeing skiers covered with mud after crashing.

Berlin, Germany (1936 Summer Olympics)

Swept Under the Rug: Gypsies (and a feeble attempt at anti-Semitism)

Maybe the timing should be worked out a little better before awarding a host city. One year, things go smooth with the selection, then two years later, one of the most shameful ideologies in history is established as the governing force. That was the case with Berlin, as Adolf Hitler and Nazism’s prominence rose in 1933. Despite concerns and protests, the Games were played, and while signs of “Jews Not Wanted” were taken down, the city’s Gypsies were all rounded up.

Some of what's happening in Sochi now. (Yahoo Sports)

Some of what’s happening in Sochi now. (Yahoo Sports)


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Wimbledon…

June 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

So it’s been a minute since I’ve been around these parts! With Wimbledon starting tomorrow, I figured I’d dig something out of the archives of freelance craziness. I thought this story was going to run on a MAJOR website, but it never saw the light of day–for whatever reason. I never got an explanation on why it didn’t run. It’s been sitting around for a year now, so I figured I might as well do something with it. I’m removing the names of the interviewees; no need to get them mentioned at this point! Anyway, here it is:

Seeding System Holds Steady Amid Changes in the Game

By Van Sias

Players roaming the baseline during the fortnight at the All-England Club are as likely to walk away with the game’s most prestigious prize as their serve-and-volleying predecessors did years ago, perhaps even more so now.

The shifting trend of what’s needed for success on grass doesn’t reflect itself in the seeding process at Wimbledon anymore. It hasn’t for a decade now, in fact, and isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

Despite the tennis being played at the tournament resembling baseline slugfests seen at the recently completed French Open, grass courts still pose a different challenge.

“It’s the only surface that changes throughout the tournament, irrespective of weather conditions,” said former world No. 4 and two-time Wimbledon semifinalist Xxxx Xxxxxx. “The grass dies, plus it’s still the most unique as far as plenty of things can happen. The serve is rewarded on that surface more than any other.

“Once the point starts and gets into a groundstroke rally, the pace of the ball, the bounce of the ball is more similar to hard and clay,” Mr. Xxxxxx added. “But the movement, the strategy—there’s a lot you can get away with on a grass court that you can’t get away with on any other surface. And there’s a lot that can reward you.”

The male professional players who could handle those unique conditions best in the past were rewarded with higher seedings, regardless of their rankings. That is until threats of boycotts led the ATP and the All-England Lawn Tennis Club to come up with a new plan.

In it, the seeding committee was done away with and a new formula was devised. According to documentation from the AELTC:

“Seeds are the top 32 players on the ATP Entry System Position (ESP), then rearranged on a surface-based system. Since 2002 a seeding committee has not been required for the Gentlemen’s Singles following an agreement made with the ATP. The seeding order is determined using an objective and transparent system to reflect more accurately an individual player’s grass court achievements: The formula is:

·      Take ESP points at 18 June 2012

·      Add 100% points earned for all grass court tournaments in the past 12 months

·      Add 75% points earned for the best grass court tournament in the 12 months before that.”


This results in players like Bernard Tomic, ranked 27th in the world, receiving a bump up the seedings to 20th, based on the strength of his run to the quarterfinals in 2011.  The same calculations also enabled 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych to leapfrog world No. 6 David Ferrer in the seedings.

According to the AELTC, there hasn’t been any negative feedback regarding the change.

“I think all of the guys have a reasonable view of it,” Xxxxxx said. “For this group, it’s pretty much all they know as far as the seeding system is concerned.”

On the women’s side, going by the book is the best practice. The rules state:

“The seeding order follows the WTA ranking list, except where in the opinion of the committee, a change is necessary to produce a balanced draw.”

This year, perhaps the most noteworthy news along the lines of that process is the fact that five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams and two-time semifinalist Kim Clijsters are unseeded.

With their on-court time reduced by injuries over the course of the past two seasons, Clijsters and Williams couldn’t get their respective rankings of 53 and 55 close enough to the top 32 to merit special seeding consideration.

In a statement, the Xxxxx’x Xxxxxx Xxxxxxxxxx, said, “While respecting Wimbledon’s right to determine its seedings, we believe that the WTA Rankings should be used as the basis for seedings at all women’s professional tennis events.  In this regard we are pleased that Wimbledon has this year followed the WTA Rankings for seedings in the women’s draw.  It goes without question that Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters are great champions who have the ability to win any event they enter, irrespective of their seeding.”

That’s a tough prospect for anyone in the draw—seeded or otherwise.




All I Can Say Is, What a Ride…Wow!

December 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Do you remember my last post, about a big announcement? Well, here it is:

I have a full-time job again!

After years of doing what I did, I’m back on the 9-5 grind, in what can be considered a whole new career. I’m going to be copywriting for Macys.com after having freelanced there the past few months, working on credit card marketing and home items.

I’m stoked about it and so thankful for the opportunity. I can’t help but feeling reflective, too, as so much has happened over the past few years to get to this point. I’ve managed to do things that I’ve literally dreamed about, such as working the U.S. Open as a member of the press and writing for huge media properties, like USA Today and The New York Times.

But there’s a reason this blog is called “The Life and Times of the Anxious Freelancer” as the amount of stress I’ve dealt with over the years has been staggering. Having no money, putting myself out there through pitch letters only to be rejected, trying to rebuild and rebrand myself from being known as a copy editor to becoming a writer in one of the world’s most competitive marketplaces, always worrying about the next assignment…unreal.

It may sound like it was a masochistic pursuit, but I can’t really argue against the end result–or some of the results along the way. If I had to do it all again, though, would I? It’s hard to say. I know I’m extremely lucky to have a wife who supported me, celebrated with me and propped me up over that time, but that was a lot to ask of a person. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her or get to where I am now. And the people who thought of me whenever jobs were out there, or even liked a story when I posted it on Facebook, I’m extremely grateful to them (or you), too.

So what does this all mean for TLATOTAF? Well, I actually plan to keep it going, even though I’m not so anxious or freelancing anymore. I still have other things I’m pursuing: I’ve never even mentioned my book idea! Plus, I just got some confirmation today on a tennis project I’ll be pursuing in the new year. So there are plenty of stories still left to be told.

And I think I’ll even do a bit of revisiting some of my past experiences here, for a further peek inside of what I’d been doing over the years. Maybe some aspiring writer out there will see what “the life” entails–anxiety and all.

Wait for It…

November 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

You might not know it, but I think of this blog all the time: despite the lack of posts lately!

I actually have a big announcement to make concerning me and you and how we interact. I’m not going to make it now because I really want it to be special. Some work will be  going into saying what it is, trust me on that!

Anwyay, I’ll keep you posted. I just wanted to basically say “hi” to you, readers–and to my blog here, too. I’ll be in touch, promise!

Am I Right to Want to Write Right Now?

October 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I had to double-check but I’m pretty sure I got all my homonyms correct in the headline there!

Anyway, I’m still in the midst of my full-time freelance copywriting gig, and things are going swell, knock on wood. There’s been a lot less stress in my life as far as working goes (having a steady paycheck will do that for you!). But I’m still trying to figure out how to do the whole writing-on-the-side thing. I recently wrote how I’m kinda done with the freelance hustling, but I still have that urge to send pitches out and maybe put together some commentary/personal essay/feature piece for someone—anyone!

I’m sure once things get completely settled down in my life and my day-to-day becomes more routine, I’ll be able to do exactly that. Right now, though, probably isn’t the best time to be thinking of other pursuits.

But I can’t help it: So much is happening in this great big world of ours! And isn’t that the point of being a writer, to document the zeitgeist?

I guess first I should revise what I wrote a few posts ago about being done with the freelancing thing. Maybe it should be more like I’m done with it—to an extent. I’ll continue it as a side pursuit, when it’s not my bread-and-butter maker.

But while I’m waiting to get to that point, maybe I’ll be able to get out a pitch or two, while I don’t have everything riding on it.

Stay tuned.

Original Content: Rest Easy, Serena Williams: You Deserve It

October 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

(From time to time, for one reason or another, I’ll be posting some original content here and flagging it so. Here’s something I mentioned in my last post. I didn’t get a chance to shop it further around, but luckily it found a home here! It’s dated by a week or so, but I thought I’d give it to you raw and uncut, because that’s how I roll!)

Serena Williams Withdrew From the China Open—and That’s OK

By Van Sias

Play has kicked off at the China Open, one of the biggest tournaments outside the Grand Slams on the WTA Tour. Nine of the world’s top 10 are in the draw, led by No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. The only player missing is from the elite is world No. 4 Serena Williams, who withdrew before the start of the tournament with the flu.

And you know what? That’s quite all right. As a matter of fact, if Serena needed to miss the rest of the season, that would be OK, too.

Because if there’s one thing for sure in regard to how things have gone on the WTA Tour this year, she’s definitely earned a break.

Williams’ most recent tournament was the U.S. Open. The result? Victory, as she steamrolled through the field, until having to rally from the brink in the finals against Azarenka. That win, her 15th Grand Slam singles title, essentially capped the “Summer of Serena,” which really kicked off at Wimbledon, where she won her first Major in two years by beating Agnieszka Radwanska in the finals.

From there, Williams went on to capture her first Olympics Gold medal in singles, demolishing Maria Sharapova in the title match. In other words, the All-England Club, where the tournament for the Summer Games was held, might as well have been Williams’ practice court the way she racked up huge tournament victories there.

And post-Olympics, pre-U.S. Open, she captured a hard-court warm-up title in Carlsbad, Calif., for good measure.

In other words, Serena Williams has been playing at a level of intensity rarely seen in the sport—even by her standards.

To think, it all started with a shock first-round defeat at the French Open, the only Grand Slam that she’s won once. Prior to that, it looked like her summer run was going to kick off early as she went undefeated on the clay leading up to the tournament.

But losing to Virginie Razzano lit a fire under Williams and it’s safe to say her focus never strayed as she blitzed her way through the rest of the biggest tournaments of the year, becoming the first player to win Wimbledon, the Olympics and the U.S. Open since her big sister Venus did it in 2000.

Serena’s put in a lot of court time in 2012, even taking into account ties she played in Fed Cup, the international team competition, and doubles—she and Venus won Wimbledon and Olympics.

Overall, Williams leads the tour in singles titles this year with six. Despite that stat, though, it’s highly unlikely she would be able to get to No. 1 this year. It looks like what’s been the priority has been to take home the game’s biggest prizes, something she was unable to do for two years as she worked her way back from injuries and life-threatening illness.

That being said, it looks like Williams is all the way back as the year has shown. Tennis fans just won’t get to see it at the China Open, which is fine.

Rest easy, Serena: You’ve earned it.

A “Post” Mortem, of Sorts

October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well, the Monday-to-Friday deal has wrapped up for the week (it is Friday, after all). And there was some interesting goings-on at my current freelance gig, which I hope to feel you in on later.

But first, let me tell you about a couple of other things that came about starting last Saturday.

It was a lovely fall morning, and I had been feeling particularly inspired up to that point. I made plans to go to the writer’s space (or as I like to refer to it in my head, “the laboratory”). Got there for a bit and cranked out a story to send along to this pretty huge website that for the sake of anonymity, I’m going to refer to as “The Post.” (A clue to it’s real name is in the alias I just wrote, and if you need another hint, the name that goes before “Post” rhymes with “Ruffington.”)

I’d written to the sports editor a few months ago about possibly contributing and he said sure, we’ll get you all set up. I wrote something up then right away and never heard back, but decided to give it a go again. I’d been working full-time, could relax and get a tennis story to a big property with too little fuss.

So I sent it along, then waited to hear from the sports editor. And waited.

And waited.

And as of this writing here, I still hadn’t heard anything. So my story is pretty much dead on the vine. I will give it new life, though, either here (which would contribute to that Original Content quota I mentioned ages ago) or on the tennis blog that started it all for me, Tennis Talk, Anyone?.

But it wasn’t all bad for me and the “Post” this week. There was a bit of some funny business as well.

A friend of mine this week emailed me, saying she saw one of my stories on the Post’s new home industry site. I actually used to write for an earlier incarnation of the site, so it was kind of intriguing to me to see what story she was referring to.

I looked at the link and it was indeed something I’d written–nearly three years ago! It was posed as something that had just happened, when in actuality, the story was old as the hills. I asked my friend if I should email them to say that they posted an old story and she said yes. I thought about it and then decided not to. They’re a big company, they could figure it out.

And I guess a good thing is that I did get on the “Post” after all!

But wait, hadn’t I been there before?