OVER a third of the Japanese believe that leisure activities are more important than anything else in life, according to an opinion poll conducted by the prime minister’s office a couple of years ago. And with much more time on their hands, they feel an increased urge to swim, surf, play golf, sail and ski.
This creates a problem. The hatred the Japanese have for the unpredictable means that many of them prefer to avoid outdoor sports rather than run the risk of bad weather, sickness from polluted seas or cancer from the ultra-violet radiation of the sun. To calm their fears, Japan’s developers have come up with a great idea: why not move outdoor sports indoors? Three giant indoor resort complexes have opened during the past year with man-made beaches and snow-capped peaks.
Ocean Dome, which opened its doors last July, forms part of the YEN 200 billion ($1.8 billion) Seagaia complex in Miyazaki on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s large islands. Its vital statistics give some idea of the engineering feats involved: it has the world’s biggest retractable roof, which is opened and closed according to the weather conditions; 12,000 square metres of sandy beach, crushed from 600 tonnes of stones; an “ocean” six times larger than an Olympic pool, filled with 13,500 tonnes of unsalted, chlorinated water kept at a piping hot 28 degrees C.
A wave machine produces surf in all shapes and up to 3.5 metres high–big enough to satisfy the professional surfer. To add to the excitement, a sheet of water can be erected, perpendicular to the “ocean”, so that it is possible to surf not only on top of water but through it as well.
Ocean Dome is patronized mostly by 18 to 30 year-olds whose outlook has been heavily influenced by the consumer boom of the 1980s. They are much more demanding customers than their parents, and for YEN 10,000 a day they get not only a completely sanitized environment but changing rooms and 17 restaurants as well. A train service runs to the door.
Ocean Dome is the second man-made beach to open in Japan. The first, Wild Blue in Yokohama, just outside Tokyo, came into operation in June 1992. It is smaller but equally mind-boggling. Its beach is plastic. Because of local building regulations, its roof is too low to let in much natural light, so the place has to be artificially lit.
None of this seems to bother Japanese surfers, who crowd into these resorts in such numbers that they often have to queue to enter the surf. They prefer this controlled environment to the Pacific Ocean, which in both Miyazaki and Yokohama is only a few hundred metres away. NKK, a big Japanese steel maker which is heavily involved in indoor sports development, expects the summer months to be these centres’ busiest period and to account for 40% of their yearly revenue. One reason surfers prefer indoor resorts, it says, is that they discipline crowds well, whereas outdoor beaches are chaotically packed in July and August.
Ocean sports are not the only ones to have moved indoors. The Japanese became the world’s greatest ski enthusiasts after it was announced that the winter Olympic Games would be held in Nagano in 1998. The country now counts 12.5m active skiers and Skidome is trying to profit from the craze.
Also known as SSAWS (pronounced zausu and standing for spring, summer, autumn, winter and snow), Skidome is marketed as a “full-fledged urban ski area” by Mitsui Fudosan, the property firm which developed it at a cost of YEN 35 billion. It opened last summer and has become a landmark for people travelling from Narita airport to Tokyo. It brags that it is bigger and better than any other inside ski centre–and with good reason. Its slope is 490 metres long and 100 metres wide. A thrilling drop of 80 metres satisfies the standards of the International Ski Federation for parallel slalom competitions. But Skidome aims to cater for beginners as well as professional skiers. The absence of wind, rain and a “too-hot” sun are big selling points.
The biggest selling point of all is that its slope is covered in man-made snow (most man-made slopes have plastic matting). This is topped up every night when the temperature in the dome is lowered to well below freezing, making it the world’s biggest refrigerator. Because the particles of snow are small, the slope provides better skiing than Nagano or Hokkaido, Japan’s favourite ski spots, where the snow is less powdery and blander.
NKK, Mitsui Fudosan, and Phoenix Resort, the property developer behind Seagaia, have other reasons for expanding into indoor sports. A profit squeeze is obliging them to diversify in ways that capitalise on their know-how. NKK says that the idea for the artificial beach and ocean was born out of techno-logy developed for the shipping industry, where wave machines are used to test the stability of ships.
The company is thrashing around for ideas for new indoor sports to develop: mountaineering, scuba diving and even indoor flying are under consideration. In seeking a competitive edge, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has developed “Jet Fly”, the new sport of “body flying”, in which bursts of air shooting up from the floor create an air cushion which keeps people airborne. So perhaps a Peter Pan Indoor Sports Centre is on the cards.
Drag racing is about getting to the finish line before your opponent. Obviously, a top-rated car with powerful engine (sth like: twin-turbochared flat-12 5.4 litre engine) always bring many advantages. That’s the reason why most of racers always have to well prepare for their cars before the races. Such tasks like: fill in fuel, test the car tyres, check out carburetors, completely replace or do cleaning the fuel injector is undoubtedly the most important for every racers. However, a slower car can still possibly beat a quicker car if the driver is quick on the lights. With two races down and six to go, we looked at the reaction times for all the classes to see who drills the Tree and who cuts the zzzzz’s.
We list out some examples below
- We began with the average reaction time of each first-round eliminator. Even though all classes run against a .400 Pro Tree, the average is well into the .500-second range. The accompanying chart lists the hard facts for the Moroso and Rockingham races, including the averages for the top three points leaders in each class.
- Would you believe a four-class, .575-second average reaction time (as compared to a .492-second average) for two races in NHRA Pro Stock? Granted, comparing “street” racers to professionals isn’t fair, but it’s better than comparing them to NHRA Super Gas racers. At the NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, the slowest reaction in the last five rounds was .461 seconds!
To be fair to the WQSCDRS racers, there are mitigating circumstances. With the exception of Pro Street, the cars in the other classes generate lots of suspension travel, and use tall front tires that add to the reaction time (of the car, not the driver). Driving-school master Frank Hawley has illustrated the difference between driver reaction time and vehicle reaction time, so slow-vehicle rollout may be the reason for this.
- At Moroso, Pro Street’s Mike Moran had a .459-second average for two runs. In Real Street, Dave Henninger averaged a .480-second reaction time for six passes in two races – including a .436 light at Moroso! Kurt Urban is an excellent Hot Street leaver with a .431-second average for three runs at Moroso. In fact, one of the best starting-line races of the year was in the third round of Hot Street at Moroso, where Bob Hanlon cut a .412 to Urban’s .421 reaction time.
On occasion, a racer will leave slow when he knows he has the competition covered. These slower reaction times obviously pull the average down, and tend to occur during the first round. If the reaction time was exceptionally slow, these runs were not counted in our average of the class.
So where is the “state of the leave” in WQSCDRS racing? Frankly, some of the quickest racers are giving away as much as .200 second on the starting line. Chuck Samuel’s average reaction time for runs over two races was .629! If an enterprising Super Streeter can pull off a .450 light against Samuel, that’s a .179-second advantage off the starting line.
We did not consider bye runs, redlights, or pairings in which the reaction times were exceedingly slow. The Best Reaction Time column lists the best time thus far in each class. You’ll also find the top three points leaders’ average reaction times over several pairings. All reaction times are expressed as a fraction of a second.
There was a time in this country when 40 percent of all workers were unionized. There was a time when every major newspaper had a reporter for its labor beat. There was a time when “class consciousness” didn’t mean that the wealthy class was conscious of getting more tax breaks.
As unionization and strike activity have dried up, it’s critical for progressives to join the two high-profile labor battles on the horizon in professional sports. NBA and NFL owners both are poised to lock out their players in 2011.
It’s tempting to write off sports labor battles as “billionaires versus millionaires.” And there is no question it’s obscene that we live in a world where A-Rod pulls in a thousand times more than what a teacher makes, but we need to recognize that the players deserve our support.
Pro sports owners are the filthiest of filthy rich, and no exception to the expression that behind every great fortune is a great crime. Billionaire Paul Allen, who co-founded the rapacious monopoly known as Microsoft, owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. The Ford family owns the Detroit Lions. The Fords stained the history books with involvement in everything from union bashing to Nazi collaboration. And don’t forget the former owner of the Texas Rangers, an amiable fellow with loftier ambitions named George W. Bush.
Without a doubt, the players in the major leagues of sport make serious bank. The average salary in baseball is more than $3 million. In football, it is just over $1 million, far more than a lot of people see in a lifetime. But this was not always so.
In 1967, the average baseball salary was $19,000 a year. That same year, the average NFL salary was just $8,000. A typical athlete in 1967 worked in the off-season. Not cushy jobs but jobs that reflected the hardscrabble background of many of the players. One crew of linebackers worked summers in a quarry. Take a second to imagine Peyton Manning crushing rocks, and one can see how much things have changed.
So how did the athletes manage to get the huge salaries we see today? They organized. Yes, the industry expanded and created a bigger pie, but the boom periods were the ’20s and the ’50s, and didn’t automatically mean higher salaries. Instead, it took union power in the late ’60s and early ’70s to change how the sports pie would be cut.
Pro athletes battled a tradition of company-run unions, and fought to end the reserve clause, which bound a player to the team that drafted him with no rights to go anywhere else. When athletes won the right of free agency, they used their solidarity–and the power of the strike–to extract wealth from the bosses.
This year in particular, athletes deserve our support. The NFL and NBA bosses might unilaterally shut the doors in the name of pay cuts. Such a lockout would have huge consequences.
“It’s not just us that gets locked out,” DeMaurice Smith, the new head of the NFL Players Association, told me. “Every stadium worker. Every waiter or waitress picking up an extra shift at the nearby restaurants. Anyone selling concessions while people tailgate. Each and every one of these hard-working folks gets locked out as well.”
Smith’s right. The fact is, a victory for the players is a victory for all of us.
And the actions by pro athletes have the potential to put the issue of labor back at the center of American life, where it belongs. Then we’ll really have reason to cheer our favorite athletes.
Dave Zirin is the author of the new book “Bad Sports: How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love.”