I’ve been sucked in for the last couple of weeks. I don’t believe that the Olympics has ever been quite so compelling for me and I can’t really give a good explanation as to why. As I’ve said before on this blog, I think sports is the great universal language. In any language and in any culture, if you see the 100M dash or the Marathon you can appreciate the speed and the stamina. When you see the emotions after the race or the exhaustion, that raw feeling communicates so much.* My favourite Olympic sports are probably Swimming, track and field, and the Marathon. All sports that can pass the 2nd grader eye test. Where a 2nd grader can predictably tell you who won. Those sports are the best. You’ll notice I didn’t list the sports that I generally talk about the most on the blog, soccer and triathlon. Olympic soccer on the men’s side is not nearly as prestigious as the other major tournaments, World Cup or the FIFA regionals (Euros, CONCACAF, African Cup of Nations, etc). The teams are also comprised of U23 + 3 overage players so it is not generally the established starts who are playing but rather rising stars and youth programs.** The Olympic triathlon is pretty popular (they set the standard ‘Olympic’ distance) but I still think it falls short of other competitions such as Ironman Series. That might be more of a personal note for me, I think that those triathletes are amazing, sure, but the Ironman captures my imagination.
*I don’t think any Olympics post written in the US is complete without a discussion about the broadcasting and coverage provided (at great cost) by NBC. While I generally disagree with the editing and the timing (many of the premiere events were shown during prime time rather than live to ensure that advertisers paid the premium prices) it is hard to argue that NBC got their money’s worth from it. More people tuned in per the ratings this year than ever before and despite all the backlash, I would say a majority of Americans had absolutely no other choice of watching the Olympics. Many people found ways around the blocks and watched the vastly superior BBC streams but you had to have a bit of savvy in order to get it. I followed live blogs from Reuters and the official London Olympics website as much as I could to get the news as it happened. In the end as much complaining as there was, money talks and NBC definitely got their money. Luckily the next Summer Olympics will be in Rio, our time zones match up much better so most of the streams will be live for us then.***
**Women’s Olympic Soccer is completely different. That is a fascinating and exciting tournament and topped off this year by what might be the best match ever played (arguably) between USA and Canada in the semifinals, followed by USA redeeming themselves against the Japanese side who stole the last Women’s World Cup. (Airplane Controversy) I have read on several blogs that women’s international soccer is more popular than MLS. I think that the line is pretty close but yes, its not quite the “Girls of Summer” team with Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm but Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Abby Wambach do make a very watchable team.
***On a related note, this Olympics also showed the might that was twitter. NBC received a huge backlash for the tape delays because results were already known. Technology has progressed to the point where information can wrap around the world almost instantaneously. So when your phone tells you Usain Bolt broke the Olympic record and defended his 100M title, it takes a little bit away from watching the tape delay later. Still, like I said before, NBC still got paid.
A great synopsis from my one of the best channels on Youtubes:
And there were some great stories coming out of the Olympics. Definitely gave people in professional and social situations something to talk about that was universally acceptable. Unlike saying “Did you catch Jersey Shore last night?” which could turn out either awesome for you or (in all likelihood) disastrous. I think over the next couple of months as interviews and books are being published about these Olympic games, maybe more stories about who cheated**** and who didn’t will be a fascinating until it inevitably dies out.
****Don’t be fooled, cheating is a as traditional in the Olympics as the torches or the medal ceremonies. Cheating is an art and is as important in the global discussion as the accomplishments of the athletes and the weather in the host country. What was terribly controversial doping debate here in the states was the teen Chinese swimmer who easily destroyed the field in 400 and 200 IM while nary a peep on US coverage regarding the 15 year old US swimmer who easily crushed the field in the 800M Free. You can bet that both swimmers were heavily scrutinized for those unlikely performances. Spirit of competition my butt. Especially in blatant cases such as the boxing match between Japan and Azerbaijan the IOC would like to forget about such cases but the evidence was everywhere.
What I will cherish the most about this and really any Olympics is how much you get to see a foreign city. While I might not have been quite so excited with Salt Lake City or Vancouver (actually now that I think back, Winter Olympics don’t seem nearly quite so interesting), I loved Sydney and Beijing and especially London. But I love the British so when Kenneth Branagh was rolled out at the Opening to the Eric Idle appearance (who sang the song I quoted to close my toast at my sister’s wedding) at the Closing, I was totally geeking out on all things delightfully British.
Biggest highlights for me:
1) Bolt winning back to back titles in 100M and 200M.
2) Women’s 4X100 Medley Relay WR (Rebecca Soni is my Olympic crush)
3) US v Canada Women’s Soccer Semifinal
4)McKayla is Not Impressed meme
5) Oscar Pistorious historic runs (and the best race ever)
6) Ennis finishes decathlon winning 800M
7) Mo Farrah wins 10K and 5K gold
8) Phelps bounces back and becomes most decorated Olympian ever
9) Opening Ceremonies (Bond and the Queen)
10) Watching random day events (rowing/water polo/trampoline) with my sisters
Let me know what you thought of the Olympics! Favourites? Least Favourites? Love to hear about them.
And to close, British athletes lip syncing Queen: