Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Olympic Thoughts

Some people I know don't like the Olympics, and seem very proud of announcing that they refuse to watch them.  As for me, I cannot help getting caught up in them, and I end up watching hours of coverage every night they are on; especially in the age of DVR, when I can fast forward through the coverage of equestrian, synchronized swimming, and rhythmic gymnastics, and focus on the important stuff like Swimming in the first half of the Games, and then especially Track and Field in the second half.

Now that the 2012 London Games have wrapped up, I just have a few random thoughts to share.

1. The Opening Ceremonies were Gawd Awful!  Danny Boyle really laid an egg with his vision of an opening ceremonies.  While there were some bright spots with the James Bond/Queen antics and Mr. Bean flummoxing his way through the Chariots of Fire theme, the ceremonies totally lost me with the ode to Britain's National Health Service.  How tacky and shamelessly political was that.  Then the ceremonies ended with that live sitcom/musical/modern love story between those two teenagers.  I wish I hadn't sat there so long hoping the opening ceremonies would get better.

2. The Closing Ceremonies on the other hand, I rather enjoyed.  I loved the retrospective of British musical acts that appeared, such as the Pet Shop Boys, Spice Girls, Fatboy Slim, Wish You Were Here with some of the older British Rockers channeling that Pink Floyd classic, and Annie Lennox, just to name a few.  The only band missing that would have made things better was Def Leppard.  I LOVE those guys!  I even liked the song sung by that otherwise moronic Russell Brand.

3. David Rudisha in the 800m.  My main race and first love when I ran Track in high school and college was the 800m.  I ran in the high 1:50s, so I always enjoyed watching my betters running in the 1:40s.  For years, the world record  was 1:41.73, set in 1981 by none other than the head of the London Olympic Committee, Sebastian Coe.  An African-turned-Dane named Wilson Kipketer dropped the record to 1:41.11 in the late-1990s, but that is as far as he got.  It took a Kenyan named David Rudisha to finally break that elusive 1:41 barrier, running 1:40.91 on his way to a gold medal.  What did the silver medalist run?  He ran 1:41.73.  In fact, this was the fastest 800m race in history.  Aside from the winner setting a world record, the first five finishers ran under 1:43, and the last place finisher ran 1:43.77.  That time would have won most of the previous Olympic 800m finals. Here is a unique view of Rudisha's record-breaking run from a fan in the stands:

4. Missy Franklin in swimming.  Whichever guy out there eventually snags Missy as his wife will be one lucky dude.  What a vibrant, enthusiastic, appreciative, and gracious young lady she is.  Even though she dominated most of her races, young Missy always acted like she was lucky to be there.

5. McKayla Maroney's vault in the gymnastics team competition.  Sorry Mary Lou, but Maroney's flight was simply the most perfect vault I have ever seen.  Too bad McKayla couldn't quite recreate the magic in the Vault finals later on in the Games.

6. The Great BMX Pile-up of 2012.  Do I think BMX racing should be an Olympic sport?  Not necessarily.  Do I think this crash was one of the unsung highlights of the Games?  Definitely!  The lone rider who avoided this mangle must have been guffawing all the way to the finish line:

7. Leo Manzano's split loyalties. Hey Leo, I am so proud of you for passing several runners in the final 100m of the Men's 1500m final and snagging the silver medal - the first medal of any color for an American male in this event since 1968. Unfortunately Leo, you ruined the moment by wearing your USA singlet but carrying a Mexican flag with you during your victory lap. Shame on you. Of course Leo was a little bit freaky to begin with. The first time I saw him was in a qualifying heat earlier in the Games. While he stood back of the starting line waiting for his race, while giving off several nerdy squints, he proceeded to repeatedly lick his fingertips, and then rub those fingertips on various locations on his torso and legs. I am not kidding!


8. Serena Williams gettin' her ghetto on. A little victory dance after winning the gold medal on the Wimbledon court is fine, Serena. But when your dance is the Crip Walk, which was popularized by cold-blooded gang-banging killers in South Central Los Angeles, you end up looking as trashy and offensive as they are.  Way to be an "Ugly American" on the world stage. 

9. The Jamaican victory in the Men's 4x100m Relay. What was there not to like in this final? You had the two fastest men in the world on the Jamaican team. You had a former 100m Olympic Champion (Justin Gatlin) on the American team.  We all knew it was going to be a race for the ages, but my goodness what a spectacle!  The Jamaican and American teams were essentially even all the way around the track up to the point when their anchor legs took the batons.  Then Usain Bolt began his run into history, leaving American Ryan Bailey in the dust, and anchoring the first relay team to ever break 37 seconds (36.85).  The Americans equaled the old world record (37.04) that the Jamaicans had just broken!  The best part is that for the first time that I have ever seen, Usain Bolt didn't act like a jackass as he approached the finish line and ran all the way through the tape.  Makes one wonder if that 36.85 will ever be broken?

10. The American victory in the Women's 4x100m Relay.  The old world record of 41.37 had stood since 1985.  It was set by four East German women who we suspected at the time, and now know, were hopped up on a state-sponsored regimen of steroids, human growth hormone, testosterone, and Lord knows what else.  That record is now history, as our team ran 40.82.  Now if only we could expunge from the record books such other performances from the former Eastern Bloc countries, including the men's hammer and discus, and the women's 400m, 800m, 4x400m Relay, Discus, Shot Put, and Javelin.  Just as an example, check out the current world record holder (1:53.28) in the Women's 800m.  Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia set that record in 1983, and it is still standing.  Of course when that record was set by a "woman" that looked like this... wonder if it will ever be broken by today's actual female runners.

  • Oscar Pistorius's magic legs.  I am still unsure whether or not I agree with the decision to allow the South African 400m runner to compete with carbon fiber prostheses attached to his amputated legs, but I must admit that it was quite inspiring to watch him run down that track!  
  • The female Chinese swimmer who swam the last 100m freestyle leg in her Medley race just as fast as Ryan Lochte did when he won the men's race in that same event.  I have more to say on the Chinese and their freakish athletic performances in another post.  The Eastern Bloc countries may be no more, but now we have China to pick up the mantle of improved athletic performance through state-sponsored chemistry.
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free... it expects what never was, and never will be."  -Thomas Jefferson


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