Tag Archives: Olympics

Olympic Fever

We’ve been swept up in Olympic Fever around here, taking in as much Olympics as we can. And since it’s a vacation, I’m probably watching more Olympics than I have in a long time. It’s really fun getting into the drama and the stories of each athlete.

But I have to say it breaks my heart when the silver medalist breaks down in tears. I know it’s not gold, but you’re second place in the entire freaking world. Buck up.

That was the image we saw of Russia’s Victoria Komova after the women’s individual all around. She lost to Gabby Douglas (Could anyone have a more infectious smile? Yes, Missy Franklin.) and collapsed in tears, inconsolable. She could barely even stand to wear the silver medal.

I get the disappointment, but it’s also the Olympics. You’re awesome. In a world of 7 billion people, you’re number two.

That was the sentiment of the jovial Missy Franklin: “I don’t think fourth at the Olympics is a disappointing swim at all,” she said, talking about teammate Lochte’s finish (though she had a fourth place of her own).

Then there’s 15-year-old Katie Ledecky who destroyed the field in the 800 meter freestyle, winning by more than 4 seconds. Afterword when asked how she did it, she said something to the effect of, “I set high goals and reached for them, and this just blew everything out of the water.” She gives the impression that her “high goals” were far short of gold. But there she is, a shocked and glorious winner.

Then there’s the Chinese athlete who won silver and broke down crying on live national media coverage, apologizing for letting his country down (it was an NPR story, can’t find it online). That’s harsh.

There’s also the 3-time gold medal winning Chinese diver who after winning her medal learned that her grandmother had died–more than a year ago. And that her mom had been battling breast cancer for years. Her family didn’t want the death to distract her from the Olympics. That’s a little too intense.

The Olympics are an amazing opportunity and a chance to celebrate human achievement and skill. It shouldn’t be a time for sore losers. Personally, I’m sitting here on the couch amazed at how these athletes can contort their bodies, whether it’s the cyclists pouring on the speed for the last sprint, the runners with their feet flying a fluorescent Nike blur, the gymnasts spinning in the air (and with biceps bigger than my head) or the soccer players running for 45 minutes straight. It’s incredible and inspiring.

Makes me want to run and bike and swim. And yesterday I did. One lap of the pool left me gasping. Not like the women’s 100 meter sprinters who hardly looked winded. That’s just incredible.

Olympic Host Cities

The International Olympic Committee announces the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics today. It will be Madrid or Rio de Janeiro. Despite the presidential push from Obama for Chicago and the green-friendly reasoning for Tokyo, both cities are out on early voting. It would have been cool to have the Olympics in Chicago, but only for selfish reasons (when else will the Olympics be only six hours away?).

When you look at the history of the Olympics, it’s been mostly contained in wealthy western nations in North America and Europe. South American and Africa have never hosted an Olympic games. The Middle East and much of Asia have gotten the shaft too. This Olympic host country map provides a pretty startling view. Only twice in history have the Olympics been held south of the equator (both in Australia: 1956 and 2000). I understand that infrastructure and security requirements need to be met, but it seems like those challenges can be dealt with. Besides, location doesn’t guarantee security (remember Atlanta?).

Here’s to hoping the official announcement later today will mean history for the Olympics. (Update: They picked Rio for history!)

Until then, let’s explore some Olympic minutia when it comes to host cities.

  • The selection process hasn’t begun for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but a number of cities are lining up. In the making history department we have South Africa, Qatar, India, Peru, Malaysia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Even if the Olympic Games makes history today and go with Rio, it seems the 2020 games should continue that ground-breaking tradition.
  • In the not-so-historical department, a number of U.S. cities will be salivating now that Chicago is out of the running: Denver, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Birmingham (?!) and Pittsburgh have all shown interest.
  • Detroit has more unsuccessful Olympic bids than any other ultimately unsuccessful city with seven official attemps (Los Angeles has made nine bids, but they also hosted twice). Detroit made attempts in 1944 (3rd place), 1952 (5th place), 1956 (4th place), 1960 (3rd palce), 1964 (2nd place), 1968 (2nd place) and 1972 (4th place). If Detroit couldn’t host the Olympics at the height of their prestige, it seems almost laughable that they could win a bid now.
  • Yes, my hometown, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are considering a bid for the 2020 Olympics. There’s even a horrible web site that uses Comic Sans and a Facebook Group with 80,000 fans. The Twin Cities have tried and failed four times to host the Olympics: 1932, 1948, 1952 (2nd place), 1956. They also placed second to Atlanta as the U.S. host city in 1996. I love my city, but somehow I’m not sure if we’re Olympic caliber.
  • Time offers a glimpse of what happens to Olympic stadiums (auto racing in Athens is the coolest) and ponders the potential cost if Chicago hosted the Olympics.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the challenges Rio will face.