August 13, 2012
Great Olympics With Similar Gripes
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
The London Games are over. Brits can now go back to worrying about, tea time, when Prince Harry will finally get married, and their own struggling economy.
Having London as the host city for the 2012 Summer Games was a wonderful choice. The runner-up, Paris, would have been nice, too. But London was a jolly old Olympic city which was hosting its record third Summer Games, and it was a treat for all who watched the Games to see. London, which hosted the Games in 1908 and 1948, provided a picturesque backdrop for the world's biggest sports party, especially in the street shots in the bicycle and foot road races. Lacking the majesty of the Great Wall in Beijing, the history of Athens, the remoteness of Australia and the mountains of Barcelona, London instead was much more charming and picturesque within the city limits. And from a logistical standpoint, the Games ran well other than the usual problems with mass transit.
Having seen every non-boycotted Summer Games since 1972, this observer has a pretty good handle on the rhythm and the flow of the Games. Three sports basically dominate the Games: swimming and gymnastics in week one, athletics in week two. All other sports disciplines seem to revolve around these "big three". In the Winter Games, everything revolves around figure skating. These four sports receive a disproportionate amount of coverage, and it's been that way since Mark Spitz, Frank Shorter, Olga Korbut and Janet Lynn were a part of the sports consciousness.
So, in presenting our wrap-up of these Games, we run the risk of complaining about stuff we've already railed against over the years. So bear with us, as we present our farewell message to what was a wonderful two weeks, especially for the United States, who finished with the most medals and the most Gold Medals.
ABC still did the Games better when they had them. What if they ever regained the Olympics one day?
Well, of course, they'd be on ESPN. All those timeless reporters, Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, Howard Cosell, they have all passed away. Keith Jackson is 84 and Frank Gifford is no longer able to commentate at his previous younger levels. Who would replace Bob Costas? Brent Musberger?
And what in the world would they do with Chris Berman?
Keep them on NBC for now. At least the Bruins broke that Boston jinx last year.
The women gymnasts receive the most saturation coverage. They are the Peyton Mannings of the Games. Winning the team Gold and the all-around Gold (Gabby Douglas) seemed to overshadow all the other supreme achievements going on, even Michael Phelps. For our neck of the woods, Needham's Ally Raisman did us proud with her Gold Medal in the floor exercise.
But another "local" girl, Kayla Harrison, made Olympic history in winning the Gold Medal in women's judo and it got precious little coverage. Harrison is from Middletown, Ohio but trains in Wakefield with her coach Jimmy Pedro. Her having to deal with being sexually abused by her first coach made her story even more heartwarming. She became the first USA woman to win a judo Gold Medal, and won the hearts of everyone when she leaped into the stands to hug her fiancé, Aaron Handy.
Guess it's up to the women to try and turn the USA on to soccer. They are miles ahead of the men, yet the men have MLS and the women have no real vision in trying again to start a pro league of their own. So, fine. Keep winning medals and World Cups for now. We love ya, soccer babes.
It's still hard to be a Patriot fan and root for Sanya Richards-Ross. Her husband Aaron was the starting cornerback for the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. At least you didn't get the constant references to the 18-1 Patriots like you did four years ago in Beijing. Four years later, she won two Gold Medals in separate 400m events. She should enjoy them and her husband, and hopefully over the long haul we'll remember her for what she was and not for who she's married to.
We've tried to get the USA more involved in sports like curling and rhythmic gymnastics. Now add team handball to that list. You probably played that game in your PE class. It's a fun sport to watch and play, but only Europe seems to be into it on a full scale basis. NBC had Celtic broadcasting icon Mike Gorman call the handball tournament (from monitors in New York, not live in London), and he concluded that the sport is worthwhile to propagate but impractical unless the USA starts creating handball venues to actually play the game.
It would be fun to have seen guys like Dick Butkus, Conrad Dobler and Joe Greene play water polo in their peak athletic prime.
Oscar Pistorious was clearly the most amazing competitor of the Games. Running with two artificial prosthetic limbs, he was allowed to compete in single and relay events on behalf of South Africa. After it was proved that his artificial legs did not give him an unfair competitive advantage, he became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. He will return to compete in the Paralympics at the end of the month. But his inspirational value to all persons with disabilities cannot be quantified. The word "amazing" may be too inadequate to describe the wonderful sight of him running around the Olympic track.
Then you have three countries that also made history -- by merely sending women for the first time. Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia each broke the gender barrier, as these are nations with major issues over the years regarding women's rights. They all seemed like token participants, but for now, it will have to do. If Qatar is going to host the World Cup in six years, why not field a women's soccer team by 2020 or sooner?
If you still find yourself rooting against the men's basketball team, you aren't alone. You can't just up and root for Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as if you were turning a light switch on and off.
One has to wonder if Bill Belichick would have let Nick Manggold go to London to see his sister Holley compete in women's weightlifting if he played for the Patriots. Manggold, at the urging of his teammates, left camp and flew to London, watched his sister, then flew right back to Jets camp. Belichick once angered Richard Seymour after punishing him for attending his grandfather's funeral. How would he have dealt with this if Manggold were a Patriot? This was initiated by Manggold's Jet teammates and not Manggold himself. In Foxborough it may have been a non-issue.
Good times are rolling for local cable station CSNNE. On Monday their long running sports commentary show Sports Tonight celebrated its 5,000th show. This past two weeks we have seen three of their on-air talent staff get work with NBC for their Olympic coverage. Carolyn Manno did sideline commentary for several sports. Donny Marshall provided basketball commentary, both in-game and in studio. And Gorman, as previously stated, worked team handball. There were no Jack Edwards or Naoko Funayama sightings in London these last two weeks.
Finally, perhaps the most remarkable lasting memory of the London Games was that, despite having the burden of living up to the incredibility of the Opening Ceremony in Beijing, London producer Danny Boyle did quite well. It was a ceremony which could not possibly match what Beijing did, but in the end, it didn't have to. It was a nice ceremony, pleasing to watch, nice comic relief from Rowan Atkinson, and a terrific ending with Sir Paul McCartney. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II showed off her acting and her skydiving skills quite well. And as long as you weren't looking for the show to top Beijing, you could not possibly be disappointed. The Games got off on the right foot, and followed through all the way to the end with wonderful venues and events, and a beautiful city to have the Games in. The USA and the UK have always been very friendly, at least since 1776. For an Olympics to be held on non-American soil, Americans had to love every minute of it, never mind all the medals the USA Olympic team won.
Four years from now, the Summer Games will be in South America for the first time ever, and the third time in the Southern Hemisphere. Rio de Janeiro will host the world in 2016, and it will still be winter down there when the Games begin in August. The Brazilians have four years to plan for this fiesta, and you could say that if things go wrong four Augusts from now…
…you can always Blame It On Rio.
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