London 2012: Best Olympics Ever?
I’m totally sad to have reached the final day of the London Olympics. These games have been really inspiring and memorable in some unprecedented ways. To honor the efforts of the athletes, volunteers, employees, and all those who made London 2012 special, here’s a recap of some of my favorite moments.
Jamaican Sprinting Dominance
Usain Bolt is definitely one confident guy, but at this point he’s earned it. Bolt recaptured the 100m and 200m sprinting medals and a gold in the amazing 4×100 relay Saturday night—unprecedented feats that will ensure him not only of the title “fastest man alive,” but it makes him perhaps the fastest man ever. Seeing Bolt and his teammates last night, I felt lucky to be watching his amazing career. But was really makes Bolt special is that he looks like he’s having fun doing it. I’m sure his antics rub some people the wrong way and make him look like he’s full of himself, but in an interview after his 100m victory, Bolt said he would not call himself “the greatest” until he had captured victory in his other races. He did, and so when he called himself a legend last night it sure seemed like he earned it.
Athletes Who Inspired
I’ve already blogged about the historic entries of Oscar Pistorius (here and here) and of the first female athletes from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. These were amazing feats, but they weren’t the only historic inclusions of these games. Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was humiliatingly subjected to gender testing as a teen, made her Olympic debut and took silver in the women’s 800m. It was great to see that her much-commented-upon experience a few years ago did not keep her from competition. Semenya was also flag bearer for South Africa in the opening ceremonies, a very meaningful gesture coming from one’s country and fellow athletes.
New Names in the Medal Race
In addition to the great stories of first-time athletes, several countries tasted victory for the first time in these games; congratulations to the athletes from Cyprus, Guatemala, Gabon, Montenegro, Botswana, and Granada, all of whom took home their countries’ first Olympic medals ever. Athletes from Uganda and the Bahamas should also be congratulated for winning their countries’ first medals in years. It’s sometimes nice to be reminded how much one medal can mean to a whole country.
Discovering New Sports
Part of why the Olympics are great is that they offer the chance to see sporting events that often go unheralded. If you’re so inclined, you can learn a lot about sports that are historic or that are loved by people in other parts of the world. Today’s rhythmic gymnastics finals were amazing, with jaw-dropping performances by medalists Russia, Italy, and Belarus that made me want to get up and dance. (The Belarus routine, featuring music by Rodrigo y Gabriela, was especially awesome.) In spite of my riffing on synchronized swimming, I also really got into that. I was sorry not to see Spain win gold after a very sparkly and athletic performance. Now that I’m swimming regularly, I’m far more impressed than I used to be by this kind of thing. How do they swim upside-down??? How???
The Olympics are about bringing the world together, and these games featured some genuinely touching moments. Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, after experiencing injury on the track, made a heroic effort to finish and was then carried from the track by his competitors from Hungary, Great Britain, and Spain in a tremendous show of respect. Kirani James and Oscar Pistorius exchanged bibs on the track after running a heat together in another memorable moment. And the show of affection after the men’s 10K between Britain’s Mo Farah and U.S. runner Galen Rupp—friends who train together and who just happen to wear different uniforms on the track—was really what the Olympics should be all about.
In my next post, I’ll include some thoughts looking forward to Rio 2016. I visited Rio three years ago and I’m really hoping to go back and attend the Olympics there in person—fulfilling a dream of mine. Then again, if it doesn’t work out, I hear rumors a bid may be in the works between Buffalo and Toronto, not far from my home town. All I can say about that is: YES YES YES! I’ll save the date!