Most Memorable 2012 London Olympic Moments

I love the Olympics and have faithfully watched the broadcasts every 2 years for as long as I can remember.  This go round, I watched as much as I could, but unfortunately was not able to catch all of the events.  I didn’t see a wrestling match, or do they call it grappling?  I am sick to death that I did not see the ping pong and badminton matches – strange name for a sport, isn’t it, badminton –  but I hear there was some cheating going on.  No, not doping allegations, just strategic losing to gain an advantage – this is like anti-doping. I didn’t see the dodge ball and handball competitions.  Wait, isn’t a handball a penalty in soccer?  Excuse me, I meant to say football, ok, futbol. I didn’t see any boxing and weightlifting, which, to my knowledge, didn’t make the prime time broadcasts, but they may have had their own channels.  And whatever happened to Olympic Cliff diving?  GB has some great cliffs.  But I digress.  Here are the moments in my view for which the 2012 London Olympics will be remembered:

  • Usain Bolt:  Still the fastest human alive and 3 Golds richer.
  • Aliyson Felix:  Finally got her Gold in the 200 and 2 more in relays, including a world record in the 4 x100.
  • Gabby Douglas: World’s best female gymnast.
  • Manteo Mitchell:  Broke his leg on a leg of the 4×400 relay, but managed to finish helping the US qualify for the finals.
  • Oscar Pistorius: Ran competitively on carbon fiber blades
  • Mo Farah the British runner of Samali origin did the impossible winning the 5 and 10,000 meter runs.
  • 10 meter platform finals:  What a finish – USA, China, Great Britain.  David Boudia won the Gold, ending a 24 year medal drought in individual events by American male divers.  The favorite, Qui Bo, finished a very close second and crowd favorite Brit Thomas Daley finished strong and took bronze and a celebratory pool plunge with team GB.
  • Michael Phelps:  Still the world’s fastest swimmer and arguably the greatest Olympian of all-time.
  • The golden women of team USA:   swimming and track relays, basketball, water (marco) polo, gymnastics, beach volleyball, rowing and soccer.  Domination.
  • Events that should be in the X Games, not the Olympics:  BMX bike racing and beach volleyball.  You know it’s X gamey when an athlete gives an interview wearing a Red Bull cap.
  • Picnic and arcade games that are not sports:  If badminton and ping pong are allowable, why not frisbee golf, fooseball, pinball, dodgeball, kick-the-can, twister and croquet in Rio.  In fact, I demand it!
  • An explosion of athletes wearing kinesio tape: The stuff looks like leaches from the Thames or British sea slugs from the Isles of Man or Wight, one.
  • Edible Medals: All the athletes were eating their medals which I believe were actually foil wrapped chocolates.
  • The Brits:  The host country won 65 medals, 4th best and with 29 Golds, 3rd behind China and the U.S.  Down under in 2008, team GB won 47 medals, 19 Golds.

Congratulations London and team GB on a job well done!  Cheers!

To Podium, A New Olympic Verb

Hey NBC, stop with the medal ceremony.  Focus on the games and the performances, but don’t expect a performance on the medal stand.  Enough of the creepy zoom ins to check for patriotic tears and vocals.  Clearly, and I think unfairly so, the hope and expectation of the photographer is for the gold medal winner to be overcome with joy, emotion and patriotism.  The camera wants tears, and a believable attempt at the national anthem, or at least a convincing lip synch with hand over heart. The stoic gold medalist may be accused of ambivalence or apathy, even selfishness. The other medalists are expected to look humbled, not pissed or disappointed, as they often do, and the journalist secretly wants their “poor sportsmanship” to become the story.  Sour grapes sell.

And speaking of podium, what’s with using podium as a verb? I keep hearing athletes and commentators mention “to podium” as a goal.  “She just hopes to podium”, or “I’m just happy to podium”. Do you suppose the athletes say to themselves when on the podium that they can’t believe they podiumed or that they are podiuming at the very moment.  Try saying podiuming quickly three times or just once.

If I were a sports consultant, and I am not, but if I were and I just might become one, but I won’t, but I could, I would write a book called:  How To Podium and Not Look Bad Doing It. I’m sure it would be a bestseller.  Here are some excerpts:

  • If you don’t know the words to your country’s national anthem, don’t try to sing it.
  • If you can’t cry, smile.  If you can’t smile, cry. Don’t look serious.
  • If you didn’t win the gold, look proud anyway, no pouting.
  • If you won gold, don’t tell your podium mates sorry that it didn’t work out.
  • Don’t pretend to eat the medal.
  • Don’t ask your podium mates if they would like to touch your gold.
  • Don’t crack up laughing.
  • Take off your shades.
  • Try not to trip over the podium or fall off it.
  • Don’t insist that the others join you on the gold medal platform.
  • Do not attempt to autograph your competitors’ warmups.
  • No Hang Ten gestures. That’s for the X games.

Olympic Gymnastics: A Call for Gender Equality

What’s with gymnastics?  Why do the men and women compete on different apparatuses? Can’t the women do rings and the pommel horse?  Couldn’t the men do the balance beam and the uneven bars?  And why do the women perform to music and the men don’t?  I like the idea of music for the floor, but I don’t like hearing the music when the other events are going on.  If I were a gymnast, and I am not, I would not like hearing a competitor’s floor music especially if it’s something annoying like “Flight of the Bumblebee”, or “Theme from Rocky”.  I’d mess up, fall off and get a negative score.

Here are some of my choices for floor exercise music for men and women alike:

The Jetson’s Theme Song: pure energy to amp up the crowd.

The Right of Spring –  Stravinsky: because if you mess up, it’ll go with the music.

MmmBop – Hanson:  why not?

Loving You – Minnie Ripperton: the high notes might distract the judges from a really bad performance.

Time Zone – Kruder and Dorfmeister:  it’s just really cool vibes for flips and stuff.


Marathon Obstacle Course

painting by I. Hibbard

I like the uniqueness of the London Olympic Marathon Course.  There are two roundabouts, one near Buckingham Palace and the other by Guildhall.  Who has the right of way on one of those rotaries anyway? There’s a U turn around what looks to be a giant yellow scallop at the Tower of London.  By the way, I think runners should have the option of climbing the stairs of the Tower, particularly those who are at the back of the pack.  However, I doubt the Beefeaters would approve.  Runners pass under bridges and through tunnels on wet uneven and cobblestone pocked surfaces marked by a gaggle of confusing dotted yellow, double pink and white zigzaggy lines.  They run over manhole covers, between motorcycles, and in tight spaces all along the course past spectators waving mostly British and Japanese flags.  Incidentally, the runners should be reminded to Mind The Gap.

I’m watching the women’s race now and when it started, it was raining and even looked to be hailing.  As the race matured, the sun came out and runners began taking water bottles, dropping them on the course where they became obstacles to their competitors.  Ethiopia, Kenya and Russia in the lead.  I’m a little disappointed that the runners will not be running up the steps of the Clock Tower to ring Big Ben, but I guess it’s not to be.

One final thought.  Stonehenge.  I know it’s about 100 miles from London, but couldn’t the organizers have found a way to incorporate the Neolithic stones?  You know, like place styrofoam replicas (a la This Is Spinal Tap) strategically along the course for runners to pass around like on an obstacle course.  I see it as a missed opportunity to show off what is great about Britain.

Ethiopia, Kenya, Russia – 123.

2012 USA Hoops Good, but No Dream Team

The 1992 Dream Team probably could have beaten the 2012 NBA All-Star USA Olympic basketball  team…in 1992, when Kobie, LeBron and Carmelo were like 10.  On the other hand, as the profound and literal country hick philosopher, Hall of Famer and Dream Teamer Larry Bird put it,  “they probably could beat us because we’re so old,” or words to that effect.  If the teams were contemporaries, the Dream Team might very well take down the 2012 version of Team USA.  Is there a better play maker than Stockton, a better leader than Magic, a better shooter than Bird, a better player than Jordan, a better bruiser with a soft touch than Barkley and better big men than Robinson and Ewing?  Sure, these are rhetorical questions for those of us who remember the Dream Team and the NBA of the 80’s and 90’s, but the younger generation may not be convinced.  So consider this:

  • The Dream Team beat Lithuania by 51 points.  The 2012 team beat Lithuania by 5.
  • The 1992 Dream Team was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, and 11 of the 12 players have been individually elected to the Hall of Fame.
  • 10 of the 12 Dream Teamers won one or more NBA championships.  Just 3 members of the 2012 squad have won NBA championships.
  • Air Jordan.

Until the 2012 team wins a medal and its members a few more championships,  we should put the controversy to rest.

NBC Interviews Non-American Athlete!

With respect to the NBC Olympic coverage that has aired in the U.S., it’s as if only U.S. athletes are competing.   Thankfully, NBC finally interviewed an athlete from another country, South Africa’s Chad le Clos who won gold in the 200 meter butterfly.  Of course, the interview would not have taken place had it not been for the fact that le Clos beat out Michael Phelps by a fraction of a second in the race.  The interview was framed as South African, who idolizes Michael Phelps, achieves upset of historic proportion over the world’s greatest swimmer.  The substance of the interview was less about the swimmer’s victory and more about his “obsession” with Michael Phelps.

To be fair, NBC may have interviewed other non-American athletes, but I just have not seen them yet.  I think NBC should have an Olympic interview channel. I do.

NBC missed a big opportunity last night in the women’s gymnastics all-around competition.  The Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina apparently has quite a temper and it appeared that she wouldn’t let her coach anywhere near her after she fell off the balance beam.  She brushed him off and may have said some choice words in Russian, but we will never know.  Where was Andrea Kramer when we needed her?  I guess she was at the pool asking Michael Phelps how he felt winning another gold and how Ryan Lochte felt losing another.

I saw this amusing bit the other day on the basketball channel. The Tunisian athletes were getting autographs from the American basketball players after their loss to the all-NBA Olympic team in a qualifying match.  Richard Angle of NBC speaks Arabic.  Granted, he’s probably on assignment in Syria, but if he had been available, he might have asked the Tunisian players to talk about the game and why they sought autographs from their opponents.   And while he’s at it, why not interview the Egyptian who won a silver medal in fencing, to date the only medal the country has won.  I’d also like to hear from the two women from Kazakhstan who won gold medals in weightlifting.

And why not interview the horses from the jumping and dressage competitions.  Surely there are reporters fluent in horse.  I’d ask Mitt Romney’s horse, “crazy legs” Rifalca if he has any tax savings tips he’d like to share.  I’m not being silly.  Horses can talk.  They can.  Just ask Mr. Ed.  What happened to Mr. Ed anyway?



NBC London Olympics Coverage

I’m not one of those NBC haters.  I think they’ve done a decent job with the coverage actually.  I do have some complaints, however and wish to air them so to speak.  But first, let’s talk about the good.  I love the different specialty channels – the soccer channel and basketball channel are two that I’m aware of and there may be more.  Flipping around on the cable box, you can find most any event – horse dancing, boxing, ping pong, cliff diving, croquet and the like.  The only thing I don’t like about the channels is that I’m never sure if the coverage is live or recorded.  The channels sometimes air encore presentations.  The mix of live and taped makes the games seem a little stale and disconnected.

I generally like the reporting.  Bob Costas is still the best anchor around.  Ryan Seacrest has been pretty good.  The commentators have done a nice job overall.  They seem to know the events well.  Analyst Cythina Potter is the best of the best.  She breaks down those complex dives like no one else in the business.  She isn’t a “homer” and gives fair critiques to all the divers.  Tim Daggert has been a little less neutral, but his commentary has been informative and on the “balance” fair.

As a Genesis and Peter Gabriel fan, I enjoyed the reference to Gabriel in the bike race.  One commentator said that Gabriel had a recording studio at the base of Box Hill, and said to the other that he might be too young to know who Gabriel is.  The younger commentator laughed and said I wonder if he also has a studio on Solsbury Hill, a reference to an old Gabriel favorite recorded post Genesis.  I don’t think the older guy got it.

I really don’t like those sideline reports.  So far, Andrea Kramer has done most of them. Her typical question has been:  How does it feel? For once I wish an athlete would respond with Like a Rolling Stone and sing the entire Bob Dylan classic.  Last night, while interviewing Allison Schmidt after her gold medal swim, Kramer got the last word with an insult of sorts, America is “happy you got cut from your soccer team”.  Schmidt just smiled, but she must have been secretly annoyed.

And why doesn’t NBC interview athletes from other countries? Most of the athletes speak English. It is a mistake to assume that the American audience only wants to hear from American athletes.

Just a couple of other random notes.  That horse jumping event is like a cross between rodeo, a best in class dog show and miniature golf.

During the gymnastics competition, there’s too much going on.  Athletes are flying around and you can hear gypsy music playing as the women compete on the balance beam.  And have you heard that bleeping noise that is standard when someone curses?  I keep hearing that as the gymnasts perform; it’s as if their mental curses are being censored.

London Olympics Off to a Great Start but…

So far, the London Summer Olympics have been pretty interesting, even though the events I like the most have not yet aired – dressage (just kidding), who gets the medal in the dancing horse event anyway, the horse or the rider?  I believe Mitt Romney’s horse  (his wife Ann’s actually) is competing in London.  The horse named Rifalca (aka “crazy legs”)  is a equine treasure that yields a handsome tax break and perhaps even precious medals.

So far, I’ve watched as much coverage as I could, and in some cases, as I could stomach.  For example, I managed to get through a water polo match as the Americans took out Montenegro.  The game is a bit silly in my view, but it is a game, at least, being that there is a ball involved, unlike dressage.  I found the caps they wear pointless – I guess they call them hats.  Are they simply decorative?  I’d like to see them wear those old diver helmets made of cast iron.  The other thing that annoys me about water polo is that dang whistle the refs incessantly blow.  Sometimes a player will get whistled for dunking a guy’s head or splashing his opponent in the face with water, and have to go dog paddle in a little roped off penalty area at the side of the pool.

The men’s and women’s bike races just took too long, and I tired watching them tire, but both featured fantastic finishes.  I enjoyed the women’s race more because they biked in the rain and it seemed far more treacherous and challenging with quite a number of spin-outs and non-fatal crashes.  Not that I enjoyed the crashes, but that the element of danger made the event more exciting.

The gymnastic qualifying rounds just seem pointless.  Couldn’t they just line them all up and have everyone go one after the other, and say the best vault wins gold, next best silver and so on for all the events.  And how many countries compete in swimming?  The Olympic Committee should just cap it at 16 countries and build a 16 lane pool.  One race per event.  My oldest daughter believes there are too many distances too and I quite agree and also think there are too many events.  There should only be the freestyle, that’s it.  The backstroke is just plain stupid. Have you ever heard of the 100 meter backwards sprint in track? Actually, that might be pretty interesting.

Beach volleyball.  I’m sorry, that belongs in the X games, not the Olympic Games.  And skeet shooting?  Come on.  That’s something for hunters, not athletes.   I could go on.

I’m partial to basketball, soccer (futbol to the purists), track and field, cliff diving, bowling and croquet.  These are the events that produce true Olympic champions.

London Olympics Opening Ceremony Ok but…

I saw some of the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics and later all of the highlights and have to say that I felt like I was at the cinema watching movie trailers with lots of stunts, pyrotechnics and clever moments. I chuckled when David Beckham arrived via boat with the torch and wondered if Posh Spice was on board.  Mr. “bend it like” Beckham handed the torch to a legendary British rower, who ran for a bit before passing the torch on to a group of future Olympic hopefuls.  If I had choreographed the ceremony, I’d have had the rower row in from the Thames with oars shaped as torches adorned with LED lighting.  He would have then passed it off to Beckham for a scissors kick to set off the fireworks and lighting of the rings, which in turn would have  lit the tower.

I’m a concert goer, not a theatre goer, so all the theatrics did not move me as much as the music.  Personally, I would have preferred a live Rolling Stones set, but really who could complain with a Beatle gone solo. Paul McCartney, who, frankly, even with cosmetic adjustments, is beginning to look and sound his age, performed only as he could with a rousing “Hey Jude”.  I wonder if Julian Lennon was in the crowd? I kept waiting for Ringo and George to emerge on stage or parachute down from a “heli”, as Bear Gryls might do, but I guess the Beatles are not getting back together after all.

The soundtrack to the Danny Boyle extravaganza included songs by Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and David Bowie among other British bands and musicians, but did not include anything from two of my favorite bands of all time, Genesis and Yes.   The set list should have included the Yes tunes “Roundabout” (because there are so many in London) and “Long Distance Runaround”, for obvious reasons and some perhaps not so.  See my Music For Olympics playlist on Spotify.

I’m just glad the Olympics have finally opened.  Let the games begin!

Put the Olympic Trials on Trial

Olympic Trials.  Why even have them?  The U.S. swimming, gymnastic, diving, and track and field federations surely know who the best athletes are; if they don’t they are incompetent.  I know nothing about swimming, but even I know that Michael Phelps is the fastest swimmer in the world and the holder of 12 gold medals.  Why does he even have to qualify?  What is he doing wasting his time at the trials and risking injury?  He might stub a toe, or get swimmer’s ear.  He should be in London already acclimating to the European chlorine.

And Allyson Felix, the goddess of American track.  She also should have been sent straight to London.  Instead she faced a runoff.  What a insult.  I just say send the fastest people to London.  They’ve all been running, jumping, diving, tumbling and throwing in track meets all year.  The top athletes have already proven themselves.  Whoever has thrown the discus, shot put, javelin and the hammer the farthest this year should represent the U.S. in London.  There’s simply no need for another track meet.  The athletes should be training and saving their energy and strength for the real deal.  It’s true.

I was watching the women’s gymnastics trials last night.  The coaches in the sport know who the best gymnasts are – one of them is Nastia Liukin the reigning all around gold medalist from 2008 who shouldn’t have to qualify.  She still has the right stuff, but fell off the uneven bars and lost her chance to defend her title and bring glory to the team. Like Michael Phelps, she shouldn’t have been put in a position to have to prove herself again.  Which is just as well because now she won’t have to humiliate herself to bad musical accompaniment on the floor exercise.  Warning, this is a rant:

Memo to the U.S. Gymnastics federation:  hire a musical consultant.  The musical accompaniments to the floor routines have been utterly embarrassing.  One routine is set to music that must have been sampled from some sketchy 70’s carnival ride.  Another was pure 80’s German techno pop – it actually may have been a Kraftwerk instrumental.  Each time the gymnast tumbled, I was reminded of the SNL Sprockets skit featuring Mike Myers as Dieter.

On the subject of music, here is a playlist I put together of summer Olympic themed songs, some with explanations.

The Longest Summer – Pat Metheny.  The Olympic games really do seem to go on for three months with a few events too many.  Can’t we do without the steeplechase, an event that is just patently silly?  On the musical side of things, the Longest Summer is an absolutely gorgeous song.

Ring of Life – Pat Metheny/Brad Mehldau.  Ring, as in Olympic rings, but also boxing ring, and the gymnastic rings.  The song itself is brilliantly fresh and awe inspiring, like some of the great athletes of the Olympics.

London Blues – Brad Mehldau Trio.  Man what a great sound!  At the Olympics, not everyone wins and many will be singing the London Blues long before the flame dies out, but this blues grooves.

Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Great diving song for the younger competitors anyway.

Even the Losers (get lucky some time) – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Jump – Van Halen.  I hate this song, I really do, but it’s got Olympic energy and there’s a lot of jumping going on – diving, triple jump, hurdles, gymnastics.  Madonna also has a song called Jump, but it’s surprisingly subdued and not Olympic material.

Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen.

Swimming Horses – Siouxsie and the Banshees.  This is a nod to the sport I’d like to see:  Water Polo on Horses.

Driver 8 – REM.  Just pretend Michael Stipe is mumbling, diver 8.

If I Had a Hammer – Peter Paul and Mary.  If I had a hammer, I’d throw it.

Hammer – Bob Marley and the Wailers.  What a great song!  Don’t mess with a hammer thrower.

Chemical Chords – Stereolab.  I don’t like to think about this, but let’s hope no athlete has a competitive chemical advantage.  Folks, this is a gloriously good song.  You’ll love it. Promise.