Lifestyle / Sports

Olympics Week 1

Chad W. Lutz
They’re here. After four long years (longer if you’re an avid sports fanatic), the Summer Olympic Games have returned and take center stage in the City of London. The 30th Olympiad calls home to London for the third time in the history of the games, dating back to 1948 and 1908 the two times previous. More than 10,000 athletes expect to participate in the two-week’s events and boast some of the most promising storylines for any Summer Olympics on record. Let’s take a look at some of this past week’s major headlines:

A Ceremony Fit for a Queen

It began with pastoral settings; a rolling hillside and simple subjects tending to chickens and livestock, children rolling those wooden wheels around with sticks and maypole circle dancing. A man wearing a top hat suddenly emerges and gives a chilling rendition of Caliban’s famous monologue from Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

“Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again. And then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.”
Britain also included many other allusions to authors and creative countrymen, both fact and fiction, such as J.K. Rowling and Mary Poppins, throughout the ceremonies. As the event moved forward, the stage became the Industrial Revolution. The simple subjects we saw before were now workers grueling in factories, erecting what would become the City of London and the Olympic Rings. Notable was the authentic smell of sulfur used to bring a true sense of realism to the ceremony.

The crowd’s attention is suddenly drawn to the video screen as James Bond actor Daniel Craig makes his way through Buckingham Palace en route to none other than the Queen Mum herself. He stands there awkwardly for a moment before coughing to get the Queen’s attention, who is busy at a night stand attending to her royal makeup. The two then enter a helicopter and take off heading for the Olympic stadium. Suddenly, a helicopter appears overhead, with video of Craig looking down over the stadium. The Queen, without warning, and now equipped with a parachute, leaps from the helicopter soon followed by Craig to the infamous James Bond theme song, much to the crowd’s delight, before making her entrance and taking her seat at the ceremonies.

The next chapter of the ceremonies involved a highly entertaining bit with the one-and-only Rowan Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean. Accompanied by a full orchestra, Mr. Bean provided the single, opening note for “Titles” from the 1981 classic film, Chariots of Fire, and then continued to provide the note over, and over, and over (and over).
(Photo courtesy of Google Images)
The London Olympics opening ceremony also included a modern narrative between two young lovers (perhaps star-crossed) who meet by chance and meet again by loss of cell phone. The set featured highly elaborate dance numbers highlight by extravagant costumes representing different eras of music and innovation. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Queen, Muse, The Eurythmics, and many others provided background while lasers and strobe lights flashed about the stage. Popular English rap artist Dizzee Rascal performed his hit single, “Bonkers,” much to the delight of the home crowd (however, not to the delight of Rush Limbaugh).

Soon after, the Olympic athletes from their respective countries began filing in under the proud banners of their nation. Some guy named Lebron James soaked up an excessive amount of camera time (whoever the fuck that is) and, one by one, countries took turns lighting the torch. Paul McCartney, following an ode to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973), concluded the ceremonies with renditions of “The End” and “Hey Jude”, which incited a universal sing-along. Over 1 billion viewers tuned in to watch the opening ceremonies. Reactions were mixed, at best.

Road Rash

The men’s Long Road Race led off Saturday morning’s events. A 155-mile bike ride through England countryside and London proper, the men’s road race featured 140 racers comprising 60 teams from countries around the world. In a surprise turn of events, after facing wet conditions most of the morning (in London? :wink:) disaster struck Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara when he barreled headlong into a barrier after taking a turn too quickly with about ten miles to go in the race. At the time, Cancellara was in the lead, which gave 38-year old Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan the opportunity to break away, along with Columbian Rigorberto Uran. The two battled for position going into the final stretch, but it was ultimately Vinokourov taking the gold with a late move as Uran looked back and to the wrong side trying to size of Vinokourov to make a final move. The Kazakhstani biker had previously retired from the sport due to injury and failed blood tests for PEDs. Britain’s gold medal hopeful and 2012 Tour de France champion Mark Cavendish finished a surprising 28th. Cavendish was originally considered the favorite to win the event.
Out With the Old, In With the New?

In the past couple of weeks, Ryan Lochte has been all over the media. He’s been in countless commercials and practically pushed on us as the next coming of, well, Michael Phelps. Apparently someone forgot Michael Phelps is, well, still Michael Phelps. After securing 8 gold medals in Beijing, Phelps set his sights on what he has claimed numerous times in interview will be his last Olympic Games.

At the other end of this spectrum is would-be up-and-comer Ryan Lochte, if it wasn’t for the fact he is actually older than the 16-time Olympic medalist. Heading into this week’s competition, Lochte was quoted by numerous sources as saying, “this is my time.” Things, however, didn’t go quite as expected for Lochte (or Phelps for that matter).

In the qualifying round for the Men’s 400m IM, Phelps finished first in his heat, but just barely enough to squeak into the finals as the second heat proved faster than expected. As the 8th seed in the competition, Phelps (4th 4:09.28) went quietly and without a medal, while Lochte took the gold with a time of 4:05.18. That same night, American swimmer Elizabeth Beisel took home the silver medal in the Women’s 400m IM in a time of 4:31.27. China’s YE Shiwen won gold and set a world record in the event swimming 4:28.43.

The next night’s competition held even more drama. In the Women’s 100m Butterfly, Dana Vollmer secured gold with a 55.98 setting a new world record. Brendan Hansen continued Team USA’s winning ways, securing his own medal (bronze) in the 100m Breaststroke (59.49). Australia’s Sprenger Christian (58.93) took second and Russia’s Van Der Burgh Cameron set a world record with his gold-medal winning performance of 58.46. Allison Schmitt also brought home a medal (silver) in the 400m Freestyle, placing just above Britain’s Rebecca Adlington and below France’s Muffat Camille and setting an American record in the event.

Then came the race everyone was talking about: the Men’s 4X100m featuring none other than Phelps and Lochte. Team USA decided to lead off with Phelps and have Lochte anchor the event. Originally the shoe-ins for the gold, Team USA, and more specifically Ryan Lochte, faltered in the final stretch and were edged out by France.

The next day, Ryan Lochte stood behind his lane and readied himself for a race in which, yet again, he was slated to have the advantage. But, much like the relay the night before, Lochte faltered, again, and failed to medal, placing 4th behind Agnel Yannick of France, Park Taehwan of Korea, and Sun Yang of China.

Fast forward to Tuesday, with Michael Phelps poised to defend his title as Olympic champion in the 200m Butterfly, his specialty event (aren’t they all at this point?). In dramatic fashion, Le Clos Chad of Russia took gold, with Phelps finishing second and Matsuda Takeshi finishing second. More importantly, however, the win gave Phelps distinction never held by any other Olympian in the history of the Games. With his 19th medal, Phelps surpassed, Larissa Latynina of Russia for the most Olympic medals won all-time.

Phelps continued his dominance Thursday in the Men’s 200m IM in a direct heat with Ryan Lochte, who paced Phelps for much of the event. Lochte would place second ahead of Hungary’s Cseh Laszlo, but now with several events behind both American swimmers, the argument for Lochte seems to be gasping for air, while Phelps’ greatness seems as alive as ever, now 20 ways deep to back it up.
The Dream(ier) Team

As much as I hate writing about him, once again, it would be unfair not to mention the U.S. Men’s Basketball team. After an absurdly decisive victory Thursday over Nigeria 156-73, the men’s team inches closer to recapturing the gold medal for the second games in a row. Spurred by the bronze medal placing in the 2004 games, Team USA regained focus, won gold in Beijing, and hasn’t looked back, since. Entering the second week of play, USA stands 3-0 and has beaten opponents by an average margin of victory of 52.3ppg.