Unreported Moments from London 2012: Part 1
This piece was originally published, in another form, on August 13, 2012.
The imprints of London 2012 have made their lasting marks. Swim, Michael, swim. Phelps did, reaching out for 19 and touching 22. The U.S. women’s gymnastics team morphed into the Fierce Five, breaking Russian and Romanian hearts. Jamaica’s Usain Bolt wrote an absorbing sequel to his best-selling Beijing memoir—and with typical grammatical style. And on one unforgettable Super Saturday, Great Britain channeled the spirit of an empire as British athletes Ennis, Rutherford and Farah captured glory for the Crown.
Strangely, however, there were other scenes during London's truly enjoyable Games—small scenes that played out, somehow, someway, outside the media spectacle. If you must know, yes, I’ve discovered twelve such unreported moments. Exactly 12. Very convenient, huh?
Part 1: Unreported Moments, #12 — #7
Indeed, we heard about the Chinese badminton players who purposefully “threw” matches. But flying under the radar was a Mongolian track-and-field competitor of little consequence. Rumor has it that he purposefully threw a javelin in the direction of Danny Boyle, the artistic director for London’s Opening Ceremonies, who was taking in the field events. According to Scotland Yard, the Mongolian athlete admitted to being bribed by China, which, in its defense, claimed that their Opening Ceremonies had never once thought of using Kenneth Branagh as an industrialist. Apparently this novelty truly irritated the Chinese.
The much anticipated men’s swimming rivalry between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte didn’t exactly live up to the hype. Notwithstanding, a spirited duel between Michael’s mother, Debbie, and Ryan’s father, Steve, took place in an undisclosed pub outside the Olympic Village. Debbie and Steve—who both enjoy overdressing for swim meets—each told the local bartender several stories indicative of their basic parenting style, with the bartender finally awarding Steve the gold medal for his encouragement of Ryan’s "too busy for a girlfriend" policy. A banner day for dads.
In the women's team gymnastics all-around final, emotions were as taught as the tight little bodies themselves. Russia’s Viktoria Komova conjured up a tremendous floor exercise only to see the U.S. tip her compatriots to the gold. There were epic tears, naturally, and coaches administered the requisite hugs. Later that night at the Russian hospitality house—where an ice arena was set up to promote Sochi 2014—several former figure-skating champions took Komova aside to offer her their professional opinion: “You should’ve tried harder.”
Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius crossed the Olympics-Paralympics barrier as he ushered in a serious (?) debate about whether or not his carbon-fiber Cheetah blades constituted a mechanical or robotic advantage on the track. NBC’s Mary Carillo told us Oscar’s inspiring story, which included an interview with professor Hugh Herr at M.I.T. What she didn’t tell us was that the professor—also a double-amputee who wears prosthetics—challenged Carillo to a tennis match after the interview. He promptly wiped the grass courts with Carillo, beating her to a pulp, 6-2, 6-0, which, it turns out, was also inspiring.
For the third consecutive Olympics, Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings dug up gold from the sands. Earlier in the tournament, the women’s beach volleyball icons played down the sex-appeal factor of their sport, saying of their bikinis, in effect: “Hey, it’s just a uniform.” In related news, the Italian men’s water polo team lodged a formal complaint with the International Olympic Committee. The brief statement read: “On our day off, upon touring the British Museum in our uniforms, we were subjected to all manner of outrageous gawking.”
Did we really need the reminding? We are living in Usain Bolt’s world. “It’s hard to have a higher opinion of Bolt than he does of himself,” NBC's Bob Costas quipped. Unless, of course, you’re Carl Lewis—of whom Bolt said “I’ve lost all respect.” (In 2008, Lewis insinuated that Bolt was not drug-free during the Beijing Games.) Unnoticed in the Male Sprinter Wars was this fascinating nugget: Bolt and Lewis each recently signed a contract to create a rap/hip-hop album in which Bolt covers songs by Notorious B.I.G. (East Coast) and Lewis covers songs by Tupac (West Coast).
SPOILER ALERT: On a hidden track, Lewis may or may not sing the national anthem.
Here, for "Unreported Moments from London 2012: Part 2," featuring Ryan Seacrest, Vladimir Putin, Hope Solo and Mitt Romney.