Un-reported Olympic Moments | Part 1
The imprints of London 2012 have made their lasting marks, settling their stories into whatever place they can find in our overcrowded, everyday, mundane lives.
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.
Naturally the absolute courage and unbreakable will of South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius lingers. As will American Aly Raisman’s stunningly beautiful floor exercise, which surely cannot be quantified even by gold. And you don’t have to prefer the sport to be overwhelmed by the mesmerizing platform-diving skills of China’s Chen Ruolin.
Mystifyingly, however, there were other scenes during these truly enjoyable Games—small scenes that played out, somehow, someway, outside the media microscope.
So, to pay homage to London 2012, I’ve discovered 12 such moments. (That's right, exactly 12. It's very convenient, right?)
Part 1: Moments #12 - 7
#12. 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. 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.
#11. 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 enjoy overdressing for swim meets—each told the local bartender several stories indicative of their parenting style, with the bartender finally awarding Steve the gold medal for his encouragement of Ryan’s “too busy for a girlfriend”policy.
#10. In the women's team gymnastics all-around final, emotions were as taught as the tight 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; coaches administered 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 their professional opinion: “You should’ve tried harder.”
#9. 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 6-2, 6-0, which, it turns out, was inspiring.
#8. For the third consecutive Olympics, Americans Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings dug up gold from the sand. 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.”
#7. I suppose we needed the reminding, didn't we? 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 in Beijing). Unnoticed in the Male Sprinter Wars was this fascinating nugget: Bolt and Lewis signed a contract in London to create a rap/hip-hop album in which Bolt will cover songs by Notorious B.I.G. (East Coast) while Lewis covers songs by Tupac (West Coast).
SPOILER ALERT: On a hidden track, Lewis may or may not sing the national anthem.
Un-reported Olympic Moments | Part 2: here.