Tag Archives: Olympics

Olympic postscript… more photos

Since the closing ceremony for London 2012 I’ve been sitting on the floor hugging my knees, whimpering, “Olympics, come back…” But that hasn’t happened, so I must move on. Soon. But not before posting a few more photos from my day at the Olympic Park.

Here I am with my son Nate outside the stadium.

Here’s The Orbit, designed by Anish Kapoor. Tickets were sold out and there was a line for the trip to the top, even though this is not actually a roller coaster.

And here’s what many sports fans considered the best thing at the Olympic Park:

But because I don’t drink beer, I had my own favorite: the little remote controlled MINI Coopers that retrieved javelins, hammers, and shot puts on the field. Mini-MINIs decked out with Union Jacks. How very London.

Now back to my previously scheduled nostalgia. Olympics, come back…

Olympics — a montage

Here’s a video montage put together by the BBC, celebrating London and Britain’s Olympians. For those in the UK, you’ll recognize a lot of the footage. For those in the USA, take a look at how Britain’s been covering the games. The song is “London” by Thea Gilmore, lyrics by Sandy Denny. I dare you to watch without getting a lump in your throat.

At the Olympics: London 2012

It was worth it. The day at the Olympic Park, and an evening spent at the biggest track meet on the planet, were worth it, every second of it. Here are a few photos and a short video. I have much to say but will start with these images.

Here I am with my son Nate in the Olympic stadium just before the competition started.

Here are the US foursome who won the women’s 4×100 meter relay in the world record time of 40.82. Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight, Carmelita Jeter and Tianna Madison. And yes, that’s a TV cameraman on a segway.

And here’s the last half of the men’s 4×400 relay. This is one of the best events at any track meet, and the most fun to run. If I couldn’t compete in this event at the Olympics, there’s nothing I’d rather do than be there to watch it.

You can get a sense of the fevered atmosphere inside the stadium. The noise you hear on TV is only a vague echo compared to the real thing — which sounds like a 747 at takeoff velocity. As the anchor leg begins and the runners come down the backstretch, you can hear me shouting, “Go, Angelo!” to US runner Angelo Taylor. Strangely, as I yelled it I remembered what my daughter’s T-ball coach told parents who hollered at their six-year-olds on the field: “All they can hear is, blah blah blah blah.” And I knew that Taylor couldn’t hear me above the other 80,000 people in the stadium, but I couldn’t seem to help myself… except when the blade runner came around the curve, really flying, and I shouted, “Go, Oscar!”

And yeah, at the end of the race it’s me going, “Oh my God,” as the Bahamas pass the US to take the gold. I was simultaneously disappointed and excited: it was their first gold medal ever. And the US team was glad to share their silver medals with Manteo Mitchell, who a day earlier had got them into the final by finishing his lap in the prelims even though he broke his leg halfway through the race.

Behind the scenes with the Olympic commentators

Yesterday I wrote about the thrilling Olympic Men’s 10,000 meter final. I watched it on the BBC, where the commentators in the booth always present measured, thoughtful analysis and try never to let emotion leak through onscreen.

Yeah, right. Here’s what was going on behind the scenes as Mo Farah came down the homestretch.

That’s former 110 meter hurdles world champion Colin Jackson screaming, “Mo! Mo!” And 2000 Olympic Heptathlon gold medalist Denise Lewis leaping up and down like a maniac. And in the gray sports coat, that’s 400 meter legend Michael Johnson shouting, “Go, Galen!” and pumping his fists as American Galen Rupp wins the silver medal.

I love the Olympics and I’m not the only one.

Trolls: bullying and cynicism

Trolls come in various shapes, sizes, and shades of disgusting. They’re found in all kinds of places, and this weekend they’ve been lurking around the edges of the Olympics. There’s been the classic online commenter who slings vile words at others. In London, the troll’s target was young British diver Tom Daley, who lost his father to cancer last year. When Daley finished fourth in the synchronized platform diving,  Twitter user Rileyy69 sent him this message: “You let your dad down i hope you know that.” Later, faced with a deluge of approbation, Rileyy69 tried to backtrack: “please i don’t want to be hated I’m just sorry you didn’t win i was rooting for you pal to do britain all proud just so upset.” His belated apology was not accepted by the public.

Then there are the Lithuanian basketball fans who engaged in Nazi salutes and “monkey chants” when their team played Nigeria. Yes, you read that correctly. A London court actually fined one fan for “racially aggravated behavior.” The fan’s lawyer said “his client believed such behavior was acceptable at sports events at home.” Not at the Olympics: Lithuania warned over basketball fans’ racism.

And then there’s this, which might not be considered trolling by ordinary internet standards, but is disgusting in plenty of other ways: Fox News complains American Olympians aren’t displaying enough patriotism because their uniforms aren’t covered in stars and stripes.

The video’s at the link, but here’s the gist. Guest host Alisyn Camerota says: “There was a proud moment at the Olympics yesterday when 16-year old Gabby Douglas won a gold medal in gymnastics. The crowd went wild with cheers – though we’re not hearing the chants of ‘USA, USA’ that we’ve heard in some Olympics gone by. And some folks have noticed that American athletes’ uniforms don’t carry the Stars and Stripes look as much as they had in past years. The famous flag-style outfits worn in years past replaced with yellow shirts, gray tracksuits, pink leotards. So how do we show our patriotism at the games?”

Her sole guest, David Webb of Sirius Radio’s “Patriot” channel, answers: “I’m proud to be an American… What’s wrong with showing pride? What we’re seeing is this kind of soft anti-American feeling that Americans can’t show our exceptionalism. And, frankly, if they are offended about our showing our exceptionalism, then they have that right and I don’t care. And neither do most Americans.”

The banner beneath the discussion reads: “New concerns about American patriotism at the Olympics.”

Forget how absurd it is to suggest that unless American athletes literally drape themselves in the flag, they are unpatriotic. Forget how ludicrous it is to claim that as Team USA performs spectacularly, winning so many gold medals that “The Star-spangled Banner” plays on a continuous loop while American athletes stand with their hands on their hearts, these athletes are actually ashamed of American “exceptionalism.” Nobody involved with the news segment actually believes that. They knew they were spouting bullshit. Pure, stinking bullshit. But they ran it anyway — the segment was utterly cynical.

But here’s the truly contemptible bit: to score political points, a powerful national news network accused sixteen-year-old Gabby Douglas of being unpatriotic. No, let me amend that — they accused a teenager who has devoted years of her life to competing for the United States, and whose father couldn’t attend the Olympics because he is deployed in Afghanistan, of hating her own country.

If that’s not being a bully, nothing is. Shame on them.

Today’s Olympic photos

Today my son and I walked up the street to watch the Olympic Road Cycling Time Trials. The first race was the women’s, and I had to run to the course in time to see American Kristin Armstrong flash by, flanked by police outriders and team cars and the motorcycle cameraman, and shadowed overhead by the TV helicopters. She was the gold medalist in Beijing but two months ago broke her collarbone in a crash. Today she defended her title and won gold again.

We made sure to we were on the course in time to see all the riders in the men’s race. Here are some photos of the crowd.

In the time trial, the riders depart the starting line every 90 seconds. Then it’s 40 kilometers of hard, hard riding. And when the top seeded riders got near, the crowd got wind that British riders might be doing well. From miles down the road — miles — a roar began to rise. Then, streaking up the road, came Bradley Wiggins, this year’s winner of the Tour de France and a superb time trialer. Everybody on the road went nuts — the Brits, the Yanks, the Aussies, the Danes and Norwegians and Brazilians and Colombians and everybody else who was there. I got this photo. Sorry it’s blurry — he was going that fast.

He won. He destroyed the field. And he became the most decorated British Olympian in history. The three hundred thousand people along the course haven’t recovered yet.

Olympics: Women’s road race

Here’s a video I took Sunday at the Women’s cycle road race. It was almost 90 miles long and came down the same roads as the men’s had on Saturday. But on Sunday, though the race started in blinding sunshine on the Mall in London, by the time they hit the country roads out of town thunderstorms were booming and the rain and wind got fierce.

So I decided that I had to go watch, in case others stayed home.

But I didn’t need to worry. The crowd was massive: cycling fans, families, dads arriving exhausted because they’d run alongside their little boys, teaching them to ride a bike by going to watch the Olympics. When I arrived at the course a county highway crew was there pumping flood water from the road. And everybody was desperate for information — they wanted to know where the riders were. Nobody had a radio. Then: ping. I had a text message… from the Daughter, in the United States, watching on television. It said: “They just crossed the M25.”

That meant they were only a few miles down the road and headed our way. I shouted, “They just crossed the M25!” And the crowd cheered. The Daughter was their hero.

The police officer touched her radio and hollered, “GET OUT OF THE ROAD.” The advance vehicles and police motorcycles and press and more police raced past. We heard the helicopter overhead — that’s always the clue that things are getting close. Then the skies opened and the rain just came down in buckets.

The video is my usual shaky, obscured filmmaking. But you can get a sense of how the race was at a critical point: a lead group of four had made a break. They were twenty miles from the finish and had thrown the dice. And when they flashed past and the crowd saw a British uniform in the group, the atmosphere turned electric.

Then they were gone, and the cop shouted, “It’s raining — that’s a good omen for the Brit!” And we all ran for home; the racing fans and the families with strollers and the kids on bikes. I just made it, sopping and out of breath, in time to see the riders head into London. And in the driving rain, with the streets packed with wildly cheering fans, the breakaway group thinned down to three. They rounded Buckingham Palace and headed down the mall into a brutal sprint. When they hit the finish line, Russian Olga Zabelinskaya was third. Marianne Vos of the Netherlands took the gold, and right on her wheel, with the crowd going mad crazy, was Lizzie Armitstead, who took silver — Britain’s first medal of 2012. Vos later said she was thrilled to ride through the “wall of noise.”

Yeah, this is good stuff. Tomorrow are the men’s and women’s cycle time trials. They pass right in front of my kids’ high school. I’ll be there.

Olympics Day 1: Men’s cycle road race

Today I saw my first ever Olympic event – one minute of the men’s 150 mile bike road race. It passed near my house. Here is my shaky video of the Peleton racing past. You can get a sense of the atmosphere, which was tremendous. And you can get a sense of how fast these guys were going by how fast the chase cars are rolling behind them — which is noticeably faster than the speed limit on the road. And this was 130 miles into the race.

And yes, it was fantastic.


Olympics, Olympics, Olympics, Olympics.

Happy first day of the Olympics!

That is all.


Tuesday roundup: Nuns, grammar outlaws, Battling Olympians

I’m going to unplug and write (the book. I have a book to write. I can’t just blog all day.) until I head to the crime authors’ talk this evening. Before I go, here are some links for you.

Both Kate and Rich alerted me to this story: Priest to hold nun beauty pageant.

An Italian priest says he is organising the world’s first beauty pageant for nuns to erase a stereotype of them as being old and dour.
Antonio Rungi says The Miss Sister Italy online contest will start on his blog in September.
“Nuns are above all women and beauty is a gift from God,” he told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He is asking nuns to send their photos to him, saying that internet users will then choose the winner.

Because internet users always have the highest standards of taste, beauty, and spirituality. Let’s see if the Fighting Nuns of Harrogate enter their contender in the novice category, Sister Agnes Fabulosa.

UPDATE: The Miss Sister pageant has been cancelled. Too many nuns were performing miracles in the talent competition, and it sent people into a frenzy. (No. I’m joking. Don’t send hate mail.) (Thanks to Kate for the update.)

Next, Werner sends this link, writing, “When I read this article I immediately thought of you.”

“Vandals in hot water for ‘fixing’ typo on historic Grand Canyon sign.”

Two self-styled vigilantes against typos who defaced a more than 60-year-old, hand-painted sign at Grand Canyon National Park were sentenced to probation and banned from national parks for a year.

Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson pleaded guilty Aug. 11 for the damage done March 28 at the park’s Desert View Watchtower. The sign was made by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, the architect who designed the rustic 1930s watchtower and other Grand Canyon-area landmarks.

Deck and Herson, both 28, toured the United States this spring, wiping out errors on government and private signs. They were interviewed by NPR and the Chicago Tribune, which called them “a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation.”

An affidavit by National Park Service agent Christopher A. Smith said investigators learned of the vandalism from an Internet site operated by Deck on behalf of the Typo Eradication Advancement League, or TEAL.

Dumb, guys; dumb. Earlier this year I cheerled for the Typo Eradication Advancement League. But there’s a difference between adding discreet apostrophes and commas to modern, grammatically mangled signs mass-produced by ignorant bureaucrats, and permanently defacing an old, irreplaceable handwritten sign. We need grammar rangers, not a grammar Taliban.

Bonus: Scroll past the story on the grammar bust for more weird headlines, including “Florida Cops Taser Plop-Plop, Escaped Emu Who ‘Went Crazy'” and “Wisconsin Woman Arrested for Ignoring Library Fines.”

And, finally: “It’s Time to Kick Out Some Olympic Sports.” Time magazine wants rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming to get the heave-ho. I have to agree that sports which “involve such copious amounts of cosmetics that they make a Texas beauty pageant look sedate” are inherently suspect. Plus, I think some of the synchro swimmers have been genetically modified with dolphin DNA. Did you see that Russian squad tail-walking backwards across the pool, squeaking at each other like Flipper? But if these sports are dropped, what should replace them? My kids suggest modifying two existing sports. (1) Get rid of sailing. Make it piracy. ( “The French boat has been boarded. The British skipper has a knife in her teeth! And… the Spanish boat is now flying the Union Jack. And its crew have been made galley slaves!”) (2) Turn track and field into a Battle Royale. Javelin throwers against hammer throwers. Spikes against shot put. Attack!

You can tell I have teenagers.

Alternately, there’s extreme ironing.

See you later.

Olympics addiction

Time for my maniacal, quadrennial addiction: the Olympics. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a kid. Track and field, swimming, gymnastics, basketball… and now, with digital TV, I can watch 24/7. In previous olympiads, this caused problems. Basically: it drove my family nuts.

But Mom, The Simpsons is on.
Hush, Michael Phelps is on the starting blocks.
Mom, the kitchen’s on fire.

Didn’t you hear me? Michael Phelps!

Fortunately, I’ve sucked my kids into this insanity, so they’re no longer plotting ways to tie me up with duct tape and shut me in a closet for the next two weeks. They’ve given up. They can forget Futurama and Dexter for the duration. Yesterday afternoon I actually caught my son watching the judo. My evil plan is working perfectly. Next, young one, we’ll watch the women’s 1500 meters prelims. All 97 heats. Mwahahahahaha!

Admittedly, I’m more jaded than I used to be. Corruption, drugs, and cheating will do that. (Marion Jones: a pox on you.) And rewarding a police state with this chance to show off makes me queasy. But: the athletes should be celebrated. And when I think about all the thrilling events I’ve watched over the years, I still get choked up. Such as the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay at Montreal, when the U.S. team beat the doped-to-the-gills East Germans — an upset Swimming World calls “the greatest display of determination and competitive courage in Olympic history.” Or the Sydney men’s 10,000 meters, where Paul Tergat and Haile Gebreselassie gutted it out, step by step, inch by inch, all the way to the finish line. Watch and marvel.

And you can’t look at Natalie du Toit, who carried the flag for South Africa in the Beijing opening ceremony, without thinking: Go, girl. More power to you.

All right, I see that I’m not only watching the women’s cycling road race on TV, but track and field highlights on YouTube. That’s overdosing, even for me.

I’ll let you go with this: an Olympic literary quiz.