First, I want to say that I am an Olympics junkie, and I get so involved mentally I found myself sweating during the men’s marathon on the final Sunday. I will admit to being a bit of a purist, as in the only “true” Olympics are Track and Field. But it does not stop me from watching most of the “sports” events throughout all of the games. Even the winter Olympics, which I can look forward to in only 18 months, are not “true” Olympics because they came from the modern games, and not the ancient games. But I would be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy them as well. For me, the best winter sport is downhill skiing, or all skiing, and as for the downhill, while there may have been better, the picture that comes to my mind anytime anyone mentions the downhill is Franz Klammer, in his gold suit, with his downhill run at Innsbruck 1976.
So having said all that, I will now share my thoughts on the London 2012 Olympics.
Starting with the opening show, I liked the British take on their own progress through the thousands of years it has been around. I enjoyed seeing the “Queen”, with Daniel Craig as “James Bond” jumping out of the helicopter. I was even a bit confused for a while as to whether she really did that, but common sense told me she would not have done that – her age, her dignity, her place (and probably her people) would not have allowed her to do that. But I loved that she has that wicked sense of humour she does and would allow the skit to occur.
I liked that Rowan Atkinson played such a huge role in the playing of Chariots of Fire, and I liked that the music from that movie was used as the background during the awarding of the medals in all the venues.
My fave part of that opening ceremony was probably when music was performed to represent each of the individual countries in the British Empire, the music for Scotland was “Flower of Scotland”. Roy Williamson would have been so proud – and he probably was, looking down from above. And Ronnie Brown probably cried. So emotional. (There is a story about that song, but if you are not familiar with The Corries, you probably don’t know it.)
I was surprised when they chose a spiritual song for Wales, rather than Men of Harlech, which many of us associate with Wales, but I imagine it was entirely appropriate for the true Welsh people.
I don’t remember if there was a song for Ulster, but at least through both the opening and closing ceremonies, orange and green seemed to be in use.
I love the British National Anthem, and that even though America at its beginning was so anti-British, they chose the same tune for their own song “America”. I always enjoy watching members of the Royal Family singing the song, and wondering if they really relate to their family, or if it is purely sung for their own country.
The things I watched, other than the track and field, which as I’ve said are my fave parts of the summer games, were rowing, canoe and kayak events and the white-water races; mountain biking; gymnastics and rhythmic gymnastics; diving (hooray for David Boudaia and Tom Daley for knocking off the Chinese for gold and bronze); volley ball, both court and beach, water polo, soccer, field hockey, weight lifting (I was so astonished that so many of the women were so small and so slim); the water marathons, and cycling.
I also saw bits of the synchronized swimming, equestrian (congrats to Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, for her silver in equestrian jumping); swimming, wrestling, epee, badminton, table tennis, BMX, taekwando, archery (boy, I was expecting real bows and arrows, not those technical things); men’s pentathlon, and trampoline.
I did not watch boxing, basketball, tennis, or handball (the handball I used to know, 50 years ago, was when men in pairs would bat balls against a backboard, using heavy leather gloves on their hands – this handball didn’t look too competitive to me); and unavailable to me apparently were racewalking and sailing, as I did not see anything of them).
Standout competitors for me included Usain Bolt (he is a phenomenon), David Rudisha, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee, Oscar Pistorius (bless him for showing that even a disabled person can compete with the best, and good luck to him in the Paralympics), Mo Farah (loved his dance, all gangly legs and arms and all), the Ugandan and the Tunisian in their respective marathons; Manteo Mitchell (who finished his leg of a relay on a broken leg), Leo Manzano (who came from behind in the stretch to finish 2nd; besides, he is from here), Sonya Richards-Ross, Alyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter, and especially Caster Semenya (who had to go through the indignities of proving she is female just so she could compete), Jessica Ennis, Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, Ryan Lochte (eye candy), and, of course, Michael Phelps. I’m certain I’ve left out quite a few faves of others, especially among the women swimmers, but I’m not really a huge swimming fan.
I am gratified that every nation that competed had a woman competitor (I know, it is hard to see me as a women’s sports fan when I name so few women as standouts – I guess I just like watching the men more), and that in the US, women won 29 of the 46 gold medals, and won the majority of all medals overall.
I loved that Tom Brokaw aired his “Battle of Britain” documentary on the Friday before the end of the games, and that folks who weren’t around in those days, to whom it is just history, had a chance to see the struggle England went through in those early years of WWII, and that they got a chance to see the resiliency of the English people. And I appreciate his showing the seven young American men who got into the air war before FDR could even get the isolationist Americans interested in the war (we had to be attacked ourselves before it was made plain, and we had turned away a shipload of Jews early on, not believing, or maybe even caring, what was going on in Europe), and the story of the miracle rescue of those on the Beach at Dunkirk. Anyway, I don’t think politics belong in the Olympics games, but I appreciate the showing of the documentary because it really does explain the “stiff upper lip” of the British (and perhaps could be looked at as a difference in the actions of America in WWII as opposed to the actions of the Brits and the Canadians during our own crisis of 9/11).
The closing show was excellent – lots of music I have been a huge fan of for 45+ years – and Annie Lennox was the standout for me, as were the Welsh men who sang the Olympic Anthem. I enjoyed the carioca and samba of Rio and the appearance of Pele, representing where the next summer games are to be held – beginning August 8 of 2016. I expect to be there (in heart and soul), not quite being 76 at the time. I’m looking forward to another round with so many of the players from this year.
And finally, as the Olympic flame died out, the Phoenix rose from the ashes, while the music was “We can rule the world”.
Carol Stepp, Austin, TX