Are you bored with the Olympics yet? Not me! It’s been a thrill a minute. Not so much the events, which I find mostly pretty dull. But the stories, egad, the stories!
Roll the presses:
Two brothers from Yorkshire won (respectively) the gold and bronze medals in the triathlon. (No, I didn’t know what the triathlon was either. It’s an endurance event, something like the American Iron Man events; contestants have to swim, and run, and cycle, in quick succession.) The UK is over the moon about this. According to Oma, my informant who lives in Luton, not far from London, the brothers wanted to cross the finish line simultaneously, but were told they couldn’t. (Have you heard about this? Me neither, until Oma tipped me off, and then I read an article in the Financial Times on Wednesday morning. I know: we care mostly about American athletes, and NBC figures we couldn’t care less about a couple of nice young men from Yorkshire. But what a story!)
A weightlifter from Germany dropped the barbell on himself. It was a pretty horrible scene: a German athlete, Matthias Steiner (who won the gold medal in Beijing in 2008), was hoisting 432 pounds over his head, and his arms buckled, and the weight came down on top of him. It gave me pause. Some of these events are dangerous. You can at least sprain or injure yourself while weightlifting (for example), and at worst you can actually drop a huge weight on yourself, as happened here. Remember the poor young Georgian in Vancouver, Nodar Kumaritashvili, only twenty-one years old, who wiped out on the luge and died of his injuries? Remember poor young Greg Louganis, who hit his head on the diving board back in 1988? He said it didn’t hurt that much, but I cannot imagine hitting your head on a diving board while spinning around in the air feels all that great. (There are certain events that carry little risk of personal injury; table tennis comes to mind. Yes, I know, things can still happen while playing table tennis, but – you know? I could go in the kitchen right now to make a sandwich, and slip, and hit my head on the counter.)
The beach volleyball matches have turned into the hot ticket at the London games. A FT columnist wrote a very funny column on Wednesday about the matches: it’s like a party, everyone in the stands is drinking and having fun, there are dancers on the floor of the arena between matches, and the announcer is more like a party DJ. Now: don’t you wish you were there, even though you don’t care two bits for volleyball?
Grenada has a gold medal. Remember Grenada? The USA invaded it in 1983, for some reason I don’t quite remember. Well, they have a gold medalist, Kirani James, in the men’s 400-meter. The whole island has gone properly insane, and was given a half-day holiday to celebrate. (I remember, when I was in Morocco in 1984, we (Moroccans) won two gold medals. The country went berserk. I was in Casablanca on the day the athletes came home from Los Angeles, and it was proper bedlam. It puts Michael Phelps’s smirking about winning seventy-five medals into perspective. Who cares if you’re a medal-winning freak from a country that always wins anyway? We like to see the less-represented countries win. It’s kind of what the Olympics are all about. Right?)
Iceland keeps trying to win a gold medal in handball. I will not even try to tell you the backstory on this one. Here’s the outline: Iceland has had a hard time over the past couple of years, economic collapse, blah blah blah. They won the silver medal in handball in Beijing in 2008. (There is a museum in Reykjavik which displays a sculpture called “The Icelandic Handball Team”; it’s a set of full-sized silver penises, which denote national pride.) Iceland was hell-bent to win gold this year. As of this writing, they have lost their chance. But they are doughty. And there’s always 2016, providing the Maya are wrong about this whole end-of-the-world thing
Swans win gold in London. From Wednesday’s FT: “London is now so obsessed with the Olympics the very wildlife turned to imitation: on the Serpentine a five-strong group of swans broke away from a peloton of Canada geese.”
Even the swans and geese are getting into it.
As Oma, in Luton, wrote to me the other day: “It’s been a great games so far and I’m loving it, loving it, loving it.”