It’s fair to say I geek out pretty solid to the Olympics. With the right combination of coffee, hormones and sleep deprivation, my eyes well up just saying “Olympics.” I almost cried three times on the way to work just listening to Olympics previews. I dig the games.
I love the stories they uncover about the athletes, the teams and the countries. Human interest framed in sports–it’s like Aaron Sorkin wrote a miniseries that’ll be airing over the next two weeks. I’ve already torn through a pile of material. I’ve read stories about Lolo Jones, who was well on her way to winning gold four years ago when she beefed it over the penultimate hurdle and came in seventh instead, collapsing into disbelief at the finish line, but giving the most gracious interview a few minutes later. Then the cameras caught her in the tunnel by herself, weeping.
Seriously. It’s nine a.m. and I’m crying already. I haven’t even had my coffee yet.
There’s the open-water swimmer, Alex Meyer–fuckers swim a 10k; can you believe that?! (Actually, there’s also a 25k distance, but it’s not an Olympic sport.) This guy was best friends with a competitor–they roomed together all the time, and the friend once gave up second place to turn around, swim back and help Meyer when he was having trouble in a race. Then, at a UAE race Meyer could only watch through an injury, the friend died when water temperatures pushed 90 degrees.
There’s the U.S. judo champ who’s had two goals since she was 10–to win a world championship (she did that in 2010) and a gold medal. But since the Sandusky trial, she was inspired to come out about being sexually abused for years by a former coach, and now, of course, that story will be part of her medal run.
There’s Gabby Douglas, the 16-year-old gymnastics phenom who moved away from her mother and older siblings in Virginia to live with a family in Iowa (where she’s now an older sister to four girls) and train with Coach Chow. She saw him on TV four years ago and loved how happy and supportive he was of all his athletes.
There’s Lochte and Phelps, of course–and as much as I rooted for Phelps last time (and as much as I don’t give a damn about his partying), I’m kind of going for Lochte this time. (Though I hate how his name is pronounced–“Lockty.”) There’s women’s soccer, of course–a World Cup rematch with Japan would be quite a thing to watch (especially since Japan is a great and respectable–and respectful–rival).
And those are just the Americans. I’ve also read about the Chinese medal-making machine–how, after boycotting the Olympics for years because Taiwan was included, they focused in on the least-popular, least-funded sports that could earn them the most medals, like gymnastics, and things that have multiple weight classes, like women’s weightlifting. There’s the Chechnyan wrestlers who are on Russia’s team, though Russia is a political enemy of their homeland. There’s the South African amputee 400 runner, and the sprinter who’s had her gender called into question–and South Africa in general, which was banned from the Olympics during apartheid, and now features only 14 non-white athletes out of 79, though the country is only 10 percent white.
And already there’s the incident where the South Korean flag was shown for the North Korean women’s soccer team–which would be understandably embarrassing if it were any other country, but is kind of hysterical when it’s North Korea.
There’s even the Afghan boxer who’s been pulled from competition for fear she’d be injured. (Which, by the way, kills the potential for this to be the first ever summer Olympics in which every competing nation included female athletes.)
There are just so many great stories, so much earnestness. Watch the opening ceremonies tonight. Look at how excited everyone is to be there. Think about how cool it is that every part of the globe is just so happy to come together like that.
I dunno. I’m pretty excited.