This is going to be a long one, so I’ve divided it up into different subjects.
On the events themselves:
- Obviously, there really is nothing more that can be said about Michael Phelps. Right now, he’s one of the top 5 greatest Olympic athletes of all time. If he just wins another gold or two in London, especially if he learns to dominate his weakest stroke, the breaststroke as well as he does the other three, he is simply the greatest Olympics athlete ever – better than Lewis, Blair, Thorpe, Nurmi, you name’em. He’s simply better.
- I was really impressed by the way the USA men’s basketball team played and behaved throughout the entire tournament. Finally, probably for the first time since 1996, the team behaved in a the way that they needed to behave as the highest-profile athletes at these games. The USA hoopsters were spotted at all kinds of other events cheering on US teammates. Kobe had to go through all kinds of hoops to watch the soldout men’s soccer matches – which he clearly is really, really into. Like everybody else, I was really taken seeing these millionaires literally bouncing with excitement and glee as the gold medal game wound down and as they received their medals.
- The women’s soccer team deserves enormous credit for overcoming a lot of distractions both self-made (Solo’gate 07) and unprovoked (Wambach’s injury) to grit out a 1-0 win over Brazil and win the gold medal. I felt really good for both Solo and Sundhage who could finally tell their wrong-headed critics to shut up. That women’s program has had to endure a lot of heat, but this win not only showed that the US still has the players to compete with the best of the world, but that US Soccer and the coaching it provided could adapt (by going with Sundhage over another college coach) and change as the sport changes and improves.
- The under reported story of these games is the enormous improvement Britain showed going into London 2012. The country’s stunning medal total came despite serious underachievement in a sport they’re traditionally good at – track and field. If they get good at that (I think the key is to only run races in slow motion) then they could have a very successful games on home turf.
- I hyped up the boxing before the games and was proven entirely wrong by hideous judging and blatant, barely-concealed favoritism to the Chinese fighters. By the end, Bob Papa and Teddy Atlas were just haranguing the organizers with contempt and calling for changes in the sport including the scoring and even including removing the headgear from the fighters.
- Despite the shocking loss to Japan in the final, the Americans’ total domination of softball did little to dispel the legitimate criticism that not enough countries play the sport at a high level. Yes, in a way, the sport as a whole is being punished for the USA’s success at the sport, but that’s why football or Aussie Rules (both great sports) aren’t Olympic sports either.
- Sports that must go – softball (sorry), baseball, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, and tennis
- Sports that must join the games – skateboarding and rugby sevens