Olympics Living Up To Their Reputation

By Beacon Staff

I usually avoid screaming on Sundays. It seems inappropriate and strenuous. But this past Sunday evening I yelped – loud and prolonged. What can I say? I was really excited about swimming, if only for a few minutes. Jason Lazek’s epic final leg in the 400-meter free relay, which ensured that Michael Phelps still has a shot at a record eight gold medals, was as memorable of an athletic moment as I’ve ever witnessed. It’s one of several reasons these Olympics have been a pleasant surprise for me.

This year’s Olympics have enough good plotlines to provide sports columnists and reporters with quality stories everyday. For one, the games are in China. That fact in itself makes these Olympics a spectacle. Anyone who saw the opening ceremony understands that China operates a bit differently than anywhere else in the world. With China, it’s go big or go home. But since they’re already home, they’ve decided to go really big – Yao Ming big. Considering the country’s widely reported human rights abuses, along with worries over the air quality for athletes and other legitimate concerns, it’s somewhat surprising Beijing was ever chosen as the host in the first place.

Besides the big storylines like Phelps’ quest for eight gold medals and the apparent return of the Dream Team in basketball, a couple of subplots are worth mentioning. The men’s gymnastics team lost their two best athletes, the Hamm twins, and then pulled off a bronze medal when they were expected to get thrashed. Also, there’s the question of how old the Chinese female gymnasts are. Various news sources have reported some girls as being as young as 12, far below the minimum age of 16. The list goes on.

The Dream Team – or the Redeem Team, as some are saying – is apparently back, though as a basketball fan I will say there will never be another team like the 1992 squad that featured Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. But nevertheless it’s nice to see, no matter how superficial and short-lived, the nation’s best players putting aside their egos just long enough to win a few games at the Olympics. There’s no reason they should lose.

The biggest story is Phelps. I want him to win eight gold medals. He is the hero of the Olympics and he has encouraged people, like myself, to watch swimming even if they know nothing about the sport. I’ve watched him through his first three medals and I plan on watching the rest. With that said, I know there’s a good chance that at some point, once again, I’ll find myself screaming for a sport and a person I know nothing about. And so it is with the 2008 Olympics.