About this time four years ago the world was fixated on Beijing, China for the opening ceremonies of the XXIX Olympiad. With all eyes
on them, the People’s Republic of China did not disappoint.
The opening ceremonies of the Olympics have always been one of the most
anticipated spectacles of any sporting event. With the Olympics being the biggest sports stage in the world it’s only fitting that the entertainment surrounding the event be equally as big.
Even though the opening ceremonies have always been a big deal, it wasn’t until the millennium, the 2000 Olympic Games hosted by Sydney, Australia when the ceremonies themselves became a competition. The XXVII Olympiad ceremonies set the stage for what would be a new trend.
Following Australia’s performance, the world was eagerly waiting four years to see what Athens, Greece, the birth place of the Olympics, would have in store. As expected, Athens set the bar even higher. With silhouettes of Greek gods, and displaying the history of the Olympics’ birth place was the event that put future Olympic hosts on notice.
Beijing got the memo. It’s been three Olympics since the millennium, and with each Olympics, the opening ceremonies continue to get better. To date when it comes to the ceremonies the gold would have to go to Beijing. London has had over four years to prepare for this event. With the Olympics kicking off later this week it doesn’t appear they will come close to what we witnessed four years ago.
Although the world has been waiting for these games since Beijing, the only positive news that’s been shared is that the torch made it to London safely. The rest of the buzz has been about security or the lack thereof.
The private company that was supposed to provide security for the games fell short of personnel by about 3,500 employees. Earlier this week the British government made changes to ensure the safety of the public and the athletes. Even with the comfort of knowing the games will be secure, still, not a word about what to expect for the opening ceremonies. What we do know is that London officials recruited Danny Boyle, the director of the academy award winning “Slum Dog Millionaire” as the artistic director, and Sir Paul McCartney will have a solo performance. Other than that, we have to patiently wait to see what London has in store.
Over 10,000 athletes representing 205 nations have arrived in London as they prepare to march in the opening ceremonies representing their country, and the fierce competition to earn the title of World’s Best will begin.
Although there are 205 nations competing against one another, more often than not in individual sports, it really seems like it’s the United States against the world, or US against the world.
During the medal count the U.S. is always the leader in both total medal count and the number of Golds. In most events, be it team competition or individual events the U.S. is always a contender. Whether it’s rowing, equestrian, archery, swimming, gymnastics, tennis, table tennis, the U.S. is a threat to medal.
This is a time the American people can chant U-S-A!!! We’re Number 1!!! and mean it. This is a time and a place where we can show our strength and might to the rest of the world. They know how strong we are militarily, but now the people can see our strength up close and personal.
However, we have lost that Number 1 ranking in other areas--areas where it matters most. Most of the people in the United States will not be Olympians or any other type of sports hero. As a nation we fell from the top 10 in education to the bottom 50. We no longer rank in the top 10 in math, science or technology. We fell off in the manufacturing department.
But enough of that; it’s time for the Olympics. This is a time when the world is supposed to take a break from the chaos and madness and celebrate with competition. So in the spirit of the Olympics, for the next 17 days let’s celebrate the athletes as they try for glory for their county through sports and competition.
The United States is expected to do well in a number of events. The USA track and field team is expected to challenge the Jamaicans in the both men’s and women’s 100 and 200 meters. For decades the U.S. has always dominated track and field, mainly the sprints. However, in recent Olympics, the U.S. has failed to reach the top podium in those events, watching the Jamaican Usain Bolt get the gold draped around his neck and the Jamaican National Anthem being played.
This time the U.S. has a good chance at bringing the gold back home in the 100 and 200 meters. The records won’t be touched; both are held by Bolt. However, a healthy Tyson Gaye is always a threat, and with former 100 meter gold medal winner and world record holder Justin Gatlin back in the fold with something to prove, it could be anybody’s race. In the 100 meter finals in should be three Jamaicans, three Americans and the other two will more than likely be from another island country.
On a local level Chaunte’ Lowe--formerly Chaunte’ Howard-- is going to the London games as the favorite to win gold in the women’s high jump. Lowe is not new to this. She made the finals in the Beijing games, and she also medaled in the World Championships. However, the married mother feels more focused, mature and confident. She won the national title with an American record of 6 feet 7.5 inches.
The U.S. is sending a very strong women’s track and field team to London, Lowe in the high jump, and Brittney Reese returning for her second Olympics, looking to dominate in the long jump again. In fact, the American women can possibly sweep the long jump.
Both the American men and women teams will contend for medals in just about every event in track and field including the marathon. Some to look for on the podium include Ashton Eaton, the world record holder in the decathlon, and Reese Hoffa; shot put. Another name to look for includes Wallace Spearmon in the 200 meters. If Spearmon runs a good curve, he has the best chance at beating his good friend Usain Bolt at that distance. Spearmon is the last American to beat Bolt at that distance. In the women’s 200 meters, Southern California’s own Alyson Felix is looking to make London her coming-out party. Felix has won two silver medals in the last two Olympics in 200 meters, which is her specialty. In Beijing and Athens Felix was the runner-up to Veronica Campbell-Brown. This Olympics Felix said anything less than gold is a failure.
During the U.S. Olympic trials, Felix looked exceptionally sharp and focused. After a minor controversy in the 100 meters in which she qualified third, Felix came back strong in the 200 meters, putting the rest of the world on notice by running a personal best, which also happens to be the fastest time in the world this year.
The 100 meters women’s finals should look exactly like the men’s: three Jamaicans, three Americans and the others from an island country. The Jamaicans won gold in the last two Olympics, but American Carmelita Jeter won gold in the last two World Championships, and looked especially strong in the U.S. Olympic trials. With everyone in the race capable of going under 11 seconds the gold belongs to anyone. The Americans will be led by Jeter, along with Felix and newcomer Tianna Madison.
The U.S. has always been dominant in the men’s and women’s 400 meters and the XXX Olympiad appears to be the same. Olympic champion LaShawn Meritt is looking to defend his title. He will be joined by Bryshun Neilum of USC. Neilum says he is blessed to be here. What makes his story so special is that he is recovering from shotgun blasts to both legs just two years ago; the USC track standout was the victim of a random shooting. “Just making the team is a victory for me. I didn’t think I would be here, but now that I am I have to give it my all and go for the gold. God is good, I give all the glory to Him,” said Neilum.
The women’s 400 meters and 200 meters are in good hands. Felix, the 200 meter veteran, is going for gold. Hef biggest competition is two-time defending Olympic champion Campbell-Brown. Felix is peaking at the right time and feels confident. A USA sweep isn’t likely, but no one would too surprised if it happened. Joining Felix on team USA is Jeter, and 400 meter specialist Sonya Richards-Ross, who is doing double duty. Richards-Ross is the favorite to win gold in the 400 meters.
The 110 meter hurdles has a few faces on the men’s side, but all the gold have good international experience and their times are some of the fastest in the world. In the women’s 100 meter hurdles all eyes will be on Lolo Jones. Jones was the favorite win gold in Beijing, and was well on her way. Jones had a clear lead for nine hurdles. As she clipped the ninth hurdle with her lead leg, she lost her balance and saw the gold slip from her grasp as the rest of the field blew past her across the finish line.
The women’s gymnastics team will be led by 16-year-old Gabby Douglas who had the only secure spot on the team by winning the All-Around. Douglas is favored in the floor exercise, uneven bars and she is also very strong on the balance beam. Douglas is expected to do well against the team from China.
Track and field athletes have to deal with the Jamaicans in the sprints and the Kenyans in the middle distance events. In gymnastics the Americans have to deal the teams China and Russia, in the swimming events the Americans have to battle the Australians, South Africans and Dutch and in basketball they deal with everybody.
The 2008 Redeem Team brought gold and glory back to USA basketball in Beijing. This Olympics, Team USA wants to show its dominance once more to show the world our pros are better than yours. After this season the NBA athletes may no longer be able to participate in the Olympics Games.
Team USA has easily breezed through all their tune-up games so far, blowing out London, Argentina and Puerto Rico. They have one more game in pool play against Spain before the medal rounds start. Spain’s team features the big 7-foot Gasol brothers, Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Mark Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Although the rest of the world has gotten a lot better at basketball, the U.S. is still expected to dominate, and often their opponents are fans of team USA, asking for autographs after the game.
The U.S. has such a lock on basketball that the debate isn’t about which team is the best in the 2012 Olympics, but USA Team is better, the original 1992 Dream Team or the 2012 Redeem Team. Most critics say the original Dream Team featuring Michael Jordan. However, the 2012 Redeem Team has a lot more athleticism and explosiveness.
People are stuck on how big a margin the Dream Team beat their opponents by, but in 1992 the competition wasn’t nearly as good around the globe. In 1992 the NBA only had a handful of international players. Of that group only Tony Kukoc and a few others were of NBA caliber. Now most of the teams in the NBA feature an international superstar. Some teams, like Spain, France, Germany, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Israel have more than one NBA on their international team.
The 1992 Dream Team was great, and like the documentary probably the greatest team ever assembled, definitely one of the greatest. The Dream Team featured an aging 29-year-old Michael Jordan; an old and injured 35-year-old Larry Bird; Earvin “Magic,” 32, out of the game for a year, diagnosed with HIV; John Stockton, 30; Patrick Ewing, 30; Clyde Drexler, 30’ Karl Malone, 29; Charles Barkley, 29; a young, soft Christian Laettner, 22; Chris Mullin, 29; Scottie Pippen, 26, and David Robinson, 27.
The 2012 Redeem Team features Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, Any team with those two players will be hard to beat, no matter who the opponent is. Kobe is the senior member on the Redeem Team at 33 years old. He is the only one on the team in his 30s; LeBron is 27. The rest of the roster includes Tyson Chandler, 29; Kevin Durrant, 23; Russell Westbrook,23; Deron Williams, 27; Andre Iguodala, 28; Kevin Love, 23; James Harden, 22; Chris Paul, 27; Carmelo Anthony, 28, and Anthony Davis, 19.
The Dream Team has more basketball knowledge, they have a higher basketball IQ, and they are mentally tougher. The Redeem Team is younger, faster, stronger, more athletic with more versatility. If you take the teams how they are at the time of play, the Redeem Team wins. The Dream Team wouldn’t have enough athleticism, speed or youth to keep up. I’m going with the Redeem Team, but it might be too close to call.
For the next 17 days London will be on display hosting the world’s best athletes as they vie for gold medals and the title of the World’s Best. London is sending the biggest team of delegates, but the USA is sending the best.