Stories indexed with the term ‘Olympics’

Column: Highs, Lows of Winter Olympics

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Why in the world are the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Russia’s warmest places? Chalk it up to corruption – both the Russians’, which we’ve come to expect, and the International Olympic Committee’s, which … we’ve also come to expect. The IOC hasn’t just shown a willingness to be bought, but an insistence. If you don’t pay ‘em, you ain’t getting the Olympics.

That’s how you get a Winter Olympic skating rink built in the shade of palm trees. The warm weather is funny, unless you spent your entire life training for these Olympics, and there’s no snow. Then it’s just heartbreaking.

Sochi will also be remembered for the bronze water you can’t drink, and the ritual police beatings of a punk music group called Pussy Riot – which is the kind of name you come up with when you want to call yourself something shocking, but you don’t know English very well.

But this is important, for two reasons. First, it allows journalists to say Pussy Riot on the air. I don’t think my boss will let me say it next week. And second, it restores our sense of moral superiority. This way, we can still hate the Russians – then beat them in hockey.

And that’s exactly what the Americans did, thanks to a guy named T.J. Oshie. [Full Story]

UM: Winter Olympics

Charley Sullivan, the University of Michigan associate men’s rowing coach, is quoted in an Associated Press article about how anti-gay laws are impacting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Sullivan – described in the article as “one of the first openly gay coaches of a major-college sports team” – suggested that athletes could protest the Russian laws by wearing gay pride pins and carrying rainbow flags to the closing ceremonies. Sullivan said athletes have “a moral imperative not to let their efforts, their body, the images of what they do, their names, to be hooked to legitimizing of the host country without their consent.” [Source]

Column: Reimagining the Olympics

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The London Olympics features 26 summer sports, with 39 disciplines, and 302 separate competitions, in a desperate attempt to get everyone to watch.

As a result, the International Olympic Committee feels they now have something for everyone. So, we’ve got the Ancient Sports, or the Events No One Watches Anymore, like horse riding, rifle range, and archery – also known as, Things You Did in Summer Camp, But Stopped Doing After You Learned How To Drive and Talk To Girls. Why not include making moccasins and leather key fobs?

The Modern Penthathlon has got the complete collection of outdated events: fencing, horse jumping, shooting, a 3-K run and a 200-meter swim – or, The Full MacGyver. Introduced in 1912, the Modern Pentathlon is one of the least modern things about the modern games.

A truly Modern Pentathlon would include: (1) Aerobics – which is not as silly as rhythmic gymnastics; (2) Running Brain Dead On A Treadmill; (3) Bikram Yoga, for some reason; (4) Sitting On The Weight Machine I Want To Use For Five Minutes, While Admiring Yourself In The Mirror; and (5) Programming Your New Television.

The smallest category is The Things You Actually Want to Watch: swimming, track, gymnastics and basketball. Everything else is filler. Oh, and Tae Kwon Do, of course. Why? Because my editor likes it. That’s why. [Full Story]

Column: Time to Reconsider Olympics Custom

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Tonight, the U.S. Olympic team will enter London’s Olympic Stadium, led by Mariel Zagunis, the American flag bearer. What you probably won’t see, however, is Zagunis dip the American flag, unlike every other nation’s flagbearer.

Last week, I mentioned the origins of this unique custom in passing, but it deserves its own story.

At the fourth Olympiad in London 104 years ago, the American team was the only one that refused to dip its flag to the host nation during the opening ceremonies. A tradition was born.

The question is: Is this a tradition we should keep?

Before you answer, it might help to consider how it started. [Full Story]

Column: Forever Olympians

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The University of Michigan has sent 226 athletes and coaches to the Olympic Games. Wolverines have competed in every modern Olympics since the first in 1896. The numbers are impressive, but the individuals in those numbers, past and present, are far more interesting.

In the opening ceremonies next week, when the United States flag bearer declines to dip the Stars and Stripes for Queen Elizabeth, he or she will be following the lead of Ralph Rose, a Michigan alum who refused to lower the flag in the 1908 London Olympics, for King Edward VII. Rose explained, “This flag dips for no earthly king.”

Wolverines have also made their mark on the podium, winning 138 medals, including 65 gold. This year, Michigan is sending 26 athletes and coaches to London, who will compete in nine different sports.

The list includes Betsey Armstrong, a graduate of Ann Arbor Huron High – widely considered the greatest high school in the history of Western Civilization (which also happens to be my alma mater). She will play goalie for the water polo team. [Full Story]

UM Regents Skate Through Agenda

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (March 18, 2010): Thursday’s meeting was a routine, relatively brief session – punctuated rather dramatically by the arrival of four Olympic ice dancers, who turned the regents, as one of them observed, into “total groupies.”

Meryl Davis, Martin Taylor, Mary Sue Coleman

UM president Mary Sue Coleman, right, talks with Olympic silver medalist Meryl Davis, left, while regent Martin Taylor looks on. Davis is one of four ice dancers who attend UM and who competed in the winter Olympics. (Photos by the writer)

During the less rambunctious portions of the meeting, regents approved two building renovations – at the Duderstadt Center and Lorch Hall – totaling $3.8 million. They also authorized the awarding of six honorary degrees at the May 1 commencement ceremony, including one to the keynote speaker, President Barack Obama.

The main presentation of the afternoon came from Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for human resources, who updated regents on the status of employee benefits.

At the end of the meeting, one person spoke during public commentary. Ann Arbor resident Rita Mitchell urged regents not to proceed with the Fuller Road Station project, a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor parking structure and transit center planned on city-owned land near the university’s medical campus. She argued that the project violated both the spirit and intent of a city charter amendment passed in 2008, which requires voters to approve the sale of city parkland.

Thursday’s meeting was in its usual location – the boardroom in the Fleming administration building, on Thompson Street. UM president Mary Sue Coleman reminded regents that next month’s meeting will be held in a different venue: the city of Grand Rapids. [Full Story]

Column: Winners & Losers of the Olympics

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It was the best of Olympics, it was the worst of Olympics. For some, it was the season of hope; for others, the winter of their discontent. But to heck with all that. I’m just here to give you Coach Bacon’s Winners and Losers of the Winter Olympics. So, here we go.

WINNER: Vancouver

Great city, great people, great Olympics. Well done, my Canadian friends.

LOSER: Vancouver

In the opening ceremonies, the flame apparatus failed to rise, launching a thousand Viagra jokes. But the real joke was the speed skating oval, where the Canadians failed to manufacture decent ice. That’s like Jamaicans failing to manufacture decent sand. What’s up with that? [Full Story]

Column: “We Believed”

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The surprising United States Olympic men’s hockey team will play Finland today in the semi-finals, inspiring some to compare them to the last U.S. men’s team to win the gold 30 years ago, Lake Placid’s “Miracle on Ice.” Sorry, even if the U.S. wins it all, it will not qualify as a miracle. We are not likely to see anything quite like it again. And there will never be another coach like Herb Brooks.

I will never forget the impact the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team had on our country – or the impact the coach, Herb Brooks, had on me.

On Dec. 13, 1979, my best friend was heading home from hockey practice up north, when he was killed in a car accident. I found out the next morning, seconds before my Huron High School hockey teammates and I walked out onto the basketball court for our first pep rally. What started out as one of the happiest days of my life, had suddenly become the saddest.

I didn’t come out of it for months. But when the 1980 Olympic hockey tournament started, I watched every second of every game – I was transfixed by this team and their coach –  and that’s what brought me back. [Full Story]

Column: Oh, Say Can You See a New Anthem?

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The modern Olympics started in 1896, but it took 28 more years before the winners would hear their national anthem during the medal ceremony.

The Vancouver Games will conduct 86 medal ceremonies, during which any of the 82 countries present could be serenaded with their national anthem. But not all are created equal – including ours.

You probably knew the melody for our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” came from a popular British drinking song, and that Francis Scott Key added the words during the War of 1812. But you might not have known the song didn’t become our national anthem until more than a century later, in 1931. And we didn’t start playing the song before ball games until World War II.

“The Star Spangled Banner” may be two centuries old, but its status as our national anthem is relatively new – and, I think, not beyond reconsideration. [Full Story]

Column: Experiencing The Olympics

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Twelve years ago I covered the Winter Olympics in Nagano. It was exhausting – and exhilarating.

Every day, right in front of me, I got to savor the skill and the speed of the skiers and the snowboarders, the hockey players and the figure skaters. But what I remember most is the energy generated by the athletes and the audience, who seemed to feed off each other. I didn’t get to merely see it. I got to feel it – an experience shared with thousands of people from around the world, right as it happened.

So that’s why I was stunned when I called my friends back home, breathless about the drama stirring all around me, only to learn they had no idea what I was talking about. They weren’t impressed by the Nagano Olympics, or the coverage of it – take your pick. And that’s when I realized the Olympics I was experiencing had nothing to do with the one they were watching – or not watching at all. (Nagano had the lowest ratings in 30 years.)

Now, I realize TV can’t compete with being there, especially 12 time zones away. But it can come a lot closer than it usually does. [Full Story]