Opening Ceremony Theater: Berlin, 1936

Most of the video that I’ve looked at for Opening Ceremony Theater has been funny, moving, or just plain weird. This is the only video that I’ve seen that is frightening. Delegations of athletes walking in perfect goose step, and as they get to Fuhrer, they all raise their hands in the Nazi salute. Seeing countries that were ravaged by Hitler’s Third Reich-Poland in particular-stopping to pay respect to Hitler is jaw-droppingly sad.

Who Should Carry the Flag?

In one of the most moving parts of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, the countries’ entire Olympic delegations march in, each led by one of the members of the delegation, carrying their flag. The United States’ flag bearer is elected by the athletes themselves, so my recommendations mean nothing. That will not, however, stop me from making those suggestions.

- Dremiel Byers – More than a Greco-Roman wrestler, Byers is also a staff sergeant in the Army. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute to the U.S. than having one of our soldier carry in our flag.

- Eric Shanteau – The breaststroker is putting off surgery for cancer for the games-that shows a pretty single-minded focus on achieving the Olympic dream.

- Lisa Fernandez – The softball pitcher is a four-time Olympian, three time gold medalist, and is a leader for a team that will no longer be able to compete in the Olympics.

- Kate Barber – As captain of the field hockey team, she has played a part in the development of the U.S. as a power. Before this year, the team had not qualified for any Games not played in the U.S.

Back from My Oly-cation

After the madness of the Trials, I took a little break from Fourth Place Medal. To my two readers, I apologize. Some things to catch up on:

- Eric Shanteau wins the balls of steel award-no pun intended. Well, kinda intended. He is putting off cancer surgery to compete in the Olympics. Godspeed to you, Eric.

- Breaux Greer, a javelin thrower who was injured during the trials, is going to Beijing.

USA Track & Field decided to place him on the team announced Monday, citing a rule that allows for “the selection of an injured athlete who competed in the Olympic trials but did not final … as long as another athlete is not displaced from the team.”

So, Tyson Gay still can’t run the 200m, unless one of the U.S. runners drop out.

- Chicago 2016, the group working to bring the Olympics to my city, had a snazzy little party to raise money for the effort. It netted twelve million. By the way, if Chicago gets the Olympics, I may explode in happiness, and that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

- The Chinese will not be serving dog meat at the Olympics.

- Usain Bolt has now run the fastest 200m of the year, after breaking the world record at the 100m.

- Via the New York Times, people much smarter than me have made medal predictions for Beijing. The verdict is that the U.S. will win the most overall, but China will win the most gold.

I think that’s everything for now. Phew.

Picture of the Day: And So It Begins

Those gentlemen are the Angolan National Basketball team, the first Olympians to arrive in China, according to the Shanghai Daily. Welcome to China, boys! (Says the women sitting on a couch in Chicago.)

Final Thoughts on Swimming and Trials

The Olympic Trials in the United States’ two most successful sports are complete, and the week was full of fantastic moments. There are few smiles like those of someone who has just become an Olympian, and fans saw dozens of those this week. I won’t lie – more than a few tears trickled down my cheeks when watching the trials. A few disparate thoughts before I go to bed:

- Tyson Gay’s fall in the semis of the 200m broke my heart. First, the manner in which he fell reminded me of when I fell running (very short, very terrible dalliance into the sport) and dislocated my knee (why I stopped.) I was very happy to hear it was not that serious. Secondly, I hate that he won’t be running the 200 for the US. However, I do not think that the misfortune of one man is a reason to change an entire system that quite frankly, works just fine. There are two reasons why the trials for track work. One – the United States is loaded. We have tons of talent. Secondly, track (and swimming for that matter) is an objective sport – who is the fastest. No judges, no degree of difficulty, no petitions or lawsuits. If you run the fastest, you’re in. I have no worries for the United States in track and field. We will do just fine, even with Tyson Gay only running 100m.

- Dara Torres was the cause for many of my tears this week. How could she not be? A 41-year-old mom who is swimming at her best? I tend to believe people, sometimes causing me to be gullible. Pat Forde doubts that Dara has come by her swimming renaissance fairly, and I am embarrassed to say that it never even occurred to me that she didn’t.

- The broadcasts for both swimming and track were very good. The announcers were careful to explain qualifying procedures, back stories, athletes’ accolades and the nuances of each event. The puff pieces were kept to a minimum, but still good. The broadcasts weren’t perfect – the post-event interviews were always a little weird, but still, these broadcasts far outpaced gymnastics.

Now, we wait. Most Olympians have been decided, though some gymnastics team members are still up in the air. The Games kick off in a little more than a month. For now, we can just sit back and enjoy the hype.

Picture of the Day: Happy Independence Day!

The Olympics sure seem to bring out patriotism in everyone, me included. Before I go out to celebrate this important day, I want to share some images with you of Olympians proud to be representing the red, white and blue.

Bernard Lagat, a newly minted American!

Obviously, this is just a small sampling off the great athletes who will represent the United States this August. I look forward to writing more about them as they make us proud. Have a great fourth, and stay safe out there!

Swimming Trials Notes from Weds. and Thurs.

In the 200m butterfly, Michael Phelps and Gil Stovall win. Phelps was just short of world record. Andrea Kremer asks Phelps what went wrong. Seriously? Isn’t it better for Phelps to get the world record along with a gold medal in Beijing? I’m just sayin’…

I love the world record line! Much like the first down line in football, it adds so much to the enjoyment of watching the races.

Katie Hoff and Natalie Coughlin will represent our country in the 200 IM after a very tight race. Ariana Kukors gave them a run for their money but missed the Olympics by a single a finger.

Brendan Hansen and Kitajima is the great rivalry that will not happen in the 200 breaststroke, as Hansen lost to Scott Spann and Eric Shanteau. Hansen will still compete in the 100 breast. Hansen tells Andrea Kremer that he wasn’t that disappointed because he still did his best.

Dara Torres rocks my socks. She is in the finals for the 100m freestyle with a win in today’s semis, and I know I’ve covered this before, but have I mentioned that she’s 41? Only two of Torres’s competitors were even born when she won her first medals in Los Angeles. She swam her personal best tonight. And she is 41.

In the women’s 200m butterfly, Elaine Breton and Kathleen Hersey will be the Olympians. Neither have Olympic experience, so it will be interesting to see how they will handle the pressure. They both glow through their interview with Andrea Kremer.

The 100m freestyle – the glamour event, as Rowdy Gaines calls it, is filled with giants. The average height is 6’4″. Matt Grevers is 6’8″. Cullen Jones is also in the event – the first African American world record holder. Garrett Weber-Gale wins it, with Jason Lezak, Jones and Nathan Adrian also qualifying for the Olympics. This race is not only important for the individual swimmers, but for relays as well. Americans have always been strong at the 4X100 free.

Tomorrow night should be interesting, as most of the races are down to the finals. We will see the men’s 200 IM and 200 backstroke, and the women’s 200 breaststroke and 100 free.



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