The Olympic Games have come to a close. As much as it pains many Aussies, we’ve been pretty good about giving appropriate kudos to the Poms on their running of things. The chances of us saying the same thing about Qatar after the 2022 World Cup are about 386 kajillion to one.
But what have we learnt over the last two weeks about ourselves and about the athletes involved? A lot! So, with school term in full swing, let’s look at some of the significant lessons from London 2012.
Aussies rock at sailing!
Going into these Olympics, sailing would have been right up there with synchronised swimming and the 50km walk for marquee events that would (not) garner the public’s attention.
But 3 golds later? We love our sailors! We even gave our flag at the closing ceremony to dual gold medallist Malcolm Page. And yes, I had to Google his name and how many golds he has won. I will gladly buy you lunch if you remember his name when, in 4 years’ time, you’re watching the closing ceremony and thinking ‘Who the hell carried this thing at London?!’
The Chinese aren’t the only ones who can fix the weather
Remember Beijing 2008 and how the Chinese launched thousands of specially designed rockets and artillery shells into the sky in an attempt to manipulate weather conditions? It worked. And no, I’m not making this up. (They used silver iodide, which … ahhh google it yourself.)
Well, the Brits have a secret weapon, technically termed Pommy-arse luck. Blue skies, consistently 25+ degrees, warm temperatures well into the night; they could not have planned this out any better.
It rained during Sally Pearson’s gold medal hurdles run, so at least the Aussies will remember that it wasn’t perfect the whole time…
We might be surrounded by water, but we no longer own the pool
I confess to missing our first swimming gold medal, the girls’ 4 x 100m freestyle relay. No worries, I thought, we have Magnussen, + his relay, Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Steph Rice, Alicia Coutts, + whichever stars will make a name for themselves.
Nope. What we got was nada, zero, squat.
We used to have a serious competition with USA. What do you call it when someone beats someone else 16-1?! A whitewash? Drubbing? Smackdown? Something unprintable?? Final gold medal count: USA 16 – Aus 1. At least it’s the same amount of gold as Lithuania and Tunisia, other swimming powerhouses.
I will now go to a world map to see if Tunisia or Lithuania are anywhere near water…! Ok, Lithuania fractionally on their west coast, while Tunisia isn’t even marked on my world map here at school – not a good sign.
What intimidating environment?!
To Anna Meares, who took gold over Brit Victoria Pendleton in one of the most intimidating Olympic environment’s imaginable.
I don’t follow cycling, so I don’t know what Meares did, if anything, to rile up the British press to their level of vitriol. In all likelihood it was nothing. But the Pommy hyenas had found what they thought was weakened prey after ‘Queen Victoria’ or whatever the hell they call her beat out Meares for gold in Beijing merely months after Anna broke her freakin neck!
So know that the velodrome, while small in comparison to other venues, was so patriotically Brit and anti-Aussie for their gold medal race that Channel 9 presenter Karl Stefanovic said people were apprehensive about even singing the Australian anthem.
It was so full on that Steph Rice brought in buddy and Lakers legend, Kobe ‘Black Mamba’ Bryant for support. (I’m drinking the Kobe Coolade again now that the Olympics are done…)
Well, Meares mowed Pendleton down 2-0 and shut up the British ferals, media and royalty in person. For backs against the wall performances, it’s almost up there with Sam Stosur destroying Serena Williams in the 2011 US Open Final on September 2011. Before of course Williams threw a hissyfit and blamed the referee. God I hate her…
Australians have a bona fide star
During my year without sport, I would occasionally sneak a peek at the sports highlights on ‘Behind the News’, which we show to our students each Friday. Almost 12 months ago, they showed Pearson winning the gold at the World Championships, and I was speechless at how impressively and how damn quickly she raced.
She’d already won the public over after her exuberant response to unexpectedly winning silver in 2008. Now she had added about 254 fast twitch muscle fibres to each leg and looked like a sprint machine.
Sally was the favourite going in, having won 34 straight races until the last race before the Olympics. With the Australian swimmers and rowers having unimpressively played their ‘but we’re from a small country’ card, there was enormous pressure on Pearson to perform. Anything less than gold would have been (fairly or unfairly) seen as catastrophic.
Well, perform she did, winning by 0.02, pushed to the brink by American Dawn Harper. Olympic record in the wet, world class field, the pressure of the favourite, and she stood up when she needed to.
By holding her own when she was expected to, Sally Pearson consolidated her position not just as Australia’s newest sports darling, but as a bona fide athletics star on the world stage.
We’re not very fast at running … or jumping
True story – in track and field, 8 Australian records have been held for eras ranging from 17 years – men’s hurdles – to 44 years, in the men’s 200m and 800m. 44 years!
We had the reigning Olympic champion fail to medal in the pole vault before our gold medal favourite in the long jump claimed second, before sticking it to the media. Oh the irony.
And look, I get that the Jamaicans, Americans, Kenyans et al hold centre court when we hit week 2 of each Olympic Games.
This is not about medals. This is about our athletes failing to do their best on the biggest and grandest stage of them all. And yes when that happens en masse, they should expect scrutiny. You want, ‘Awww well done, you tried your best,’ go back to the under 8s with mummy and daddy cheering on wildly from the sidelines.
Trying your best on the day isn’t doing your best. Insert anti-Gen Y comment here …
‘Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat’
Overall, you’d have to say that London was void of drug scandals in comparison to previous years. We’ve had Belarusian (is that right?!) shot putter Ostapchuk stripped of her gold after anabolic traces were found in her body. Great name for the shot put, shame about the drugs thing… The only other ousting was US judo guy Nick Delpopo. And no, I didn’t make up the last part of his name either.
However, the Games weren’t without controversy. We had 4 badminton teams disqualified for purposely losing games to give them more beatable opponents in later rounds. Boxing, as usual, saw better competitors lose out on the scorecards, while beach volleyballers may or may not have had to wear bikinis. Wait, this doesn’t classify as a legitimate controversy? My bad.
And if you’re wondering why Australia – clearly the second best country in the world in women’s basketball – didn’t even make the gold medal game, look no further than Mother Russia. Using a similar ploy in a game against France that they were leading at quarter time, Russia managed to score 6 points in an entire quarter. Six!
This completely unexpected loss moved Australia and the USA into the same half of the draw. The US women’s team is more unbeatable than the men’s, but still… I demand that the badminton officials investigate and have their way, here!
We will whinge about the Olympic coverage no matter what.
For those making their point on Facebook about the ‘appalling’ Games coverage … watched by millions upon millions of Australians, it comes down to a battle of the one word sentences, for all those uber-intelligent I.T. users –
Worst. Games. Coverage. Ever.
You. Can’t. Please. Everyone.
Channel 9 is in a no-win situation here. They can’t stick with just one event option all night, or only a niche will stay tuned in. So they waited a couple of minutes to show the sailing gold, so what?! Too much swimming? Peter Donegan underwhelming when commentating Sally Pearson’s gold medal race? (He was.) #FirstWorldProblem (See what I did there?!)
If it means that much to you, get pay tv, sit down with the biggest bag of potato chips on God’s green earth and take in 8 stations of non-stop action for two straight weeks. I look forward to your p!ssy Facebook remarks over the over-saturation of the Olympics in 4 years’ time…
There will be names that you should remember forever
Regardless of the extra-curricular shenanigans, we have had the privilege of seeing some of the greatest athletes of our generation in their prime.
In twenty years’ time, we will remember that we saw Bolt, Phelps, Ye, Lebron, Serena Williams (God I …)
If they are not enough, then maybe the Olympics aren’t for you. Or pick up a shot put and try it yourself. I hear there’s a gold medal up for grabs…
I was texting overnight with a friend who was catching a flight out of London, alongside Australian rowers and both hockey teams. The athletes were being taunted mercilessly by the British security staff at the airport. ‘Silver doesn’t show up on our radars.’ Humiliating.
Maybe this will drive them; no one likes being embarrassed like that, particularly world-class athletes.
At the very least it drives the Australia-England rivalry even further. What, it’s not just England?! Ahh, they pull in Scotland and Wales. Of course. Gillard, get on the phone to China immediately and create an ‘Asia’ team for Rio. ‘We’ would dominate!
The Olympics are a games of expectations. Our starting positions will be vastly different in four years’ time. Australia on 7 gold, England/Britain/UK on 29.
Good luck defending that.