Olympics post-mortem

The Olympics are over.  The United States took the most medals (104), including the most golds (46).  China came in second, with 87, 38 being golds.  The television ratings were huge.  I resisted at first, but every time I would surf by, I would be drawn in.  What were the high points?  What were the low points?  Any other observations about the games and their significance?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    The runner from South Africa with no legs was a remarkable story, although I still contend that his presence in the competition resulted in apples racing oranges. It was an inspiring story since he (amazingly) competed, competed well and didn’t place. Had he placed, it would have been an asterisk.

    The closing ceremonies were – what’s the term – whacked out. Bizarre. Though what can you expect when flouncing around and spinning a long piece of crepe paper on a stick has become an Olympic sport. And beach volleyball. And synchronized anything.

    The opening ceremony, on the other hand, was slightly less drug-induced and included a moving solo performance of the greatest hymn of all time – “Abide With Me”. Not that NBC included it in their telecast though it is accessible on YouTube.

    And Usain Bolt. Is there possibly a better name for the fastest man in the world? He won the 100 meters by a stride and a half which, at that level, is superhuman. He’s kind of cocky and obnoxious but in a likable sort of way – the way you’d expect the fastest man in the world (ever) to be.

  • Pete

    The runner from South Africa with no legs was a remarkable story, although I still contend that his presence in the competition resulted in apples racing oranges. It was an inspiring story since he (amazingly) competed, competed well and didn’t place. Had he placed, it would have been an asterisk.

    The closing ceremonies were – what’s the term – whacked out. Bizarre. Though what can you expect when flouncing around and spinning a long piece of crepe paper on a stick has become an Olympic sport. And beach volleyball. And synchronized anything.

    The opening ceremony, on the other hand, was slightly less drug-induced and included a moving solo performance of the greatest hymn of all time – “Abide With Me”. Not that NBC included it in their telecast though it is accessible on YouTube.

    And Usain Bolt. Is there possibly a better name for the fastest man in the world? He won the 100 meters by a stride and a half which, at that level, is superhuman. He’s kind of cocky and obnoxious but in a likable sort of way – the way you’d expect the fastest man in the world (ever) to be.

  • Pete

    That’s the Abide With Me link.

  • Pete

    That’s the Abide With Me link.

  • SKPeterson

    There was the swan song story of Michael Phelps with the (somewhat) added passing of the torch to Missy Franklin.

    The badminton scandal was probably the low point.

  • SKPeterson

    There was the swan song story of Michael Phelps with the (somewhat) added passing of the torch to Missy Franklin.

    The badminton scandal was probably the low point.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bolt. And the rest of the Jamaican sprinter team. It remains a marvel how a small nation like that can dominate so extensively….

    I loved the opening ceremonies. It was more real than the overly regimented opening in Beijing.

    A really interesting way of looking at the medal haul is the “medals per capita” table here – http://www.medalspercapita.com/.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Bolt. And the rest of the Jamaican sprinter team. It remains a marvel how a small nation like that can dominate so extensively….

    I loved the opening ceremonies. It was more real than the overly regimented opening in Beijing.

    A really interesting way of looking at the medal haul is the “medals per capita” table here – http://www.medalspercapita.com/.

  • Josh

    Kenyan runner David Rudisha’s story and his demolishing of the field and the world record in the 800m

  • Josh

    Kenyan runner David Rudisha’s story and his demolishing of the field and the world record in the 800m

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    And Mo Farah, the Somali-born British distance runner’s double 5000 & 10 000m victory. Especially his medal ceremony, with his long-time friend Usain Bolt rushing out to give him a tribute.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    And Mo Farah, the Somali-born British distance runner’s double 5000 & 10 000m victory. Especially his medal ceremony, with his long-time friend Usain Bolt rushing out to give him a tribute.

  • SKPeterson

    Jamaica needs to take its sprinters and use them for their bobsled teams.

  • SKPeterson

    Jamaica needs to take its sprinters and use them for their bobsled teams.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    The low point is still allowing professionals to play in the Olympics. Teams attempting to throw games was also a low point.

    As a one time student of Judo, the high point for me was when Kayla Harrison won gold.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    The low point is still allowing professionals to play in the Olympics. Teams attempting to throw games was also a low point.

    As a one time student of Judo, the high point for me was when Kayla Harrison won gold.

  • Jim_777

    My favorite part of the Olympics is track. The low point of these Games was NBC’s refusal to show the entirety of the men’s and women’s 5000 and 10,000 meter races. In all four races, NBC cut away for ads early in there race and came back with only a few laps remaining. Worse, the Games were tape delayed, leaving no excuse for not returning to the race at the point that they cut away. Having to sit through entire beach volleyball matches and BMX races while being denied actual sports is infuriating. Maybe if they spent less time airing pointless chit-chat between Costas and Jimmy Fallon and over-produced “personal interest” vignettes, they would have ample time to show a 12 minute race in it’s entirety. Really, really lame.

  • Jim_777

    My favorite part of the Olympics is track. The low point of these Games was NBC’s refusal to show the entirety of the men’s and women’s 5000 and 10,000 meter races. In all four races, NBC cut away for ads early in there race and came back with only a few laps remaining. Worse, the Games were tape delayed, leaving no excuse for not returning to the race at the point that they cut away. Having to sit through entire beach volleyball matches and BMX races while being denied actual sports is infuriating. Maybe if they spent less time airing pointless chit-chat between Costas and Jimmy Fallon and over-produced “personal interest” vignettes, they would have ample time to show a 12 minute race in it’s entirety. Really, really lame.

  • rlewer

    An hour and a half of weird English music as a closing ceremony?

  • rlewer

    An hour and a half of weird English music as a closing ceremony?

  • http:/Forsomereason,IwantedtopresslikeonPetea/www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Olympics were a lot more fun to watch back before the demise of the Soviet Bloc.

  • http:/Forsomereason,IwantedtopresslikeonPetea/www.facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Olympics were a lot more fun to watch back before the demise of the Soviet Bloc.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    … and when they showed us each individual judge’s score for the gymnastics event.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    … and when they showed us each individual judge’s score for the gymnastics event.

  • Cincinnatus

    I agree with Mike Westfall@11: I know I’m violating the naive principles that allegedly undergird the Olympics, but, since interminable rounds of swimming, running, diving, etc., aren’t exactly all that interesting to spectate on their own, I enjoy the Olympics almost exclusively because they provide a proxy for international conflict and chauvinism.

    I bask in it. I enjoy that the United States is athletically dominant. And I enjoy the fact that authoritarian China essentially deploys a slave-army of drone athletes in an attempt to defeat us. They’re don’t quite provide the competition that the science experiments from the USSR did, but they’re working on it. There. I said it.

    The low point: NBC’s dismal coverage of the whole shebang. Oh, and essentially everything else about the Olympics: the idolatry of sports, the corporatism, the egoism, the fact that the IOC is a corrupt cadre of third-world kleptocrats who extinguish democracy in the host cities for two weeks, etc. And has anyone mentioned that the opening ceremonies were embarrassing?

  • Cincinnatus

    I agree with Mike Westfall@11: I know I’m violating the naive principles that allegedly undergird the Olympics, but, since interminable rounds of swimming, running, diving, etc., aren’t exactly all that interesting to spectate on their own, I enjoy the Olympics almost exclusively because they provide a proxy for international conflict and chauvinism.

    I bask in it. I enjoy that the United States is athletically dominant. And I enjoy the fact that authoritarian China essentially deploys a slave-army of drone athletes in an attempt to defeat us. They’re don’t quite provide the competition that the science experiments from the USSR did, but they’re working on it. There. I said it.

    The low point: NBC’s dismal coverage of the whole shebang. Oh, and essentially everything else about the Olympics: the idolatry of sports, the corporatism, the egoism, the fact that the IOC is a corrupt cadre of third-world kleptocrats who extinguish democracy in the host cities for two weeks, etc. And has anyone mentioned that the opening ceremonies were embarrassing?

  • Dan Kempin

    The IOC receives nearly $750 million dollars per year from the United States alone.* They don’t pay for the venue, and they don’t pay the athletes. (Cash prizes for americans are from an american committee.)

    *http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-much-olympic-athletes-really-get-paid-2012-7

  • Dan Kempin

    The IOC receives nearly $750 million dollars per year from the United States alone.* They don’t pay for the venue, and they don’t pay the athletes. (Cash prizes for americans are from an american committee.)

    *http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-much-olympic-athletes-really-get-paid-2012-7

  • Med Student

    I don’t understand the hostility toward beach volleyball (1 and 9). It requires a great deal of skill, athleticism, and endurance – it’s a far more legitimate sport than, say, rhythmic gymnastics. Is it because of the “uniforms” they wear and their less-than-serious looking nature?
    Low points for me would be the length of time spent by NBC on inane commentary and “human interest” stories, especially during primetime, when they could have been showing the actual athletic events. I don’t mind interviews with athletes, but the rest of it I could do without. I want to watch sports, not some bimbo blabbing away about the prime meridian and other boring and irrelevant stuff.

  • Med Student

    I don’t understand the hostility toward beach volleyball (1 and 9). It requires a great deal of skill, athleticism, and endurance – it’s a far more legitimate sport than, say, rhythmic gymnastics. Is it because of the “uniforms” they wear and their less-than-serious looking nature?
    Low points for me would be the length of time spent by NBC on inane commentary and “human interest” stories, especially during primetime, when they could have been showing the actual athletic events. I don’t mind interviews with athletes, but the rest of it I could do without. I want to watch sports, not some bimbo blabbing away about the prime meridian and other boring and irrelevant stuff.

  • Cincinnatus

    Oh, and KK, I especially relished the fact that Canada’s only gold medal came from the pseudo-sport “trampolining.”

  • Cincinnatus

    Oh, and KK, I especially relished the fact that Canada’s only gold medal came from the pseudo-sport “trampolining.”

  • Stephen

    The Olympics embodies every neo-pagan, quasi-utopian dream we’ve got as a human race, with a heavy heap of special sentimental sauce on top, with nothing escaping the mediated “marketed to you by” hyper-technical ouvre (let’s see, what did I leave out?). It gets more over the top with each games. Winston Churchill. The Queen! The John Lennon moment was positively idolatrous. Did you see all those athletes walking around with cameras! A super freak show. And I must admit to being fascinated by it all. I don’t think any of them were the wiser. So utterly ephemeral, fleeting and silly. And yet I watched.

    I liked the the runners, especially the distance runners already mentioned and the American women. Those gals at least seemed to have some self-respect and a certain sense of humility even when they destroyed the others in the relays. That seemed to be true about most of the athletes interviewed (except Bolt or maybe Phelps) – a kind of detachment that’s probably good. I can imagine them generally being so wrapped up in training for so many years that they really didn’t have time to reflect on the spectacle of it all. And I loved the way the Chinese men divers crumbled under pressure. Serious Schadenfreude for me.

    I think the people who turn their girls into gymnastics freaks are . . . I haven’t got a word for it. Demented? I had to turn it off a time or two, but like Dr. Veith, drawn in by how bizarre it all is. It’s a carnival. I suppose that will be well suited to Rio. I expect it to be even more sexed up and really hedonistic next time.

  • Stephen

    The Olympics embodies every neo-pagan, quasi-utopian dream we’ve got as a human race, with a heavy heap of special sentimental sauce on top, with nothing escaping the mediated “marketed to you by” hyper-technical ouvre (let’s see, what did I leave out?). It gets more over the top with each games. Winston Churchill. The Queen! The John Lennon moment was positively idolatrous. Did you see all those athletes walking around with cameras! A super freak show. And I must admit to being fascinated by it all. I don’t think any of them were the wiser. So utterly ephemeral, fleeting and silly. And yet I watched.

    I liked the the runners, especially the distance runners already mentioned and the American women. Those gals at least seemed to have some self-respect and a certain sense of humility even when they destroyed the others in the relays. That seemed to be true about most of the athletes interviewed (except Bolt or maybe Phelps) – a kind of detachment that’s probably good. I can imagine them generally being so wrapped up in training for so many years that they really didn’t have time to reflect on the spectacle of it all. And I loved the way the Chinese men divers crumbled under pressure. Serious Schadenfreude for me.

    I think the people who turn their girls into gymnastics freaks are . . . I haven’t got a word for it. Demented? I had to turn it off a time or two, but like Dr. Veith, drawn in by how bizarre it all is. It’s a carnival. I suppose that will be well suited to Rio. I expect it to be even more sexed up and really hedonistic next time.

  • helen

    To think of standing on a 10 metre platform gives me vertigo, much less jumping off, but I watched the diving anyway. Enjoyed seeing the American take out the two who “couldn’t lose”.

    The trampoliners seemed to demonstrate some of the same skills and they couldn’t ‘walk to the top’ to start. You may think of the trampoline as a backyard toy; so’s a basketball hoop, but nobody’s sneering at the basketball team. (Yea, Kevin!)

    I liked the opening…as much as I saw, I didn’t last till midnight.
    (I have the Maypole dancers on my desktop right now.)
    The closing sounded unappetizing in the previews, so I didn’t bother.

  • helen

    To think of standing on a 10 metre platform gives me vertigo, much less jumping off, but I watched the diving anyway. Enjoyed seeing the American take out the two who “couldn’t lose”.

    The trampoliners seemed to demonstrate some of the same skills and they couldn’t ‘walk to the top’ to start. You may think of the trampoline as a backyard toy; so’s a basketball hoop, but nobody’s sneering at the basketball team. (Yea, Kevin!)

    I liked the opening…as much as I saw, I didn’t last till midnight.
    (I have the Maypole dancers on my desktop right now.)
    The closing sounded unappetizing in the previews, so I didn’t bother.

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    Highlight: the story of David Rudisha, Kenyan Masai tribesman, couched by Irishman Br. Paul, at St. Patrick’s school in Kenya. He was the winner of the 800 m. A story of humility: http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/track-and-field/david-rudisha-maasai-warrior-olympic-champion.html

    Two low points: the opening and closing ceremonies, spectacles of superbia

  • http://concordiaandkoinonia.wordpress.com/ Rev. Mark Schroeder

    Highlight: the story of David Rudisha, Kenyan Masai tribesman, couched by Irishman Br. Paul, at St. Patrick’s school in Kenya. He was the winner of the 800 m. A story of humility: http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/track-and-field/david-rudisha-maasai-warrior-olympic-champion.html

    Two low points: the opening and closing ceremonies, spectacles of superbia

  • Joewulf

    @Dr. Luther in the 21st Century 8
    “The low point is still allowing professionals to play in the Olympics.”
    Is anyone aware of a a resource or chart that compares how much money different governments put in to their olympic athlete development programs? I was surprised to read about “UK Sport today in the NY Times:
    “Through a program run by a government-created agency called U.K. Sport, more than a billion dollars in officially-regulated lottery funds and taxpayer subsidies have been poured into selected sports since the mid-1990s, nearly half of it in the four years since the Olympics in Beijing.”

    (See here for article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/sports/olympics/british-olympic-athletes-spurred-by-home-fields-and-subsidies.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all)

  • Joewulf

    @Dr. Luther in the 21st Century 8
    “The low point is still allowing professionals to play in the Olympics.”
    Is anyone aware of a a resource or chart that compares how much money different governments put in to their olympic athlete development programs? I was surprised to read about “UK Sport today in the NY Times:
    “Through a program run by a government-created agency called U.K. Sport, more than a billion dollars in officially-regulated lottery funds and taxpayer subsidies have been poured into selected sports since the mid-1990s, nearly half of it in the four years since the Olympics in Beijing.”

    (See here for article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/sports/olympics/british-olympic-athletes-spurred-by-home-fields-and-subsidies.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all)

  • J.P.

    Anglophile that I am, I loved the opening and closing ceremonies, and Bolt is absolutely mindboggling. However, I’ve been a boxing devotee since childhood, and the USA just sent the single most wretched gaggle of pugilists in its history off to drive a huge nail in the coffin of American amateur boxing, finishing up what the corrupt judges started in 1988 when they screwed Roy Jones out of a gold medal. To think that we’ve gone from Leonard, the Spinx brothers, Breeland, Whitaker, Holyfield, and DeLaHoya, to this pitiful mess is depressing beyond belief.
    To our one boxing gold medal winner – I forget her name – congrats.

  • J.P.

    Anglophile that I am, I loved the opening and closing ceremonies, and Bolt is absolutely mindboggling. However, I’ve been a boxing devotee since childhood, and the USA just sent the single most wretched gaggle of pugilists in its history off to drive a huge nail in the coffin of American amateur boxing, finishing up what the corrupt judges started in 1988 when they screwed Roy Jones out of a gold medal. To think that we’ve gone from Leonard, the Spinx brothers, Breeland, Whitaker, Holyfield, and DeLaHoya, to this pitiful mess is depressing beyond belief.
    To our one boxing gold medal winner – I forget her name – congrats.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I liked the opening ceremonies. The artistic approach was different than the overdone extravaganza in Beijing.

    As to “pseudo-sport” Cincinnatus – there are a lot of sports similar to it – gymnastics, diving – it falls into the same class. I don’t particularly enjoy those sports myself, but they do take enormous ability and dedication.

    The only sport which, though engaging, I had doubts about, is horse dancing. I don’t mind show jumping though.

    And as to your quip about gold medals – this was not a great Canadian performance in the gold dept. But did you have a look at the gold per capita table? Or will that injure your exceptionalism? ;)

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    I liked the opening ceremonies. The artistic approach was different than the overdone extravaganza in Beijing.

    As to “pseudo-sport” Cincinnatus – there are a lot of sports similar to it – gymnastics, diving – it falls into the same class. I don’t particularly enjoy those sports myself, but they do take enormous ability and dedication.

    The only sport which, though engaging, I had doubts about, is horse dancing. I don’t mind show jumping though.

    And as to your quip about gold medals – this was not a great Canadian performance in the gold dept. But did you have a look at the gold per capita table? Or will that injure your exceptionalism? ;)

  • Jon

    The closing ceremony concert was good, too.

    But I think they should have had Ozzy Ozbourne there.

    I reckon the Queen is not fond of him ever since his incoherent performance at her Golden Jubilee in 2002.

  • Jon

    The closing ceremony concert was good, too.

    But I think they should have had Ozzy Ozbourne there.

    I reckon the Queen is not fond of him ever since his incoherent performance at her Golden Jubilee in 2002.


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