I don’t know if others do this, but whenever I consider the Olympics or our presidential races, I also recognize personal life markers. Both the games and the U.S. presidential race are events observed across the globe, like mile markers on a common road.
Our summer games always precede our November showdowns. And whenever these events happen, I’m always astounded that another four years has passed.
I was born right after Nixon’s re-election and several months after the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, which included the killing of 11 Israeli athletes by a Palestinian group. Of course, I was oblivious to Watergate or Olympic sports when the next cycle rolled around in 1976. But my first sports memory occurred when I was 3. I remember Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci scoring a perfect 10 during the Montreal games. And if a 3-year-old can actually have a crush, I did. I was impressed. I was even inspired to attempt gymnastics as a small child, but I quit after one lesson for fear of the balance beam and the instructor’s shouted commands in a Slavic accent. I cried and clung to my father’s recliner as my mother tried to take me to my second lesson.
This year marks the tenth summer Olympics and presidential election of my lifetime. Obviously, 10 X 4 is 40. I stand at middle age and can’t help but ponder how many more games, how many more elections I’ll see.
Perhaps I’ll spend some time watching these games. I enjoy diving, basketball and gymnastics. But my interest in the Olympics is primarily down to one form of competition — track. I want to know how fast men and women can go on their feet. It is perhaps the oldest form of competition known to man. And it never fails to amaze me. Naturally, I prefer that a fellow countryman win, but I am also rooting for mathematical glory, for sheer human achievement. The fact that people can actually run a sub four-minute mile is so incredible. I struggle on a treadmill at anything above six miles an hour. But a sub four-minute mile is a flat sprint at over 15 miles an hour. I remember running at the YMCA next to a guy who maintained a 10.5 mile an hour pace for over 30 minutes. He seemed like an Olympian. But actual Olympians leave such people in the dust.
Consider this, Usain Bolt of Jamaica was clocked in the 2008 Olympics at 27.79 miles per hour during one portion of the 100-meter sprint. That means he could get a speeding ticket in many schools zones. Imagine stepping on a treadmill going 27 miles an hour. We’d all get slung backwards into the wall.
I marvel at distance runners too.
Did you know that the marathon was named in honor of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens? The fastest marathon ever was by Patrick Makau of Kenya at two hours, three minutes and 38 seconds. Over 26 miles in just over two hours! That’s 4:43 a mile — an incredible human achievement.
Naturally, like most folks around here, my most vivid Olympics memories are from 1996, when the games were in Atlanta. But, unlike many, I watched that year from the other side of the ocean. I traveled to Europe for a month that summer after I graduated from college. And I remember watching a soccer match held at Sanford Stadium from a lounge area in a dormitory in Budapest, Hungary, with some fanatic Italian fans. I also remember getting news about the Centennial Park bombing while in a hotel in Krakow, Poland. My family was at the park that day. So, I was really anxious for several hours as I tried to reach them.
There’s a vast ocean of stories and memories being formed during the 2012 games. There are people striving to pull off the seemingly impossible, setting new world records for future Olympians to eye. Meanwhile, billions of people will tie these moments to their own personal circumstances.
One thing is for sure; it will be 2016 soon. It’s always like that.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.
...and the little children watching the Olympics today will fondly remember watching hours and hours of bikini clad women playing Beach Volley ball.
Come on, is that necessary? At night?
Not to sound like a prude, but why is this event dominating the coverage?
Why don't the females from other countries feel it is necessary to wear a string uniform?
Sorry, I love to watch volley ball and pretty girls in bikinis, but do we have to make it into an Olympic sport?
08/11/12 at 07:25 PM
Thank you, thank you, thank you! And from a guy, too. I sent a letter to the Olympic committee in Atlanta in 1995 suggesting some decency in volley ball. Never heard back. I even had an opinion piece published in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution about sexualizing female athletes. The only response to that I read was a reminder that the original Greek Olympics were conducted in the nude. I didn't bother to respond that there were no females in competition then.