One of the world’s greatest sporting events is set to start this week as the 2012 Olympic Games get underway in London.
There’s so much to love about the Olympics from the variety of sports to the stories of individual athletes to the nation vs. nation competitions. And having the games only once every four years – once every two years is you count summer and winter Olympics – make them a rare treat for sporting fans.
Once every four years sports such as swimming, gymnastics and track and field become the center of the sports world. It’s fun getting to see sports that usually aren’t big spectacles in the United States. While they might not get a lot attention, sports such as fencing, handball and kayak can be fascinating in their brief moment to shine.
For local student-athletes and fans, the Olympics are a great chance to see their sports such as track and field, swimming and wrestling at their highest levels. The sports often get overlooked, but they become huge when its Olympic time as the best athletes in the world compete.
Every Olympic viewer also has someone to root for as athletes represent their countries. Being in the United States, citizens are sure to have plenty of opportunities to root for the Americans as the US has been one of the top performers since the modern Olympics began.
According to figures on Sports Illustrated’s website, the United States has finished first or second in the medal count in all but one modern summer Olympics – dating back to 1896 (with the exception of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow that the United States boycotted) – with the exception being in 1988 when the United States finished third behind the Soviet Union and East Germany.
The United States has won the medal count in each of the past four summer Olympics, although China did win more gold medals at the 2008 games.
The athletes compete for individual glory and also compete for their country. There are few times when the Star Spangled Banner is more appropriate than when an American is standing atop the podium receiving a gold medal.
One of the great things about the Olympics is that all the athletes want to be there. They don’t complain about their salaries or vent about wanting to change teams or get their coach fired, which is all too common in professional sports today. Of course the Olympics are a big-money venture just like other sports, but they feel less corporate than other games.
NBA Commissioner David Stern is considering limiting NBA players’ involvement in the Olympic games, which is highly supported by Dallas Mavericks coach Mark Cuban but not so much by the athletes.
Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant, a member of Team USA, said he’s against Stern’s idea to possibly limit the Olympics to basketball players 23 and younger.
“It’s a stupid idea,” Bryant said, according to an article by Marc Stein on ESPN.com. “It should be a (player’s) choice.”
When asked about how much he and his fellow American teammates talk about the issue, Bryant continued: “Our discussion is this: Basically, it’s just a dumb idea and we (discuss) it that way. … We just discuss it like that (and) kind of voice our opinions through you (media) guys.”
Bryant also told the Los Angeles Times that the NBA should prefer its players competing internationally instead of staying home and playing in pickup games.
“I think that’s the wrong way to look at things. If I’m an owner, I would want my player to play (internationally) because I understand that they’re going to be playing anyway, going to be playing pickup basketball in the summertime, and I’m not going to be able to know where they are. They could be playing against a bunch of bums – no, really – guys that feel like they have something to prove and all of a sudden, a (star player) goes to the rim and a guy takes them out and now he’s hurt.
“Here you’re playing against the best guys, you have treatment around the clock, your (NBA) coaching staff can always come sit in the stands and view practice. To me, playing on an Olympic basketball team is actually better if you’re an owner.”
I love Bryant’s attitude and completely agree with him. The players should decide if they want to play in the Olympics and should work it out with their teams instead of having a league-wide mandate. It’s great that Bryant wants to represent the United States, which is one of the great things about the Olympics.
I love the Olympics and will watch as much of the games as I can. It will be even easier for fans to catch all the events this year as NBC will allow viewers to see every event live on http://www.nbcolympics.com/liveextra/. Events both live and tape-delayed also will be shown on NBC and its affiliates including NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, CNBC and Bravo.
Kyle Shaner is the sports editor for the Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com.