Published August 03, 2012
Let's relive the first week of the 2012 Olympics in London with a look back at the good, the bad, the greatest, the mayor, and everything in between.
The first week of the Olympics has come and gone, and in between we've seen a spectacularly ridiculous opening ceremony, world records in the pool, some good ol' fashioned doping allegations, American dominance in gymnastics, and lots of lots of complaints about NBC.
There have been hundreds of different memories in the span of seven days, so just for posterity's sake, let's try and keep track of what just happened in London. So without further ado, my completely biased Olympics Power Rankings at the end of Week 1: A rundown of everything that mattered in Week 1 (plus some stuff that definitely didn't matter but needs to remembered regardless.)
Let's start with some venting.
25. WOOOOOOOOOO NBC. Feel free to skip this section, but it has to be mentioned because when we look back at the London Olympics 10 and 20 years down the line, we'll all say, "Oh God, remember that f***ing tape delay thing?"
And it's totally NBC's fault. It may seem smart and mature to remind everyone, "They're running a BUSINESS, so it makes sense to ignore critics maximize ratings" but no. From a business perspective, you don't spend billions on the Olympics just to generate profits because the chances of recouping all that money are slim to begin with. The NBC Chairman justifying it that way isn't just condescending, it's wrong.
Had NBC aired games on cable channels during the day, millions of Americans would have snuck out of work for late lunches to watch the live races, or huddled around office TVs, and it would be like the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament for two weeks straight, but a million times more patriotic. Don't you think that helps raise the profile of NBC Sports Network for diehard sports fans? You know, the people they were trying to win over with the Olympics broadcasts? And even then, most of us would still watch NBC at night with all the casual fans and Today Show-types (read: family members), and everyone would watch replays for the same reasons they've watched the past week.
And for the record, the worst part of NBC's strategy had nothing to do with spoilers. It was that, instead of seeing full-length events with athletes from every country, NBC edited everything to highlight drama and showcase the American stars, and we got to watch a bunch of American highlights spliced together with maybe like, two athletes from other countries. Don't they realize that getting to know random foreign athletes is one of the best parts of the Olympics? It'd be like CBS editing out Cinderellas.
So yeah, when someone asks what's really so bad about tape delay, remember that NBC basically bought the rights to the NCAA Tournament and then decided to detract from all the chaos and drama in favor of taped Bob Costas monologues and Ryan Seacrest sitdowns. NBC is the worst, and as annoying as all the internet whining became over the past week, it's really not a matter of anyone losing perspective as far as "business." If anyone lost perspective, it was NBC.
But okay, rant over.
24. SCANDAL BY BEATS BY DRE.
Many athletes use headphones to help keep focused before competitions and several have been photographed wearing the Beats by Dr. Dre brand. The reason for their popularity? British Olympic officials say batches were shipped to hotels outside London where Team GB athletes were staying. Diver Tom Daley was seen on television wearing them before competing Monday and soccer player Jack Butland tweeted his support for the brand.
But no more. British Olympic Association spokesman Darryl Seibel said Thursday that officials have reminded team leaders of "the importance of protecting our corporate partners" ... Seibel said British athletes are welcome to wear headphones made by games sponsor Panasonic.
The most ridiculous scandal of the games dovetails nicely with...
23. "WHAT THE OLYMPICS ARE ALL ABOUT." Here's a story about a $70,000 receipt that was "probably" from an IOC dinner at a London hotel. We mention it here because every year you'll have stories like the headphone controversy or some $70,000 dinner and it'll be tempting to point at the IOC's greed and arrogance and saying that's really what the Olympics are all about, but that's bullshit. The Olympics are an orgy of awesomeness for 100 different reasons, and if anyone's trying to tell you it's really all about money, they're missing the point as badly as someone who'd say college football is ruined by the NCAA. Everything's all about money, but there's no two weeks quite like the Summer Olympics.
22. MICHELLE OBAMA, USA BASKETBALL SOCCER MOM. The best.
21. BORIS JOHNSON IS KING OF THE WORLD. THE BEST.
The best part is that this video would be amazing even if you didn't know that Boris Johnson is the Mayor of London. Elsewhere at the Olympics, he's been quoted saying, "The excitement is growing so much I think the Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go 'zoink' off the scale."
And: ""Inspire a generation' is our motto. Not necessarily 'Create a generation', which is what they sometimes get up to in the Olympic village."
And: "As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers." And so many more.
He's like a British Charles Barkley, and I want him to be my best friend.
20. NETHERLANDS FIELD HOCKEY. But seriously.
19. THE OPENING CEREMONY. When in doubt, just put together a bunch of chaotic dance routines with good music, and possibly find a way to involve the Queen of England. I'm probably in the minority, but I thought Danny Boyle did a great job with everything, and they even included 6 pyramids at the top of the stadium just to keep all the #Illuminati suspicions humming along right on schedule.
Only two complaints, then. First, Paul McCartney was really the best they could do? And second, Bob Costas introducing each country on NBC... Thank God Brian Phillips parodied his whole schtick over here, because I thought I was going insane.
18. BOB COSTAS WILL JUST NEVER LEAVE US.
that class: wood shop, unfortunately. "
@secprguy: Bob Costas = class. #2012Olympics #nbcolympics" — Holly (@Nastinchka) July 28, 2012
Costas is in full-on "Sunday Night Football halftime soliloquy" mode every single night for these Olympics, and it's forced me to come to terms with a few simple facts about Bob Costas. First of all, he looks like he hasn't aged a day in 20 years. Second, even if he leaves me audibly groaning every time NBC cuts back to him in the studio, there are A LOT of people who consider Costas nothing less than the best in the business. Third, because of those first two things, we're going to be dealing with Costas for a lonnnnnnnng time. Hhe's probably got another 20 years in him, right? In other words, we're at the halfway mark with Costas in our lives, whether anyone under 40 likes it or not.
(He does seem like a pretty nice guy, so it's hard to root against him that much. But still.)
17. JORDYN WIEBER AS REALITY TV. Jordyn Wieber was one of the three or four athletes handpicked by NBC and U.S. marketers to be a superstar in London, so when she fell apart in the qualifying stages before the Individual All-Around, it was this shocking, cruel collapse.
But here's the thing: She still won a Gold Medal with her teammates, and after a while, all the "Poor Jordyn" stories started to seem as manufactured as the "Look Out For Jordyn!" ones were before she'd ever competed in an event. The U.S. just needed a tragic figure, I guess? Or they were setting her up for redemption? It falls well in line with Will Leitch's theory that the Olympics are basically just reality TV:
They are easily packaged, escapist entertainment that introduce us to characters — who exist in large part for the specific purpose of the cameras watching them — whom we have not met before, partaking in activities that we do not understand and have not thought much about before. We obsess over them as if they are our friends, particularly if they’re American, and we invest our emotional capital in their stories, their successes and their failures. For two or three weeks, we care so much.
NBC knows this and actively riffs on the concept every night. That's why we get so many shots watery-eyed 17 year-olds; it's a tried and true piece of the formula. All of which is to say, it's a bummer that Jordyn Wieber couldn't win as an individual, but it was hard to really see a tragic figure when she failed to qualify as an individual. She was still on the podium getting a Gold Medal just like all her other teammates, and her week in London won't be any less incredible because of her balance beam mistakes.
16. RYAN LOCHTE, THIS IS AWKWARD. Everything could have been different if he'd never called himself "King of Swimming" and predicted Phelps' downfall. He'd have been the lovable oaf who was also one of the best swimmers in the world in his own right. We'd have sympathized with him for being overshadowed by Michael Phelps and celebrated his five medals instead of seeing him as the guy who challenged Michael Phelps and lost. But then, if he'd never called himself "King of Swimming" he wouldn't be Ryan Lochte. He's like Rob Gronkowski with a massive ego, which... If Rob Gronkowski had a massive ego, he'd be much, much harder to enjoy, right?
And here we are with Lochte, who's not quite a villain, but definitely not a hero.
Always reach for the moon cuz if u slip up u will still be a star!!
#Jeah — Ryan Lochte (@ryanlochte) July 31, 2012
So... Does that tweet accidentally eulogize his London Olympics? Jeah?
15. THE TWITTER OLYMPICS. The guy who beat Lochte Thursday night -- Tyler Clary, the 200M backstroke Gold Medalist -- live-tweeted his win later on that night. But if we're looking for a moment where you could really tell Twitter added a whole new layer to the Olympics it was probably when Tom Daley got Twitter pregnant.
Tom Daley you are welcome to dive into my vagina anytime — HI NIALL. (@lauren_theo) July 31, 2012
14. THE BLOG OLYMPICS. Lost in the Twitter hype, these are also the first Summer Olympics with a Grown Ass Blogosphere covering things from top to bottom. And so far we've mostly avoided any horrible disasters? Between SB Nation, Deadspin, Yahoo!, Buzzfeed, and USA Today, the coverage has been generally pretty great? Bet it really pisses the shit out of Buzz Bissinger from four years ago. (But hey, this was a completely useless entry on a completely unnecessary power rankings list, so we're getting back to normal.)
13. WHEN TEAM USA GOT ALL DREAM-TEAMY. This is probably going to be the last time we see the best NBA superstars playing in the Olympics, so it's nice to see Team USA rounding into shape and turning into the murderous juggernaut we've all been waiting to see again since 1992. What they did to Nigeria on Thursday should probably count as some sort of war crime.
12. INSTAGRAM WARS. Team USA has also been amazing off the court, thanks mostly to the players all apparently getting obsessed with Instagram at the same time. We'll have more on this next week, but for now, enjoy video of Team USA debating whose Instragram reigns supreme.
11. KOBE ON FACEBOOK. The correct answer to that question is none of them, obviously. Kobe's Facebook is the greatest thing on earth. Because it's just way too perfect that Kobe would post on Facebook like an old man instead of joining Twitter, and because imagining the Black Michael Myers initiating photoshoots with swimmers and taking photos of his strawberries and kiwi lunch and going around acting like a tourist... It's just all the best.
10. REBECCA SONI AND ALLISON SCHMITT. There's so much pre-planned marketing wrapped up in the entire presentation of the Olympics that sometimes the best athletes can still somehow fly under the radar. The entire world knows who Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin are, but Schmitt and Soni have been even better. Networks and brands have to guess months in advance who's worth background profiles and massive marketing campaigns, and sometimes they just miss people. That's what happened with Schmitt and Soni, I think, but they've both been incredible regardless, so here's to showing some overdue love for two of America's best female swimmers.
9. ALY RAISMAN'S PARENTS. From USA Today:
After NBC focused their cameras on Lynn and Rick during her uneven bar routines, the video clip soon became a YouTube hit. In the stands, they perform her routine, swaying this way and that, cringing, screaming, cheering, all in animated fashion.
"I'm a little horrified right now," Rick said after watching the video during an interview with USA TODAY Sports. "Oh my gosh!"
Two parents going insane watching their teenage daughter, instantly becoming nationwide sensations, then getting all embarrassed about how ridiculous they looked, and ultimately becoming just as lovable as their daughter. The Olympics are great.
Before the Olympics began I ended my Carmelo Team USA profile like so:
After everything that's happened the past few years, with the whole basketball world about ready to scratch his name off the superstar list for good, there's no better time to for his career to pull a 180 than this season. If it starts in London with the whole word watching, even better.
And it's happening! He scored 37 points in 14 minutes during the Team USA massacre on Thursday, but that's not even the point. He's having fun with basketball again, and it's the best sign yet that maybe we're due for a Melo redemption sometime soon. Stay tuned.
7. ... AND THE FAB FIVE. I'll remember McKayla Maroney and that ridiculous vault, Aly Raisman officially icing the Team Gold with her floor routine, and of course, Gabby Douglas being Gabby Douglas for five days. But the most indelible memory was this one time NBC zoomed in on a team huddle, and you could hear one of them say, "One more event we can do this!" And then you heard everyone else chime in one-by-one in Chipmunks-level pitch.
"Love you guys!"
"Love you guys!"
"Love you guys!"
"Love you guys!"
"Love you guys!"
NOTE: This Fab Five is NOT that Fab Five. (But I think I love them just as much.)
6. SAMUEL L. JACKSON SHOULD COMMENTATE EVERYTHING. It started as a joke about Samuel L. Jackson personifying the Olympic Spirit, but all you need to know about his 100% real Twitter account is that he's pretty much the best announcer sports has ever seen.
On the Ally Raisman controversy in the individual all around:
Now hold up, the Russian girl FELL OFF the Beam, Ally stayed up...Bronze for....WTF?! Tim's prolly happy, jeez all up in that Russian Ass! — Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) August 3, 2012
On Allison Schmitt's win earlier in the week:
Allison Schmitt!!!!! Hope they got pics of her soles, cause that's ALL they saw!!! Go USA!!!!! — Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) August 1, 2012
On a red card:
A TALKING BACK RED CARD!!! More SKETCHY judge/ ref Shit!!! — Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) July 31, 2012
Dicey win for US BEACH VOLLEYBALL! Spain playa all up in the REF's ASS! Uhhh, Go USA?! — Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) July 31, 2012
Awwwright!!! We bout to get some fairer sex IRON RAISIN'! — Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) July 31, 2012
Really, like you wouldn't pay $20 a day for a live satellite feed of Samuel L watching NBC's coverage and just saying whatever pops into his head? Come on. Don't be part of the problem, be part of the Samuel L Jackson solution for Bob Costas. There's still time!
5. MISSY MISDEMEANOR FRANKLIN. She hasn't been quite as dominant as some predicted, but I think after watching Michael Phelps for the past decade, it's harder for us to really flip out over a swimmer who "only" wins a handful of medals. And either way, I'm totally obsessed with Missy just like pretty much everyone in America. Mostly because of how much fun she's clearly having, win or lose. And because every man and woman around USA Swimming clearly and openly loves her. She has another chance at a Gold on Friday, and she's only 17, so I'm sure we'll see her again in 2016. And I can't wait to get obsessed with her all over again.
Now, then: Someone more talented than me needs to photoshop her face into this photo.
4. NATHAN ADRIAN AND THE MOST OUTRAGEOUS RACE OF THEM ALL. Re-watch the video at NBC to remember how insanely close Nathan Adrian's Gold Medal win in the 100M freestyle was, but stay for his reaction afterward, which is raw, uncut delirium at its finest. Part ecstasy, part giggling disbelief, it sort of explains everything you need to know about why we love the Olympics.
3. CHINA IS RUSSIA AND YI SHIWEN IS DRAGO. I know everyone hates China, but it's kinda great that the United States finally has another Olympic rival worthy of all our best paranoia and disgust. Of course, if we're actually going to be adults about things, the rivalry gets a little bit more complicated. But either way, it's nice to see that China's inexplicable Olympic dominance hasn't skipped a beat since 2008, mostly because that just makes me root harder than ever for the U.S. to kick their ass.
2. GABBY DOUGLAS WINS EVERYTHING. There have been hundreds of memories, but the single most indelible image from the first week of the London Olympics is Gabby Douglas smiling.
Nobody brought more universal joy to these Olympics than her, and she did while unleashing performances in both the team and individual All-Around that were (according to people who know these things) pretty much flawless. As one columnist put it for USA Today, she's officially just "Gabby" to America now, no last name needed. And she came out of nowhere to do all this, all of which makes it even cooler that she expected this all along.
After the June trials, she said, "I have an advantage because I’m the underdog and I’m black and no one thinks I’d ever win. Well, I’m going to inspire so many people. Everybody will be talking about, how did she come up so fast? But I’m ready to shine."
She's really just the greatest, right? That's my official analysis of Gabby Douglas.
Kellogs already announced they've become her second sponsors, and she'll likely get millions in endorsements when all this is over. And she should. Not only did she destroy the competition, but she's the most refreshing story of the London games, she carries herself like a goddamn star, and in ten years, anyone who hears the name "Gabby" around the Olympics will think back to these incredible couple of days and break into a giant smile. Like Gabby.
(Also important to remember: Only Gabby could've gotten endorsements from U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and Nicki Minaj on the same night. To say nothing of Rick Ross' endorsement, or, you know, the President of the United States working her into a campaign speech. It's been a surreal couple of days for all of us.)
1. MICHAEL PHELPS. What, you expected someone else? I wasn't a huge Phelps fan in 2004 or 2008, but he's grown on me since then, kind of like Kobe in the final stages of his career. On some level, I'm just glad I've been able to see all this, and impressed he's still doing it.
These Olympics underscored Phelps' greatness on two levels. He started slow, made stupid mistakes, and if nothing else, his first few days made us appreciate what he did in Beijing even more. Winning everything isn't as easy as he made it look, apparently.
Then, just when everyone was ready to use his London disappointment as proof of how amazing Beijing was, Phelps bounced back, broke the career Medal records, became the first swimmer ever to win Gold in the same event in three straight Olympics, dominated while Ryan Lochte struggled, and generally just reminded everyone why he's the greatest swimmer of all time.
It's getting to the point where when we think about the Summer Olympics in any year from here on out, we'll think about Michael Phelps. We'll think about Beijing first, because that was the most incredible performance we'd ever seen. But then we'll think about London, when we saw him face a little adversity and watched him come through and dominate anyway. Beijing is where he made history, but London is where he proved it wasn't just a fluke, and the whole world realized without a shadow of doubt that we were watching one of the greatest Olympians of all time. So yeah, it turned out to be a pretty solid first week in London for Michael Phelps.
For the rest of us? We still have another 10 days of insanity ahead of us. In the words of London's Mayor, "The Geiger counter of Olympo-mania is going to go 'zoink' off the scale."