Goodbye Rio- My Takes on the Games
The games of the 31st Olympiad are over. The first Olympics held in South America are over. The 2016 Olympics are done. All the problems that were supposed to plague and over-shadow these games came to pass without doing so.
My final takes on these games:
- For what it’s worth, Usain Bolt has no peer. With all due respect to Michael Phelps, he at least had marginal rivals who occasionally beat him. Bolt had no such rival. Justin Gatlin, Andre de Grasse, Yohan Blake and others all tried, but nobody got Bolt when it mattered. In the Olympics in Beijing, London, and Rio, he swept his three races. If he had ran in 23 events, he’d have as many golds as Bolt. That’s not how Track & Field is though, and perhaps it’s an unfair comparison. Either way, Bolt is the most dominant athlete I’ve ever seen.
- On the other hand- Simone Biles. I mean, four golds and a bronze in gymnastics is freakishly good. I know- she’s good because the sport changed to favor gymnasts like her. That’s okay though, being opportunistic is never bad. The most impressive feat of them all may in fact be her bronze medal on the balance beam, which she fell off of, something that would end any hope of medaling for others. Her routine was that much harder than everyone else. She has no competition in women’s gymnastics, not even the legendary Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas.
- While I’m talking about greatness, how about that Katie Ledecky? She swept the 200, 400, and 800 meters in freestyle, and frankly none of them were even close. She added a gold in the 4x200 meter freestyle relay and a silver in the 4x100 meter freestyle relay, just to make the games a bit more historic. If you actually watched her races though, she was every bit as dominant as the first two were.
- Ok, Michael Phelps- how long can you stay this good? His first games were in 2000, and here we are five games later talking about his career. You’ve heard enough about his 23 golds and 28 overall medals, which are amazing numbers on their own, but not the focus of my point here. Michael Phelps won five golds and a silver in Rio, the kinds of numbers that suggest he’s still the greatest male swimmer in the world, not a guy at the end of his rope. I get it- he’s 31 and ready to move on in life, and that’s all fine and good- but there’s not a very good reason for him to walk away right now. I tend to believe he may be done, but I don’t think he should be done. He’s still amazing.
- What about that second greatest male swimmer ever, Ryan Lochte? Following these games, and his gold in the 4x200 meter relay, Lochte is now the second most decorated swimmer ever, behind Phelps. That’s not the story of his games though. Lochte’s “incident,” or lack of one, with the Rio police was the story. The fact that he basically made up a robbery and reported it to the police was immature on a special level. People have tried to make this into a commentary on privilege and other social matters, but I think that’s giving it more attention than it deserves. Lochte acted stupid. He will face a crippling suspension from the USOC. I think the amazing thing here is that this man with so much at stake, put his reputation and accomplishments on the line over essentially being angry about being called out for being drunk and doing damage at a gas station. That’s remarkable.
- We’re going to hear about how great the games were for the United States, and they were statistically. There were some things even more embarrassing though than Lochte’s escapades, or at least one thing particularly- the treatment of Gabby Douglas. I get it, the defending All-Around Female Gymnastics champion did not make it back to the All-Around final, thanks to a strange rule that shouldn’t exist, and cost her a bronze medal (she qualified in third). The sport changed a lot in four years, and unfortunately it didn’t move towards her, which is probably hard enough to accept if you’re the defending champ. She really didn’t need the ridiculous and stupid negative attention for her not putting her hand over her heart during the team’s gold medal ceremony. Who cares if she doesn’t put her hand over her heart? Does that mean she hates America? Does it mean she doesn’t appreciate her success? Does it mean she’s a bad person? This is so ridiculous and knit-picky that it really has to stop.
- Wrestling really is the greatest sport in the world. It can leave you so high, and so low, in the course of an hour or two. There was the rise of Helen Maroulis, winning the first female freestyle gold ever for the U.S.A., and the heartbreaking loss for world champion female freestyler Adeline Gray. There was the stunning defeats of Jordan Burroughs, the reigning 2012 gold medalist, who lost as many matches in Rio as he had in the last Olympiad, and the agonizing defeat in the bronze medal match for his fellow New Jersey native, Frank Molinaro. On the other end, there was the gold medal victory of Kyle Snyder, the Ohio State wrestler who became the youngest American Olympic wrestling champion. The highs and lows of an individual sport like wrestling have no match. It’s amazing.
- There are so many people who won medals in Rio that never get written about, whether it’s in the New York Times or on a small-time blog like this. It’s amazing how they toil in anonymity for four years, for two weeks or sunlight, and even then don’t get the recognition they deserve. I just felt the need to mention all of them.
- The Olympics now move to Asia for the immediate future. In 2018, the Winter Olympics will be in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In 2020, they move to Japan, for the games of the 32nd Summer Olympiad. In 2022, the Winter Games will go to Beijing. Asia has become quite popular apparently as a host for the games.
- Next year we’ll find out if Los Angeles will host the 2024 games. I have to say, I’m hoping it’s so.