People are always surprised to find out that I love the Olympics. I seem more of a traditional sports kind of guy, baseball, football, etc. And I am. Those are my main loves. But once every four years the world goes bat-guano crazy over sports they know nothing about and it frees me up to sit at the other end of the bar and not be bothered. It’s like a vacation from idiots. People who can’t see their toes are suddenly experts on how to “stab a landing” in the vault event. People who need water wings to take a shower suddenly can tell you everything you never even cared to know about the butterfly stroke. Granted, there is a certain element of being trapped in a performance art piece that is kind of fun. But that wears thin as soon as some fool, usually emboldened by alcohol, tries to regale the crowd with the winner of the 1912 poetry Olympics – “O Sport, you are Beauty! … O Sport, you are Justice! … O Sport, you are Happiness! The body trembles in bliss upon hearing your call … ” – which makes sober people call for tranquilizer darts.
Most people know that the Olympics were begun in ancient Greece as a way to celebrate the ideal male. A man of great athletic prowess and intellect. The fact that the athletes were all naked and oiled as a tribute to the gods was not as innocent as many like to claim since Greeks liked gawking at naked people too and bisexuality was accepted. Obviously you have an odd beginning to the modern bromide of “excellence and purity of sport.”
Oh, and just for fun, you should know that some of the earliest prizes weren’t medals but women and livestock. And sometimes money.
But, what the heck, everything has to start somewhere.
After a minor hiatus of around 1,500 years, in 1870, a Frenchman named Pierre de Coubertin tried to revive the games. He gave this speech.
Let us export our oarsmen, our runners, our fencers into other lands. That is the true Free Trade of the future; and the day it is introduced into Europe the cause of Peace will have received a new and strong ally. It inspires me to touch upon another step I now propose and in it I shall ask that the help you have given me hitherto you will extend again, so that together we may attempt to realise [sic], upon a basis suitable to the conditions of our modern life, the splendid and benefvicent task of reviving the Olympic Games.
The French, whose army didn’t practice marching then because it made them sweat, yawned, shrugged and went out for more wine. This, by the way, was the reason France kept getting invaded and why Msr. Coubertin wanted them to get off their asses.
Even so, in 1892 79 countries got together and began the modern Olympics and, yes, France was one of them.
In an attempt to make the events more “fan friendly” and add a bit of spectacle in 1908 London held the first opening ceremonies ever. So, blame them for those bloated spectacles that have little to do with anything other than waste and excess.
Which brings us up to date. The basic form and structure of the games has changed little. Sure, there have been some minor sports changes. The New York Daily News ha a nice list of sports that no longer make the cut.
Since the modern Olympic Games kicked off in 1896, a few weird and wonderful sports have come and gone, from live bird shooting to solo synchronized swimming. Here is a glimpse at a few of the wackiest.
1. Tug of War – Dates played: from 1900 to 1920
This feat of strength worked like the classic playground game: two teams pulled a rope in opposite directions until the midpoint of the rope passed into the winning team’s territory.
2. Jeu de paume – Date played: 1908
The indoor precursor of tennis, jeu de paume was only included as a medal event at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, and only two countries competed, Great Britain and the US, with the latter taking home the gold.
3. Live pigeon shooting – Date played: 1900
When Paris hosted the 1900 Olympic Games, live pigeon shooting was a key event, with Belgium’s Leon de Lunden earning gold with 21 hits.
4. Long jump for horses – Date played: 1900
In this event, horses were the athletes with 17 competitors jumping for gold medal glory. Belgium’s Constant van Langendonck on the horse Extra-Dry earned the top prize with a distance of 6.1 m.
5. Rope climb – Dates played: 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924, 1932
Perhaps with the CrossFit fury, good old-fashioned rope climbing may once again appear at a future Olympics. Prior to being discontinued, the rope climb marked the final event of the gymnastics competition. While typically being judged on time to reach the top, in 1896, athletes were also judged on style.
6. Solo synchronized swimming – Dates played: 1984, 1988, 1992
Before catching on to the oxymoronic nature of this sport, individual athletes performed choreographed routines to music in the water, while synchronizing their moves to the music.
7. Swimming obstacle race – Date played: 1900
For the Paris Olympics, competitors had to climb over a pole, crawl over a row of boats, then swim under another row of boats against the current of the Seine.
I would like to see Michael Phelps try #7.
Okay, so we have a history of weird to work with here. The opening ceremonies this year added a new element that I had not considered; alien invasion.
Talk about an uninvited guest at the Olympics.
Friday night’s spectacular pyrotechnics display of the most watched opening ceremony in summer Olympics history attracted more than the eyes of over 40 million people. A clearly seen unidentified flying object was videotaped making its way over London’s Olympic stadium, reports Examiner.com.
The disc-shaped object is first seen entering the upper left portion of the video as the fireworks erupt over the stadium. The UFO — which appears to have a dome or bulge rising from its center — moves slowly across the sky as if deliberately observing the light-show spectacle below it.
While NBC Olympics — a division of NBC Sports — has chosen Goodyear blimps for all of its 2012 Olympics aerial coverage, the strange-looking object that appeared over the opening ceremonies doesn’t appear to be a blimp.
So what was it?
On an evening that included an apparent Queen Elizabeth and 007 agent James Bond parachuting out of a helicopter into the Olympics stadium, most people probably wouldn’t have been surprised if a staged UFO was also on the entertainment menu, just two weeks after the U.K. released its most recent batch of UFO documents.
Last month, former Ministry of Defense UFO desk officer Nick Pope suggested that a huge event like the London Olympic Games, could present itself as a prime target for otherworldly craft to show themselves to a gigantic viewing audience.
“With the summer of mass events, we are all on high alert for terrorism. But we must also cast our eyes further afield and be prepared for even the most seemingly unfathomable,” Pope said, according to PressTV.
Pope wrote earlier this year of a conspiracy theory rumor that suggested a fake alien attack would be staged at the London Olympics.
“A combination of special effects and holographic technology will be used to create the illusion of an alien invasion, the rumor claims,” Pope wrote on TruTV.com.
“If aliens have studied our psychology, they may choose to appear in our skies on a significant date — the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games is one date being widely circulated by conspiracy groups,” PressTV quoted Pope.
Maybe Friday night’s UFO appearance was a dress rehearsal.
A couple of things; (1) it is clearly a spotlight reflecting off a cloud and (2) Nick Pope is a moron.
I cannot emphasize #2 enough.
I have already dealt with the whole UFO conspiracy thing up here so I won’t belabor the point. Suffice it to say if you want to put people like Mr. Pope back under a rock just click on my link and grab some talking points.
It’s fun, you’ll like it.
As to the Olympics, feel free to join my end of the bar. I’ll even let you buy me a drink.
Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG (FOX! Sports) every Friday around 9:10 AM.