Keeping an Olympics blog up-to-date has been a challenge, so instead I’ve started an Olympics podcast called Olympic Fever. Join my host Alison Brown and I every week as we explore stories of the Olympic Games.
We’re having a lot of fun with it — talking with Olympians and Olympic fans and getting some great stories. New episodes drop every Thursday. Find us on our website or on your favorite podcast app.
The 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang is getting closer and closer–the kick off is just a few months away with the torch relay. Although plans for the relay were revealed a few months ago, we thought it would be good to revisit them because our Olympic Fever is starting to build up again.
Traditionally, the start of the relay marks 100 days to go before the Winter Olympics, but this one’s going to be 101 to “signify the opening of a new chapter for the Olympic Games,” according to the plan infographic.
Huh? I’m not quite sure what that means, but I’ll be honest–if host cities are starting to expand this event much like the Games keep expanding, it’s soon going to not be worth the effort. Torch creep could mean that by 2028, we’ll see the relay start a year ahead of time–and believe me, while it could generate a little more excitement in that moment, by the end of the relay, no one will care. We’ll all have torch fatigue by then.
But for now, we’ll have one extra day of it, and we’ll have to see what this new chapter of Olympic Games is all about.
It all kicks off in Olympia on October 24. Then the flame flies to South Korea to make a 17 city and province journey around the country. 7,500 lucky people will have the honor of being torch bearers.
This August marks the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. It was a memorable Games–the first in Spain, the first boycott-free since 1972. The world had changed dramatically in the last four years, with the end of both the Cold War in Eastern Europe and apartheid in South Africa. The breakup of the Soviet Union saw Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania competing independently for the first time in decades. Germany’s teams were reunified. Other former Soviet republics banded together as a “Unified Team.” Due to the conflict in Yugoslavia, the IOC banned that country but allowed its individual athletes to compete.
Barcelona was also the debut of the Dream Team, the first time professional basketball players were allowed to compete, meaning that the U.S. mopped the floor with the competition. Other debuts in medal sports were baseball (now off the program, but re-added for Tokyo 2020), badminton and judo. Exhibition sports were taekwondo (now a medal sport), roller hockey and Basque pelota.
But Barcelona 1992 stands out also because of its amazing Opening Ceremony, in particular, the most innovative torch lighting yet–and arguably the best. Have a look:
Now to celebrate the 25th anniversary, you can carry the Barcelona torch on the Olympic Channel’s game, You Can’t Torch This. It’s a Frogger-like game to get the torch to its final destination. Can you do it in 60 seconds?
There’s Olympic Games and then Olympic games — an important part of Olympic marketing is the video game that goes along with it. This Winter Olympics it’ll be Steep: Road to the Olympics Expansion, and it looks pretty fun:
It’ll be available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC, and there are multiplayer options, if you’re looking to play with people from around the world.
Hopefully it’ll be just as fun as Torino 2006, the last Winter Olympics game I bought, which has some pretty insulting sports commentary like, “Well, you rarely see a start as bad as that at this level,” and other phrases that have entered my home lexicon:
Team USA is looking for its next batch of Olympians, and one of them could be you!
What’s the deal?
The US Olympic Committee has created a program called “Scouting Camp: The Next Olympic Hopeful” (likely also the title of the NBCSN documentary about this effort that will be on the air in August) to find a few Olympic hopefuls to add to their training rosters, and the process starts with try-outs this Saturday, June 24, from 9am – 1pm at select 24 Hour Fitness centers in Texas, Colorado, California, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Oregon, Washington, Maryland and Virginia.
While this is really exciting, keep in mind that they’re only selecting four women and four men. One woman and one man will join the national team in one of these sports:
Who should go?
Current and former high school athletes
Current and former college athletes
Current and former professional athletes
Anyone else who thinks they have what it takes to be an Olympian
In short, athlete, athlete, athlete — oh, and you too. Right. Our advice: If you think you have what it takes to be an Olympian, we recommend being young and having a very good to great level of fitness–and if you’re going for track cycling, know that you’re coming out of that program with massive thighs. If you’re like me and have a ton of Olympic spirit with an Olympic ring around my gut, you’re going to have to show a lot of potential, mental determination and moxie to make it through the first test. Or hit up one of the Bobsled and Skeleton combines to try there without the cameras rolling.
The IOC Executive Board met last week, and afterward, TBach gave a press release summarizing a lot of initiatives, including giving weightlifting a smackdown and putting the sport on notice.
What’s all this about? Well, doping’s been a slight issue in the Olympics lately, and weightlifters have been some of the biggest offenders. Retests going back to the 2008 Beijing games are still finding weightlifters who doped, which causes a lot of problems with medals and certificates being stripped, and then the athletes who are now getting awards for competition from eight years ago have lost out on a lot of opportunities, and then the IOC and the Olympics starts losing some integrity, and that’s not really how this org thinks they fly.
The IOC gave the International Weightlifting Federation until December to take care of the problem or at least have a plan for it. If they don’t, well, it might be adios for weightlifting as a sport in 2024. As a glimpse of what that might look like, in the IOC’s recently approved Tokyo 2020 program that removes one men’s event and wipes out 64 participants from those Games–a move that’s supposed to help them reach gender parity.
The IWF’s response is pretty timid–they’re shocked (surprise!) by the results of the retesting, and they’re going to get right on making that plan.
The European Weightlifting Federation, run by a guy who recently lost in the election to oust the incumbent IWF president (who just won his fifth term), was a little more critical on its website, saying that the cut in athletes was “just the first instalment [sic] of the price we will have to pay for years of inadequate management, which has showcased our sport as a doping factory run by private power.” You could hear that mic drop around the weightlifting world.
Good luck to them–changing the system can be pretty tough work, but the possibility of being ousted from the Olympics could make things a lot worse for the sport.
This spring, USA Bobsled & Skeleton has been reeling from the unexpected death of Olympian Steven Holcomb, who passed away on May 6. Yesterday, the organization announced, “The toxicology results indicate Holcomb had a fatal combination of the prescription sleep aid Eszopiclone/Zopiclone (Lunesta) in his system as well as a .18% blood alcohol concentration.” The coroner’s report also found evidence of pulmonary congestion.
Holcomb was 37, and at the time of death, he was in Lake Placid, NY, for training. He’d been prepping for the 2018 Olympics, including doing some promotional shoots for NBC.
Although he battled keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease, he learned how to drive a bobsled based on feel. The disease nearly took his sight, but he had a surgery called C3-R that restored it to nearly perfect.
Holcomb piloted bobsleds in three Olympics: Torino, Vancouver and Sochi. Driving the infamous “Night Train” in Vancouver, he led the team to the U.S.’ first gold medal in the event in 62 years. Four years later, he won bronze in both the two- and four-man bobsled–the two-man was the first American medal in the sport since 1952.
Here’s a look at the Night Train’s gold medal moment:
A memorial fund’s been set up in Holcomb’s honor. The family will distribute the money to keratoconus patients and elite athletes who need financial support.