Posted by: Nathan | August 25, 2008

What I’ll remember from the Beijing Oympics

I suppose everyone’s doing these recap/reminiscing posts, but I will too. I imagine a lot of the most memorable moments are things that many of us share, especially because NBC kept airing the same sports again and again. C’mon, NBC. How about some diversity here? Anyway, here are the things that will stay in my memory from the games of the 29th Olympiad. Most of the videos are found here, and they require you to install a little program called “Silverlight,” FYI.

1. Jason Lezak chasing down Alain Bernard in the men’s 4x100m swimming finals. Sure, Michael Phelps is rightly the headline of these games, winning eight gold medals in one Olympics. EIGHT! But if you haven’t seen the way Jason Lezak beats Bernard on the final split of the 4×100 relay to give Phelps his second gold medal, you won’t believe it. I still have no idea how he made up so much ground on the sassy Frenchman. This was easily one of if not the most exciting sporting even I’ve seen in years. Wow.

2. Nastia Liukin’s gold in all-around. Liukin overcame a talented field (including Johnson, her teammate) and a lot of shady judging to win the most coveted of gymnastics titles. Nobody was more elegant than Liukin throughout the entirety of the games.

3. Shawn Johnson winning gold on the balance beam. My girl from Iowa had three silver medals in her pocket and only one more shot to get a gold, and she made it count. Fantastic, clutch routine. Way to represent Iowa, Shawn. Might I add that she’s adorable?

4. The Opening Ceremony. Wow-oh-wow. They were simply spectacular start-to-finish. I don’t know how many times I gasped in awe. The coordination, engineering, talent, vision and creativity it took to invent this show much less pull it off is astounding. Bravo. I told you to watch it.

5. The Redeem Team delivers. I think we were all a little leery about believing in these guys, but they were excellent. The world has caught up to us a great deal in basketball, and the United States had to beat several talented squads to get this medal back. Kudos to you, gentlemen. I will add that it felt strange to root for Kobe Bryant.

6. Usain Bolt’s 100m dash. He crushed the best runners in the world and set a new world record by a significant margin despite slowing down and celebrating before crossing the finish line. Wha?! Sure, he was cocky, but that’s impressive.

7. The shady gymnastics judging. Yes, it’s a subjective sport and there will always be debate. Yes, I’m no gymnastics expert and can only rely on the announcers. However, the quantity of questionable judging in important situations was ridiculous and highly suspect. Several scores were higher for China and lower for the USA, despite the US girls having better routines. I don’t know if Liukin wins gold if the supervisory judge doesn’t walk down to the judges’ table and make sure they get it right. How did Sacramone lose bronze to a Chinese gymnast who FELL on her second vault–ON HER FACE?!? And the tie-breaker system has got to go. Let’s get that perfect 10 system back in place and revamp some rules by the time London rolls around.

8. Matt Mitcham’s final dive. All right, maybe I won’t remember this one, but it was incredible anyway. Mitcham of Australia was behind the Chinese diver by a significant margin as he walked to the platform, and it looks like the host nation will walk away from the games with a diving sweep—eight-for-eight. Instead, Mitcham nails an astounding dive, wins gold, and ruins the party at the Swimming Cube. Great moment.

All told, the Olympics was great stuff, especially the first week. Track and field has never been too exciting for me. I’m going to miss the games mostly because it means that once again there is a good chance that nothing is on television. For those seventeen days, I knew NBC had something watchable airing. Alas.

Aside: It continuously annoys me how little ESPN and other Americans appreciate the Olympics. While amazing pageantry and competition that involved the entire world was taking place, all ESPN had to talk about was whether Georgia is the real #1 and exhibition…err, I mean preseason NFL. Give me a break! Perhaps the four-letter network has such a negative attitude only because they can’t show ANY of the Olympics—thereby saving them from the garbage that takes up most of their airtime—but I think part of it is egocentrism: our sports are the most important! Let’s be honest; the most important sporting events in the world are in this order: 1. Olympic Games (both winter and summer), 2. World Cup, 3. Super Bowl.


  1. Here, here! The 2008 Olympics were a lot of fun to watch, and provided some great drama. And it was nice to see China succeed, even if the Chinese government still needs to improve its human rights record. I agree with most of your assessments, although I didn’t catch all of the events you list.

    For me, Michael Phelps was the undeniable highlight. While Lezak’s amazing victory over Bernard was the top moment, Phelps moved through the games with a purpose and poise we don’t see often. And his victory in the 100m butterfly was an oh-so-close second for best moment of the games.

    The gymnastics – the Liukin and Johnson victories, the shady judging, and the heartbreak of watching Alicia Sacramone miss on the beam – were also a highlight.

    And what can one say about Ussain Bolt? He was arrogant, yes, but his 100m run was perhaps the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen in sports (perhaps tied with Gary Anderson missing his first field goal of the 1998 season in the NFC Championship game, thus ruining the Vikings’ Super Bowl chances). It wasn’t even close. He could have stopped for a sandwich. His 200m win was not as shocking, but was impressive, nonetheless.

  2. NBC showed too much of the gymnastics for my taste. They were great, but they even showed a post-competition exhibition that they just put on for show! I was done at that point for sure.

    I wish I could’ve seen more of the team games…handball, field hockey, soccer…but they never played them when I could watch. I’m really glad the Redeem Team came through. I watched them dominate Spain the first time and it was almost comical.

    I’ve got to disagree with you on your final point, Nathan. The biggest sporting event in the world is the World Cup. China and the U.S. may be the only two countries who would say something different…

    By the way, the Killer Death Squad will reign again!!! Despite dealing with the likes of Garrard and Bulger at QB…ech..

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