It’s too bad that the spirit of international harmony is not seen among all spectators. Despite traveling miles, and presumably paying good money to be a part of the greatest athletic show on earth, Lithuanian accountant Petras Lescinskas felt the need to disgrace himself by making a Nazi salute and imitating a Hitler mustache during a basketball game between Lithuania and Nigeria.
He was fined £2,500 by the court for racially aggravated behavior. Lescinskas’s defense was that he believed these gestures to be appropriate. To make matters worse for his homeland, another group of Lithuanians was caught making similar crude gestures at black stewards during another basketball game.
Twitter often unearths a person’s true colors. Two athletes ended their Olympic dreams because of inappropriate tweets. A Swiss soccer player was sent home for referring to the South Korean team as a “bunch of Mongoloids,” while a Greek athlete met the same fate with her tweet, "With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!"
Will people ever learn?
Every Olympics has had its doping scandals and sadly, London 2012 is no exception. Four athletes were caught before the games opened, but American judo fighter Nick Delpopolo was the first competitor to be sent home. He tested positive for marijuana. He claimed that he mistakenly ate something containing the drug before arriving in London. Italian speed walker Alex Schwazer was also kicked out for testing positive to EPO, a hormone that stimulates the formation of new blood cells.
Other forms of cheating also surfaced. Eight badminton players -- the world champion Chinese pair, two Indonesians and four South Koreans -- were issued black cards by the referee and disqualified for allegedly trying to fix the draw by losing their matches on purpose. The Indonesians turned out to be the best at losing, an unusual accolade for an Olympic team.
Referees have been keeping an eye out for any form of bad sportsmanship as they should, but one ended up with egg on his face for being a tad too over zealous. Algerian runner Taoufil Makhloufi was disqualified for not finishing his heat of the 800 meters because they believed that he was not really competing. The committee had to eat humble pie and reinstate him after doctors confirmed that he in fact had a knee injury.
American news channel NBC has not been without its critics either as they decided to delay announcing results from the day until during a later prime time slot. Anyone wanting to wait until NBC’s roundup had to avoid all forms of communication and possible spoilers, not an easy task in today’s media mad society.
Some in the media chose to focus on the unimportant. Fox News, for instance, criticized history-making gymnast Gabby Douglas for not sporting a patriotic enough leotard. The way she wore her hair did not find favor with many.
Skeptics were doubtful that London would be able to embrace the spirit of the Olympics with the verve it deserved. But boy, they were proved wrong. However, certain businesses have not enjoyed the boost they hoped the Olympics would bring. The world’s largest surviving tidal mill is one of them. A tourist attraction near the Olympic Park, the mill has seen business fall by a hundred percent. Even iconic attractions such as the Tower of London saw more than a 50 percent drop in visitors last month, compared to the same month in 2011.
Good, Great and Gold
Every Olympics produces moments of stunning athleticism. This is the first Olympics in which every nation has fielded at least one female athlete. It is also the first year to include female boxing. The event drew 36 boxers from 23 countries.
Another noteworthy happening in this Olympics is three more Muslim countries -- Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar-- gave in to pressure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and allowed their female athletes to compete for the first time ever. Saudi Arabia’s 16-year- old judo fighter Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim, after negotiation between her country and the IOC, wore a tight-fitting black cap – a modified hijab of sorts – during the bout.
Fighting against the odds has always been an inspiring theme of the Olympics. This year the story of runner Lopez Lomong pulled on the collective heartstrings. A former child soldier from South Sudan he escaped and fled to Kenya where he spent 10 years in a refugee camp before ending up in America where he trained as a runner. “I used to run for my life,” he observed, “but now I'm running for joy and to inspire kids who might be refugees, or in a really bad situation like I was.”
A 13-year-old swimmer from Togo might have been the youngest athlete to compete this year but the games showed that it could even accommodate older athletes. At 71, Japan’s show jumper Hiroshi Hoketsu showed the world that he still had plenty left in his tank. And the British team that won gold included two men over 50 who had both come back from horrific injuries, including a broken neck and several broken vertabrae. Their teammates were both under 30, making it a truly cross generational team.
The Jamaicans and Americans shared the spoils of both the 100m and 200m blue ribbon events. However, with a population of only just over 2.5 million people and a clean green, black and yellow sweep of the men's 200m final, the valedictorian must go to Jamaica. Superstar athlete Usain Bolt became the first man to ever retain both Olympic titles, which he did with effortless style. Could he possibly make it a hat trick in Brazil?
And mention must be made to all those Muslim athletes who had to compete while observing Ramadan. Some countries relaxed the rules and allowed their teams to eat and drink on competition days while others stuck to the strict regimen. The Olympic Village provided food 24/7, including Hallal meat and dates, a traditional food to break the fast.
The LGBTQ community has reason to celebrate, as well. Not only were there a number of medal winning gay athletes, but the Danny Boyle-produced Opening Ceremony included a lesbian kiss that was broadcast in 76 countries. In some of them, being homosexual is illegal. the kiss was seen as a sneaky poke in the eye for repressive governments. The kiss was taken from a series called Brookside that showed the first televised lesbian kiss in British history in 1994.
And how can we end this without mentioning Michael Phelps, the amazing swimmer who has now won more Olympic medals then any other human being ever. Thanks, Michael, for showing us what the human spirit can achieve.
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