I Finally Watched the Final Five

Yesterday my summer cold kept me out of the office and in bed, which means I finally got to watch a bit of the Summer Olympics… only two days after the closing ceremony. I watched some men’s and women’s swimming and women’s gymnastics, just a couple of hours in all. The ever-reliable Bob Costas commentated on NBC, the American TV channel that airs the Olympics. Like his entertainment counterparts Ryan Seacrest and Nagui, he is ubiquitous, sometimes a bit cheesy, and a complete pro. He’s hosted the Olympics since I started watching them.

Two weeks prior, I was standing on the subway platform after a night with Klimt at the Neue Galerie and wine with two friends on a friend’s rooftop when I realized that I had forgotten to record the opening ceremony, which was airing at that moment. I enjoy watching the opening ceremony—it’s the time when the inevitable controversies leading up the Olympics are set aside for a brief moment for people from different countries to come together, feel inspired, and soak in the atmosphere of something greater and longer-standing than themselves. I love seeing the variety in attire, looks, and sizes of the teams as they wave their flags and their countries are announced in English, French, and the host country’s language. It’s the beginning, where hope reigns before wins and losses have accumulated and more scandals have broken out due to drug use or misconduct (lying about being robbed, really? Way to represent the USA). Every participating group gets a chance to showcase their best athletes. We finally see what the host country has been spending its money on and how it wants to present itself to the world. I didn’t watch Rio’s this year—tant pis.

I guess I’ll never be as excited for the Summer Olympics as I was when the Magnificent Seven competed in 1996. The U.S. women’s gymnastics team, they were seven teenage girls, all a few years older than me, and I knew all of their names. Shannon Miller, Dominique Dawes (“Awesome Dawesome”), Amy Chow, Dominique Moceanu, Amanda Borden, Jaycie Phelps, and of course, little Kerry Strug, who vaulted into the spotlight by clinching the team gold while injured. There was a lot of talent, a lot of drama, and a lot of tears during those games. There’s nothing quite like being a kid and looking up to these amazing athletes who now look like kids to me.