I am a hopeless Romantic, and as such I love the Olympics. I could care less who gets the gold, which countries cart off the most medals and all that jazz. As I watched the Opening Ceremony, I was reminded that the true value (and true Romanticism) of the Olympics/Paralympics lies elsewhere: thousands of athletes from all over the world and from all walks of life coming together for, well, games. Being a good sport is more important than winning or trampling others for glory, in spite of the competitive nature of the Games. And countries who are “in real life” at war with each other might send athletes who compete peaceably with each other: so terribly romantic!
These Games in London are especially exciting for a number of reasons. This will be the first time that women have the chance to compete in boxing, and they are predicted to steal the limelight. Women have been boxing for a seriously long time now, but only recently have people started taking it seriously. And they should, ’cause boxers like Marlen Esparza are seriously good! (She’s on the American team, by the way.) She was recently featured on the cover of Vogue— simultaneously powerful and sexualized, because of course we can’t fathom a female athlete of any sport wearing anything but a dress, yeah? >_< Cool photography, but seriously…the Queen’s shoes must always match her dress? Scoff if you must, but the sexualization of women has a powerful impact on female athletes– it might make or break their career, even for the best of the best. Take female weightlifters, who find it nearly impossible to find sponsors because they “can’t” be feature in a sexy red dress like Esparza here– despite phenomenal talent.
The London 2012 Games are also the first to design the Olympics and Paralympics simultaneously and in a fully integrated way, rather than independently as they typically have been in the past. Both games have also been created with PWD (Persons With Disabilities) in mind from the beginning, and the Committees of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games have decided to extend that cooperation through at least the 2020 Games, holding both Games in the same city. Their torch relay begins the 24 of August, and the Opening Ceremonies for the Paralympic Games will be held on the 29th; the Games will feature 21 sports, including shooting, powerlifting, wheelchair tennis, and sitting volleyball.
Both games have…bizarre, Cyclops-esque mascots. Whatever, they’re cute.
Here are some other cool “firsts” facts about the London 2012 Olympics/Paralympics.
It’s been speculated that LGBTQ athletes were responsible for the crash of a major dating application, Grindr, even though only a couple dozen of them are out. Hmm… Also, here is a list of all the lgbtq out athletes ever to have competed in the Games. If you are straight and/or cisgender and you think lgbtq issues don’t have much implication for “normal” peeps or the broader population, think again: the Olympics has been another stage where the sociocultural battles of sex/gender are taking place– going so far as to define who is “truly female” or “truly male”. Some have called this gender policing, and it has serious implications for straight/cisgender athletes who self-identify as one sex but “fail” Olympic sex test standards. Perhaps the issue has been louder and more noticeable in recent times, but it has a long history underlying the Games. Tell me again that sex is as clear as black and white. “Ability” is not quite so black and white anymore, either: the creator of Oscar Pistorius’ Cheetah blades has said himself that, if not Pistorius, then some other “disabled” athlete in the future may in fact be able to run faster on blades than any pair of human legs could ever run. Perhaps now it is fair for Pistorius to compete in both Olympics, but there may well come a day when Paralympic athletes competing on blades will actually be in a league of their own.
Lastly, a small complaint: if badminton and table tennis get to be Olympic sports, when is Ultimate going to be featured?! “In the distant future,” if at all, is some folks’ guess– in part due to a tendency of the Games in recent years to move away from team sports.
Good luck to all athletes throughout the Games; you represent more than you know.