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To The London Olympics

They kick off in one month. We’ll go to London and to the athletes preparing to compete.

Michael Phelps, left, and Conor Dwyer swim in the men's 200-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in Omaha, Neb. (AP)

Michael Phelps, left, and Conor Dwyer swim in the men’s 200-meter freestyle preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in Omaha, Neb. (AP)

One month from today, July 27th, the Olympic flame will be lit in London.  Opening ceremonies.  Athletes from all over.  Flags.  Medals.  Sport.  After the mind-boggling spectacle of drummers and scale at the Beijing games four years ago, and its own spectacle of Diamond Jubilee this summer, London’s games have a high bar to clear.

Maybe in a time of austerity we can let the athletes themselves, and their performance, be the magic.  We’ve got top US athletes with us this hour, preparing for the games.  And top reporters on the scene.

This hour, On Point:  home stretch to the London Olympics.

-Tom Ashbrook


Alex Wolff, a senior staff writer at Sports Illustrated. He has been living in London during the run up to the 2012 games.

John Powers, a sports reporter for the Boston Globe. He has covered the Olympic Games since 1976.

Georgia Gould, U.S. Olympic mountain biker.

Tony Azevedo, captain of the U.S. Olympic water polo team.

Tom Peszek, a member of the U.S Olympic rowing team.

Kendrick Farris, U.S. Olympic weightlifter. You can learn about his fundraising campaign to help send his family to watch him at the London games at @kendrickjfarris.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “From his thousand-meter stare before the race’s start to his seemingly effortless finish, Michael Phelps looked like his old self on Monday in the preliminaries of the 400-meter individual medley at the United States Olympic Trials.”

Sports Illustrated “The backlash over the Games, which start in 38 days, involves more than the  reflexive complaints of Negative Nigels who would rain on any parade (as if  Mother Nature needs any help in that regard so far this English summer). Rather  it stems from examples of commercial bullying, unvarnished avarice and tone-deaf  decision-making emerging as the Olympics come into sharper focus.”

ESPN “Only the top three earn spots to the Olympics, provided they have reached the Olympic “A” standard of 7 feet, 7 inches sometime this season. And someone did indeed fail to hit that mark, third-place finisher Nick Ross.”

Video: Tony Azevedo

Check out this cool video of Tony Azevedo getting ready to head to the Olympics.

Video: Tom Peszek

Here’s a video of Tom Peszek and Silas Stafford talking about the 2012 games.

Video: Georgia Gould

Cyclist Georgia Gould talks about her cross country national title.


“Olympic Spirit” by John Williams & The Boston Pops
“Olympic Theme” by L’Orchestra Cinematique
“Olympic Fanfare & Theme” by John Williams & The Boston Pops

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  • Jacob Arnon

    How about asking the Olympics to honor the Israeli athletes murdered in Munich?

  • JGC

    I wonder if this Olympics will be the last of an era.  Beijing was so over the top, and the London Olympics were awarded before the global meltdown.  How does the modern Olympics reconcile  itself with the modern reality of Austerity?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Hunger Games, to entertain the 1%? 
         Don’t the Olympics ALWAYS make money for a country?  Isn’t that why so much money is spent trying to get them?  Including the past-publicized bribes?

      • JGC

        I dunno about always making money for the host city!  Montreal hosted the 1976 Summer Olympics, and it took more than 30 years (longer than its functional life) to finish paying off the bonds for the Olympic Stadium, also known as “The Big O”, and even better known to tax-burdened Montrealers as “The Big Owe”!

        • Ray in VT

          and I think that the Big O sits empty today.  Les Expos were, I think, the last regular inhabitants, and they’re long gone.  I’ve often gone to the neighboring botanical gardens and the biodome, but I’m not sure that the stadium is doing anything these days.

          • TFRX

            You beat me to it: The Big O is conveniently located across the street (Sherbrooke?) from the Jardin Botanique.

            Les Alouettes may still have some playoff games there, and I’m sure another Grey Cup is in the offing. I mean, Stade Molson is great but only holds ~23k.

          • Ray in VT

            I love visiting Montreal, and it really irks me that it’s tougher to get across the border these days.  I mean, it’s not like Canada is another country or anything.

            I’ve thought about going up to see the Alouettes play, and I’ve been meaning to go see the Bruins and the Habs square off.  It’s just such a nice city.  I’ve been there during the Jazz festival and the fireworks competition.  I’m still sad that I can’t hop over the border and see an MLB game.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          I was being sarcastic, about the profits.  All I hear that profit, are the Olympic Committee, that were exposed for bribes, a few years back?

      • Chris B

        It’s like politicians – all the wannabe host countries always manage to fantasize u a scenario where they’re sure they’re going to clean up.  For most of them though it pretty much turns out to be a sucker bet.

  • Victor Vito

    When I was a kid and the Soviet Union was our perfect foil and boogeyman, I could get quite excited about the olympics.  Now I’m middle aged and quite disillusioned and skeptical about the concept of nationalism.  Governments and ideologies pitted against one another, even in the realm of sports, hold no appeal for me.  It doesn’t matter to me if the fastest swimmer is from Idaho or Pyongyang.

  • Yar

    I love the Olympics, celebrating the youth and ability of the worlds best athletes shows that we are all part of the same humanity.  It troubles me that the cyber war program was dubbed Olympic Games.  The Olympics is intended to prevent war, and it was cynical to use the Olympic name for an act of war.  
    On a different note, I bet Chicago and the US is thankful that we are not hosting the games this summer.  How much are the games costing London?

    • Ray in VT

      I heard some commentator the other day saying that Barcelona was the last host city to make some very good long term returns on everything that went into their runup to the Olympics.  I also think that the games have gotten too big and are too much about the spectacle.  Lake Placid hosted the games back in 1980, and I’ve heard it descibed as the last small town Olympics.  I can’t imagine another small town hosting these days.

      I agree a bit with Victor’s sentiment below about the games having lost some of that lustre that it had when I was a kid, but, unlike him, I still like to see the national competition, and I want to see our atheletes on the podium (preferably on top).

      • jefe68

        Lake Placid was the Winter Olympics, which were a lot smaller back in 1980. You can’t really host winter games in a major city without some good sky mountains near by.

        • Ray in VT

          Do you have any idea how much the winter games have expanded in the past 30 years?  I know that they’ve added snowboarding and maybe the skeleton, but it seems like the events are largely the same.

          I realize the problem of comparing the summer and winter games.  It seems like the summer games are given to having larger groups of spectators.  The winter games do have somewhat limited options in terms of where to site themselves, given that one needs good mountains, and big rink (or two or three) and the facilities to host all of the people attending.

      • TFRX

        What about the World Cup as a comparison?

        I mean, I love football. It’s such a great game that it will even survive Sepp Blatter!

        Some of the economics of the South Africa event just boggled the mind. As an American, I understand this country doesn’t “get” soccer much, which I consider crucial to having had the open reporting we got about it. The next one in Qatar sounds even worse.

        It seems like the World Cup and the Olympics are in a race to top each other in unwieldy outsizeness, only able to perch on a highwire owing to corporate largess.

      • nj_v2

        I’m with Victor (earlier post) on this. I don’t much care where the athletes are from. The enjoyment comes from watching well trained athletes performing at a high level and from learning about competitors’ interesting personal stories. 

        The emphasis on nationality/nationalism and medal counts seem unseemly to me and counter to the purported spirit of the Games. 

        Of course, the developed, rich countries will generally be able to field more athletes and provide them with more support, and not that any particular individual can’t have a compelling story, but i’m always cheering for competitors from obscure countries who may have come from a ragtag background and succeeded against all odds.

        • Ray in VT

          I can agree with just about everything that you’ve said here, nj, but there still enough nationalism in me to want to see the stars and stripes get raised the highest.  On the personal stories and such, I agree that they are very interesting, and often quite compelling, but I wish that U.S. coverage would show the events more.  We tuned into the CBC during the Vancouver games, and we had that luxury up here near the border, and they were showing events live and more of them it seemed.

          • TFRX

            American broadcasters seem to do a horrible job of favoring taped events and “speshies” (special interest pieces backgrounding the personal stories of athletes) when the Games are right here in the Americas and therefore there are plenty of events going on live during our prime time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-Peck/1698651022 Christopher Peck

    While I’ve been enthusiastically watching Euro 2012, I have to be reminded there is an Olympiad this summer. With the exception of ice hockey at the Winter Games, I don’t care about the Olympics anymore. They are a bloated mess full of sports no one cares about for the four years in between.

  • J__o__h__n

    I stopped watching the Olympics.  Many races are determined by a nothingth of a second and the advantage is often due to the suit or shoes. 

    • nj_v2

      Well, if the Olympics went back to their roots and people competed naked, that would solve that problem. Bet you’d watch then!

      • Ray in VT

        Yeah, but if it did go back to it’s roots, then it would be for men only.  Naked dudes running the hurdles might be funny, but I would not be tuning it.

        • Adks12020

          oh man.  I used to run hurdles and I can tell you that would be dangerous.  The goal is to come as close to the hurdle as possible without hitting it.  Not sure I’d be so willing to get close with something precious to me hanging so close…lol

          • Ray in VT

            Hmmm.  How cold is it in London that time of year?

          • J__o__h__n

            Probably not cold enough to stop the hurdles from being a challenge. 

        • Terry Tree Tree


      • TFRX

        If you really want to go old school, wouldn’t they all be covered in olive oil?

        What the Games would lose in sponsorship from Nike and Adidas they’d gain from Colavita or Filippo Berio.

      • J__o__h__n


      • JGC

        I wonder if this is the sort of insightful commentary Tom Ashbrook has in mind when he encourages his listeners to share (I’m just reading the comments below as well from J_o_h_n, Tfralphxout, Ray in VT and Adks12020)…

        • Ray in VT

          Oh come one, we’re just having a bit of fun.  We all need some levity now and then.

          • JGC

            I know, I’m laughing, too. It was just that I was deep in thought, juxtaposing the ideas of world peace through events like the Olympics and artists like Yoko Ono, and personal excellence in performance through sport and through art, and now suddenly I’m thinking about naked guys sailing over the hurdle. ;)

          • Ray in VT

            Ok, JGC.  I wasn’t sure if you were being critical or not.  It’s so hard to tell sometimes.  I try to find the humor in a lot of serious things, and it gets me in trouble sometimes.

          • Terry Tree Tree

            Ewww!  Nude Guys don’t interest me.  Not even to see how they would avoid the obvious dangers.

      • Terry Tree Tree

        I’d watch the Women’s events!

    • Adks12020

      Shoes? Really? I ran track for years and I can tell you that the shoes track and field athletes use for races basically consist of nothing but the lightest fabric possible and spikes on the bottom. They don’t create any advantage for any runner. They all use them.

      The suits in swimming create less drag but, again, just about everyone uses them and many of the winners don’t use them so the advantage is negligable.

      The Olympics is exciting precisely because the competition is often so close.  The gap between the premier atheltes is so tiny in many cases that anyone can win. 

  • Tfralphxout

    As we’re all on the Olympics, I just had to link to this movie. It’s a bit of a lost gem.

  • Chris B

    The last Olympics in 2008 it seemed like 90% of the coverage was beach volleyball  I’m sure that had nothing to do with the bikinis, though.

  • Chris B

    What really is a drag about the four year interval is that many of the elite athletes, particularly in sports like figure skating or gymnastics, have a pretty short time window when they’re really at the top of their game.  Some of them peak and are gone during that four year gap.  Getting a shot at Olympic glory is as much about sheer luck on the timing.

  • nj_v2

    Ugh, we’re starting off talking about medal counts. 

  • Jan K.

    My daughter and I are enthusiastically watching the various olympic trials that are currently being televised.  We are ready to camp out to watch the gymnastics trials next weekend.  I understand that this is the first time in many olypmics that the US Gymnastics team is being picked using a trial format.  Why is that?  Has the sport of gymnatsics and the selection of the US team been as controlled as was pointed out in Dominique Moceanu’s new book “Off Balance”?  I hope this means that all gymnasts are getting a fair chance to compete as they do in all the other sports.

  • LinP

    As a swimming family–two Div 1 collegiate swimmers, one Div 3 swimmer, and parents who are masters swimmers–the summer Olympics are thrilling. The world is riveted on swimming for those few weeks, then it spirals back into benign oblivion. :)

    • TomK in Boston

      Hi LinP – as an aging masters sprinter my adrenaline still gets going watching a 50 or 100 and I’m thrilled to have swimming on tv for a change. I love swimming and swimmers.

      • Rob (in NY)

        Agree.    I really enjoy the swimming events as well.  While I l love competitive sport in general, there is something about swimming that really gets me pumped up.   I enjoy the preliminary qualifying heats almost as much as the Olympic finals.  It is great that so many of the qualifying heats are being televised this year  

        On a personal note, I took up swimming competitively as an adult after I starting competing (or more accurately participating) in Ironman triathlon.    I found it much more challenging to become a stronger swimmer, than becoming a faster runner or cyclist because swimming is very much a technique driven sport.   Over time, it has become the most enjoyable form of exercise for me.   As I get older, I still feel good after a 4000 meter swim workout with 100m sprints on short rest.  I can no longer say the same thing about running speed work (400s and 800s on the track), which  brings a greater risk of injury.   

  • Ray in VT
    • jefe68

      Me too, that story is pretty funny.

  • Frenchman924

    This e

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    How about the controversy over that strange logo that cost almost a million dollars ??   

  • J__o__h__n
  • http://twitter.com/frenchman_alan Scot Couturier, Jr.

    This edition of the Olympiad will be one of the greatest on the Velodrome – track cycling at its prime.  Sir Chris Hoy, with home-field advantage, will take his World Champion Great Britain squad up against the very fast Australians in an epic show of human ability.  I just hope it’s televised here in the states.

  • Danpowell

    I found George from Myrtle Beach’s comments interesting. He claimed to have swam in the 10,000 m in the 1962 trials. Neither of which occurred

  • Heaviest Cat

    I wish, “pubic” radio would do a show on the impact of the Olympics on the host city and how taxpayers are ripped off for buildings erected and never used after the games. not to mention how the city’s homeless are whisked “out of the way”. enough crap talk about the “Olympic spirit” and “determined young athletes”

  • Pingback: XUSIE 24 hours worldwide news » US Swimming Olympic Trials 2012: Michael Phelps 3rd-fastest in … – SportingNews.com

  • http://euonymous.wordpress.com euonymous

    The most fascinating part of this hour, for me, was “George” who called in to observe that his own Olympic training, back in the 60′s I think he said, and his subsequent life experience taught him: work life and the Olympics share something in common. We are trained our whole professional lives for a few key seconds of contribution to the organization. For some of us there’s truth in that.  Tech companies of the 60′s-70′s-80′s did a lot of employee training (as does the government/military). That gave us the tools.  While we all work at whatever we do every day, there are a few key moments and decisions where we really earn our keep.  For sales that may be landing a huge major account or breaking into a new market.  For engineering it may be creating something new and exciting.  For marketing it may be finding a new way to present a product, opening up huge opportunities.  For legal or accounting it may be keeping (or getting) the organization out of trouble.  I thought that was a brilliant observation.  

    Nice show. The sort of thing that stimulates thought and reminds you why you listen to NPR. Thanks.

  • Pingback: XUSIE 24 hours worldwide news » Phelps tallies third-quickest time in 200 fly prelims – SI.com

  • Max

    What am I following?  Fencing.  Yep!  Without a doubt, and by far, THE coolest sport!  I find fencing attractive because fencing is very much a cerebral endeavor.  Once conditioning and practice install the necessary skills into muscle memory, the game moves to the brain. It’s fast, requires intense focus, instant reflexes, all in a culture that highly values friendship and true respect.

  • Sweatersoup

    http://musicfeeds.com.au/news/musicians-playing-the-olympics-wont-be-getting-paid/ I enjoy the olympics but shouldn’t everybody who works to make it great be properly recognized for helping to make it great? I.e.–shouldn’t the musicians be paid??

  • Salzburg

    It’s a hard Olympics to get geared up for. London or the Olympic committee really failed to put enough information out their as they prepared their venue and city. Considering how much background preparation goes into pulling off a successful sporting event we haven’t heard much about the architects, designers, planners, safety coordinations, etc. Of course the information about the athletics themselves is for most, but we have that. The Olympics being in London just doesn’t seem special.

  • Kivenaberham

    the race of the athlete matters. most American both white and black don’t consider kristi yamaguchi an american, american think of her as japanese. and fact are white americans  well root other white athletes and black american will root for black athletes. facts are facts. if you see a bunch of white people on the tv screen. most likely you will not see any black viewer on screen!

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