Friday, July 20, 2012

Millions get set to join London 2012 Olympic Games

AP photo
I'm an Olympic junkie. It's not because of the sports, although I enjoy watching almost everything. What draws me in are the heartwarming, fist-pumping, tear-jerking behind-the-scene stories that emerge throughout every Olympic Games.

Sure, we root for the home team. But often the circumstances surrounding the competitions create heroes who move us to root for the person rather than the country.

Olympic Torch bearer Patti "Turville" Farquaharson.
Consider 1988 Olympic Torch bearer Patti Farquaharson. She filled out 300 entry forms over the course of a year to be eligible for the ultimate prize: the honor of carrying the Olympic torch on her home turf during the Calgary Olympics. The Canadian schoolteacher and mom proved to her students that in order to be part of something great you have to at least try. The summer before Canadian sailor Larry Lemieux was on his way to winning an Olympic medal in Seoul when he saw two men from Singapore whose craft had capsized in turbulent waves. He changed course and saved the lives of those two men, but in doing so, lost any chance of winning a medal. 

And who can forget Romania's Nadia Elena Commaneci, the gymnast who emerged from behind the Iron Curtain and warmed the hearts of everyone on both sides of the Cold War with her amazing perfect 10 score.  

Also inspiring was the example set by Britain's Derek Redmond at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He was expected to compete for a medal in the 400- meter run, but pulled a hamstring in the backstretch and crumpled to the ground. He could have called for a stretcher and left the field. Instead he pulled himself up and with his father at his side, hobbled down the final 200 meter stretch to complete the race. 

It's people like this who illustrate what's most important about the Olympics and that is "not to win but to take part!" 

Take a look at the stories likely to unfold at the 2012 London Olympics, set to begin on July 27:
AP Photo/Victoria Will
American weightlifter Holley Mangold, at left, first made news playing offensive line as the only girl on her high school football team in Ohio. But she switched sports a few years ago and now the 5-foot-8 sister of New York Jets Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold will compete at the London Olympics as a superheavyweight in weightlifting.

Britain's Ben Ainslie pictured above, celebrates after winning the gold medal during the Finn sailing competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Qingdao, China. If you love sailing this is one person to watch at the London Olympics, as the 35-year-old Ainslie is hoping to win his fourth straight gold medal, and fifth straight medal overall, which would make him the most successful Olympic sailor ever.

Jerome Singleton AP Photo/Victoria Will
Paralympic sprinter Jerome Singleton, posing for his portrait at the 2012 Team USA Summit in Dallas, will get his shot to become the fastest in the world -- and the chance to gain a platform for his sport like rival sprinter Oscar Pistorius from South Africa.

Joshua Richmong AP Photo/Victoria Will

Joshua Richmond shown above at the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in Dallas is carrying the colors of his country again. The staff sergeant is a member of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, based at Fort Benning, Ga., and is also a member of the U.S. shooting team heading to the London Olympics. "It's the best of both worlds," he said. "I'm serving my country with whatever uniform I'm wearing."

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Shown competing at the men's judo heavyweight division preliminaries at the Beijing 2088 Olympics are Israel's Arik Zeevi, white, and France's Frederic Demontfaucon. Zeevi has already earned his place among the country's sporting pantheon, as one of only six Israelis to have won an Olympic medal. Stil the 35-year-old judoka, who recently won a European title, is not ready to leave the mats. He's got one more fight left in him: a run at the 2012 London Olympics. "The fact that I'm 35 years is an advantage because I have experience," Zeevi told The Associated Press. "I'm trying to take the advantage of my age and bring it to the match. But I don't fool myself. I know that to bring results in my age is very difficult."

AP Photo/The World-Herald, Alyssa Schukar
 Always inspiring is the United States swim team, pictured above at the final night of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, July 2, in Omaha, Neb.

The London 2012 Games is expected to attract 28,000 members of the media, providing awe-inspiring images such as this photo taken by Mark J. Terrill. 

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
London's games could be a historical event for international sports as all of the participating nations are expected to field at least one female athlete, including three Muslim countries — Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia — that have previously sent only male competitors. Hoping to join their Olympic team in London are members of the Saudi female soccer team, who posed before a training session at a secret location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Back row, standing from left are: Rawh Abdullah, Saudi, 28; Rana Al Khateeb, Saudi, 23; and Mawada Chaballout, American, 27. Bottom row are: Mashael Abdullah, Saudi 27; left, and Lamia Fahad, Saudi, 24.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are expected to officially open the games. NBC will broadcast 271 hours of London Olympic coverage over 17 days beginning with the Opening Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on Friday, July 27. Livestream online will also be available.