With the Opening Ceremony one week away, NBC is preparing for the pomp and pageantry of the XXX Olympiad with “30 Greatest NBC Olympic Moments,” airing at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 21.
Visitors to NBCOlympics.com were invited to view videos of 30 selected memorable Olympic moments and vote for their top three. The results will be revealed during the one-hour special.
Olympic legend Carl Lewis made the cut for his performance in the sprint relay in 1992. After failing to make the U.S. team at 100 meters, in which Lewis had won the last two Olympic gold medals, the 31-year-old won long jump gold. Lewis then anchored the 4x100 relay squad to victory — in world record time — for his eighth career gold medal.
Also among the unforgettable moments, both triumphant and tragic, is the vault by gymnast Kerri Strug, which secured the gold medal for the U.S. Women's Gymnastic Team, also known as the Magnificent Seven, in 1996. Strug, who had a reputation for “faltering on big stages,” fell on the first of two vaults, injuring her ankle. Limping back to the top of the runway, with coach Bela Karolyi bellowing, “You can do it!” Strug took a moment to compose herself before charging down the runaway, executing a perfect Yurchenko one-and-a-half and sticking the landing before collapsing to the mat in agony.
The vault scored a 9.712 to secure the win, and the Magnificent Seven remain the only U.S. women's team to claim Olympic Gold in gymnastics.
Other Olympic moments presented for consideration include:
2004 - Carly Patterson wins all-around (gymnastics)
2004 - Paul Hamm Wins all-around (gymnastics)
1996 - Donovan Bailey's 100m gold in world record time (track and field)
1996 - Michael Johnson's 200m world record
1992 - Derek Redmond limps across the line with his father (track and field)
1992 - Dream Team wins gold (basketball)
1992 - Jackee Joyner Kersee repeats as heptathlon champion
NBC's coverage of the XXX Olympiad, taking place in London July 27-August 12, begins with the Opening Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 27.
2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas and the rest of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team, which took home the first team gold medal for the U.S. since 1996 at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, will visit the “Late Show with David Letterman,” airing at 11:35 p.m., Tuesday, August 14 on CBS.
“I definitely had this amazing feeling,” Douglas said of her mindset during the heat of prestigious “All-Around” competition, which determines the world’s best overall female gymnast. “I just told myself, ‘Believe. Don’t fear, just believe.’ I didn’t really think about making mistakes. I just wanted to represent everyone, not just myself — Team USA, coaches, family. I wanted to show my best routines and just enjoy the moment.”
“She is a very graceful gymnast and also she has the strength and determination,” said Douglas’ head coach, Liang Chow. “I am totally beside myself. I think it was a wonderful night, and for me as a coach, that was a wonderful dream come true — to have an Olympic Champion.”
Now known as the “Fierce Five,” Gabby and the girls, Alexandra “Aly” Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross have also had success on the individual medal front — Maroney won silver in the women’s vault, and team captain Raisman took home gold in the floor exercise and bronze in the balance beam event.
“She showed such great improvement, it is incredible in such a short time,” Women’s National Team Coordinator Martha Karolyi said of Douglas, who is the latest in a line of American all-around champions, including Mary Lou Retton (1984), Carly Patterson (2004) and Nastia Liukin (2008). “I have never seen an average, but good, gymnast five months ago climb up to be the best in the world. That’s the truth.”
Douglas, whose smiling face and shiny gold medal currently grace the cover of “People” magazine, will headline the 2012 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions coming to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday, November 9. In addition to her Fierce Five teammates, the tour will also feature Olympians John Orozco, Jake Dalton, Jonathan Horton, Sam Mikulak and men’s all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva, as well as 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin.
“Oprah’s Next Chapter” presents a special two hour episode as 10 of the greatest Summer Olympic legends come together and Oprah Winfrey goes inside their triumphs and untold stories, and discovers what happens after the glory on “Oprah Salutes Superstar Olympians,” airing at 8 p.m., Sunday, July 22 on OWN.
As the world prepares for the 2012 Summer Games, taking place in London July 27– August 12, Winfrey sits down with 10 legendary Olympic legends including track and field stars Carl Lewis, Jackie Joyner Kersee and Al Joyner; celebrated gymnasts Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou Retton and Shawn Johnson; diver Greg Louganis and world record-breaking swimmers Janet Evans and Mark Spitz.
According to the network, Mary Joyner, the daughter of Al Joyner and the late Florence Griffith Joyner, talks to Winfrey about how her mother’s death has impacted her life. A pretty and popular sprinter, Griffith Joyner, who came to be known simply as “Flo-Jo,” is considered “the fastest woman of all time,” based on the fact that she still holds the world record for both the 100 meters and 200 meters, both set in 1988 and never seriously challenged. The image of pure rapture as her husband Al scooped her up and joyously spun her around after her gold medal victory in the 100 meters at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 is one that still endures in the annals of sport. Flo-Jo died suddenly of epilepsy in 1998 at the age of 38.
Winfrey’s salute to the superstars of summer will also include an in-depth look at who to watch in 2012, including Lolo Jones (track & field), Gabby Douglas (gymnastics), Missy “The Missile” Franklin (swimming), Michael Phelps (swimming), Carmelita Jeter (track & field) and Jordan Wieber (gymnastics). Also featured is Winfrey’s conversation with decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner about life after the Olympics.
The world will finally experience the pomp and pageantry of the Games of the XXX Olympiad, taking place July 27 to Aug. 12, beginning with the Opening Ceremony, being broadcast tonight at 7:30 p.m. on NBC 10. With the lighting of the Olympic Torch, the two weeks of drama, triumph and tragedy that make the Summer Olympics so compelling will officially begin.
Michelle Obama, the first lady of the United States, will be leading the US presidential delegation at London 2012, which will include a ringside seat at the Opening Ceremony.
"Leading our nation's delegation and traveling to London is truly a dream come true," Obama said of her three-day visit. "If anybody had asked me when I was 10 or 11, or actually 40, whether I would have been doing this, I would have bet not. Some of my fondest memories when I was young and not so young involved watching the Olympics on TV and cheering on Team USA."
Many Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including US gymnast Dominique Dawes and basketball player Grant Hill, who both won gold at the 1996 Olympics, will be part of the U.S. delegation.
Obama is due at a Buckingham Palace reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II for the heads of state and to meet Prime Minister David Cameron's wife Samantha. Her official duties before departing on July 29 will include meeting with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the U.S. Olympic alumni athletes and Team USA supporters.
The theme for this year's Opening Ceremony is "Isle of Wonder, and while details such as who will light the Olympic Torch have largely been kept under wraps, it has been disclosed that Paul McCartney will perform at the end of the ceremony.
As competition gets underway, there are a number of intriguing stories to capture your attention and your imagination, such as Serena Williams' ongoing pursuit of her first Olympic gold medal in women's singles, as well as her attempt to add a third doubles gold to the two titles that she shares with her sister, Venus.
In Track & Field, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards Ross return to pursue gold in both the 200 and 400 meters, while sprinter Tyson Gay, along with Justin Gatlin, the 100 meter gold medalist in 2004, will resume the fierce rivalry with Jamaican speedsters Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake.
London could mean redemption for hurdler Lolo Jones, the favorite in 2008. With the gold medal all but in her hand, Jones clipped a hurdle late in the race, and broke stride in Beijing, allowing Dawn Harper, her American teammate, to blow past her, cross the finish line and claim the gold.
Swimmer Cullen Jones, who won gold in Beijing's heart-stopping 100 meter freestyle relay with Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gayle and Jason Lezak, comes to his second Olympics seeking individual glory in the 50 meter and 100 meter freestyle.
In the marquee sport of gymnastics, U.S. Men's Champion John Orozco, a Bronx native, is expected to vie for the all-around gold, as is Gabrielle Douglas of Virginia Beach, the U.S.A.'s No. 1 Women's contender.
According to the network, NBC will broadcast 272.5 hours over 17 days, beginning with primetime coverage of the Opening Ceremony on July 27. Daytime coverage will begin on most weekdays at 10 a.m., immediately following the "TODAY Show," which will originate from London. On weekends, NBC's daytime shows will begin as early as 5 a.m. Primetime shows will typically air from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with a 30-minute break followed by an hour of late night coverage. London will be NBC's seventh consecutive Summer Games, dating back to Seoul 1988.
For a complete viewer's guide, video, interviews and comprehensive updates on the Summer Olympics, visit www.nbcolympics.com.
Officials preparing for London’s 2012 Olympics expect millions to visit the British capital and attend the world’s premiere athletic competition, scheduled to run from Friday, July 27, through Sunday, August 12.
But when the Olympic torch is snuffed out at the conclusion of the games, what happens to the Olympics site and its facilities built for the competitions?
The job of transforming the London Olympics site and its facilities into long-term use has for the past three years been the responsibility of an American-born, urban designer who graduated from Temple University, and who worked for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration as deputy mayor.
Andrew Altman is the chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, the entity tasked with plotting post-Olympics games development for the 500 acre site in East London that hosts most of the Olympics events and primary supporting services like the massive media center for the 20,000 journalists scheduled to work the games.
So how did an American obtain this pivotal post for the 2012 London Olympics, the third Olympics held in that city since 1908?
“The London Legacy Corporation asked [Altman] for recommendations to head up that very important Olympic venture. The more they talked to him and heard his ideas, the more they liked him for the position,” Oliver St. Clair Franklin said.
Philadelphia businessman Franklin, who frequently travels to London, knows Altman. Franklin serves as the Honorary British Consul for Philadelphia.
“Andy is a good Philly fellow and brings a unique vision to the planning process because he understands the commercial [aspect] as well as the elements of planning,” Franklin said.
Altman said professional associates urged him to apply for the CEO post he received in 2009, so he gave it a try.
“My name was mentioned because I worked before with the London School of Economics,” Altman said.
Altman graduated from Temple University with a degree in urban geography before obtaining a graduate degree in city planning. He’s held planning positions in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Oakland, working as Philadelphia’s First Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development when he was tapped for the LLDC post.
Altman has generated praise, according to numerous reports, for his key role in devising the vision for transitioning the Olympics site after the games into a new community that will eventually have nearly 8,000 new homes plus commercial and recreational facilities. The site is officially known as Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park,
As one published account stated, Altman “helped re-envision” the previous master plan for the park’s post-Olympics development.
“This was always about a regeneration project, an urban redevelopment project,” Altman said last fall when he met with a group of Temple University students who were studying in London.
“This place was an absolute dump,” Altman said, referencing the main Olympics site built atop old, industrial wasteland once shunned for being highly toxic.
Building on that site required cleaning over a million tons of toxic soil, scrubbed in specially constructed washing machines.
The Olympics site in East London abuts some of the poorest neighborhoods in London, and the entirety of England, a striking contrast to other sections of the increasingly gentrified city.
“This is literally a massive stimulus program for London,” Altman said when talking with the Temple students. “Our task with Legacy is to make sure we pass the “white elephant” test … will these things benefit East London?”
Finding an owner for the main Olympic stadium, transforming other competition sites like the Aquatics Center into a public swimming facility and building an eco-friendly park along the long-polluted River Lea are elements of Altman’s work paralleling construction of new residential neighborhoods on the site.
Turning the Athlete’s Village into residential use is a component of that neighborhood transformation.
Altman said that half of the housing in the Athlete’s Village, located in London’s Stratford section, “is already designated for local residents and low-income.”
The envisioned new neighborhoods in the park will feature mixed income [housing] — unlike the current low-income and increasingly gentrified upper-income.
“There are few opportunities for the middle-class, forcing many families to move outside of London. We are looking to rebalance the area from lower to upper income,” Altman said.
Altman, last month, announced his resignation as LLDC head, effective when the main games conclude in August.
“It has been a tremendous honor to lead this once-in-a-lifetime project that will transform the face of London and will be a spectacular example of city-building the world over,” Altman stated in a London media account.
That media account credited Altman for leadership “in laying the foundations for London’s Olympic legacy” leaving the capital with more advanced planning and execution “than any prior host city.”
London resident Zita Holbourne plans to participate in Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, held at the gleaming new stadium located not far from her community of Newham.
However, Holbourne, a trade union activist, is not participating as one of those lucky enough to have secured an expensive ticket to attend the glitzy Opening Ceremony.
Holbourne is participating in a community forum Friday on behalf of the legions of unlucky London residents who’ve received no jobs, no contracts or other economic benefits from this multi-billion dollar premier international sports competition, touted as a vehicle for helping low-income Londoners.
“The Olympics have been a disaster. The Olympics have not created opportunity for Black communities,” Holbourne said.
British officials secured the Olympics for London on pledges of providing improvements for low-income and minority residents in England’s capital city. Nearly half of London’s population is non-white.
Holbourne, co-chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, will participate in an “Alternative Opening” not far from the stadium to continue efforts opposing austerity policies of the United Kingdom’s conservative government that many across that nation say are producing rising unemployment, injustice and inequality.
Omowale Rupert, a member of London’s Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum, said the 2012 Olympics is “being used as an excuse to siphon money from the pockets of ordinary people — the bills will be left for us and the profits will go to the transnationals.”
Rupert once competed as a high jumper in international track-&-field meets, including the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
The London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) is the first ever Olympic organizing committee to have a Diversity and Inclusion Division.
Preparations for the games did achieve many of LOCOG’s stated goals like reclaiming long derelict toxic industrial wasteland in East London (where the stadium and other game’s sites were constructed).
Yet LOCOG’s pledges for jobs and contracting opportunities, particularly for uplifting Black, ethnic, minority and low income whites living in the five London boroughs abutting the 560-acre Olympic Park remain unfulfilled, according to many community leaders and residents from those five “host” boroughs.
The host borough of Tower Hamlets, for example, has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in London, but only 1,700 residents from that borough held any of the tens of thousands of Olympics-related construction or retail jobs, according to a report in one London newspaper earlier this week.
London Olympic officials have earmarked one-third of the post-Olympics housing in the apartments built to shelter athletes for low-income residents of those host boroughs. Officials said 27 percent of the work force that built the athlete’s housing lived in the host boroughs, but foreign workers imported on construction contracts were counted as “local residents” if they found housing in the host boroughs.
The majority of the Olympic facilities, including the main stadium and the athlete’s housing, are located in the host borough of Newham.
“Newham is an area where minority ethnic people make up the majority of the population and in [Great Britain] over one million young people are unemployed with one in two young Black people unemployed,” Zita Holbourne said.
“Newham was one of three boroughs where the deepest cuts were made to the budget as part of the [conservative government’s] austerity program. Yet it is one of the poorest boroughs,” Holbourne said, explaining that austerity budget cuts mean severe slashes in services, jobs and facilities.
Insult to Injury
The latest edition of The Voice, Britain’s most influential Black newspaper, carried the lead headline: “Broken Promise – The Olympic Diversity Dream has failed to deliver.”
In another example of diversity disappointment, London Olympics officials denied The Voice credentials to cover the coveted track-and-field competitions inside the stadium.
A petition drive initiated by Holbourne, plus wide-ranging pressure from across Britain, forced London Olympics officials into a reversal where they provided The Voice coverage credentials for those competitions filled with non-white athletes.
Business development specialist Devon Thomas, director of Lambeth Enterprise, and a respected community leader in the Brixton section of London, said he isn’t “disillusioned” about failed Olympic diversity pledges, because he had “no illusions” about Olympic inclusion.
“Black people received nothing contract-wise. The big boys on the inside sliced up the contracts,” Thomas said.
“I brought together an international consortium including firms from America. We had capacity to perform construction but we were still left out. The European boys cleaned up,” Thomas said.
“Exclusion is institutional. We get a tiny flake of a crumb.”
Simon Woolley is another London leader who considers exclusion as one of the “greatest tragedies” in this Olympics that British officials secured based on pledges to utilize Olympics-related economic expenditures to close remaining inequality gaps.
“It dawned on us early that organizers’ where not beholden to opportunities for the ‘left out.’ I went to a main Olympics sponsor and asked for [diversity] involvement and I was run out of that major bank. The exclusion is truly shocking,” Operation Black Vote head Woolley said. OBV is one of Britain’s most prominent civil rights/human rights activist organizations.
As London officials focused on finalizing Olympic preparations during the past three months, including mobilizing more military assets for security than Britain sent to America’s war in Iraq, activists in that city hosted separate programs featuring two American Olympic legends: Tommy Smith and John Carlos.
During the 1968 Olympics, Smith and Carlos performed the iconic Black Power salute protest against racist deprivations when receiving their medals for taking first and third respectively in the 200-meter dash.
“Massive crowds came out to see Tommy Smith and John Carlos. They were well received,” Omowale Rupert said.
Paul Bower, who worked on securing Olympics related jobs for residents of the host boroughs, reminded that LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic champion, said LOCOG couldn’t solve everything while stressing that LOCOG’s job was to put on a big show.
“I think people are fairly positive about the Olympics,” Bower said. “The gap between rich and poor is pretty much ignored by the [ruling] conservative party.”
Ira Davis, a three-time Olympic track and field standout, will be making a special trip to London to the XXX Summer Olympics. Davis, former Overbrook High and La Salle standout, will be making the trip with his good friend, Herb Douglas, who was a bronze medalist in the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
“I’m really excited about it,” Davis said. “I’m really happy for Herb. He’s an alumnus of the 1948 Olympic Games. It’s going to be nice to go back. I’m going to represent La Salle at the games. Herb is going to represent the University of Pittsburgh. We had talked about this at Herb’s 90th birthday party this year.”
Davis and Douglas will fly out of Philadelphia to London August 1. Davis, 75, competed in the Olympics in 1956 (Melbourne), 1960 (Rome) and 1964 (Tokyo). He was a triple jumper and came very close to winning the bronze medal in 1960. In fact, he missed a bronze medal by two centimeters.
“I was fortunate to participate in three Olympics,” said Davis, who is retired and lives in Royal Palm Beach, Fla. “I’m really proud of that. It was a great experience. It was great to be able to compete against some of the greatest athletes in the world.”
Davis was a tremendous performer in track and field. He had a great scholastic career at Overbrook High. His talents weren’t limited to just the triple jump.
He was a terrific sprinter at La Salle. In 1958, he won the 100-yard dash with a winning time of 9.6 seconds at the IC4A championship. That same year he was the Penn Relays champion in the 100-yard dash and the triple jump. He broke several Explorer track records and at one time held the American record for the triple jump with 53 feet, 11 inches. In 1964, he was selected to Sport Magazine’s All-Time Track and Field team.
In addition to his track and field exploits, Davis was a pretty good basketball player. He played on some championship Overbrook High basketball teams that featured basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain during the 1950s.
“I’ve had a great career,” Davis said. “It’s nice to look back at these days. Of course, going back to the Olympics is really special. I’m really happy about that.”
LONDON — Eyeing the trackside clock as she approached the finish line, Carmelita Jeter pointed the black baton in her left hand at those bright orange numbers.
She wanted to make sure everyone saw what she saw: The United States was breaking the world record in the women's 4x100-meter relay — and it wasn't even close.
Allyson Felix, Tianna Madison and Bianca Knight built a big lead, and Jeter brought it home Friday night, anchoring the U.S. to its first Olympic gold medal in the sprint relay since 1996 with a time of 40.82, more than a half-second better than a record that had stood for 27 years.
"As I'm running, I'm looking at the clock and seeing this time that's like 37, 38, 39. In my heart, I said, 'We just did it!' I definitely knew we ran well," Jeter said. "When I crossed the finish line, I had so many emotions because we haven't been able to get the gold medal back to the U.S."
Felix collected her second gold of the London Games, along with the one she won in the 200 meters, while Jeter completed a set, adding to her silver in the 100 and bronze in the 200.
"I just knew if we had clean baton passes that we would definitely challenge the world record. Smash it like we did? We had no idea," Madison said, "but I knew it was in us."
The American quartet erased the old mark of 41.37 run by East Germany in October 1985. Here's how long ago that was: Jeter was 5, Madison was a month old, and Felix and Knight weren't even born.
"It's an absolutely unreal feeling. It just feels like for so long, we looked at women's sprints and the records were so out of reach. To look up and see we had a world record, it was just crazy," said Felix, who gets a shot at a third gold in the 4x400 final Saturday. "I didn't think that was going to happen."
Jamaica won the silver medal in a national record of 41.41 seconds, with a team of 100 champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 100 bronze medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown, Sherone Simpson and Kerron Stewart.
"All their girls are in top shape this year. You can't say they didn't deserve it. They prepared for it and they came out here and they delivered," Fraser-Pryce said. "For us, it's back to the drawing board."
The bronze went to the Ukraine in 42.04.
Madison ran the opening leg, and Felix the second. Then, with Knight approaching for the final handoff, Jeter took nine strides, reached her hand back and took a perfect exchange. Jeter was staring at the clock as she covered the final 10 meters — and she jutted the stick in that direction.
"I saw the huge lead that we have, and I looked up on the board and saw the time flash, and I was so confused," Felix said. "I was like, 'That is not a 4x100 time.' I was waiting, and then I saw the world record, and I was like, 'This is insane.' It was just a beautiful thing to see. As soon as Bianca passed to 'Jet,' it was done."
Afterward, the quartet of champions paused to watch a replay of their record performance on the scoreboard at 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. When Jeter was shown crossing the finish line, Knight punched the air.
The perfect trip around the track ended a string of disappointments for the U.S. in the event.
In Athens eight years ago, Lauryn Williams was involved in a bad exchange in the final, leaving her team without a medal. In Beijing four years ago, the Americans didn't even reach the final because Torri Edwards and Williams bobbled the last exchange in the semifinals. That marked the first time since 1948 that the U.S. wasn't involved in the women's 4x100 medal race at the Summer Games.
This time they were back in the final — and now they're champions again, too.
"It's a relief. It's a joy. It's everything," Felix said. "We went into this race and it was the most comfortable I've seen this team. We were laughing and smiling. We've never been like that. We were confident. We felt good. We were confident in the passes, and it showed."
And Williams even gets a gold medal this time, because she ran a leg in Thursday's semifinal.
"Talking about the 'botched handoff' is history now," Madison said. "She has completely obliterated that from her record." -- (AP)
As strange as it may seem, even after nearly three weeks of non-stop athletic drama, even after nearly 11,000 participants from more than 200 countries have competed for a total of 302 gold medals, we still don’t really know who the “real winners” will be for the 2012 London Olympics, when all is said and done.
When I say “real winners,” I don’t mean, like, the 100-meter dash, the long jump, or the all-around gymnastic competition. We do know that. That’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m referring, instead, to which organizations, which athletes, will come away from London with an economic advantage, and which ones — medal or no medal — absolutely will not.
According to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) own recent report, the organization generated $5.4 billion in the four-year period up to, and including, the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing. Indications are that IOC revenues for the four-year period ending at the London event will be in the astounding range of $7 billion.
The IOC claims, with a perfectly straight face, that 90 percent of all of that cash, including the $1.2 billion it received from its broadcast sponsor, NBC Universal, goes to support “organizations throughout the Olympic Movement,” and that it only retains about 10 percent of that to cover its own administrative expenses.
Despite those very noble sentiments, when you do the math, you see that, after London, Beijing and all of the other Summer Olympics events before that, U.S. athletes — on the whole — have come away holding the short end of the stick.
It’s not that the IOC is broke — not even close. In fact, on July 23, the International Olympic Organizing Committee announced that its financial situation was “strong and safe,” that it was in possession of $588 million in reserves (up from $105 million in 2001) and that television and sponsorship revenues are continuing to increase. IOC President Jacques Rogge even went on to say that the Committee’s financial plan calls for surpassing $4 billion in TV rights for the next Olympics, up from $3.9 billion generated, leading up to London.
At about the same time, the IOC also confirmed that, up through 2021, its U.S. arm, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), would participate in 12 percent of all IOC TV broadcasting rights fees and 20 percent of all fees generated from the 11 “TOP” Olympic corporate sponsors, an amount estimated at an additional $957 million, as of July, 2012. That, by the way, doesn’t even include revenues from domestic sponsorships generated directly by the USOC.
Again, let’s do the math, but this time let’s focus on the participation of the athletes, themselves, in all of that loot. Adding the USOC’s 12 percent of the $3.9 billion in TV rights, together with its 20 percent of the $957 million in “TOP” sponsor fees, gives the USOC about $659 million in revenues, in those two categories, alone.
And what part of that is shared with the athletes? Not much, it seems.
In London, for example, other than travel expenses, the 530 American Olympians received no direct financial support from the federal government. Aside from the honor of representing their country, U.S. athletes could only look forward to receiving financial rewards if they happened to actually win a gold, silver or bronze medal. Such an accomplishment would earn them $25,000, $15,000 or $10,000, respectively.
According to the most recent count, as of Friday, U.S. athletes had earned 90 medals, in all, 30 gold, 25 silver and 26 bronze. That adds up to $1,610,000, or just .02 percent of the $659 million of USOC revenues. I don’t know ... it just seems as though they could do substantially more.
According to Matt Rudnitzky of Sports Grid, 50 percent of U.S. athletes who rank in the top 10 in their events in track and field earn less than $15,000 annually, including sponsorships, grants and prize money. And, contrary to the popular perception that all Olympic athletes are living the lush life of swimmer Michael Phelps, whose estimated net worth following the Beijing Olympics jumped to $50 million as a result of endorsements from VISA, Powerball, Omega, Subway, AT&T Wireless and Speedo, the overwhelming majority of Olympic athletes go without any endorsement income at all, have to work part-time jobs to continue their training schedules and to support their families, and live essentially, from week-to-week and hand-to-mouth.
Perhaps that’s why, shortly after their arrival in London, several prominent U.S. athletes took to Twitter and spoke to traditional media outlets to register their formal complaints about the fact that Olympic athletes don’t participate, at a more reasonable level, in the Olympic Committee’s substantial profits.
In that regard, two of my newest hero-athletes now include Sanya Richards-Ross, this year’s women’s 400 meter gold medal winner and Nick Symmonds, a very accomplished, high-profile 800 meter runner. Richards exposed herself to great personal and financial risk when she said, “I just believe that the Olympic ideal and the Olympic reality are now different. I’ve been fortunate to do very well around the Olympics, but so many of my peers struggle in the sport.” Similarly, Symmonds, a guy I never previously cared very much about, did not hesitate, at all, to crawl out on the same financial limb that Sanya chose for herself, when he asked, very publicly: “How many have gotten rich using Olympic athletes’ free labor?”
My kind of people. I hope the IOC and the USOC were listening.
A large part of the protest by those two and by other courageous athletes, related to an IOC regulation called Rule 40, which prohibits Olympic athletes from advertising for non-Olympic sponsors, immediately prior to, or during, the Olympics.
What set off the athletes was the fact that the IOC went so far as to prohibit the Olympians from using their own Facebook or Twitter accounts to mention, or to depict themselves, in photos with products of their “personal sponsors.” Those sponsors are the same advertisers who, individually, provide revenues to the athletes during the course of the year, when the IOC and the USOC don’t.
For many athletes that was the final indignity. They began to use the hashtags #Wedemandchange and #Rule40 to make their case to the world. One of the most creative expressions was by American hurdler/silver medalist Dawn Harper, who tweeted a photo of herself with a duct tape gag over her mouth, on which the words “Rule 40” were printed.
It’ll be interesting to see how all that turns out.
In the meantime, I won’t be surprised at all to continue to see stories that give the false impression that most of our hard-working, Olympic athletes are already doing just fine, because 2008 gymnast Shawn Johnson became a “media darling” and is now worth an estimated $9 million; because Nastia Liukin, who won five gold medals as an Olympic gymnast, in the same year, now pulls down about $1 million annually in endorsements, or because the greatest sprinter in world history, Usain Bolt, earned about $20 million, in 2012.
Each of those deserving athletes is to be commended for being able to capitalize on their hard work and Olympic success. I can only hope that other young Olympians, such as Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Claressa Shields, Missy Franklin and Ashton Eaton can, somehow, follow their lead.
At the same time, we should remember that well-compensated and fairly compensated Olympians are still very much the absolute exception to the rule, and we should keep our eye on the larger ball.
It’s still too early to say, for certain, who the real winners of the London Olympics actually were. We’ll find out, shortly.
A. Bruce Crawley is president and principal owner of Millennium 3 Management Inc.
LONDON — Claressa “T-Rex” Shields gives new meaning to the term “girl power.”
The 17-year-old middleweight from Flint, Mich., is known for powerful combos and lightning footwork, and is the youngest competitor in women’s boxing, a new event at the London Olympics.
She’s also one of a crowd of female athletes grabbing the limelight at the 2012 Games, which are quickly shaping up as a watershed for women’s sports.
Cynics say Olympic organizers have been touting the coming of gender equality for years, but 2012 does bring several important crossovers.
For the first time, there are more women on the U.S. team than men, 269 to 261, and Russia’s team, which is nearly as big, is also majority-female. Saudi Arabia has sent its first two women to the competition, and the games feature what in all likelihood is the most pregnant athlete to compete in an Olympics: Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who is due to give birth to a girl any day now.
Even Britain’s poster athlete for the Games is a woman — heptathlete Jessica Ennis, who in addition to appearing on countless London billboards also beams up at arriving visitors from a field along the Heathrow airport flight path. A 173-by-264-foot likeness of the telegenic star is painted on the grass there.
“This is a big moment for women’s sports,” said Shields, who was stretching and shadowboxing at a sweltering training facility near the Olympic Village, her hands wrapped tightly in pink boxing tape, an American flag do-rag on her head.
Boxing was the last sport organizers needed to add so that women compete in all Summer Olympic events, “and now they have,” she said.
“How far have women come in the Olympics?” asked Karla Wolters, a retired professor and longtime coach of women’s softball at Hope College in Michigan. “Put it this way: If Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, knew that there were more (American) women than men in this year’s London Olympics, I’m sure he would be rolling over in his grave. He was totally against having women in the Olympics.”
Indeed, in the first games, in Athens in 1896, all 256 competitors were men. Women were allowed to compete four years later, with tennis player Charlotte Cooper the first champion. (Medals were not awarded until 1904.)
But the surge in high-profile women at the world’s premier sports competition is a relatively recent phenomenon. The numbers began to pick up in the 1990s.
“I’m proud to say that the Olympic movement is living up to its own ideals of fair play and mutual respect,” said Anita DeFrantz, a former Olympic rower and chair of the International Olympic Committee Women and Sport Commission. “All the sports on the program have women and men. I’m very proud where we are now that all the National Olympic Committees in the world will have women Olympians.”
DeFrantz said more women took part in Summer and Winter Games from 1998 through 2010 than in all the competitions from 1900 through 1984 combined, and 45 percent of the 10,800 athletes in London are women, a record. For the first time, every nation will have at least one female athlete.
While the Dream Team men’s basketball squad, American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt are still likely to generate the biggest headlines, female athletes such as American hurdler Lolo Jones and Italian swimmer Federica Pellegrini aren’t far behind. And in some of the less-followed sports, female athletes are the main story.
That is certainly the case in shooting, where fans are holding their breath to see whether Malaysia’s Taibi will give birth before competing in her specialty, the 10-meter air rifle competition. And in weightlifting, where American superheavyweight Holley Mangold has captured hearts with her irreverent, sometimes bawdy comments on living with obesity.
And then there’s Zara Phillips, the 31-year-old granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, who is competing in equestrian and expecting a few royal fans to show up to cheer her on.
Some women are making headlines off the court as well.
Victoria Pendleton, another British hometown girl, has parlayed her looks and growing fame into a marketing bonanza, appearing in shampoo ads and a racy lingerie shoot in which she proclaimed herself proud of her ultra-muscly thighs. One look at the photos and it’s easy to see why.
And U.S. women’s soccer goaltender Hope Solo, who is pitching a memoir she just wrote, turned heads with some comments to ESPN the Magazine about widespread sex in the athletes’ village during the Beijing Olympics.
Still, there have been several reminders in the lead-up to the competition that total equality hasn’t arrived just yet.
Australia booked its women’s basketball team to fly to the games in coach, while the men got business-class treatment. Ditto for Japan’s women’s soccer squad, which had to squeeze into economy despite the fact they are world champions, while the men, who are not expected to medal, stretched out at the front of the plane.
And DeFrantz said there is much work to do before women have an equal say in the business of the games. The 100-strong IOC has only 14 women, though one, former hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco, on Thursday became the first woman to be elected a vice president.
“On the field of play, we are nearly there,” DeFrantz said. “It’s in the decision-making sense — in the rooms and halls — that we have more work to be done.”
Tennis legend Billie Jean King, one of the world’s leading voices for women’s sports, said the strides made by American female athletes stem directly from Title IX, the 1972 U.S. law that banned sex discrimination in educational programs — including sports — that receive federal funds.
“What we are seeing with the London Olympics is a reflection of the growth and impact of Title IX,” King said, adding that American women might not only outnumber men at the Games — they could very well out-medal them, too.
“We now have a stronger foundation for future generations of female Olympians,” she said, “and we need to remain committed to sustaining this movement and the progress we are making, here in the USA and globally.” — (AP)