Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympians Among Us

One of the last agenda items scheduled for tonight's Council meeting (which will be long...the fact that we had 5 Tuesdays in July means that three weeks will have elapsed between meetings) involves the idea of a City Olympics.

I think it's an awesome idea.  Of course, most such ideas are good, but the devil is always in the details, and the key variable will be on the execution side.

I love the concept because it has the potential to bring a huge number of people together from various cultures and ages.  I know things like the Folk Festival already do that, but the Olympics concept is special because the people are the participants.  One of the biggest events I witnessed as the Mayor's Aide was the LGH Cancer Walk...of course, many people feel a connection to it because they know people impacted by the disease, but another big piece of the appeal is that the people who come to it are also *doing* it.

The City Olympics can start small, and then snowball from there.  Just by having a set of Games next summer, the city will have overcome the biggest hurdle of all (building the snowball and pushing it down the hill).

Another great things about the idea is that it promotes a culture of fitness among city residents.  It's like, let's say you decide to join the 1600m for males 60+.  Now, you've got something to train for.  You've got to post a time you won't be embarrassed about seeing in print or online.  Ditto for all the rest of the individual events, and the team events can have the same impact, depending on how seriously people take it -- you don't want to be the guy who holds your 3-on-3 basketball team back, so it's on you to stay in good shape and keep your jump rope moving often enough to maintain a good vertical leap.

Speaking of Olympics, I'm going to chime in again about Michael Phelps (I say 'again' because I wrote something similar in 2008...and I want to also acknowledge that many people have made this point before...it is in no way 'mine').  Go easy on the 'Greatest Olympian' ever talk, esp. if you're just going to use Phelps' total medals to back it up.  Most athletes don't have the chance to win 8+ medals at an Olympiad.  Imagine if Usain Bolt could participate in a 100m, 200m, 150m, 250m, and then try them again using different styles of running.  Would he win 8 medals?  What if LeBron could medal in full-court 5-on-5, half-court 3-on-3, a free throw contest, a three point contest, dunk contest, etc.?

I have to give props to Mr. Ashton Eaton of Oregon, who won my personal favorite event (decathlon) with a phenomenal score.  However, that doesn't automatically make him the best athlete at the Games.  Why?  Because he's only competing against OTHER people trying to do the same thing -- he is better than all the other decathletes, but that's it.

Where I would really be amazed, and have to make a strong case for someone being the greatest, would be if and when a modern Jim Thorpe comes along who can excel in multiple fields against people who mostly specialize in those things.  It would be like an Olympic Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders -- someone who could medal in a swimming event AND the high jump.  That would be really amazing.

Some might say it's not possible in this day and age of athletes specializing at young ages.  Who knows?  Maybe they're on to something.

In the Lowell Games, however, I have a feeling someone could medal in the 400m sprint and a couple powerlifting events.  Maybe they could even play a mean game of beach volleyball, too...

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