An Olympic Impression Of London 2012 So Far
SUSAN STAMBERG, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg. Time for sports.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SPANDAU BALLET: (Singing) Gold. Always believe in your soul, you've got the power...
STAMBERG: We're now in the second week of the Olympics. The top stories so far, a four-and-a-half-hour-long tennis match, badminton and boxing scandals, and more than 20 U.S. gold medals, including a record-breaker from swimmer Michael Phelps, who has now won the 200 meter individual medley at three Olympics in a row, which does not hold a torch, however, to NPR's Tom Goldman, who is in London covering his 10th Olympics.
Good morning to you.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Would you please explain that music firstly?
STAMBERG: Oh, didn't you love it? I was singing very well I thought. Listen, you have amazing stamina, but my dear, so do I, because I've been waiting now a week for the ice dancing. When is that going to be?
GOLDMAN: Two more years. But just keep waiting. You're doing fine.
STAMBERG: OK. What are you up to today, Tom?
GOLDMAN: Oh, what options today? This is actually the busiest day of the Olympics. Twenty-five gold medals given out today. And I had to pick one event. And I think I made a good choice. I spent three sun-splashed hours in the Olympic Stadium, saw some great track and field.
A memorable moment, an historic moment when South African Oscar Pistorius ran a heat in the men's 400 meters. You've probably heard about him. He's the first amputee to compete in Olympic Track and Field. He had his legs amputated below the knee as an infant and he wears these prosthetic racing legs called Cheetahs. He was so excited today because he qualified for the next round, the semifinals. He said afterwards his face was going to hurt from smiling so much.
STAMBERG: Oh, my goodness.
GOLDMAN: A lot of pressure on him because of the scrutiny. And he came through his first test. And one other thing; we had our first Bolt sighting. Usain Bolt, you remember, who shocked the world in Beijing four years ago. He ran a qualifier in the 100 meters. Not exactly a news flash, Susan, he qualified. He made it through to the semifinals. But it was fun to see the scene because he got a huge reception when he was announced.
STAMBERG: Yes, I bet. Well, what are your impressions of the games so far?
GOLDMAN: Let me preface the answer by saying I'm answering as a reporter, not as a fan or as an athlete, and we judge games by the stories. I'm going to give it a six out a ten so far - so far. There've been some very good stories, not transcendent ones yet.
The good ones, I think of the French swimmers, the Yannick Agnel, who beat American Ryan Lochte twice. Of course, Michael Phelps. He had rounded out this Olympics very nicely after kind of a mediocre start for him. He swam his last individual race of his career really yesterday, the 100 meter butterfly. Finished with a gold medal. Nicely done.
We've had the emergence of 16-year-old Gabby Douglas as the gymnast of these games. She's a great young lady and the first African-American gymnast to win the women's all-around.
And then finally, scandals have been pretty good. We like scandals. And the women's badminton players disqualified from the games for trying to lose - they tried to lose in order to position themselves better in the draw so they could ultimately win. It prompted an interesting discussion, for a few days at least, about effort in competition and whether not putting out maximum effort strategically whether that's unethical. Interesting.
STAMBERG: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. A personal reaction - although we know you're a reporter - any personal surprises? Any new favorite events? Things that have touched your heart?
GOLDMAN: Well, no surprises, Susan, I'm a grizzled vet. Literally, I haven't shaved for a while. As far as new favorites, I loved archery. That was a blast to watch. I have on my to-do list for this week team handball, a sport that really should be more popular in the U.S. It combines basketball and soccer, very exciting. And I want to go to sailing just because. And I want to ask people onshore what the hell they're cheering about. I don't get and I want to learn about it.
STAMBERG: Oh, no kidding. My goodness. All right. Big stories we sort of know about - gymnastics, Michael Phelps, that whole crowd. But any moments that have just been your favorite as you've been doing your reporting now?
GOLDMAN: Well, I have to think of gymnastics because I still can't wrap my mind around how these teenagers, for instance, on the balance beam do these aerial somersaults with only an inches-wide beam beneath them. It could be lethal. How they complete the flip and land so sure-footedly, if that's a word. So much expertise in that and so many other sports. You know, just in general, being around - the host country volunteers are quite friendly. I like British food, seriously.
STAMBERG: Tom, your only failing I've heard.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. And we get to ride on double-decker buses to and from work. And that's really neat. I always go to the top deck. It's a much better view.
STAMBERG: Good for you. And thank you for giving us your view. NPR's Tom Goldman, our medal-winning Olympics watcher. Thanks a lot.
GOLDMAN: I'm weeping on the medal stand as you say that.
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