One cannot avoid the fact that the 2012 Olympic Games begin July 27 in London. In total there are thirty-one competition venues. Twenty-two in London with nine in other cities in Great Britain, including one in Scotland and one in Wales.
Twenty-nine sports and thirty-six disciplines will be contesting in 302 medal events – 162 men’s, 132 women’s and 8 mixed. Baseball and softball are not part of the Olympic program. They are the first sports to be cut from the Games since polo was dropped in 1936.
Earliest recorded Olympic Games were held in Greece in 776 B.C., and took place every four years for 1,000 years. The Games celebrated the human body and provided entertainment to Greek spectators.
The modern Olympic Movement began when Pierre de Coubertin brought together a group of sports and philosophy leaders for the International Athletic Congress. They agreed to revive the ancient Games. The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The International Olympic Committee oversees the Games today.
Originally, there were 241 male participants from 41 countries competing. More than a century later, at the 2008 Olympic Games in Bejing, the Games involved 11,000 male and female competitors from 204 countries.
Represented in the London Games will be 204 countries, approximately 530 U.S. athletes – DeKalb natives Grant and Ross James, twin brothers on the same rowing team – and 10,500 total athletes with 2,100 medals awarded. Involved are 5,000 accredited staff and 5,600 media representatives.
Team USA enters the 2012 Games with a strong legacy to defend – having collected 110 medals (36 of which were gold) at the 2008 Games in Bejing. Team USA finished in first place at the Bejing Games. The U.S. Olympic Team has won an Olympic medal in 26 of the 29 sports on the 2012 Games program.
As we have witnessed the qualifying competitions, one cannot help but appreciate the training and discipline involved in preparations for Olympic competition. Strength and skill are evident in the athletes.
Additions to sporting events this year include:
• Women’s boxing.
• Each gender will have five track cycling events.
• Tennis will have a mixed doubles competition.
These changes are aimed at increasing female participation.
London is the first city to host the Games three times – previously hosting in 1908 and 1948. The 1908 Games were to be hosted by Rome, but in 1906 Mount Vesuvius erupted, placing a financial burden on Italy. London came forward on short notice to save the Games.
There are lasting marks from the 1908 Games. Today’s marathon distance of 26.2 miles was set to make sure the race would finish be below the Royal Box in the Olympic Stadium.
The 1908 London Olympic Stadium was the first facility built specifically for the Olympic Games. For the first time, swimming events were held in a specially designed pool instead of open water.
Again in 1948, London took on the challenge to host the experience for the world. This was after a twelve year suspension of the Olympics because of World War II.
There are contributions from the 1948 Games, lasting today: Starting blocks were introduced into the sprint races. The Empire Pool was the first covered Olympic pool in history.
This year London again strives to leave a mark on Olympic history with more innovative, unique venues and putting a priority on sustainability and integrating works of art into the Olympic Park.
Healthier living and creation of less waste is being encouraged. Existing venues are being used and permanent buildings have been designed to be more useful after the Games. New facilities will promote people of London and the United Kingdom to participate in sports and be active.
During construction for the Games, recycled materials were used and wildlife was temporarily relocated and returned after completion. Olympic Park and other places have integrated wildlife habitats into the spaces.
In an attempt to reduce the carbon footprint, thousands of spectators are encouraged to get to and from the Games either on foot or via bicycle or public transportation.
London is to be commended on the measures taken to accommodate the Games in 2012.
• John Rey lives in DeKalb and is retired from DeKalb Ag/Monsanto. He also has been employed with AXA Financial and Family Service Agency. He continues as an active community volunteer in several organizations. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.