Olympics end after historic fortnight for women, internet - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Olympics end after historic fortnight for women, internet

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London 2012 Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins. (Credit: London 2012) London 2012 Olympic medals designed by British artist David Watkins. (Credit: London 2012)

(RNN) - No matter how you judge success, there can be no denying that the 2012 Olympics in London were one.

Team USA ran away with the medal count, led by its contingent of women, who not only made up the majority of the team, but also won a majority of the medals.

Missy Franklin was stellar in her debut, Rebecca Soni set two world records, Katie Ledecky proved age is just a number, the women's gymnastics team racked up a ton of hardware, Kayla Harrison won the first American gold medal in Judo, American women outperformed their male counterparts on the track, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings earned their third gold medal in beach volleyball, Kim Rhode became the first American woman to win gold in five consecutive Olympics and the women's basketball team followed suit.

Even McKayla Maroney has to be impressed.

The 16-year-old Maroney made history in quite another way. She made the gymnastics team because of her specialty on the vault, and only competed in that event the entire Olympics. She was all but guaranteed a gold medal in the event.

She was so guaranteed, in fact, that when she landed on her backside rather than her feet on her second vault in the event finals, no one could recall the last time she'd ever made such a mistake. Her first vault was good enough to raise her average to second place, but her disinterested expression after receiving the silver medal has gained her far more fame than a gold medal would have anyway.

Case in point, Maroney used her vault skills in the team competition to power the team to a gold medal, but what she is more remembered for is the viral internet meme of her being unimpressed with everything, including the Apollo 11 moon landing, the World War II flag raising over Iwo Jima, Moses parting the Red Sea, the McRib, Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate (she can't vote anyway), the destruction of the Death Star, Queen Elizabeth II, the birth of Jesus, the opening ceremony from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and, in a bit of comic irony, the final vault by Kerri Strug on an injured leg that clinched the gold medal for the women's gymnastics team in 1996.

That last one is understandable, though, because newborns are rarely impressed with anything.

The only thing truly disappointing for Team USA was the men's gymnastics team, though Maroney seemed to have no opinion on that one. She was, though, unimpressed with Michael Phelps, and is undoubtedly the only person to feel that way.

Phelps wrapped up his career by clinching the all-time medal count in impressive fashion. He had almost quit swimming and only trained about half as much as he normally would have and yet was still the best swimmer, American or otherwise. Had Phelps not been there, Ryan Lochte would have surely been the star, but he was no match for the swim legend. Lochte did beat Phelps in their first race, but that came early in the Games and was overshadowed by Phelps' later dominance and Lochte's mother's comments that he likes one-night stands.

The race Lochte won over Phelps – the 400-meter individual medley – was one Phelps swore he was done with after Beijing, much like he swears he's not competing in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Only time will tell if he breaks that promise.

Rest assured, NBC hopes he does (more on that in a minute).

Phelps was the biggest story of the first week, but Usain Bolt was the biggest story of the second. He became the first man to win the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash in consecutive Olympics.

That drew allegations of illegal drug use from American sprinting legend Carl Lewis, who until this year was the only man to win the 100-meter dash consecutively (technically, he only won it once in 1984, but he was awarded a gold medal in 1988 after Ben Johnson had it stripped following a drug violation). Lewis accused all of Jamaica of illegal drug use.

Jamaica's track team won gold and silver in the men's 100-meter; gold, silver and bronze in the men's 200-meter; gold in the men's 4x100 relay; gold and bronze in the women's 100-meter; silver in the women's 200-meter; and silver in the women's 4x100 relay, one spot behind the U.S., who set a world record. All other individual medals in sprinting were won by Americans.

So, it was a pretty eventful two weeks, especially due to this being the first Games following the rise of Twitter and all the positive and negative things that come with that.

Lolo Jones became a star partly because of her admission of being a virgin and partly because of her entertaining tweets. When she expressed disappointment over the silver medal performance of the men's archery team by asking when the shooting competition started, that fame almost backfired. The comment came about a week after a shooting in a Colorado movie theatre that left 12 dead.

For what it's worth, the U.S. later won three gold medals in shooting events.

However, the fame did backfire when Jones finished fourth in the 100-meter hurdles and had a tearful interview on the Today Show about negative comments made in a New York Times column.

Jones, though, was far from the only internet casualty. Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was dismissed from the Olympic team before the Olympics even started for tweeting a racist joke. Swiss soccer player Michael Morganella was sent home after using the microblog site to say South Koreans should burn themselves after his team lost to them 2-1. The Australian swim team also came under fire well before the Olympics started when two male swimmers posted pictures of themselves posing with various firearms. They were prohibited from using social media during the Games and forced to leave London once the swimming competition was over. Female Aussie swimmer Stephanie Rice was criticized for photographing herself in a revealing bikini, but received no punishment.

Another picture of Rice caused an even bigger uproar when she posed with Kobe Bryant, forcing her to repeatedly deny rumors she was involved with the married American basketball star. Bryant was famously involved in an extramarital affair in 2003, when he was accused of sexual assault.

But the biggest Twitter fallout was over the Games themselves, specifically NBC's decision to air major events on tape delay in prime time rather than live in the afternoon.

The network chose instead to live stream all events on its sometimes balky website. Events were hampered by shaky connections, distorted by blurry video and interrupted by mid-race buffering. Besides that, the live stream wasn't even live. Reporters attending events in London were able to tweet results a few seconds ahead of the live stream. It all led to a flood of complaints and countless tweets ending in the hashtag #NBCfail.

It was the internet equivalent of marching on Washington, except it didn't work. #NBCfail would have been much more successful had NBC actually failed.

Instead, the Olympics gained the highest ratings ever, prompting some to speculate the rampant availability of spoilers actually helped viewership instead of hurting it, as #NBCfail-ers endlessly opined. In response to the backlash, NBC stayed defiant, even defending its unpopular choice using the explanation that the Olympics are not a sporting event and shouldn't be treated as one. Twitter even dismissed a user after he posted the email address of an NBC executive.

If the NBC peacock could have made a Maroney-esque expression, it certainly would have.

It will likely be a while before NBC changes that policy - it seems unwilling to, it seems to have no reason to and the next Olympics will be even more difficult to show live. London is five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, but Sochi, Russia – home to the 2014 Winter Olympics – is nine hours ahead. Rio de Janeiro is actually in the Eastern time zone, but with events happening in the morning and afternoon, and NBC saving the best for prime time, a delay will probably still be in effect.

The easiest may actually come in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which is 14 hours ahead. That means when it is 8 p.m. in the Eastern time zone, it will be 10 a.m. where the Games are, making live prime-time telecasts of important and popular events relatively easy.

Twitter won't wait six years, though. Twitter may not even matter in six years. The next thing that gets used to show frustration over NBC's broadcasts may not be invented until four or five years from now.

Either way, NBC doesn't care. It's likely already plotting how to make Missy Franklin's mother as big a star as Michael Phelps' mother, Debbie, and planning how to replace the overhead shots of British coastal vistas and royal residences with Brazil's beaches and statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Maroney isn't impressed with that, either.

Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

  • 2012 Medal Totals 2012 Medal Totals