Gymnast Alaina Williams performs on a trampoline in New York's Times Square during U.S. Olympic Team festivities, Wednesday, April 18, 2012. The event marks 100 days until the London Olympics. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
Thursday, April 19, 2012 4:51 am
Column: Will Lindanity break out at London games?
By TIM DAHLBERGAP Sports Columnist
Looking good is important at the Olympics, something the people running boxing surely had in mind when they suggested women wear skirts in the ring. Nothing worse than committing a fashion faux pas by wearing boxing trunks while trying to knock someone out with a left hook.
Rest assured, though, red-blooded men of the world. Skimpy bikinis will still be the uniform of the day among most contestants in women's beach volleyball, despite new rules that allow contestants to be, shall we say, a bit more modestly dressed.
No doubt everyone will dress their best because the Olympics are a spectacle like no other. The queen herself will officially open the games on July 27, and thousands will participate in the lavish opening ceremonies that somehow find a way to grow more elaborate every four years.
For most of those watching, it's more spectacle than sport. NBC packages it up nightly for three weeks, trying its best to make us believe there's something remotely interesting about cycling or even gymnastics because there's a medal at stake. America dutifully watches, then spends the next two years ignoring most things Olympic until the next one comes around.
We're a nation consumed by football and, to a lesser extent, baseball and basketball. We spend our days worrying about Peyton Manning, not Nastia Liukin. Sure, we'll root for whoever is wearing the red, white and blue, but the next time we watch a decathlon competition will be 2016 in Rio.
Mostly the Olympics are all just a glorified prime-time reality show. Interesting to watch on slow summer nights, but nothing you would necessarily tune in for unless you're trying to justify the money spent on your kid's taekwondo lessons.
Still, here are some things a die-hard Olympic fan - I'm talking about the kind who can't live without constantly checking U.S. medal counts - can look forward to in London:
- BADMINTON: Lindanity! China's Lin Dan, considered the greatest badminton player of all time, goes for a second straight Olympic gold. His main rival, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, seeks to stop him. Let the shuttlecocks fly!
- BOXING: Just when you thought the sport couldn't get any sillier, a decision to allow women to compete sparked a debate over how they should dress. Worth watching to see if a BBC report pans out after alleging Azerbaijan paid bribes in exchange for two gold medals.
- ATHLETICS: This used to be track and field, but there's no cachet anymore in being the shot put or javelin gold medalist. Usain Bolt will be fun to watch, but that takes up about 30 seconds. Four words of wisdom: Bring back the mile.
- SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Esther Williams is credited with helping make this a sport with her elaborate swim movies from 60 years ago. Still, hours of hilarity can ensue while watching women hold their breath upside-down under water. They dropped the solo event after the 1992 Olympics after no one could figure out who the swimmers were synchronizing with.
- BASKETBALL: What's not to like about a team of NBA superstars playing for nothing but a gold medal, national pride, and a chance to sell shoes to an international market? To think, we once sent college kids to do this job.
- BEACH VOLLEYBALL - For some, this could be the most entertaining sport to watch in the 62,432 or so hours of television and online streaming being brought to you by NBC. It will certainly be the most eye-catching - outdoors and right in the center of the political heart of Britain. Hello, Prime Minister! Then again, it could rain the whole time.
- TUG OF WAR - Oops, they discontinued this after the 1908 Olympics in London. Too bad, because the Brits swept all three medals and could use a boost at their own games.
- RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS: It's rhythmic, kind of. It's gymnastics, sort of. But mostly it's just the kind of thing that should be watched at your own peril and only every four years. You know, kind of like golf when it becomes an Olympic sport in Rio.
There are 26 sports in all, and the usual Olympic story lines will be in place. The U.S. is favored again to keep the total medal lead it has held since 1996 and the host country will try its best to act like the scrappy underdog everyone can root for.
One hundred days out, and it's hard to get terribly excited about any of it. No one is going to win eight gold medals at these games, and the things that used to excite us about the Dream Team are not nearly as exciting anymore.
But it is London and it is the Olympics. The queen will be on display, and so will royalty like Paul McCartney.
That will be enough to get people to watch. And we already know the athletes will be looking good.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or twitter.com/timdahlberg