Copyright © 2008 D. Eric Williams
I've been a fan of the Olympic games as long as I can remember. Yet even many long time afficionados are not aware that the Olympics originated with the Greek gods raising hell on the weekends and then being forced to leave town as fast as they could to escape angry Macedonian mobs. Gods running from mobs, you say? That sounds a little far fetched. Well, the truth is the Greek "gods" were really only the media stars of their day - the Paris Hiltons, Britney Spears and John MaCains of ancient Greece. Anyway, those spoiled rich of yesteryear began the wonderful tradition of running and jumping and diving off of high things which evolved into the spectacular celebration of amateur celebrity status we so enjoy today.
The Olympic Flame
My favorite Olympiad was the 1976 games held in Montreal Canada. It was a strange couple of weeks. For instance, I recall a dust up that occurred when a member of the USA Horse Shoe team experienced a clash of cultures during a conversation with a Canadian bungee jumper. If memory serves correctly it went something like this:
CANADIAN: So, friend, what are you about?
AMERICAN: What? Are you trying to be funny pal, calling me a boot?
CANADIAN: I wasn't calling you about - you were already heading this way.
AMERICAN: So you're saying I was born a boot - why you lousy - (at this point he tossed a horse shoe, scoring a ringer around the Canadian's neck).
The Canadian then snapped the American with a bungee cord which (understandably), resulted in a bench clearing brawl. Both athletes were ejected from the games - a devastating blow to Canada's gold medal hopes. Frankly neither sport has recovered from the bad publicity and as far as I know both have been dropped from the roster of approved Olympic events.
Another weird but true item about the '76 Olympics is the fact that the Olympic flame was ignited by a cigarette lighter. An Olympic official was wandering by the torch one day when he noticed that it wasn't burning. Ignoring the strong smell of natural gas, he whipped out his Bic and let 'er rip. As I recall, he emerged from the coma sometime after the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
In those days I was a lithesome highschooler who dreamed of making my mark on the world of athletics. I watched the elite Olympic athletes on television with a mixture of envy and awe. I especially admired the East German swim team: broad shoulders, bulging biceps, rock hard abs, sinewy legs. The men's team was in good shape as well.
Indeed, it was the '76 Olympiad which inspired me to turn out for the school track team the following spring. That and the fact that there was no other sport in school which offered the daily opportunity to mingle with scantily clad girls. Lacking any track and field experience I was at a loss about what event to try out for. After careful consideration I decided that the most manly, girl impressing activities were things like the throwing events. I failed to consider the fact that I lacked the most important feature required to do well in those endeavors: muscle.
I arrived the first day of tryouts and waited in line to receive my practice uniform. Being new I was forced to take the leavings and found that I was issued an extremely snug shirt along with an overly large pair of trunks. I cinched the trunks tight before trotting out onto the field hoping that the curtain effect would not draw attention to my, er, slender, legs. As I was awaiting my turn to try out for the javelin throw, Suzie Spillwater - a comely sophomore sprinter - walked by. I pretended not to notice her as I did my best to strike an East German pose. She stopped and looked at me. Giggling behind her hand, she whispered something to her friend, Amanda Beamister and then stepped toward me. My heart raced.
SUZIE: So, are you the new javelin (more giggling by both Suzie and Amanda).
ME: Javel- what? I mean, yea, I'm trying out for the javelin throw, by the way, I'm -
SUZIE: No, I asked if you ARE the new javelin (hysterical laughter from Amanda a few paces to the left).
ME: Am I the new javel- ? Uh, well, no, (ahem), I, er . . .
I was crushed. I didn't make the team either. I haven't missed an Olympics since.