The Opening Ceremony kicking off the 2012 Olympic Games is just a few days away. If you’re like me, you’ll be glued to the TV at every opportunity, rooting for your favorite athletes and marveling at the feats of physical discipline and endurance on display, all while simultaneously lamenting that you skipped the gym that day, followed by smothering those feelings of inferiority in cool, creamy, non-judging ice cream. I may not be an Olympian, but I’m a strong contender for a gold medal in multi-tasking, that’s for damn sure.
For those joining me in anxiously awaiting the start of the Games, what’s your favorite event? For me, it’s a close tie between gymnastics, swimming, and scandals. Perhaps one of the most notorious Olympic scandals of all time was the brouhaha between skating sweethearts Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding.
In 1994, six weeks before the start of the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Kerrigan was the victim of a bizarre attack that left both her knee and her hopes of Olympic glory crushed. It was soon discovered that Harding is as bad a criminal as she is a skater, when the FBI identified her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly as the assailant. For reasons I still don’t understand, Harding continued on to the Games, and Kerrigan worked her ass off to make it as well. The women’s figure skating finals produced record Nielsen ratings that year thanks to the scandal, as well as a Silver medal for Kerrigan and an eighth-place finish for Harding. Kerrigan went on to marry her former agent and produce three adorable children; Harding went on to be banned for life from skating and to also fail at an attempted boxing career.
More recently, we fell in love with swimming phenom Michael Phelps, who swept the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with an impressive eight gold medals. While he managed to remain scandal-free during the Games, his golden reputation was tarnished when six months later, he became the subject of a different kind of doping scandal. After an image was released of the Olympian taking a hit off the ol’ water pipe, he regretfully apologized, but it was too late for Kellogg’s, who stripped him of his Frosted Flakes deal. Phelps returns to London this summer for what he insists are his last Games of his Olympic career, but I see a bright future in endorsements for him ahead.
I’d almost be embarrassed at the impression that one of the most esteemed worldwide events turned to shit once my generation got its hands on it, but Olympic scandals have been around almost as long as the Games themselves. In either AD 393 or AD 435 — nobody can seem to remember exactly — several groups fought over control of the sanctuary at Olympia, and hence the Games, for prestige and political advantage. They were ultimately suppressed altogether for a while as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as a state religion.
At least my generation made things a little more exciting. WHERE’S OUR GOLD MEDAL IN SCANDALS?
Present Day: Ralph Lauren has gone ahead and kicked things off for us in 2012 by signing on to produce the Team USA Olympic Uniform, manufactured in… China. Election-year outrage has prompted Democratic lawmakers in Congress to pass the ”Team USA Made In America Act,” requiring all U.S. Olympic team uniforms worn on the opening day of Olympics to be made in America.
Nothing screams “America!” like a beret.
Sure, it’s no stoner athlete or ice princess cat fight—but, you guys, the games haven’t even started yet. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I CAN’T WAIT.