Slow West is not your typical western. It also comes off as a love story that’s more than meets the eye.
Jay Cavendish is a sixteen year-old Scottish boy in the frontiers of America. He recently arrived over there in pursuit of Rose Ross, his love from back home who also fled to America along with her father. The frontiers are deadly but Jay is determined to find her. Jay finds himself prey by strangers who were first trying to kill a Native American but is stopped by a bounty hunter named Silas Selleck.
Jay tells Silas his story of his pursuit and even pays him for protection. Silas cooperates at first but when he sees the wanted poster for Rose and her father, he decides to use it for his own pursuit for the bounty of $2,000 and use Jay to get it. During the time, Silas tells Jay about the importance of keeping his guard and why killing is necessary out there. It then becomes evident when a Swedish couple try to rob a store Jay and Silas are shopping at. The man and the owner are shot while Jay is up against the woman. He shoots her, his first murder. That wasn’t all. The couple had their children with them to which Jay and Silas give them food and clothes before leaving them behind.
In the flashback to before Jay and Rose came to America, we learn Jay was a boy of noble birth in Scotland and had a huge love for common girl Rose but deep down Rose thought of him more to be like a ‘little brother.’ One day an intense argument between Rose’s father and Jay’s uncle, the Lord Cavendish, led to the uncle being killed. That’s what led Rose and her father to flee to America with the bounty on their heads.
In a conversation, Jay finds Silas a brute because he doesn’t appear to care about love and seems to only care about ‘surviving.’ Jay leaves one night with his horse and goods but meets up with a writer named Werner who appears to befriend him only to rob him overnight. Silas is able to find Jay and the two return only to be confronted by the gang Silas used to belong to and its leader Payne who plans to beat Silas to catching Rose and her father. Payne even steals their weapons overnight. Unbeknown to Jay and Silas is that Payne and the gang have the orphaned children of the Swedish couple from the robbery.
SPOILER WARNING: The ending will be revealed in the below paragraph.
The two continue on unarmed until they enter a forest. They find themselves prey among a Native American tribe but are saved by the luck of them falling off horses. In the meantime, Payne and the gang pursue Rose and her father who are living in a desolate farm house protected. However the father is shot to death and Silas wants to pursue Payne and his gang alone tying Jay to a tree for his protection. Jay is able to free himself but finds himself in the battle where he is shot by Rose who doesn’t recognize him at first. After a gritty gun battle Silas kills Payne’s gang while a dying Jay is able to kill Payne while comforted by Rose. Silas is shocked to find Jay dead but later on becomes Rose’s love and adopts the orphaned Swedish children.
When you see the whole film, you could easily see it`s not your typical western. Yes, there is gunshooting going on. However the film focuses on motives of the shooting. It focuses on the people and why they`re committing these murders. It can be either for personal greed or vengeance or simply to help themselves and their loved ones survive. Another interesting thing the film focuses on is the wide variety of characters involved in this Wild West scenario. There were your typical villains but there were others like the immigrant couple robbing a store to feed themselves and their starving children. This was a reminder that even the first immigrants the US in the 1800`s had to fight to survive in the New World.
Mind you the shooting in the film isn’t meant to stir up the excitement you’d normally acquire while watching a Western. Instead it focuses on the gun battle’s intensity and gets the audience feel the heat of the friction instead of being dazzled away by the gunslinging. In each case, you’re left with an aftermath that’s ugly. Seeing the bodies on the ground is more disheartening to the viewer instead of satisfaction that the job is done. I guess that’s why the film is called Slow West, because the ruthlessness and friction of the Wild West here is slowed down and the intensity is felt instead of just seen.
The film also focuses on the theme of love during a time and place where it appears people have no heart of soul. Jay is so determined to get back to his love Rose even though her and her father have a bounty on them. It took Jay to convince a bounty hunter who was only interested in using Jay as bait for Rose and her father about what love is. Over time they see the fight to survive and the lack of scruples in the people that surround them during their trip. However it`s Jay that convinced Silas of the power of love even if Jay appeared to be too naïve and deluded for his own good. It`s a common theme in a lot of films that show love in what appears to be a moral wasteland. I’ve seen it before in City Of God where love and hope exist in one of the most brutal favelas of Brazil. Here in Slow West we see love in the lawlessness of the Wild West. Even if Jay`s heart `beat in the wrong places,` he changed the older bounty hunter Silas and his heart. You know it when he says at the end: “There’s more to life than survival. Jay Cavendish taught me that. I owe him my life.”
This is actually the first feature-length film directed and written British director John Maclean. He does a very impressive job by packing a lot of intensity into an 85-minute story. For those who don’t know, John is actually a former guitarist for the Beat Band and The Aliens before turning to film directing. Michael Fassbender does a great job of character acting in his supporting role and Kodi Smit-McPhee is also excellent as the young Jay in capturing both his acquiring of the necessary ruthless grit over time while still keeping his passion and innocence. Impressive supporting performances come from Ben Mendelsohn as Payne and Caren Pistorius as Rose. Even minor performances like the Swedish couple committing the robbery and the Congolese singers add to the story.
The film has already won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in the Dramatic category and has above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes but the film has not been successful in winning a crowd. Not even $250,000. It`s not fair to say Sundance winners are declining at the box office, even though such films have shown a lack of buzz compared to 20 years ago or even 15 years ago. However this film was overshadowed by the Sundance hit comedy Me And Earl And The Dying Girl which ad no star power at all. It`s always hard to predict what will win with the crowds. Right now there’s no data on how much online viewing of the film has happened.
Slow West doesn’t have the fast-pace action one would expect from a Western. Instead its slowness and intensity are its best qualities which allows the audient to feel the grit of the situation and the feelings of its main characters. Qualities that make the story.
On Sunday night, the fourteenth Summer Paralympic Games closed in London. They were contested only a month after the main summer Olympic Games began. These Paralympic Games were another effort of the International Paralympic Committee to help put disabled sport upon the same parallel as able-bodied sport. They became the biggest and best ever.
START AND DEVELOPMENT
Sport for the disabled has existed ever since there were people with disabilities who still wanted to remain active and had the will to make it happen. However the start of formal sport for people with disabilities had its start and development at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in the English town of Stoke Mandeville 55 km northwest of London. It was after World War II and through the iron will of war veterans left permanently injured with either paralysis or amputation to develop sport to stay physically active and through the guidance of neurologist Ludwig Guttmann. It was on July 28, 1948–the day before the main Summer Olympics of London opened–that the Stoke Mandeville Games For The Paralyzed took place. It consisted of a single archery competition between fourteen men and two women, all from the UK.
You could say it was those Stoke Mandeville Games where the Paralympic sports movement would be born. True, but it would take some time and development. The Stoke Mandeville Games would become an annual sports competition and would consist of UK athletes only. In 1952, Dutch athletes participated at the Stoke Mandeville Games making it the first ever International Stoke Mandeville Games. The Games would continue to be contested annually and would continue to become more international. Then a breakthrough occurred in 1960 when Rome, host city of the Summer Olympics that year, agreed to host the International Stoke Mandeville Games just weeks after the main Olympics ended. This was the first time those Games were held outside of Stoke Mandeville and would later be remembered as the first ever Paralympic Games. It consisted of 400 athletes from 23 countries participating in 57 events in eight sports.
Paralympic sport would continue to grow. The International Stoke Mandeville Games would continue to be contested annually in Stoke Mandeville for three more years. Then in 1964, Tokyo would host the Games just weeks after the main Olympics ended just like Rome did four years earlier. The Stoke Mandeville Games continued annually and the 1968 Stoke Games we held just weeks after the main Olympics ended. However they would be held in Tel Aviv, Israel instead of Mexico City which hosted the main Olympics. This would continue on for twenty years where the Stoke Mandeville Games would be held in Stoke Mandeville in non-Olympic years and be held in an international city. There would be two dissimilarities during this period of time. One would be no mention of Stoke Mandeville in the title and having tiles like ‘Olympiad For The Physically Disabled’ or ‘International Games For The Disabled’. Another dissimilarity was the host city as it would be a different host city than the main Olympic Games. Also noteworthy was the creation of the first ‘Winter Olympic Games Of the Disabled’ in 1976. Like the Summer Games, the Winter Games would also be contested in cities that didn’t host the main Winter Olympics. One notable achievement of those Games is that over the years they would be recognized seriously enough for national heads of state to formally open them at their Opening Ceremonies.
Another breakthrough occurred in the summer of 1988 when the Games were held in Seoul, Korea just weeks after they finished hosting the main Olympic Games. This marked a return to the original format of 24 years ago when these Games took place in the same host city of the main Olympic Games and this partnering would continue to be the format to this day. Another notable thing of these Games was that they would be the first such Games to be referred to as the ‘Paralympic’ Games for ‘parallel’, not paralyzed and most people think. The ‘merger’ of the two Games that year would prove to be a great success and would even spawn the formation of the International Paralympic Committee the following year.
Also in case you’re interested, the International Stoke Mandeville Games would later be renamed the World Wheelchair Games and are now called the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games. They are headed by the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, a sports federation separate from the International Paralympic Committee, and take place annually except during Paralympic years and at various cities worldwide.
MY OWN EXPERIENCE: VANCOUVER 2010
As many of you know, I come from Vancouver. Our city hosted to 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games of that year. I had tickets for the Opening Ceremonies, alpine skiing, nordic skiing and sledge hockey. It was a very good experience. The Opening Ceremonies held on March 12th was a fun occasion which featured a DJ performing for the parade of athletes as they were coming out. The opening ceremonies also involved audience participation and featured a wide array of performers from a breakdancer with Arthrogryposis named ‘Lazylegs’ to an amputee rock band to wheelchair riders practicing halfpipe tricks to a deaf poet. The Ceremonies also paid tribute to two of Canada’s greatest athletes with disabilities: the late Terry Fox and Rick Hansen. There were speeches made by Hansen as well as past Paralympic athletes like Aimee Mullins and Chantal Petitclerc. The ceremony ended with a grand lighting of the flame by teenage athlete Zac Beaumont: a Paralympic snowboarder. He was selected to represent the future of Paralympic sport not just because of his age but also because he was a snowboarder and snowboarding was not part of those Paralympics. Snowboarding will make its Paralympic debut in 2014 under the name Parasnowboarding.
The following day I was to see the alpine skiing competition at Whistler. It was cancelled out due to foggy conditions and heavy snow. Even despite the cancellation, there was an area at the basin of the hill where children and adults could try Paralympic sports on their own. There was sledge skiing trials, sledge hockey trials and even an amputee skiing trials. It was also an introduction to the equipment used for sports competitions like the sledges for sledge skiing and the ski poles for amputee skiers called outriggers whose edges first act like poles then flip to become skis to support balance. Over at a visit to the main Whistler Town Square there were performances by rock bands throughout the square and celebrations galore at the restaurants. The medal ceremonies happened later that night. It was a great occasion and all the athletes were excited for what they achieved and the mood was festive. Whistler would be the competition grounds for all but three medal events of the Paralympic games so these Games were as much Whistler’s as they were Vancouver’s.
I returned to Whistler Thursday the 18th to watch nordic skiing. There were three types of competitions: sledge, blind and amputee. Both sledge skiers and blind skiers were all ranked by their finish time. Amputee skiers were different as there were different types of amputees through the competition and times had to be adjusted due to the amputee level of each athlete for the sake of a level playing field. A unique thing I learned is that blind skiers, both nordic and alpine, would have guides with full vision guiding them through telecommunication letting them know of what to expect while they’re on course. Often guides for Paralympic athletes have to be athletes of Olympic caliber ability. I also remember groups of schoolchildren were at the events as part of a special promotion from the ticket sales. Later that day i went back to the village where they had a special igloo shaped exhibit called ‘Spirit In Motion’. Inside was an exhibit of Paralympic sports and its history. It was almost like walking through a museum learning all the information. Most of the exhibits were provided by Otto Bock, a German prosthetics company. I was also able to meet Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). We talked for a short bit as he had to head back to Vancouver. I told him I was to see a sledge hockey game tomorrow and that’s when he gave me the news that Canada lost their semifinal to Japan. My heart sunk because I wanted them to make the gold-medal final of course. The day ended with more celebrations over at the Whistler Olympic Plaza. Medals were given out and two of which went to Canadian athletes that were some of the biggest winners of these Games: five-time gold medallist Lauren Woolstecroft, an amputee alpine skier; and three-time gold medalist Brian McKeever, a blind Nordic skier. The ceremonies ended with a concert by Serena Ryder.
Friday the 19th was the day for the bronze medal game of sledge hockey. I was too late to get a ticket for the gold-medal final. This was the match I was hoping NOT to see Team Canada play in. Of course I wanted them to play in the gold-medal match. Sledge hockey has been one Paralympic sport that has caught a lot of attention over the past few years. Canada has also welcomed the sport with open arms and matched have stimulated interest in the sport. Anyways it was held at a hockey stadium over at the UBC Campus. The game was scoreless during the first two periods. Then a goal for Canada happened at the beginning of the third. During the third period, things started looking bad for Canada as they had only one shot on goal while Norway was having plenty. Then the nasty moment came. A foul by a Canadian was committed which allowed Norway a penalty shot. This infuriated the Canadian goalie enough for him to throw his helmet down. When the Norwegian took his penalty shot, he scored. Tied 1-1. Then one of the Canadian players took a bad hit and was lying on the ground. He was lying still and the coach came rushing out onto the ice. The whole arena was silent. Fortunately he was able to get up. The whole area was so relieved he was alright we didn’t seem to care if we won or not. We didn’t; Norway scored the bronze medal-winning goal with less than four seconds to go.
ACCOLADES AND CONTROVERSIES
The Paralympic Games have had their greats over the years. the most medaled Paralympian is American blind swimmer Trischa Zorn who won a total of 55 medals, 41 of them gold, from 1980 to 2004. The most medaled Winter Paralympian is Norwegian Ragnhild Myklebust who won 27 medals including 22 golds in three different winter sports: biathlon, Cross-country skiing, and ice sledge racing. It’s interesting to know that while Michael Phelps is the only Olympian with 10 or more gold medals, there are a total of 39 Paralympians with ten or more. The most medaled Canadian is Chantal Petitclerc, a Wheelchair racer who has won a total of 21 medals including 14 gold. Another Canadian Paralympic legend is Arnie Boldt, a single-leg amputee performer in athletics, who has won a multitude of Paralympic medals and was especially dominant in the high jump. Many consider him to be the best Paralympic athletics performer ever. The most golds in a single games is 12 won by Trischa Zorn at the 1988 Summer Paralympics. While Phelps is the only Olympian to win eight golds in a single games, there are six Paralympians who have won eight or more.
Each Paralympic sport has had their greats. While there’s Zorn and French swimmer Beatrice Hess in swimming, there’s Sweden’s Jonas Jacobsson in shooting, Germany’s Gerd Schoenfelder in alpine skiing, Myklebust in nordic skiing, Petitclerc and Switzerland’s Franz Nietlispach in athletics, and Britain’s Lee Pearson in athletics.
The Paralympic Games are not without their controversies. The biggest example of cheating came at the Sydney Games of 2000 when Spain’s intellectual disability basketball team was ruled to have at least ten members who weren’t intellectually disabled. Mental tests, which were to be conducted before the Games, weren’t conducted. It was later admitted ten members weren’t intellectually disabled and the team was stripped of the gold. That was considered by many to be one of the ‘most outrageous sporting moments’ in history. Intellectually Disabled Basketball has not been contested at the Paralympics ever since and it wouldn’t be until these Paralympics in London where Intellectual Disability sports would make a return, and under close scrutiny.
There have also been doping violations at the Paralympic Games too. The first positive tests came at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The Sydney Games of 2000 was the first Games to ensure their Games met the International Medical and Anti-Doping Code. Out-of-competition tests were introduced at those Games. Those resulted in fourteen athletes testing positive, ten of them powerlifters. There’s even a form of doping unique to Paralympic sport: boosting-where the athlete is induced with autonomic dysreflexia to increase blood pressure. It’s an ongoing problem that still exists.
THE LONDON GAMES THEMSELVES
These Paralympic Games were anticipated to be the biggest ever. Organizers were expecting before the Games to be the first Paralympics to achieve mass market appeal, fueled by the public enthusiasm continuing after the end of the main Olympics in London, the UK’s role in Paralympic sport and growing interest and media in Paralympic Sport. The torch bagan its journey on August 24th with torch lightings in London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff. All four met in Stoke Mandeville on the 28th, the day before the Games’ opening, to unite to create a special cauldron during a special ceremony commemorating the village’s role in the history of the Paralympics. The flame headed for London was lit and it arrived at the stadium after a 24 hour relay during the opening ceremonies just after being declared open by Queen Elizabeth II. The cauldron was similar to the multi-pedaled cauldron used for the main Olympics and it was lit by Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first Paralympic champion. The opening ceremony was as star-studded as the Olympics featuring acting from Ian McKellen, music from group Orbital and an appearance from Stephen Hawking. The closing ceremony was just as star-studded as it included Coldplay, Rihanna and Jay-Z. The Paralympic flag, by the same tradition as the Olympic flag, was handed from the mayor of London to the mayor of Rio. And British Paralympic champions Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds extinguished the flame and shared its last flame on torches to others throughout the stadium.
4300 athletes from 156 countries participated at these Games in the 503 events throughout the twenty sports. The competitions were a delight themselves and you could guarantee Olympic appearances by South African runner Oscar Pistorius would stimulate attention. He attracted a lot of attention but was surprised in the 200m run when he was beaten by a Brazilian runner. The sprinting star of those Games was actually a British teenage sprinter Jonnie Peacock. A single-leg amputee, he won the 100m for his disability class. His coach was Dan Pfaff, coach of 1996 Olympic 100m dash champion Donovan Bailey.
The most medaled athletes were Australian swimmers Jacqui Freney and Matthew Cowdrey with eight medals each: all gold for Jacqui and five gold for Matthew. The athletics competition had two quadruple-gold medalists with American Raymond Martin and Brit Dave Weir. Another British athlete, cyclist Sarah Storey, also won four gold medals. The most medaled Canadian was swimmer Summer Mortimer who won seven medals including two gold. Britain’s Sophie Christianson won two gold medals in equestrian. Brazil and Russia won the two football tournaments. The powerlifting events were won mostly by Nigeria, Iran and Egypt. China proved to be as dominant in Paralympic table tennis as they are at Olympic table tennis winning 14 of the 26 golds. China also won six of the twelve wheelchair fencing events.
In terms of the medals race, China won the most with 231 medals, 95 of them gold. Host country Great Britain won the second-most medals with 120 including 34 gold. Russia won the third-most medals with 102 including 36 gold. The USA was fourth in medals with 98 including 31 gold. Canada had its lowest Paralympic medal haul in 40 years with only 31 medals, seven of them gold. Canada usually ends up in the Top 10 on the Paralympic medals chart but ranked 20th at these Games.
Having the Paralympics start weeks after the main Olympic end and in the same host city has helped establish the Paralympic Games since they were repartnered back in 1988 and as helped them grow considerably. It’s another thing to help promote and market Paralympic sport and get good ticket seat sales. Even though ticket sales are lower than that of the main Olympic Games, it hasn’t been easy to attract good-sized crowds to Paralympic sport. There have been some cases in past Paralympics where some events would ‘give away’ seats to attract crowds. There have been other times when Paralympic events would attract good-sized crowds. I remember back in 2010 the gold medal match for sledge hockey was sold out weeks before it was contested. Thus my purchase of a ticket for bronze medal match. I also remember the Paralympic Games offering discounts for groups of ten or more and even offers for field trips for schoolchildren. The ceremonies were very well-attended. The skiing events I attended also had good sized crowds. The sledge hockey playoff rounds started selling out as the weeks got closer. And the medal matches for wheelchair curling sold out.
London attempted to take it even further by becoming the biggest-selling Paralympic Games in history. They planned to sell a total of 2.7 million tickets. Part of the promotions included introducing the Paralympic mascot Mandeville, named after the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the same day the main Olympic mascot Wenlock was introduced. Royal Mail released a combined Olympic/Paralympic postage stamp series of 30 stamps each featuring either an Olympic or Paralympic sport. One of which came from Channel 4, the British channel broadcasting the Paralympic Games with 150 hours of live coverage, ran an ad campaign in the weeks leading up called Meet The Superhumans. The Ads were aired over 78 commercial television stations in Britain and was met with huge critical acclaim.
Broadcasting was also very good. Many countries like Britain, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa devoted five or more hours a day on live coverage. Some countries like Canada and New Zealand had broadcast of ceremonies and a daily hour-long highlights show. The one country with the least coverage was the United States. NBC and its NBC Sports Network only provided a total of 5 1/2 hours of coverage. Only four one-hour highlight shows and a recap show on NBC scheduled for September 16th. There was actually a lot of online broadcast of the Paralympic Games that was more active than broadcast on television. Canada had four online channels broadcasting 580 hours of coverage. Many other countries included their own online broadcast. And the IPC’s own Youtube channel broadcast approximately 780 hours of coverage. Broadcasting rights raised a profit of £10 million, a Paralympic record.
As for tickets, 2.7 million were sold. Even before the main Olympics were over, London’s Paralympic ticket sales had already broken the Paralympic record of 1.8 million for the Beijing Paralympics. By the time the Opening Ceremonies started, a total of 2.4 million were sold. The Opening Ceremonies only had 800 tickets unsold before its start which went to the police and the military along with London Mayor Boris Johnson distributing 1100 to youth athletic clubs. There was even 100,000 contingency tickets sold on September 6 due to popular demand which included multi-event passes and event tickets passed on by sponsors and partners. It’s no wonder this much enthusiasm led Sir Philip Craven to call these ‘the best Paralympic Games ever’ at the closing ceremonies.
LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING AHEAD
There can be many factors determining why these became the biggest and best Paralympic Games ever. One could be increasing support and funding of Paralympic sport from almost all national Olympic Committees. Some could also say it was due to Britain’s enthusiasm of the main Summer Olympics that poured into these Paralympics. Some could also add it was the Olympic appearance of South African double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius that stirred up excitement. Some could say it was Britain’s contribution to Paralympic sport from the genesis of its formation at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital after World War II to Sir Philip Craven serving as the current President of the IPC. Nevertheless the organizers succeeded in making this the best Paralympic Games ever and leaves a tough act for Rio to follow in 2016.
Despite the success of these Paralympic Games, there are some challenges that lay ahead. First is the connection of the Paralympic Games to the Olympic Games. Since 1988 it has relied on being held shortly after the conclusion of the main Olympics to boost its popularity. That move has been very successful and is under contract to continue to be that way at least until 2020. The question is will this ‘partnership’ continue after or will the Paralympics try to hold their own by being held in a different host city? Also The IOC and IPC have close ties and both Presidents Jacques Rogge and Philip Craven meet regularly. Would the ties continue if there was such a change?
Another is the cultivation of star Paralympic athletes and the support of Paralympic sports. We have one current star Paralympian in Oscar Pistorius, commonly known as ‘The Fastest Man On No Legs’. His quest to compete at the main Olympics since 2008 and his appearances at the main London Olympics have sparked his popularity to where he receives $2 million in endorsement money annually. It’s less than the $20 million Usain Bolt will be getting but the most for any Paralympian ever. I’ve even seen him in two Nike commercials. The question is will there be other newer Paralympic stars in the future to help popularize Paralympic sport. Also the funding for Paralympic athletes. As the Paralympics continue to grow, will the funding of Paralympic athletes continue to grow too? Another is people with disabilities having access to sporting activity. I remember going to the Canada Paralympic Association website before Vancouver 2010 and saw an into that said: “34% of able-bodied people have access to sporting activity. 3% of people with disabilities have access.” Will access to sport for people with disabilities grow over time and how will it be promoted to them? I also remember shortly after the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics there were many bus ads promoting Paralympic sport throughout various buses. That’s one good example. Also the possible increase of more Paralympic Sports. Over time there will be more efforts to make more sports for people with disabilities accessible and competitive. Already I know Parasnowboarding will make its debut at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi. Will there be new Paralympic sports in Rio and in future Summer Games? Only time will tell and it will have to involve the national and international sports federations and the athletes to get the green light from the International Paralympic Committee.
The 2012 Paralympic Games of London ended with a record bang. Enthusiasm for these Games paralleled that of the main Olympics. The future of Paralympic athletes and Paralympic sport looks bright and more promising than ever. It’s up to the various organizing committees and the athletes to help take Paralympic sport into the future not just for the increase of fanfare and revenue but also for the accessibility for the disabled. Nevertheless after these Paralympics, the future couldn’t look any brighter.
WIKIPEDIA: 2012 Summer Paralympics. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Paralympic_Games>
WIKIPEDIA: Paralympic Games. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paralympic_Games>
WIKIPEDIA: Cheating At The Paralympic Games. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheating_at_the_Paralympic_Games>
So the seventeen days of Olympic action has ended. History was written in London. Some of these athletes’ dreams came true, some dreams had to be put on hold for another four years, and some died right there. Nevertheless they were a seventeen days that gave the world lots to cheer about.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS AND NAMES IN HISTORY
One of the unique things of these Olympic Games were that two of the biggest stars from the Beijing Games were back to thrill the world again. An aging Michael Phelps was back in London proving to the world he still has it. He left London with four gold and two silver, successfully defended his gold medal for the third straight time in two different events, set a career Olympic medals record with 22 over three Olympic Games, and ended his Olympic year as arguably the greatest Olympian of all time. Another great from Beijing, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, won the 100m, 200m and anchored Jamaica’s 4*100m relay to gold as he did back in 2008. He too solidified himself as one of the greatest Olympians of all time. It wasn’t just Bolt and Phelps who added more glory to their Olympic careers in London. There was the American beach volleyball team of Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor who won gold for the third straight time. There was British cyclist Chris Hoy whose two gold medals at the Velodrome gave him a career total of six gold medals. No other cyclist has won more. Also British yachtsmen Ben Ainslie won gold for the fourth straight Olympics. Only one other sailor, Denmark’s Paul Elvstrom, has won as many yachting golds.
Even with greats adding to their legacy here in London, this was also the arena where great were born. American swimmer Missy Franklin won five medals, four of the m gold. American sprinter Allyson Felix won three gold medals. British distance runner Mo Farah dazzled the home crowd by achieving the 5000m-10000m double. American decathlete Ashton Eaton and British heptathlete Jessica Ennis gave brilliant wins. Right after the US won the women’s team event in gymnastics, it was American Gabby Douglas who won hearts and the all-around gold. Swimming wasn’t only Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin. American Ryan Lochte also provided some great rivalry for Phelps in the pool. The women’s swimming also saw double golds from China’s Ye Shiwen and the Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowidjojo. Tennis made a double-winner out Serena Williams in both individual and doubles with her sister Venus. There were also brilliant team efforts in London too. China dominated badminton and table tennis while the Americans dominated basketball. China also won six out of the eight diving events. While the American women’s gymnasts were the clear winners, it was China again who was the class of the men’s field. And the football contest showcased the gold medal-winning brilliance of the Mexican men and the American women.
Despite all the sports action, one of the biggest attractions of these Games were the attendance of members of the royal family at events. The most notable were Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton. They were seen taking in the athletic action and cheering for Britain. Some of the most notable appearances of them were at the men’s team gymnastics tournament, the swimming finals where they saw Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin in action, the track cycling events where the British women’s pursuit team set a world record in front of them, and the equestrian competition where they cheered Duchess Zara Phillips to a team silver in the eventing competition. Her medal was placed around her neck by her mother Princess Anne: a former Olympic equestrian rider and a member of the International Olympic Committee.
As for medal totals, the most medaled male athlete of these games was once again Michael Phelps with six: four gold and two silver. The most medaled women were three swimmers–Austrailian Alicia Coutts and Americans Missy Frankin and Allison Schmitt– who won five medals each. The American team won the most medals with 104 as well as the most golds with 46. Next in line was China with a total of 88 medals, 38 of them gold. Russia was third in total medals with 82. However it was the host country of Great Britain with the third-most gold medals with 29 which I will elaborate on later in this article.
As for Canada, Canadian athletes won eighteen medals over eleven sports. The eighteen medals was the same medal total as in Beijing but Canada only won a single gold. Canada’s only gold medalist was trampolinist Rosie MacLennan. Canada’s other medals were also worthy of respect too. Both of Canada’s rowing eights teams took silver. Wrestler Tonya Verbeek regained her past winning form to take silver in her category. Canada’s female synchro diving pairs both won bronze. Christine Girard became Canada’s first female weightlifter to win a medal, a bronze. Swimmer Brent Hayden won bronze in the 100m freestyle in his third Olympics. Derek Drouin was a surprise bronze medalist in the men’s high jump. And it was Canada’s women’s football team that won the hearts of the country after their controversial semifinal loss against the Americans and their win in the bronze-medal game. There were even non-medallists like Jessica Zelinka, Damian Warner, Mary Spencer and Canada’s women’s gymnastics team who won the respect of the nation.
The Olympic Games here showed that inspiring a generation doesn’t strictly mean winning a gold medal. For the first time in London, all Olympic sports had events for women or were mixed. Also every competing country sent female athletes with their delegation. This was especially victorious for women of Muslim nations as they could finally compete for their country. There was also individual achievements here in London too. There was marathon runner Guor Mariol from South Sudan. South Sudan was just formed as a nation one year ago and has not yet formed its own national Olympic Committee. Guor was given the option to compete for Sudan but refused. Because Sudan it is the country responsible for the genocide of two million of his people, including eight of Guor’s own brothers and sisters, he believed competing for Sudan would be a betrayal to his people. The IOC agreed to have him compete as an Independent Olympic Athlete, one of four at these Games. His appearance could lead to a South Sudan team for the 2016 Olympics. There was South African double-leg amputee runner Oscar Pistorius who had only run in the Paralympics previously and won a long battle with the IAAF to run as an Olympic runner. He ran as part of South Africa’s relay team and in the men’s 400m event. He only made it to the semifinals in the individual 400m but the highlight was at the end as eventual Olympic champion Kirani James did a name tag exchange with him as a sign of respect. There was the American men’s 4*400m relay where the first runner Manteo Mitchell broke his fibula halfway through his run but still ran to the exchange to help the US qualify for the finals. In the finals, Bryshon Nellum who was shot in the leg three years earlier and was told he would never run again ran as part of the silver-medal winning team. He would be chosen as the American flag bearer at the closing ceremonies. And there was delight in the home crowd as British diving prodigy Tom Daley wanted to win a medal for his father who died one year earlier. Those in Britain and the diving world were well aware of the close relationship he had with his father whom wholeheartedly supported Tom during his lifetime. He faced a tightly competitive field in the men’s platform diving but won the bronze. You don’t have to win a gold to be a hero.
THE NEW POSSIBLE: NEW RECORDS SET
Have you been seeing all those ads from AT&T where they show a winning moment and a young athlete writes it as their goal followed by the tagline: “Here’s to the new possible?” The new possibles have been celebrated as new World Records and new Olympic Records countless times here in London. Archery saw the world records fall in the ranking rounds of both the men’s individual and team tournaments. Athletics saw the Olympic record broken in twelve events: four of them new world records. The most amazing had to be the American women’s 4*100 relay team breaking a 27 year-old world record held by East Germany by more than half a second. Cycling saw ten world records broken in four events. All but two were set by British cyclists. Shooting saw seventeen Olympic records and seven world records broken or equaled. Both Modern Pentathlon events saw new Olympic record totals set. Swimming saw the Olympic record fall in twenty events and the world record fall in eight events. The women’s events were the ones with the most change as only two events saw the old Olympic record still standing. Weightlifting saw nineteen Olympic records set, eight of them world records. They say records were made to be broken. Makes you wonder how many of those new records will be broken in 2016?
THE FIRST OF THEIR COUNTRY
Remember how I made mention in my segment of Botswanian sprinter Amantle Montsho that one of my favorite Olympic moments is when a country wins their first ever Olympic medal? Here in London, seven nations won their first ever Olympic medals here in London. Botswana was one of them but it wasn’t Montsho; it was Nijel Amos who won silver in the men’s 800m run. Bahrain’s first ever medal was a bronze in the women’s 1500m run won by Maryam Yusuf Jamal. Montenegro’s women’s handball team won their country’s first medal, a silver. Guatemalan race walker Erick Barrondo brought his country on the medals table for the first time ever with a silver in the 20km walk. The victory ceremony of the men’s heavyweight category in taekwondo saw Gabon’s flag raised for the first time ever at the Olympics for silver medalist Anthony Obame. Cyprus arrived on the medals podium for the first time ever thanks to sailor Pavlos Kontides winning silver in the Laser event. And finally the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada with a population of only 110,000 had an Olympic champion in 19 year-old sprinter Kirani James in the men’s 400m run. With that Grenada set a unique Summer Olympic record for most gold medals per population, beating The Bahamas in 1964 when they had a population of 130,000. The Winter Olympic record is another story. Anyways back to the focus of this segment, one of the reasons why I like seeing a country win their country’s first Olympic medals is because you know they will come home to their country a national hero. That’s the biggest example of the London Games motto “Inspire a generation” happening here. No doubt they’ll inspire their country’s children to excel like them.
HOST NATION PRIDE
The British Olympic Committee has existed possibly ever since there was an Olympic Games. However things changed in the late 90’s after the Atlanta Games of 1996 where Britain won a total of 15 medals and only one was gold. The Olympic Committee revamped itself as Team GB in 1999 and meant to unify the team as one body, irrespective of one athlete’s particular sport. It’s formula appeared to pay off as Team GB, had set targets of medal achievements in each sport at the London Olympics and a total medal target of at least 48 medals; one more than the total won in Beijing. That seemed a pretty high target considering Beijing had one of Britain’s biggest medal hauls ever. It actually turned out to be a very realistic target as Great Britain won a total of 65 medals including 29 golds in a total of 17 sports. It all started with a silver medal won by cyclist Lizzie Armistead in the Women’s Road Race and ended on closing day with pentathlete Samantha Murray winning silver in the women’s modern pentathlone event. In between were loads of reasons for the host country to cheer, especially on Saturday the 4th when Britain won six golds on what will be known as ‘Super Saturday’.
One of the benefits of Team GB’s sport unity was the ability for Brits to excel better than ever in sports Britain was never much of a power in. Taekwondo had only one British medal in the past and here in London they had their first Olympic champion. Previously underrated tennis player Andy Murray won the men’s singles tournament and later won silver in the mixed doubles tournament. Britain won its very first triathlon medals here through the Brownlee brothers: Alastair taking gold and Jonathan taking bronze. British canoeists won more gold medals than ever. And the British gymnastics team here in London won a silver and three bronze; the same total of medals British gymnasts have won in all past Olympic Games combined. There were also some sports where Britain used to dominate in the past that saw a return to the dominance here in London. British boxers won medals in five of the thirteen categories including three wins. Britain’s equestrian riders won gold in three of the six events. And British sailors won medals in five categories including a gold medal for Ben Ainslie in the Finn class: his fourth consecutive.
However it was in the sports that Britain has consistently done best in over the years that saw their biggest successes. It was the sports of cycling, rowing and athletics that most gave the home country something to cheer about. The GB cycling team that included greats like Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins always got the crowd cheering especially in the velodrome as they won twelve medals, eight of them gold. No other country did better in cycling. British rowers won the most medals winning in nine of the fourteen categories including four gold. Athletics saw huge success with four gold and six total medals but it was on ‘Super Saturday’ August 4th that Britain had three Olympic champions: Mo Farah in the men’s 10000m; Greg Rutherford in the long jump; and Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon. There hasn’t been that many athletics wins by a host country in a single day since the Los Angeles games of 1984. The only sport Britain fell short in was swimming where they targeted five medals at the least but wound up with only three. A far cry from the six medals won in Beijing. There were other sports where Britain made no target and no medals resulted. Even in soccer Britain’s teams lost their quarterfinals: the women to Canada and the men to South Korea via (what else?) penalty kicks. Nevertheless it was their biggest Olympics since 1908 and it gave the whole of Great Britain something to cheer about and a Games to be proud of.
Even though these were an excellent Olympic Games, it’s not to say they weren’t without their problems. First was to do about their security. In the days leading up to the Games, the media made highlights of the security inadequacies. This lead the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) to bring in British troops from even as far away as Afghanistan to help. Another was to do about the use of Twitter by some athletes. The bad tweets got most of the attention but two athletes–a Greek triple-jumper and a Swiss soccer player–wrote tweets bigoted enough to get them taken off their team.
There were lowlights during the events. First was news about all the empty seats at some events. despite ensuring fans that tickets were all sold out. Even the non-ticketed qualifying rounds of archery held just before the opening ceremonies raised eyebrows. Another controversy was a man from the stands threw a bottle at the track just before the start of the men’s 100m final and was subsequently arrested. One boxing referee was dismissed from the Olympic for awarding a win to an Azerbaijani fighter who was knocked to the canvas six times by his Japanese rival. A women’s fencing semifinal was given extra time because of a clock malfunction. That allowed German fencer Britta Heidemann to win the match against South Korea’s Shin A-Lam. A-Lam protested with a one-hour sit-in to no avail. One scoreless judo quarterfinal led to the judges unanimously deciding the win on the Korean fighter at first then changing it to the Japanese fighter with no explanation.
However of all the lowlights outside of actual cheating, the two most notable came in the gymnastics events and women’s soccer. Gymnastics first saw scoring problems first in the case of two scores–one by a Japanese gymnast in the team competition and another by American Aly Raisman in the balance beam final–leaving the individual and team out of the medals. Their country’s respective official immediately appealed the score in both cases and both were changed to a score that allowed the gymnasts to win their medals. Another case came when British gymnast Louis Smith and Hungarian Krisztian Berki were both given the same score in the pommel horse final. However Berki won the gold because of a higher execution score. This broke the hearts of both Smith and the British people especially since had Smith won the gold, he would have become Britain’s first-ever Olympic champion in gymnastics. No doubt gymnastics scoring will be debated and reassessed by the FIG in the years before the 2016 Olympics. And a woman’s soccer semifinal received a rare delay-of-game call against the Canadian goalkeeper which allowed an American player to get a penalty kick to tie the game. The American team won the semifinal and went on to win the gold medal. The Canadians were disheartened but not enough to win their bronze-medal match three days later.
The biggest Olympic lowlights are always the cheaters. Usually the Olympic cheaters that make the biggest news are often those that test positive for drugs. Here at these Olympics the cheaters that made the biggest news were the ones that cheated through different means. The biggest news came in the women’s doubles badminton tournament. Four teams deliberately lost in their preliminary bouts so they can get a more favorable position in the elimination round. When it was revealed, all four teams were disqualified. Also newsworthy was the stricter rules in sports such as the no-false-start rule which means even a single false start in swimming and athletics would get one disqualified. It almost happened in two swimming finals but both false-starters were allowed to compete as the starts were on technical malfunctions. Another case of stricter rules came when Canada’s men’s 4*100 relay team was third across the finish line but was disqualified of the race as one of their runners stepped on the lane’s line only once. In the past runners were allowed a maximum of three steps.
There were even some cases of cheating later admitted and cheating being questioned now. First was the swimming feat of China’s double-gold medalist Ye Shiwen. Her 400m Individual Medley win was set in world record time with her final 50m swum comparable to the time of the men’s winner Ryan Lochte. Despite the controversy, she tested negative in all of her drug tests. Another swimming shocker came in the men’s 100m breaststroke when South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh won in world record time. He later admitted to using more than one allowable dolphin kick during the race. He was not disqualified. Britain may have provided some of the biggest highlights of the cycling competition but the Men’s sprint team provided a lowlight as member Philip Hindes crashed and the team was given a restart. Hindes claimed in an interview that he crashed deliberately after a slow start to get the restart for his team. He later retracted his statement and so far no action has been taken against him. And then there’s men’s 1500m run champion Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria. On the day before his gold-medal run, he withdrew himself from the 800m heats after 200m. The IAAF disqualified him feeling he didn’t give an honest effort. He was later reinstated after providing a medical certificate showing that an ailment hampered his efforts. Whatever the truth is, Makhloufi will continue to be under suspicion. One thing about these incidents of potential disqualification is that it shows the sports feds need to get their acts together.
And then there are the positive drug tests. The IOC and the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) have developed tougher doping rules over the last few years such as having half the competitors of the London Games, 6000 in total, being tested between the start of the Olympics and the end of the Paralympics. All medalists and fourth-place finishers will be tested. The Olympic anti-doping agency will test up to 400 samples a day for more than 240 banned substances. Samples will also be stored and tested over a time period of four year for in the case of additional substances added to the banned list. Even WADA set an ‘in-competition’ time starting July 16th and declared that any athlete can be tested during the in-competition time without notice. During the in-competition period, thirteen athletes from thirteen countries tested positive for banned substances and sent home with suspensions. The only Olympic medalist to test positive was women’s shot put champion Nazdeya Ostapchuk of Belarus. She tested positive for Methenolone and was stripped of her gold medal. New Zealand’s Valerie Adams, second-place finisher behind Ostapchuk, now has the gold medal. One thing about all this cheating is Canadian magazine Maclean’s wrote an article about it asking: “Whatever happened to sportsmanship?”
RIO 2016: A LOOK AHEAD
The next Summer Olympic Games will be held in Rio De Janeiro in 2016. This marks the first time ever a South American city will host an Olympic Games. There’s no doubt Brazil is hoping to use these Games to showcase themselves to the world. This comes at a busy time as Rio will also be facilitating to two more major events within the next four years: World Youth Day in 2013 and the World Cup in 2014. These Olympics already have their own official motto: “Live your passion.” They will begin on August 5 and end on August 21. There are expected to be 304 events in 28 sports. There will be no new sports introduced to the Olympic program in Rio but there will be one making a comeback. Rugby will be making its Olympic return since it was last contested in 1924 although the Olympics will stage Rugby sevens instead of the Rugby union conducted in the past.
The city of Rio is planning on hosting most of the events within the greater city. There are four districts of Rio where the majority of facilities are planned: Deodoro, Maracana, Copacabana and Barra. Deodoro is planned to host most of the modern pentathlon events as well as whitewater canoeing and mountain biking. Copacabana is the perfect place planned to host events in rowing, canoeing, yachting, marathon swimming and beach volleyball. Barra will be a hub for contesting sports such as swimming, gymnastics, hockey, tennins, boxing and wrestling. Maracana will have the biggest hosting of events with the legendary Maracana stadium for football events and the ceremonies, Joao Havelange stadium for athletics, the Maracanazinho arena for volleyball and the Sambadrome which normally host Carnival will host the archery and marathon events.
Most of the events will be held in facilities that already exist like the Maracana, the Joao Havelange Stadium, the HSBC Arena, Pio Olympic Velodrome, the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre and the multipavilion Riocentro. There are some temporary facilities planned strictly for the Olympic Games like the Copacabana stadium for beach volleyball, the Deodor Modern Pentathlon Park, an Olympic Hockey Center, an Olympic Hockey Park and a temporary pavillion at the Riocentro. There are only six new venues planned for these Games like the Olympic Aquatics Stadium, the Olympic BMX Centre, an Olympic Tennis Centre and an Olympic Training Centre consisting of four halls and a total seating capacity of 50,000. The only competition venues held outside Rio will be soccer stadiums in four different Brazilian cities.
As for the Brazilian team, Brazil’s team here in London won a total of seventeen medals including three golds in eight sports. That’s their biggest medal haul ever although the most golds they won were five back in 2004. Brazil is one country whose Olympic prowess has really grown in the last twenty years. The first Olympics where Brazil ever won ten or more medals was back in 1996 and the Brazilian team has left every Summer Olympics since with ten medals at the very least. There’s no doubt Brazil wants these Games to have their biggest medal haul ever. What they will have planned in preparation for their Olympic team for these Games will be decided and carried out gradually in the next four years.
The Olympic flame won’t be lit again until the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014. By now all the Olympians are either home or heading home. Each nation’s Olympic Committee will be taking home the one of the 204 pedals of the cauldron that has their country’s name on it. One has to agree the London Games gave a lot of great memories and once again brought the world together. The Olympic flame may be extinguished in London but the flame still burns in the hearts of the athletes. That’s what continues to make the Olympic Games so great. Its ability to unite the world, put on a show and inspire the young. The motto of the Games was “Inspire a generation” and you can be sure there were many children watching that were inspired here. Thank you London for a job well-done.
WIKIPEDIA: 2012 Summer Olympics. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Summer_Olympics>
WIKIPEDIA: 2016 Summer Olympics. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Summer_Olympics>
WIKIPEDIA: Controversies at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controversies_at_the_2012_Summer_Olympics>
WIKIPEDIA: Controversies at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Team_GB>