Olympics Culture


London trip.

“L’important dans la vie ce n’est point le triomphe, mais le combat, l’essentiel ce n’est pas d’avoir vaincu mais de s’être bien battu.

The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” – Pierre de Coubertin (founder of the modern Olympic Games.)

James Bond. Harry Potter. Mr. Bean. Music from the UK (including Sir Paul McCartney & the Arctic Monkeys). These are not only inherent to English culture, but were also featured in the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

A humorous video depicted Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond surrounded by a few of the Queen’s beloved (and adorable) corgis, and both made a surprising entrance by helicopter. The “Isles of Wonder” ceremony reflected British history and pop culture with an army of 10,000 volunteers, a focus on the Industrial Revolution, national health, Peter Pan, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, and Mary Poppins, and music from the UK – with performances by the Arctic Monkeys and Sir Paul McCartney.

Across the globe, millions were glued to their televisions or streamed the spectacle online. Prior to the opening ceremony, many were curious about its elements, as the 2008 Beijing opener wowed. In my mind, the Opening ceremony was truly representative of the country’s rich history and culture.

“The Ceremony is an attempt to capture a picture of ourselves as a nation, where we have come from and where we want to be,” Director and Ceremony Mastermind Danny Boyle said, adding the volunteers, “are the purest embodiment of the Olympic spirit and represent the best of who we are as a nation.”


With every Olympic ceremony comes the spotlight on athletes – their moment to shine and feel national pride. Every athlete beamed, and national attires and country colors further enhanced their patriotism. For the first time in the country’s history, Saudi Arabia allowed women athletes to take part in the games. During the ceremony, many took to Twitter to express their dismay with NBC commentary (myself included). One journalist, The Independent’s Guy Adams, even had his account suspended by Twitter likely for tweets critical of NBC. Twitter reactivated the account since.

Key Moments

So far, American athletes have set the bar high. U.S. female gymnasts earned gold for the first time since 1996, and Michael Phelps celebrated a record in medals earned, and other swimmers Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte, and Matt Grevers also impressed. Female 16-year-old Chinese Ye Shiwen achieved a world record in the 400m individual medley. A South Korean legally blind archer broke his own record just hours before the start of the Olympic ceremony. I chuckled when I heard the Dutch female field hockey team left more than one impression – receiving praise for athleticism, and good looks.

Unfortunately, amidst impressive athleticism and excitement, controversy arose. Racially fueled tweets led to the suspension of two athletes. Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papachristou did not even make it to the Olympics. Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella was expelled for comments charged towards South Koreans after a game.

A female South Korean fencer endured disappointment and much sadness after a clock malfunctioned in a gold medal match leaving her without the medal. And eight badminton players were recently disqualified for allegedly purposefully trying to lose.

“Is that an Olympic sport?”

Gymnastics. Swimming. Cycling. Archery. Judo. Rowing. Equestrian. The list of Olympic sports is vast – precisely 26.

Every Olympic sport has its place, but I have heard surprise about why certain sports are involved in the Games. I was disappointed to hear that as a firm believer in countries leaving their cultural footprint through their national sport(s).


What did you think of the ceremony (and the NBC commentary)? Were you impressed by the historical and cultural references? Did you enjoy the parade of athletes and traditional garb worn? Which sports do you avidly follow? How do the Olympics unite?

2 thoughts on “Olympics Culture

  1. I’ve been enjoying the Olympics, especially the women’s gymnastics. I wish the media though would step back a bit from these athletes. They are all over them all the time showing the whole world every single tear, look of frustration, etc. And then talking about it endlessly, long after the athlete has dealt with it (i.e. Jordyn Wieber). Give them a chance to breathe! It’s uncomfortable to watch.

    RE: opening ceremonies: I loved the bit with the Queen and James Bond, and Mr. Bean. I thought that Pink Floyd’s music had not been featured but apparently it was (I came in a bit late). The digital portion with the music was missing a lot of key people (hello, ONE NOTE from Led Zeppelin??).

    Still, lots of fun to watch (and LOTS of eye candy for us, for a change :-))

    1. Women’s gymnastics were incredible to watch. I can’t fathom the hours spent at the gym to accomplish what they have! I agree that the media does need to lighten up a bit, and give the athletes space to enjoy the games, and not follow them every second, as you said! There was discussion too about the lack of Britpop at the opening ceremony (no Oasis, for instance, and only a little bit of Blur) and other important musicians! But overall, I was really impressed with the incorporation of history and pop culture references. Glad you enjoyed it, too! I’m excited to see more!

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