The London Games has been full of firsts, but being in the Excel Arena when Katie Taylor won the debut gold medal in the lightweight division of women’s boxing was a first among firsts. It seemed the entire country of Ireland was packed inside, blanketing the arena in green, orange and white, and intent of setting decibel records the likes of which the Games have never seen. Most fans had bought their tickets months in advance, confident “their Katie” would be in the final. Back home in her hometown of Bray, businesses shut down, children got out of class, and everyone held their breath for the eight minute bout. She struggled at first, but managed to come out punching and do both her country and the new sport of Olympic women’s boxing proud. After the match, when I asked a young boy from Bray whether it was odd to see women in the ring, he didn’t hesitate at all in answering, “No.” To me, that’s what the Olympics are about – breaking barriers and setting ever higher standards.
The Olympics are supposed to be about sportsmanship, and that includes being gracious when losing, and accepting that sometimes things just don’t go your way. So in the mixed zone after U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber missed making the cut for the all-around final, I was surprised, and disappointed, to hear both Bela Karolyi and Wieber’s coach John Geddert ripping apart the rule that permits only two gymnasts from each country to participate in the event (both called it “stupid”). Only 24 gymnasts compete in the all-around final, and the rule is there so a single country won’t fill up the majority of the spots in the event (that used to be a problem when the eastern European countries dominated the sport); what fun would that be for spectators? The Olympics are a global sports event, and fans come to watch athletes from all over the world test their skills against each other. Plus — you know the rules coming in.