Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 31, 2012

Summer Olympics spotlight sports, schadenfreude, socialized medicine, more

The 2012 Summer Olympics are under way in London, and in just a few days, they’ve offered a wide variety of food for thought, much of which has little to do with sports competitions.

• Just before the Olympics began, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney traveled to London to show off his diplomatic and foreign relations skills — or not. As Romney headed across the pond, an anonymous Romney advisor dog-whistled to racists that President Barack Obama doesn’t appreciate the UK and US’s shared “Anglo-Saxon heritage.” That’s not all: Romney also managed to insult his British hosts by doubting their readiness to host the games and willingness to embrace them. Romney then broke protocol by talking about his meeting with the head of MI6. These are just a few the gaffes that caused the British press to dub Romney “Mitt the Twit” and to judge him “worse than [Sarah] Palin.”

The Sun, Friday, July 27, 2012

Romney’s foibles inspired Brits to coin a new term for his performance, “RomneyShambles.” It’s a play on the slang term “omnishambles” that’s largely unknown in the US because it comes from a British sitcom. “Omnishambles” means “a complete screw-up in all areas,” according to Macmillan Dictionary. RomneyShambles provided me — and many folks who’ve been distressed by the stunningly dishonest campaign that Romney’s been running — with a heck of a lot of schadenfreude.

Twitter exploded with the RomneyShambles hashtag, providing yet another competition. Following are the tweets about Romney’s gaffes that I’d like to award bronze, silver, and gold medals, if I could. For the bronze, @brx0 tweeted, “Next up: Driving around London with the queen’s corgis on the roof.” For the silver, Danielle Blake (@DCPlod) tweeted, “Romney retroactively cancels visit to London.” For the gold, the Guardian’s Paul Harris (@paulxharris) tweeted, “Good old Mitt. His charm offensive in the UK failed to be charming, but he really pulled off the offensive bit.”

• The opening ceremony, which was created by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, was entirely different than the spectacular show produced by the Chinese to open the 2008 Summer Olympics. I loved that the Brits prize their system of socialized medicine, the National Heath Service, so much that they included a substantial tribute to it in the opening ceremony.

Romney was in attendance at the opening ceremony. He has flip-flopped on health care reform so much (like he has on many other issues, ranging from abortion to immigration to gun control to gay rights) that he is now promising to repeal the Affordable Care Act that is modeled after his own signature achievement as Massachusetts governor. His presence and flip-flop history meant that the opening ceremony tribute to actual socialized medicine generated more schadenfreude for me.

• The first 2012 Olympic competition I watched was Saturday morning’s men’s road race. I noticed lots of bikes made by Morgan Hill-based Specialized Bicycle Components. I did a little online research during the race, and learned that from Twitter user @RaceRadio that all of the Specialized bikes in the Olympics are a distinctive red-orange color. Knowing that made it easy to pick out the Specialized riders from the peloton. When two men’s road race competitors broke away from the pack toward the end of the race, I knew who to root for: the guy on the Specialized bike. And, lo and behold, Kazakhstan’s Alexander Vinokourov won the gold medal on his Specialized bike.

Alexandre Vinokourov moves clear of the peloton from the Flickr photostream of Sum_of_Marc

When I watched the women’s road race on Sunday morning, I watched for the Specialized bikes. While none of the medalists was riding one the bikes with the South County connection, it was great having the information as I watched the coverage.

I wonder why Specialized didn’t do more to inform potential customers here in South County, around the country, and around the world about their Olympic connection. I get lots of press releases from people and organizations with thin or non-existent South County connections, but I haven’t seen anything from Specialized about their easy-to-spot bicycles in the Olympics.  During the women’s road race, I rooted around Specialized’s Twitter feed, Facebook page, and web site and didn’t find any information, even after Vinokourov’s gold medal performance atop a Specialized bike. Seems like lots of missed opportunities — before and during the Olympics — to me.

As I write, the London Olympics are only a few days old. I’m looking forward to the surprises, schadenfreude, spectacles, social media storms and snafus, the search-engine optimization opportunities, and, oh yes, the sports competitions that the remaining weeks provide.

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