To all the athletes and spectators at the 2016 Olympics: May the odds be ever in your favor. After the first weekend of competition I wasn’t sure if I was watching the Olympics or the Hunger Games. Is their mascot a monkey or a mockingjay?
Let’s start with the death defying cycling competitions. On the first day of the games, men’s cycling went on a 6 hour tour of Panem, er I mean Rio which included cobblestones, oil slicked asphalt and rain soaked descents. A BBC commentator, a former world class cyclist himself, said in a fit of anger after the men’s race that this was not just a technically difficult course. It was actually the most dangerous course he had ever seen and the Olympic designers should be held accountable. Accountable for what you ask? For three fractured collarbones and shoulders, a broken pelvis, a contused thorax and countless hematomas and lacerations. There were more injuries in this one day race than there were in three weeks of the biggest bicycle race in the world, the Tour de France – which by the way goes through the Alps. In the end all the favorites were taken away on stretchers and the last man standing, a Belgian cyclist who no one knew, won the gold medal.
The next day it was the women’s turn. Again cyclists started imploding as they raced around the same, albeit a little shorter, course. Again favorites were knocked out as they careened into curbs and trees and other cyclists. The worst accident took the leading cyclist, Dutch competitor Annemiek van Vieuten, off the board with only 12 miles to go. Her wheels locked as she was descending the treacherous Vista Chinesa. Her bike careened off the course hitting a stone curb causing her to pitch headfirst off her bicycle and land on her head and neck. She lay there at an awkward broken angle, unmoving as the other cyclist raced by horrified. She looked like a marionette whose strings had been cut. The medics were there but appeared afraid to move her. Later after she was hospitalized and in intensive care the Dutch team announced she had three fractures of her spine and a severe concussion.
The BBC commentator was speechless.
Did you watch men’s gymnastics? If you did you still did not see what happened to the French gymnast Samir Ait Said. NBC deemed it too gruesome to broadcast. He was on the vault and successfully did two backward flips before he landed. That’s when the cringe worthy incident occurred.
I have two names for you: Joe Theisman and Kevin Ware. Washington Redskin quarterback Joe Theisman’s leg was snapped like a wooden matchstick live on Monday night football ending his career. It was such a horrifying sight that it is still remembered thirty years later. More recently Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware was playing against Duke in the NCAA tournament when he leaped to contest a three point shot and landed wrong. The resulting open compound fracture of his right leg was so truly awful that many of his teammates started sobbing. None could look at him. This past weekend Samir Ait Said made those injuries look like carpel tunnel syndrome.
Said also landed wrong. A crack was heard across the stadium and the Frenchman went down. He tried to hold his leg up. He was only partially successful. The lower half of his shin with the ankle and foot still attached hung at a ninety degree angle to the rest of his leg. Only a layer of muscle and skin kept it attached to his body. He did not even scream just went into shock. And the gamemakers were not done with him yet. As they were loading him into the ambulance they dropped him.
We have not even discussed the stray bullet fired into the media tent next to the equestrian event, the controlled explosion near the finish line of the cycling, the two Australian rowing coaches robbed at knife point on Ipanema Beach or the fact that the windows of an Olympic bus filled with journalists were shattered while driving through Rio – they are not yet sure if it was sprayed with gunfire. How about the Argentinian tennis player who got stuck in an Olympic Village elevator for an hour and had to be rescued by the handball team before he could race to his competition? What about the Dutch dressage horse which had to be removed from competition after it was bit by a mosquito and was infected with a toxic bacteria? And we can’t forget about the rowers who have to wear antimicrobial suits to compete because the bacteria level in the water where they are rowing is over a million times higher than that which is considered legal in the United States or the Olympic diving pool that has mysteriously turned from blue to green.
If you watch any of the events live over the next week listen for the unmistakable boom of a cannon in the background. If you hear it scan the skies on your television screen for the head-shot of the next Olympian to fall. The gold medal and title of Victor goes to the last one left.
Oh and if you decide to go yourself – don’t eat the berries.