Since I am behind today it seems only logical to create 2 posts to get back on track to write one post a day for 31 days.
The Olympics changed in the 1990’s. This change pretty much started in 1989 when Communism started to collapse, the Soviet Union broke up, and the Cold War essentially came to an end. One thing this meant is no more boycotts. Yay! This break-up led to many new countries getting into the Olympics and Germany would now compete as one country. The Olympics also decided to let professional athletes compete in the Olympics. Finally, the Winter Games and Summer Games split from each other so they were no longer held on the same year.
The ’92 Winter Olympics were held in Albertville, France. I won’t even pretend that I remember anything about these games. I know I semi-watched them. The wife will not miss a minute of figure skating which means I don’t miss a minute of figure skating. Kristi Yamaguchi of the United States and Midori Ito of Japan won gold and silver respectively. These ladies were the first figure skaters of Asian decent to win Olympic medals. Midori was also the first female to land a triple axle in the history of the Olympics. She apologized to Japan for not winning first place. Midori was given the honor of lighting the Olympic flame for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Kristi Yamaguchi turned pro after the Olympics touring with Stars on Ice. More recently she made news by winning the 6th season of Dancing with the Stars and for endorsing Mitt Romney.
The excitement of the 1992 summer games was dominated by one main event. The rules now allowed for professional basketball players to participate in the Olympic games. The United States dominated Olympic basketball. However, in 1988, the team finished in 3rd place. Now the United States had the chance to put its best professionals together and take back our game. They were dubbed the Dream Team. Chuck Daly of the Pistons was the coach. The co-captains were Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Also on the team were Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phoenix favorite Charles Barkley. Sir Charles had been traded to the Suns that summer. He, Jordan and Pippen would later play against each other in the NBA finals that season. The Dream Team went on to win by an average of 40 plus points a game. They were usually posing for pictures before the game with their opponents, which regarded members of the Dream Team as their heroes. I recommend reading the new book out called “Dream Team”.
In 1994 one of the more bizarre incidents occurred in that most violent of Olympic sports – figure skating. Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan were the two of the top US figure skaters in ’94. During practice for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked and struck in the leg by a police baton. The blow was intended to break her knee, but only bruised the thigh. It was discovered that Tonya Harding’s ex-husband hired the thug that attacked Nancy. The ex implicated Tonya Harding as being involved in the attack. Both women went to the Olympics that year. Harding finished 7th. Nancy Kerrigan won silver. Kerrigan retired from competition and has kept involved figure skating and charity work in various ways. She had a tiny part in “Blades of Glory”. In an effort to somehow connect this post to the world of weddings, Nancy’s Olympic final outfit was designed by famous fashion and wedding dress designer Vera Wang. Tonya Harding pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution of the attackers. She was stripped of all her skating titles and banned for life from competing in skating. Because of her involvement in the attack, the professional skating circuit shunned her. Tonya gained a little more notoriety by releasing a sex tape of her honeymoon. She later dabbled in ladies’ boxing, finishing her short career 3-3. She still claims she is innocent of any involvement in the assault on Kerrigan.
Atlanta was the site of the 1998 Summer Games. Of note at these games was the lighting of the Olympic flame by Muhammad Ali. Michael Johnson won the 200 and 400 meter races. The U.S. women’s soccer team won Olympic gold. My favorite moment ot the U.S. team, and the favorite moment of many other people as well, would not occur until the World Cup finals in 1999. Keri Strug won the hearts of the nation and world when she vaulted with torn ligaments in her leg. She stuck the landing on one leg and then collapsed unable to walk. This gutsy effort of hers helped the U.S. to win the Olympic team gold in gymnastics for the first time.
The nightmare of these Olympics occurred when a bomb went off in Century Olympic Park, killing 1 and injuring over 100. Richard Jewell, a security guard at the park, found a suspicious backpack, called the proper authorities and helped evacuate the area while they awaited the arrival of the bomb squad. Richard Jewell was hailed as somewhat of a hero and is actions had helped to save lives. But then the nightmare began for Richard Jewell. Three days after the bombing, the Atlanta Journal and Constitutional wrote an article which said the FBI considered Jewell to be a “person of interest” in the bombing, based on some “lone bomber” profile. While the FBI investigated Jewell, the press went into full “guilty until proven innocent” mode. The press investigated every aspect of his life, camped outside his house 24/7 and pretty much had Richard Jewell convicted of this crime. His motive was, according the press, the “failed police officer syndrome.” They figured Jewell had set this all up so he could be a hero. Jewell was sued by some of the victims, even though he was never charged with the crime. After he passed a polygraph, the FBI took Jewell off the suspect list. After this, Jewell filed several lawsuits against various media outlets for slander and libel. All but one was settled out of court. Jewell was finally and completely cleared of any involvement in the bombing when the real bomber confessed in 2005. Richard Jewell went on to work in various law enforcement jobs. He died of natural causes in 2005 at the age of 44.
The decade finished with the 1998 Winter Olympics held in Nagano, Japan. Compared with the last two Olympics, this was a nice, peaceful time. Of note, women’s ice hockey made its Olympic debut with the U.S. team winning the gold. Snowboarding also made its debut as an Olympic sport. A Canadian won the gold, although he had earlier been removed from the competition because he was found to have marijuana in his system. Go figure.
In a cute current Olympic moment, I can hear my wife yelling at the tv for Michael Phelps to hurry, even though she already knows he won. I guess that’s just human nature.
Coming up next: the 21st century games and a special post about the 2012 games.
Musical inspiration: The sound of the Olympics on television. The performances are inspiring, the talk and the hype and the look how smart we are NBC announcers only inspire me to put the tv on mute.
Apollo Track and Field 1998. I do not play golf. I do not know why I have that hat.