How to watch the Olympics

It’s almost that time – the summer Olympics officially kick off tomorrow in London (though some games like soccer have already started!).  I love the Olympics – the pomp and circumstance, the drama of people coming together from different cultures, the changing rules, the mere moments that people train their entire lives for – all played out on an international platform.  For different people, they mean different things – athletes are there to make a statement, to shatter a barrier, or simply to put all they have on the line and see how they measure up.  It’s the human experience at its most extreme.

I got into the Olympic mood by reading an amazing book called “How to Watch the Olympics” (scored through some very creative searching by my sister after I tried to recall what I briefly flipped through in a store).  It’s seriously one of the best books of this kind I’ve ever read, and I learned a ton during my commute.  I highly recommend it even if you can’t get it until after the games start – just flip to the sport you’re watching and you’ll learn a ton.

But until then, I’m going to be sharing some of the most fascinating tidbits I’ve learned from this book, from now until the end of the Olympics on August 12.  Feel free to add on your own trivia in the comments section!  Here’s what you need to know to start:

Five crazy things to know about the opening ceremony

  1. Danny Boyle (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) is directing the opening and closing ceremonies, and very little has leaked about his plans but they’re bound to be spectacular.
  2. In the opening parade, the procession is always led by the Greeks with the host country’s team bringing up the rear – and in between, all countries march in alphabetical order according to the host language.  I don’t know about you, but that blew my mind – I knew there had to be an order, and it’s hard to think of a fair one, but the simplicity there is genius.
  3. The Olympic flame can be lit in a variety of ways by a variety of people – previous lighters include someone who won a junior cross-country race to secure the honor, a schoolteacher, and an archer who lit the Barcelona torch with a flaming arrow.
  4. At one point, it was common to release the doves before lighting the Olympic flame.  That all changed in 1988, when some birds settled down on the lip of the torch and were fried to a crisp when the torch was lit.  Now, they release the doves after, so it’s their own fault if they fly into the flames, and some ceremonies have replaced the birds altogether, choosing fireworks, etc. instead.
  5. Watch carefully to see who gets the loudest cheers and who gets the silent treatment – Saudi Arabia might get kudos for sending women for the first time, countries facing strife and war usually get support, and Europeans in general will probably be streaming into nearby London to fill the stands and cheer for their countrymen.

Click here to find out how you can watch the Olympics – and let the games begin!