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History of the Olympic torch relay including all its good and bad times

It takes place once every two years, around the time it usually takes for me to get a pay stub — emphasis on stub — for writing one of these articles: the Olympics. The event comes as a reminder when people all of a sudden start getting into fistfights on the street over badminton medal hopefuls.

For a quick review, the Summer Olympics sports are characterized by those events that were largely conceived in an era when dressing like Mr. Peanut was popular. The sports of the Winter Games were, by and large, borne out of inebriated bets: Why any sober individual would compete in a sport called skeleton is beyond the scope of my imagination. One would think finishing alive would be the priority, with the medals being fussed over once a chiropractor has examined the wreckage.

A discussion on the Olympics themselves is best left to a later date. (Check back in a month.) What concerns this writer is the continuing of a tradition that is rooted in antiquity. No, not the outbreak of plague in the athletes’ village, but the biannual tradition of a torch relay to mark the beginning of the Games.

The Olympic Flame is the symbol of the event. In ancient Greece, it was kept burning throughout the duration of the event and even sometimes afterwards, as evidenced by the members of the 1972 U.S. basketball team. There have been many notable memories surrounding the Olympic torch, some good and, of course leave to me to point them out, the not so good.

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Olympic officials reportedly concerned about potential prostitution boom in London

With all the concerns involving security, housing, venues, and more that surround hosting the Olympic Games, one potential problem has a tendency to slip through the cracks: Prostitution. From a business standpoint, it makes perfect sense. The Olympics brings together a massive group of people that includes athletes, coaches, spectators, relatives, and lonely businessmen. Add that up and you get major brothel potential.

According to the BBC, former Minister for the Olympics Tessa Jowell told the Metro Police Authority back in January of 2010 that she would not stand for women being trafficked to London in search of business.

“Major sporting events can be a magnet for the global sex and trafficking industry; this is wholly unacceptable,” Jowell said. “I am determined that traffickers will not exploit London 2012.”

Maybe that’s why they ordered an extra shipment of these at the Vancouver Games. During the Athens Olympics in 2004, it is believed that the number of known human trafficking victims almost doubled. Those numbers have been widely disputed, but that event certainly raised awareness about the potential problems events of a similar scale could face with regard to prostitution. Studies have found that prostitution is a significant issue during the World Cup as well.

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Japanese Paralympic sprinter poses for nude calendar to try to raise money for Olympics

When Maya Nakanishi was 21, she lost her leg after being hit by a steel beam at work. As an athlete, she refused to let the life-altering injury slow her down. Nakanishi is now one of the world’s top Paralympic sprinters. Running with one leg that has been amputated below the knee, she is the record-holder in the T44 200 meter race and the long jump. She competed in the Paralympics in Beijing back in 2008, but Nakanishi is struggling to put together enough money to be able to compete in London this summer.

In a fundraising effort, Nakanishi has put together a semi-nude calendar in hopes of raising enough money to purchase a new prosthetic leg and be able to train for the Summer Olympics. Photos from the calendar can be seen here.

“I don’t regret having become nude,” Nakanishi said according to NDTV Sports. “I’m very happy that I was able to show Maya Nakanishi as I am.”

Nakanishi added that she was unable to compete in the 2011 world championships because of limited funds. The Japanese government provides limited financial assistance to Paralympians. While some may object to the way Nakanishi is going about raising money, many of us can’t understand how disheartening it must be to be a top athlete who can’t compete because you can’t afford it. Give her credit for finding creative ways to accomplish her goals.

H/T Off the Bench
Note: This post also appeared on Medal Detector

Usain Bolt thinks he can break 9.4 seconds in the 100 meters at the Olympics

Usain Bolt is a clear favorite on the track at the Olympics this summer in London. He’s already run the best time in the 100 meters (9.76 seconds) this year and currently holds the world record (9.58). But when it comes to setting a new world’s best mark at the Games, Bolt naturally thinks he’s the man to do it.

And not simply break the record. He wants to shatter it.

“Everybody has been talking about this 9.4 all season,” Bolt told CNN. “If it’s possible, I’ll be the one to run 9.4.

“After my trials leading up to the Olympics, then it depends on where my fitness is. If everything goes well, I can determine, how fast I think I can go.”

Bolt added that track conditions will be a significant factor. And given that it’s London, weather on race days will be crucial for times. But leave it to Bolt, one to never shy away from bravado, to calmly speak about running a mind-blowing 9.4 seconds like it’s no big deal.

Bolt ran a world-record 9.58 at the World Championships in 2009. That time bested the previous mark of 9.69, which he broke at the 2008 Olympics. And if you have any doubts that he can top a 9.4, remember he notoriously let up early in Beijing to start celebrating before he crossed the finish line and still managed to set a world record.

And even the best in the world still can get better in four years’ time.

Note: This post also appeared on Yardbarker’s Medal Detector
Photo: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Anthony Davis reportedly a long shot to make U.S. Olympic team

It takes a special talent to be invited to try out for Team USA before ever stepping foot on the court during an NBA game. In 2007, the invitation was extended to Kevin Durant. Durant accepted the invitation but, as expected, fell short of making the team. This year, Kentucky phenom Anthony Davis has been invited to work out with the U.S. Olympic team. While Team USA is in need of size with Dwight Howard injured, Andrew Bynum not interested, and LaMarcus Aldridge potentially out, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo says it is unlikely that Davis will make the final roster.

According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Colangelo described Davis’ chances as a “long shot” before adding that it could help that the team is loaded with scorers and deeper in the back court than the front court.

“He’s not a guard competing for a guard position where we’re reasonably deep,” Colangelo said. “We don’t have any shortage of scorers. Anthony has a chance to make his mark sooner rather than later just by rebounding, defending, getting up and down the court, being a team player. He doesn’t have to score.”

Colangelo said the chances are slim because Davis is inexperienced, which will in all likelihood keep him off the roster. With only 12 players traveling to London, a kid fresh out of college would have to blow the coaching staff away to be chosen over other NBA veterans. The last thing you want to do is hurt a player’s confidence before he even plays an NBA game, so we expect Davis to remain in the States. The experience, however, can only help his progression.

H/T SLAM Online via Pro Basketball Talk
Photo credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Carmelo Anthony says he’s ‘excited’ to reunite with Mike D’Antoni at Olympics

Tension? What tension? After the way Mike D’Antoni’s tenure in New York ended earlier this season, there were many who believed Carmelo Anthony could be facing an uphill climb if he hopes to make the 2012 Team USA Olympic roster. D’Antoni resigned from his Knicks position back in March and is the assistant coach on the US Team. It was assumed at the time that Carmelo played a huge hand in D’Antoni’s decision and that the higher-ups associated with USA Basketball were unhappy about it, but ‘Melo insists there is no bad blood between him and his former coach. In fact, he claims he’s excited for the reunion.

“It’ll be good to reunite with him,” Anthony said Monday at a Team USA promotional event according to the NY Daily News. “When he left there wasn’t any bad blood between me and him.

“He was a big part of the ’08 win, and he’s there again. I’m actually excited about going over there and trying to win a gold medal with him again.”

‘Melo may be “excited” to compete for another gold medal and he and D’Antoni may even be prepared to put their differences aside. That being said, there are few who will believe that there was actually no bad blood between the two at the time of D’Antoni’s resignation. Coaching may have taken its toll on D’Antoni and he obviously felt the struggling Knicks would be better off without him, but it was no secret coach and superstar could not coexist. Since D’Antoni is not the head coach for Team USA, and the roster filled from top to bottom with superstars, London is an entirely different set of circumstances.

Photo credit: Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Beer will cost over $11 a pint at Olympics

Londoners are up in arms over the steep price of beer expected for the upcoming Summer Games.

Sample menus for the Games were published on Tuesday, and one of the more notable observations made by The Telegraph is that a pint of Heineken will cost £7.23, or slightly over $11.

But fret not, Olympics organizers thinks it’s totally reasonable to gouge fans to that extent.

“We believe that our prices are more than comparable to those found at other major sporting events, which because of their temporary nature are often more expensive than the high street,” said London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton.

So the guy essentially acknowledged prices are much higher than standard ones, but he says that should be expected. I’m sure everyone will appreciate that.

Other prices include at least £8 for the classic English dish of fish and chips, £2.10 for a toasted teacake, £2.30 for a 500ml bottle of Coca-Cola and £2 for a cup of tea.

I know I’m showing my age here, but I remember the good ole’ days when a 20oz bottle of Coke only cost $1 at a vending machine. Now you have to drop over $3.50 for one. The fish and chips for just over $12 doesn’t seem like a terrible deal, but when you realize a pint of beer is almost the same price, you have to weigh your priorities.

The good news is they’ll at least let fans bring in some food.

Note: This post also appeared on Medal Detector