POSTED ON JULY 25, 2012:
Summer Olympics London Calling
From hoops to the pummel horse, Sooners thunder toward the gold
The excitement is building as all eyes will be on London for the July 27 Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic games. With 32 sports at 34 venues and over 205 participating countries, there's a mountain of world class events to be enjoyed.
There are 10,500 athletes competing in 302 Olympic medal events, all with dreams of obtaining that shiny gold, silver or bronze. The medals will be securely locked away in the vaults of the Tower of London and will remain there until needed for the Victory Ceremonies. Over 4,700 medals have been produced and will be presented in 805 victory ceremonies that will take place in 30 London venues.
Ticket sales for the event are speculated to reach over 8.8 million with the city of London bracing for 800,000 people travelling all at once on the busiest of days. Tickets are £20, which roughly translates to about $40.
For those lucky ones who get to watch the games in person, the Olympic Park, just outside the Stratford International Airport, contains the Olympic Stadium, Aquatics Center, Water Polo Arena, Velodrome, BMX Track, Basketball arena, Olympic Villages and a plethora of shopping destinations and eateries, including the world's biggest McDonald's. One can access the entire park by train, bus, underground or trail.
One of the biggest venues, the Olympic Stadium, with a total capacity of 80,000, is built on an island and is part of the St. Thomas Creek and Bow Back rivers systems.
History, Culture and Symbols
The first Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 B.C. Dedicated to the Olympian gods, the initial games included long jump, javelin, boxing, equestrian events, running, shot put, and a pankration, which would be considered by most people today as martial arts.
Besides the rich history of the games, the Olympics are steeped in rich cultural references as well. From the colors to the Olympic flag to the length of the playing field, to the Olympic truce, which was created in the 1990s by the International Olympic Committee, all emblems, creeds and symbols point to creating a fair sporting experience where all are welcome without the cloud of politics, racism or prejudice.
One of the most recognizable symbols of the Olympic Games is the torch relay, which was ignited from the sun's rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia in a traditional ceremony on May 19. The torch makes its way in a short relay around Greece and is then handed over to the host country. The idea behind the torch relay is to spread the message of peace, unity and friendship.
The torch lights the cauldron at the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, marking the official start of the Games, staying lit until the closing ceremony. The torch will be passed off by over 8,000 people, one of which is a Tulsa local and 2011-12 American Academy of Pediatrics president, Robert Block, MD. Block was chosen because of his leadership in children's health and contributions to health care policy development. Block carried the Olympic torch through the city of Maidenhead July 10.
Several athletes who have played for the great state of Oklahoma will reach for the gold while shooting hoops. One of the most recognizable is Kevin Durant, who is in his fifth season with the Oklahoma City Thunder and a three-time NBA All-Star.
Durant is joined by OKC Thunder teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook. They will also be joined by Oklahoma City Thunder trainer Joseph Sharpe.
Basketball games start July 28 and run through the medal ceremonies of August 11-12.
Shock and Awe
The men aren't the only ones making their Olympic mark in the basketball arena. Dominique Allen, former Oral Roberts University player, and Rose Anderson, former University of Central Oklahoma player will be shooting hoops for Great Britain. Liz Cambage of the Tulsa Shock will be suiting up for Australia in the London games. Bo Overton, former OU Women's Assistant Coach, and former OU player will be Assistant Coaching for China.
Fresh from his 2011 NCAA vault and floor titles, University of Oklahoma student Jacob Dalton heads to London this summer to compete in Men's artistic gymnastics. Taking home two medals in Beijing, silver in the horizontal bar and a team bronze, Jonathan Horton is another Oklahoma Sooner gymnast. Horton holds 18 All American honors, six individual NCAA titles, and is married to former Sooner gymnast Haley DeProspero.
The men's team will be accompanied by alternate Chris Brooks, Alex Naddour, and Steve Legendre, all former Oklahoma gymnasts. Mark Williams, U.S. personal coach and member of the OU coaching staff will also join the team in London.
Men's and Women's artistic gymnastics will be televised July 28-August 2 and August 5-7. Rhythmic gymnastics run August 9-12.
Other Oklahoma Connections
Gymnastics isn't the only sport where Oklahoma athletes excel. Did you know there are seven events that host current or former athletes from many colleges and training centers in Oklahoma?
There's Tom Peszek on the U.S. rowing team, who trained at Oklahoma City's USRowing Training Center.
Mike Rodgers, former Oklahoma Baptist University athlete, will be representing the U.S. in Track and Field. Prince Mumba, former Oral Roberts athlete, will be competing in track and field for Team Zambia.
Ines Remesaro will be swimming for Uruguay, but trained as an OBU athlete.
Women's track and field events will host five athletes with Oklahoma ties. Brittany Borman and Tia Brooks, representing Team USA are both Oklahoma athletes. Latoya Greaves and Nickiesha Wilson, both former OBU athletes, will be representing Team Jamaica. Laverne Jones-Ferrette, another Oklahoma athlete, will be representing Team U.S. Virgin Islands and former Oklahoma assistant track and field coach Brian Bletrich will be the U.S. personal coach.
In the wrestling arena, Sam Hazewinkel, Jared Frayer, and Coleman Scott will represent Team USA; all three are former Oklahoma wrestlers. Robert Hines, the U.S. team doctor is a former Oklahoma wrestling physician. Michael Lightner, the U.S. personal men's wrestling coach is a former Oklahoma assistant coach and John Smith, U.S. head men's wrestling coach is a former OSU and Del City wrestler.
Even Women's Wrestling has an Oklahoma connection: Keith Wilson, former Oklahoma wrestler, is the U.S. assistant coach in the event.
In the last Olympic games in Beijing, the U.S. claimed 110 medals, more than any other nation. A great record holder in the USA arsenal of athletes is Michael Phelps, having secured 14 gold medals in his career thus far in swimming events such the 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter butterfly, and 100-meter individual relay. Teammate Ryan Lochte is slated to give Phelps a good fight in the journey to victory, having secured four medals in Tokyo. Dive into the swimming televised games July 28-August 4 and the marathon swimming competitions on August 9-10.
Several other athletes made a big splash into Olympic history. Earning her place by a tenth of a point in women's gymnastics is 16 year old Gabby Douglas. Nicknamed the 'Flying Squirrel,' she brought home gold in Tokyo on the 2011 World Team. Catch her as the women's gymnastics begins July 29.
London isn't exactly known for its balmy weather, but that won't stop Women's Beach Volleyball duo Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor as they reach for their third gold medal. Don't miss out on April Ross and Jen Kessy the other dynamic beach volleyball duo as they make their debut in the event. Women's beach volleyball runs July 28 through August 9.
Celebrity stardom won't hold back women's football goalkeeper Hope Solo. This 30-year-old phenomenon joins "Baby Horse" Alex Morgan, who made her debut in 2011.
Will Morgan posing in the Sports Illustrated body paint "swimsuit" edition help their team clinch the victory? Guess we'll have to wait until the Team USA's opener vs. France in women's soccer, which can be viewed on the NBC Sports Network on Wednesday, July 25, along with all other U.S. team sport coverage, including basketball and volleyball.
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