Happy First Day of the Olympics!
While you’ll have to wait until Friday to watch the Opening Ceremony, the games get underway today with the beginning of the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments.
Men’s and Women’s Soccer
Television coverage begins today at 9:30 Central/10:30 Eastern on MSNBC with a women’s soccer match between Great Britain and New Zealand. The United States women are in action against France at 10:30 Central/11:30 Eastern on the NBC Sports Network.
You will also be able to catch women’s soccer matches between Cameroon and Brazil, Colombia and North Korea, and Sweden and South Africa today on NBC networks.
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Guor Marial to Compete as Independent
While most Olympic athletes are honored to represent their countries at the highest levels of international athletic competition, marathoner Guor Marial doesn’t have a country to represent. Marial, currently a permanent resident in the United States, grew up in what is now South Sudan. He fled his country in 2001 to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War.
Marial is not yet a U.S. citizen and is thus ineligible to compete for the U.S. Olympic team. South Sudan, which has only been a country since July 9 of last year, does not yet have an Olympic organization and will not have a team in London.
Sudan—the country in which Marial was (technically) born and from which his homeland declared independence—offered Marial a spot on its team, but he refused. Regarding Sudan’s offer, he said to CNN, “Never. For me to even consider that is a betrayal. My family lost 28 members in the war with Sudan. Millions of my people were killed by Sudan forces. I can only forgive, but I cannot honor and glorify a country that killed my people.”
But since Marial, a former All-American cross country runner at Iowa State, met the Olympic “A” qualification standard, the International Olympic Committee will allow him to run as an independent. Marial will carry an Olympic flag in the Opening Ceremony. If he medals the Olympic hymn, rather than a country’s national anthem, will play during the ceremony.
Though he will take the appearance of a generic Olympian, Marial says that he will be representing South Sudan in spirit.
At the 2000 games in Sydney, four athletes from East Timor, the tiny Southeast Asian nation that became a sovereign state in 2002, also competed as independents under the Olympic flag.
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Uniforms: The Good and The Bad
The Ralph Lauren, made-in-China uniforms that the American delegation will wear during Friday’s Opening Ceremony drew the ire of millions of Internet commenters. But Americans are not alone in our uniform anxiety. This is what the Spanish team will be wearing:
Spanish tennis player Carlos Moyá, who will not be in London, tweeted, “Looking forward to seeing [fellow Spanish tennis player] Feliciano López wearing the official Olympic uniform. He’ll never have worn anything so ugly in his life.”
The Australians, meanwhile, put an Easter egg in their unis. Printed on the lining of the green blazers that the Aussie athletes will wear are the names of all 131 Australian Olympic gold medalists, from runner Edwin Flack (who won two gold medals at the 1896 Olympics in Athens) to the 26 Australians who won gold in Beijing.
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Dearth of Rafaels
One elite Spanish athlete who will not have to wear the garish team uniform is Rafael Nadal. The world’s third-ranked tennis player was supposed to have been Spain’s flag-bearer, but he withdrew from the games last week with a knee injury.
Brazil’s soccer team yesterday announced that starting goalkeeper Rafael—just “Rafael,” you don’t have to have a last name in Brazil—will also miss the games with an injury. He hurt his elbow during practice this week.
It looks like someone wants to keep people named “Rafael” away from London.
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It should be a fun couple of weeks. And if you aren’t in the Olympic spirit yet, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe ordering a pair of these from the Ryan Lochte Store will get you in the mood: