Rio by the See-O
Fun seeing the women's marathon. But then, I have particularly fond memories of this event. The very first women's marathon was at the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles. Rather than begin on the street, which is always the case with marathons, they made a big deal of this and started on the track and small stadium at Santa Monica City College, where a special ceremony was held. I woke up early to be there and get a seat.
And this is the start of the very first women's marathon in Olympic history. You can see Joan Benoit in there, the eventual winner, but she's a little hard to make out without me pointing. I'll try --
You see the American flag? At the blue-stars corner, it's sort of pointing at a runner in white. That's not her. Just to her left and slightly behind is a runner in blue with a horiztontal white stripe -- that's not her either. But just to this runner's left is someone who you can see a bit of, from the shoulders up, in a white hat, in the center and in lane three from the left. That's Joan Benoit. And she's great.
After the opening ceremony and start, I jumped in my car and drove down to the beach to park, and then made my way to where I knew the runners would eventually be running by along Pacific Coast Highway.
This is a sort of famous shot. Not the photograph itself, but what it represents. It's maybe about 20-30 minutes into the race. And a few minutes before, Joan Benoit did something that marathon runners don't do -- she broke away from the back really early, and everyone was sure that it was much too early and she'd burn herself out, and the pack would eventually catch up and pass her.
That's Joan Benoit below, right behind the lead-truck. She's in gray with her the brim of her white hat famously folded up. And the runners in the group behind her are...well, sorry, no, you can't see them. They're that far back. In fact, when I turned to the right and looked down PCH, I couldn't see the following-pack. That's how much in the lead 5-'2" Joan Benoit was. And she kept it up the entire rest of the marathon, and even extended her lead. It was a remarkable achievement.
And this is ABC's television coverage of the finish. It's great stuff, well-worth watching. The last 500 yards of the first-ever women's marathon, as Joan Benoit -- all whopping 5' 2" of her -- runs through the streets, her brim now lowered from the blistering heat, and then into the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. And as you will see, I wasn't lying: there is absolutely NO ONE even in sight of her. In fact, she almost finishes before the runner in second place, Grete Waitz of Germany, even enters the stadium! She wins by an amazing one minute and 25 seconds. And keep watching, because even after finishing, Joan Benoit continues running around the stadium
Yes, I know that's all from 32 years ago. And this is supposed to be about today (though today is tied to it, the first-ever), but I'm taking a moment of personal privilege. I was there. And it was great.
The American men in basketball, who were supposed to wipe away the competition, squeaked by with their third straight close victory, this time just getting past mighty France.
By the way, for the life of me I don't understand why on earth NBC doesn't have a shot-clock graphic for its coverage. A shot clock is used in pro and college ball (to determine how much time a team has before it's required to shoot.) And TV has been using a shot-clock graphic for decades. The Olympics use a shot clock. yet for some inexplicable reason, NBC doesn't show a shot clock. So, we're limited to hearing the announcer Marv Albert say, "Durant passes the ball to Carmelo. Eight seconds left on the shot clock..." Totally odd.
As I've mentioned, I like cycling events, particularly those indoors in the Velodrome -- even though I don't fully understand the rules. But it still looks great when riders glide out of the pack up to the higher reaches of the raked track. And in the end, I get that the ultimate point is to finish first. Still I got a laugh this afternoon when analyst Christian Van de Veldte explained some detailed and convoluted strategy during the "Scratch" race. His partner responded, "I don't think anyone could disagree with that point." Disagree with it?? I don't think anyone could understand it!
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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