With the Olympics in full swing, it’s easy to focus on the athletes’ accomplishments – the scores, the times, the medal counts – instead of celebrating the journey that brought them to London in the first place. Though not specific to the Olympic Games, this music video from Australian rock band The Temper Trap chronicles a journey that is probably familiar to many Olympians, particularly those in parts of the world where athletic training is less of a big business than it is in the United States.
The video, recorded in Havana for the band’s latest single, “Trembling Hands,” follows a young Cuban trapeze artist as she prepares for an upcoming performance, capturing all of the struggles, the frustrations and the raw emotion that comes with pursuing a passion. The video relies on the talents of real aerobatic athletes and exposes a part of Cuban culture that isn’t often visible to the public, with the faded streets of Havana as a backdrop.
As a sports fanatic and traveler who’s always been fascinated by the intersection of nationalism and sport, I never miss the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. It’s a little like a quick stroll around the world in that you get a look at athletes from 204 countries around the globe.
You can tell a lot about a country based on how their athletes dress and the way they carry themselves. It’s also a gas to listen to the broadcasters as they try to find something interesting to say about each country and their contingent. In case you missed the parade last night, here are some of the highlights and lowlights.
Andorra’s Old Geezer- Costas took comfort in noting that Joan Tomàs Roca, a 61-year-old sports shooter who served as Andorra’s flag bearer is a year older than he is. But I don’t think Roca’s had nearly as much work done.Coolest Hats- Congratulations to the Olympic contingent from Lesotho, which clearly had the best hats of the evening. Their conical, pointy bamboo hats made them look a bit like Vietnamese rice farmers.
Most Ridiculous Hats: The group from Belize was wearing the kind of hats you’d see on a carnival barker. Why?
Ignominious Distinction: As the athletes from poor Bangladesh entered the stadium, Costas informed American viewers that Bangladesh is the largest country never to win an Olympic medal as their athletes snapped photos and waved to the crowd. Woo-hoo! Now there’s something to shout about.
Most Colorful Robes- When the Cameroonian athletes were introduced, I nearly had to adjust my television set. They wore blinding, black and red robes with almost every color of the rainbow thrown in somewhere. An “A” for effort.
You Wore What? They were only on my screen for a matter of seconds, but I swear the Chilean contingent looked like extras from Zorro the Gay Blade.
Inane Commentary Part 1- Croatia’s flag bearer was a handball goalkeeper, prompting Matt Lauer to make one of the evening’s dumbest remarks.
“Handball – this is a sport that doesn’t have a great foothold in the U.S., but if you’re looking to get an Olympic medal, this would be a good sport to take up,” he said, seemingly at least half serious.
Right, the sport isn’t popular here, so go ahead and take it up, you’ll be sure to get an Olympic medal in it.
Um, We Have Nothing Whatsoever to Say About These Countries- Costas and Lauer had something to say about almost every country but in a few cases they just said the name of the country and nothing else. Surely, the Republic of Congo, Cote D’Ivoire and the other snubbed countries are seething this morning.
Smile!- I wasn’t surprised that the athletes from North Korea weren’t smiling, (you’d be grimacing if you lived there too) but why did the flag bearers from Cape Verde and Armenia look like they were ready to kill someone? I guess they had their game faces on.
A Dig on Badminton and the Danes- Costas introduced the Danish team by mentioning that they were the best non-Asian nation at Badminton. Hmmmm. That probably ranks right up there with being the best at table tennis, excluding the Chinese. And after that ignominious distinction, Costas couldn’t resist a dig at the sport writ large.
“And if you’re looking for badminton coverage, and who isn’t, you can find it on nbcolympics.com,” he said.
Nice Boots!- The Czech team was decked out in some snazzy bright blue rubber rain boots, in a nice dig at the notoriously crap English weather.
Please Drug Test the Independent Olympic Athletes Contingent- There were four “stateless” athletes who came out under the Independent Olympic Athletes grouping and they all clearly looked like they were on something. A blonde from The Netherlands Antilles was jumping around more than an extra in a House of Pain video.
Did George Washington Sire Any Children in Palau?- If anyone can explain to me why Palau’s flag bearer was wearing what appeared to be a colonial-era wig, please let me know in the comments section.
Give That Man a Meal- Mike Tebulo, a marathon runner who served as Malawi’s flag bearer looked like he weighs about 100 pounds. (And according to his bio, he’s actually 119 lbs!)
Coolest Headcovering- Zamzam Mohamed Farah, a track athlete who was Somalia’s flag bearer, wore a power blue head-covering with a big star on her forehead. Without knowing what the cultural significance of this outfit is, I can only say that I thought it was the most badass costume of the night.
Giving Nauru a Break- Lauer mentioned that Nauru had the smallest Olympic delegation but failed to mention that it’s the fattest country in the world.
Ugliest Shirts- OK, Togo, I’m talking to you here. What was up with the garish, gold floral patterned shirts?
Shiny, Happy Spaniards- As I said from the outset, you can tell a lot about a country based upon how its athletes carry themselves and the Spaniards looked like they’d just come from a bar, befitting their nation’s late night party ethos.
Cheer Up Eritrea- So perhaps the Eritrean team has no chance at winning any medals, but why were they so dour looking? Was it the fact that they were kitted out in somber looking gray suits? Or did someone replace their coffee with Folgers crystals?
Travelers hoping to attend the Olympic Games in London probably should have booked their hotels and bought their tickets months ago. After all, the opening ceremonies are tomorrow and events are already starting to ramp up. But if you’re the kind of person who puts everything off until the last minute, and you have a spare $100,000 burning a hole in your pocket, there are still some luxury options to be had.
Members-only travel site In The Know has partnered with private jet charter PlaneClear to deliver a London travel experience unlike any other. Their five-night Luxury Olympics Package includes a private jet to the U.K., shuttle service in a Mercedes S Class vehicle, accommodations at the exclusive Belgraves hotel and a personal 24-hour concierge.
While attending the games, travelers will also be allowed to select tickets of their choice to some of the most popular events, including gymnastics, swimming, diving and more. They can also choose to either attend three events with the best seating possible, or five events with “second tier” seating. The package also provides access to an Olympic hospitality tent, after-hours parties, leisure activities and more.
It is difficult to put a price tag on the experience of a lifetime but in this case someone has. Prices for these luxury packages start at a staggering $97,500 and can be booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your private Gulfstream or Challenger aircraft is standing by to whisk you off to London today.
With the 2012 Olympic Games only a few days away, we wanted to celebrate the beauty of London through unique photographs of the city’s iconic images and sites. While the Tower Bridge is a must-see attraction during the day, it’s even more worthwhile at night when it sparkles against a golden moon backdrop. Moreover, pictures of Big Ben at sunset, the city skyline reflected on the River Thames and an old-fashioned black and white photograph of the Houses of Parliament all pay tribute to this stunning city.
For a more visual idea of these beautiful and iconic shots, take at look at the gallery below. Looking for more London inspiration? Check out:
The spring climbing season is about to get underway in the Himalaya where teams of mountaineers are already descending on Kathmandu in preparation for their expeditions to come. Amongst them is veteran British climber Kenton Cool who is not only seeking his tenth successful summit of the world’s tallest peak, but is also looking to fulfill an 88-year-old Olympic pledge before the games return to London this summer.
Back in 1922, the Himalaya mostly remained a blank spot on the map. Those wild and rugged mountains seemed nearly impassable at the time and explorers spent years mapping their jagged peaks and high passes. One of those explorers was Lt. Colonel Edward Strutt who led one of the first expeditions that attempted to climb Everest. His team actually reached a height of 27,000 feet, which was well below the 29,029-foot summit but still managed to set a new altitude record at the time.
News of that record spread around the globe and gave hope to many that Everest would soon be conquered for King and Country. It wasn’t of course. It would be another 31 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay would become the first men to stand on the summit, but Strutt became quite the celebrated figure. So much so that in 1924, at the Olympic Games in Paris, he and his team were awarded gold medals for their accomplishments on Everest. When he received his medal from Baron Pierre du Coubertin, the Lt. Colonel promised he would carry it with him when he eventually went to the top of the mountain. Later that same year, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine would go missing on their famous Everest expedition and it would be another nine years before another team of Brits attempted the climb again. As a result, Edward Strutt never got the opportunity to take his Olympic gold to the highest point on the planet.
Now, nearly nine decades later, Cool wants to fulfill Strutt’s pledge at last. Today Kenton begins his trek to Everest Base Camp on the south side of the mountain. That trek will take upwards of ten days to complete and once there he’ll begin the long and grueling process of climbing a mountain that he already knows very well. Depending on weather conditions, it could take Cool about six weeks to deliver the gold medal to the summit.
You can follow Kenton’s progress on the expedition’s Facebook page by clicking here and hitting the “Like” button. We’re likely to get daily updates from the trek and climb as well as some stunning photos and videos from the breathtaking Khumbu Valley.