Starting Friday, the spectacle of the London Olympics will capture the attention of people around Missouri, America and the world.
And deservedly so.
Even amid all the corporate hype, security concerns and nationalistic propaganda that acompanies every Olympics, the competition will provide incredible highs and some disappointing lows for athletes, crowds and TV audiences in the next few weeks.
Swimming will take center stage right away, with America’s Michael Phelps trying to add to his impressive haul of gold medals from previous games. But the competition is expected to be much tougher this time, and audiences will see how the rest of the world fares in races involving Phelps and the U.S. men’s and women’s teams.
Track and field fans will find out whether a star of the 2008 Games — sprinter Usain Bolt of Jamaica — can defend his titles and set new world records. Kansas City fans will have something to cheer about, too, with star graduates of area high schools — including sprinter Maurice Mitchell and distance runners Matt Tegenkamp and Amy Hastings — competing in London.
Meanwhile, the U.S. gymnastics teams is favored to do well, as that sport enjoys its every-four-years spot in the Olympics limelight.
Fans everywhere will have their own favorite events, especially the competition that will pit some of the world’s soccer-mad powers against each other. Table tennis your thing? Greco-Roman wrestling? There’s something for everyone.
In an increasingly scripted world, we can expect drama. Favored athletes will falter; unexpected performances will wow the world.
For us in the Midwest, it all will provide a welcome diversion from drought, heat and nasty political campaigns.
True, the London Games will disappoint some people. Problems will crop up. That much is guaranteed. But the people of London and Great Britain will work hard as they hope for a positive publicity bump — and infusion of visitors’ cash — much like what Kansas City recently received on a smaller scale from Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game activities.
Amid all the grime of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and myriad of other problems involving sports in this country and elsewhere, we remain hungry to see true athletic competition.
We want to see the best in the world, on a big stage, in a grand setting. We want to see the 2012 London Olympics.
Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.