The last time I was at the Olympics? 1996. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I plan on making it a twice or three times in a lifetime experience. I want to go back, whether it’s in Tokyo or Los Angeles. (I won’t go to Paris.) In the meantime, what have been the best Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta?
10. Sydney 2000
Known as the “tape-delayed Olympics” or the “steroid Olympics.” Pretty much none of the track and field events ever even happened; they’ve all been wiped clean by steroids. And the USA women’s gymnastics team cried on the night they finished fourth; 10 years later, they were finally rightfully awarded their bronze medals. What a mess of an Olympics this was, probably the worst since Moscow.
9. Sochi 2014
A very forgettable Olympics. The only thing of note is that Canada swept all four curling and ice hockey events.
8. Torino 2006
Probably the only thing I remember from this one was that Sweden upset the USA women’s hockey team in the semi-finals. Tape delay killed these Olympics.
7. London 2012
London 2012 would be higher, but I was going through a lot of personal issues at the time, as was Michael Phelps. Both Phelps and I didn’t put out our best performance in 2012. Luckily for Phelps, there was redemption.
6. Rio 2016
Maybe the aftermath of the Olympics is terrible in Brazil, but the actual events (including golf and rugby) were fantastic. Plus, Michael Phelps found redemption, while the USA men’s basketball team stood with their hands over their hearts while the Star-Spangled Banner played. Can you ask for anything more?
5. Nagano 1998
This is best known to me as the “CBS Olympics.” Meaning, the only Olympics of these that was on CBS, and thus the only one that Jim Nantz announced. I like Nantz, but he was too wooden in his delivery during these Games. Tara Lipinski of course was the star of these Games, and the USA hockey team (full of professionals) were the goats.
4. Salt Lake City 2002
If there was ever the perfect picture of what the Olympics are all about, it was the figure skating competition in Salt Lake. The thrill of victory – Sarah Hughes literally leaping into our hearts with her gold-medal performance. And the agony of defeat – Michelle Kwan at the exhibition gala after her loss, skating to “Fields of Gold” by Sting, after her dreams of gold were squashed. This is why figure skating is the sport of the Winter Olympics.
3. Vancouver 2010
Sidney Crosby’s golden goal. That’s what will forever be linked to these particular Games. The greatest player of our generation scoring the biggest goal in 30 years in the Olympic hockey tournament. (Everyone knows Mike Eruzione in 1980 scored the #1 goal in the history of the sport of ice hockey.) Vancouver overcame tragedy before the Games in a luge accident to put on a great show. And Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette won the best bronze medal ever. Well done, Canada.
2. Athens 2004
This was the first “cable TV” Olympics, and my sister and I took full advantage of it. We literally slept probably only a couple hours per night. We would get up at 3 or 4 in the morning and start watching and not stop until mid-day, when it would be around midnight Athens time. Then we’d play our own Olympic games using video games and board games. This is why my sister is the dearest person to me in the world; who else would have put up with this? “Coming up tomorrow, on the networks of NBC…”
- Beijing 2008
The obvious choice for #1. Never before had we seen one Olympian win 8 gold medals in one Games. We may never see it again, though I hope we see another American swimmer give it a go. Michael Phelps blew us away in ’08, and if that wasn’t enough, Nastia Liukin won our hearts on the mat. China had an amazing Olympic Stadium, even more amazing music, and an even most amazing opening ceremony. I ❤ China and hope to visit there someday. Maybe 2022?