9 Things to Watch for in the 2016 Olympic Games

With the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic games coming this Friday, let’s take a look at all the important topics to watch this summer!

1. Opening Ceremony.  The opening ceremony is a spectacle watched around the world and can set the tone for the rest of the games.  Will there be a blunder like the little girl lip-syncing the national anthem in the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing, or a heart-touching moment like the late, great Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic Torch?

2016 Women's Gymnastics Olympic Team
2016 Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Team

2. US Women’s Gymnastics Team.  The US women’s gymnastics team is the favorite to get the overall gold this year.  However, what might be more interesting to watch is whether another American can grab the All-Around Gold for the fourth straight Olympics. Three-time world champion, Simone Biles, is the favorite to win the gold. But, she is competing against reigning Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas, 2012 Olympics fourth runner-up Aly Raisman, and hot newcomer Laurie Hernandez.

3. Conditions in Rio.  Zika, water pollution, gang violence and security issues are plaguing Rio.  For nearly a year, Brazil has been in a state of emergency as they battle the Zika virus known to cause birth defects in babies.  Several athletes have declined to travel to Rio this year and Zika is expected to be behind those decisions.  Water pollution also threatens the sailing events this year and athletes have been told to spend as little time as possible in the water due to untreated human waste in the water.  The World Health Organization has suggested athletes to “cover cuts with waterproof plasters prior to exposure.”  In addition to health issues, there are threats of gang violence and the Olympic security firm was fired less than a week before the games.  There have also been issues with the athlete’s Olympic village where “uninhabitable” conditions have kept athletes in nearby hotels instead, and the Australian team was robbed during a fire evacuation after returning to the village.

4. Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.  Do these two all-time great athletes still have what it takes to bring home the gold for their countries?  With some out-of-the-pool issues and a suspension from Team USA, Phelps is said to be more focused than ever and ready to prove himself again.  Meanwhile, Usain Bolt, who is turning 30 on the day of the closing ceremonies, has seen his times get slower in the past years.  He is looking to win the 100m, 200m, and 4x400m relay for the third consecutive time.  No other person has ever done this twice.

5. Team Russia and Doping.  The Russian Olympic team has taken a huge due to doping.  The International Olympic Committee originally banned nearly 400 Russian athletes after the entire track and field, rowing, and weightlifting teams were all banned for doping.  The IOC announced it would not ban the entire team, but has still banned more than 110 Russian Olympians for this year’s Olympics, by far the largest of any Olympic games.  Will the remaining athletes be able to make a splash at the games?

6. US Basketball Teams.  While the Men’s team has a couple decent challengers in their pool, the US Women’s team has been absolutely dominate in the Olympics – winning 7 gold medals with an overall record of 58-3 in Olympic play.  They also enter the Rio games on a 41 game winning streak.  Despite several top athletes abstaining from this year’s games for the Men’s Team, they still figure to be the favorites led by Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins.

7. New Sports.  Rugby Sevens will make its first appearance in the 2016 games.  Rugby Sevens is made up of seven active players for each team, compared to the 15-player teams in traditional rugby.  Golf is also making a return after a 112-year hiatus.  Baseball and softball, karate, squash, and roller sports all vied for the open two spots.

8. Can Brazil Take Gold in Men’s Soccer?  Brazil has five World Cup championships, but has never won gold in the Olympics.  Can the home team finally overcome their Olympic challenges and bring their country gold?

9. Allyson Felix’s Fourth Olympic Games.  At the age of 30, Allyson Felix is looking to become the third woman in Olympic history to win the 200m and 400m races in the same Olympics.  She boasts six Olympic medals and four individual world championships.

While we wait for the opening ceremony on Friday, check out how things are going with Donald Trump or just watch some cute dogs rolling around.

Let ‘Em Juice? Performance Enhancing Drug Use In Athletics

I’ve been a sports fan my entire life and I have also been a fan of professional fighting for the past five years (MMA & Boxing). Recently, it seems like every sport has been in the spotlight for athletes failing performance enhancing drug (PED) tests. This even goes into the world of general entertainment, professional wrestlers and even movie stars are getting busted. Hell, Sly Stallone got popped for juicing when he filmed the Rocky Balboa movie. Most recently the Russian Olympic team was banned from the Rio games due to allegations of state sponsored doping programs.

Is doping really that bad for sports if “everyone’s doing it”?

So, what is the big deal if everyone is doing it? Lance Armstrong acts like he has no regrets for what he did. The most decorated American cyclist of my generation, and his simple response was, everyone else was doing it. The man made a fortune from it, and he honestly has a point. Since his confession, cyclists have been testing positive or admitting to elaborate doping regiments like crazy. Unlike combat or contact sports, is anyone getting hurt? I don’t remember Bonds, McGuire, or Sosa having hurt anyone. When McGuire and Sosa were battling for the single season homerun record, everyone was paying attention. Even me, and I am bored senseless by baseball.

Bolt was stripped of one of his 2008 Olympic Gold medals.

Yes, yes, I get it. It goes against the spirit of athletic competition. But we are actually seeing some of the most amazing feats of sports entertainment that have ever been witnessed. All the icons that people have…have been caught. Even, Usain Bolt, recently lost a Gold Medal due to retesting of old samples. But you all loved him. You all wanted to see him break every record and you wanted to see history happening. Maybe PED use is just the evolution of sport and the integration of entertainment and big business.

 Athletes within combat and contact sports know that they are going into a field of work that brings about inherent risk of harm and even possible death. But in combat sports, excessive violence is what drives the industry. This also drives the paydays that these athletes realize when popularity increases. Recently Brock Lesnar tested positive for PED use, but you know what, he sold a lot of pay per views; oh and he pocketed $2.5M for his fight. Fans were thrilled. They may feel cheated afterwards, but they still had that moment of seeing exactly what they wanted. Look at the following picture and tell me honestly that no one had the slightest clue that he may be roided out.

Brock Lesnar
Does this look au naturel to you?

I don’t know if I agree with everything that I have just said, but I can see why an athlete would risk everything they have to be the best. Even if that best is marked with an asterisk. Has modern day physical competition moved more into the realm of big business and entertainment and further away from seeing the possible accomplishments of the mind and body working as one? Major sports equal major money. I can see why big business and TV networks are ok with turning a blind eye, they are getting your money, and you the spectator are still left smiling.

Would you be tempted to take a pill or needle to be rich, do you really think you are that resolute to say you wouldn’t be tempted?