In less than a month, the 2012 Summer Olympic Games will kick off in London with more than 10,000 athletes from 204 nations competing against each other in 302 individual and team events. The Olympics have always captivated spectators and viewers around the world, as athletes vie for not only gold, silver and bronze medals, but also for the chance to simply compete and represent their country.
Take the story of Eric Moussambani, a swimmer from the tiny African country of Equatorial Guinea who gained entry into the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney on a wildcard designed to encourage developing countries to participate. After two of his competitors were disqualified due to false starts, Moussambani swam in his heat for the 100 meter freestyle.
Moussambani’s time of 1:52:72 was more than twice that of his fastest competitors (Dutch swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband would set the record that year with a time of 47.84 seconds) but his spirit captured the hearts of the crowd at the aquatic center that morning.
While Moussambani’s attempt would prove to be an interesting human interest story for NBC’s coverage (presented in monologue by Bob Costas, accompanied by the theme to Chariots of Fire) some sports journalists like ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap feel that American viewers have actually lost touch with the exploits of athletes from other countries. While fierce competition between athletes like Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte is certainly engaging, Schaap believes contemporary media presents the Olympic Games as “America versus the Rest of the World.”