Greetings from Ogden!
Or, as we like to call it around these here parts: Just a short 30-minute drive from the Middle of Nowhere.
I have to say, now that we're at the midway point in the 2012 London Games, I'm finally starting to detect that old Olympic spirit once again; that lighting of "the fire within," as our own Games slogan admonished 10 years ago; that keen sense of competitive juices flowing at the highest possible level.
No, not among the athletes. I'm talking about the spectators.
For something that's supposed to draw the people of the world together, the Olympics sure have a way of making countries act like a couple of drunken uncles at a Tom Arnold family reunion. Oh, the athletes themselves are getting along famously -- if you believe the reports coming out of London, in between throwing badminton matches they're all back at the Olympic Village fornicating like a bunch of blood-doping rabbits. Rather, it's the nonparticipants who are getting a bit testy with one another.
Every two years (Summer AND Winter Games), I get the distinct impression that the rest of the world pretty much hates our guts. Maybe it's the annoying "USA!" chants that break out every time an American athlete has a bowel movement. Maybe it's the undue emphasis we place on the overall medal count, as if IOC president Jacques Rogge would -- at the end of the 17 days -- actually proclaim an overall country winner. Or maybe it's the way our U.S. men's basketball team goes out and mercilessly beats a woefully outgunned Nigerian team by scoring more points in a single game than my Runnin' Utes do in an entire season.
And then again, maybe Mitt happens.
This year's Olympic contentions all seemed to start when presidential hopeful Mitt "Mitt" Romney had the medals to wonder aloud if the Brits were ready for the Games. Not really sure where he'd get such an idea, but -- oh yes, wait, I know. Maybe he got it from the Brits themselves, who've spent the last year carping loudly about everything from traffic problems to cost overruns to those creepy one-eyed mascots.
Still, I suppose it's one thing when your own people complain, another thing entirely when it comes from a politician from some upstart country across the pond. Why, I remember back when we bought the 2002 Games, it was OK for us to complain about the Interstate 15 construction, but just let somebody from Colorado so much as raise an eyebrow about our Olympics preparedness and heaven help them.
The Romney kerfuffle might have finally died down, except for the fact that David Cameron, the British prime minister, just had to get in on the act. "We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world," he said. "Of course it's easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere."
HA! Middle of nowhere. Good one, your lordship. That sure put ol' Mittens in his place, what with him having helmed an Olympic Games out in the middle of ... saaaaay, wait a minute. What are you implying?
Of course, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's office then felt compelled to respond, extolling the many advantages Utah has over England (occasional, actual bouts of sunshine, for one) and inviting the British PM for a visit. "We'd love to have him and are happy to send a map so he doesn't run into any trouble locating the middle of nowhere," the mayor's office said.
Well now, that was at least somewhat helpful.
But the British press only made matters worse, calling the man who would be president a "party-pooper," "Nowhere Man" and even "Mitt the Twit."
Party-pooper. This from the same newspaper that's been running a regular diet of stories with headlines like "The painful truth about the great Olympics con," "We would not have bid for Olympics if we'd known about recession, admits (London Games minister) Tessa Jowell" and "Cost of Olympics to spiral to 24 billion (pounds) ... TEN TIMES higher than 2005 estimate."
Gotta love those British tabloids.
But it was Utah Gov. Gary Herbert who ratcheted up the rhetoric, offering this assessment: "I seem to recall another British leader in years past making a similar dismissive comment. Back then it was King George and those 'little colonies' over the ocean in America."
Whoa, there. Let's dial it back a bit, shall we, guv-nuh? Our two countries have fought side by side in a buttload of wars since then, so the last thing we need to be doing is picking at THAT scab. This is neither the time nor the place for political sabre-rattling.
Although, if I remember correctly, the sabre IS an official Olympic sport.
Contact Mark Saal, who has begun selling souvenir jerseys, to British tourists, that read "Mummy and Daddy visited the Middle of Nowhere and all I got was this stupid T-shirt," at 801-625-4272 or email@example.com.