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Still relevant

Jul 27, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

The Olympic Games link years and memories forever

There aren't many things from 1896 that still have relevance in 2012. One of them starts today. The 2012 Olympic Games are here.

The Olympics have been interrupted by wars, horrified by terrorists, and buffeted by the financial pressures and political divisions of their day. But they have survived and, for the most part, flourished.

It is to their credit that most of their quadrennial obstacles have been forgotten by and large, while the accomplishments of the competitors have endured. Often the strongest impression many of us have about a year has to do with the Olympics.

Do you know who won the World Series in 1912? Was that a presidential election year? You might know it as the year of the Titanic, but many also associate 1912 with the great Olympian Jim Thorpe, who won the Olympic gold medal in both the decathlon and pentathlon in Stockholm (if that ever happens again, free lifetime subscriptions for everyone).

How's your memory on the big events of 1924? Not so good, probably. But you might well know that was the year of "Chariots of Fire," when the Englishman Harold Abrahams and the Scotsman Eric Liddell both won Olympic gold.

Few years are so closely linked to Olympic memories as 1936, when Hitler's Germany hosted a notorious fortnight intended to demonstrate Aryan superiority but were dashed by the brilliance of the black American Jesse Owens, one of the most wondrous track and field athletes ever to crouch in the starting blocks.

1968 was a dramatic, difficult year in America, and the Olympics echoed the turmoil. Think Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their gloved fists on the Olympic medals stand.

Nixon walloped McGovern in the 1972 presidential race, but that year sticks in the memory more for the seven golds won by Mark Spitz in the Olympic pool in Munich, the officiating fraud that denied the gold medal in basketball to the United States, and, most of all, for the shattering, murderous act of terrorism perpetrated against the Israeli team. There has never been an innocent Olympics since.

The names of Olympians in the television era are unforgettable. Spitz. Bob Beamon. Olga Korbutt, Nadia Komenici, Bruce Jenner, Carl Lewis, Zola Budd, Mary Lou Retton, Sebastian Coe, Edwin Moses, Michael Johnson, FloJo, the Dream Team, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.

And all that is just from the summer games. Sorry, Peggy Fleming, Tai and Randy, Eddie the Eagle and the 1980 USA hockey team. No slight intended.

This year the Olympics return to London, the third time they've been staged there, more than any other city. The first time, in 1908, London agreed to step in because the original host, Rome, had been devastated by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The second, in 1948, was the first games since World War II, the first since Hitler's Berlin excesses in 1936. If ever there was a cleansing Olympics, it was in 1948.

In 2012 there is added interest locally. A Riverton person, Brett Newlin, is competing in rowing for the United States. He and his eight-man crew are good enough to win a medal.

His first race is Saturday, and it isn't likely to be a highlighted sport on prime-time TV, but you might be able to watch it via the Internet. You'll have to get up early -- or stay up late -- but here's what to do:

1. Go to nbcolympics.com

2. Click on live video section: http://www.nbcolympics.com/liveextra/help/index.html

3. Register under your TV provider with your login

4. The first day of rowing competition starts at 2:25 a.m. MDT Saturday.

Access the full streaming video schedule by visiting http://www.nbcolympics.com/index.html and clicking on "Online listings" in the menu at the top, and then either select the sport from the drop-down menu or select the date in which you are interested.

That looks a little complicated, but experienced Internet users swear it isn't. It ought to be worth the effort either way to see a hometowner wearing the U.S. colors on the Olympic stage.

We've had our Wyoming Olympians before, most famously Star Valley wrestler Rulon Gardner in 2000. Could this be the year Brett Newlin climbs the medals stand? We'll learn over the next two and a half weeks. And if he does, 2012 will be its own permanent memory for all of us. The Olympics are good at that.

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