Ten random thoughts about things Olympic:
1. No one may be more nervous after Donald Trump’s decisive win in the New Hampshire primary than the Los Angeles 2024 bid committee (and, by extension the U.S. Olympic Committee.)
Can you imagine what having a U.S. president who defamed Mexicans and wants to keep Muslims from entering the country would do to L.A.’s chances in the September 2017 International Olympic Committee vote for host of the 2024 Summer Games?
2. Paris 2024 unveiled its Eiffel-tower based bid logo Tuesday. Some critics think they see a stylized L.A. in the design.
3. The Zika virus was the last thing Rio 2016 organizers needed to cast another pall – undoubtedly the most serious one – over their preparations for the Olympics. Athletes worldwide, especially women, are worried about the health risks Zika could pose and, therefore, wondering whether they should compete in Rio. Stories about each athlete's decision, like U.S. soccer goalie Hope Solo's Tuesday comments to Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, will proliferate over the next few months.
That bad news adds to the impact of a reeling economy and slumping currency, which have put tremendous financial burdens on the country.
There have been cuts in some Olympic budget items, yet the total budget has increased nearly $100 million between last August and the end of January, according to the Brazilian government agency monitoring Games spending. Two-thirds of the increase is attributed to the cost of supplying temporary power to venues.
The new budget, $9.6 billion, is nearly 27 percent higher than what Rio projected ($7.1 billion) as IOC members voted to give the city the Games in 2009, when its then-booming economy was a major selling point.
4. The Jesse Owens biopic, “Race,” opens Feb. 19. Stephan James (“Selma,” “Home Again”) plays Owens in what is, incredibly, the first feature film about one of the most significant figures in the history of sports.
This summer, with an Olympics on tap, will be the 80th anniversary of Owens’ ever-brilliant, four-gold-medal performance in Berlin.
I put what Owens did there – and elsewhere in his career – into perspective in a 2013 story, when the 100th anniversary of his birth provided another date-driven reason to commemorate his life.
Four years earlier, at the World Championships in Berlin, I wrote about how Owens resonated with the athletes who went back to that Olympic Stadium as members of the first U.S. team to compete in Berlin since 1936. All had the initials “JO” above the heart on their team uniforms.
"The 'JO' on the uniform lets me know it's bigger than just me running for myself," said LaShawn Merritt, 2008 Olympic 400-meter champion. "It's for my country and the history."
Before or after seeing “Race,” you should also read Jeremy Schaap’s excellent 2007 book, “Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics,” which is available for sale online; and watch Bud Greenspan’s documentary, “Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin,” available on YouTube.
5. It’s a big month for Olympic-related movies, with Eddie The Eagle flying again (in a manner of speaking) in an eponymous film that opens Feb 26.
The feel-good cinematic story of Great Britain’s Eddie Edwards, a myopic Everyman whose dogged ineptitude as a ski jumper provided warm and humorous moments at the 1988 Winter Games, has Taron Egerton as Edwards and Hugh Jackman as his coach and Christopher Walken as the coach’s coach.
Edwards finished dead last in both jumps at Calgary, with scores barely half those of the next-to-last athlete and barely one-fourth of the medalists’ scores.
The IOC, coming down on the (spoilsport) side of professionalism, would eventually set minimum qualifying standards to bar athletes like Edwards, whom it called “Olympic tourists.” As former IOC President Jacques Rogge said before the 2010 Olympics: “The eagles don’t fly any more.”
6. Not until last week were there more than nine entries in any of the seven World Cup women’s bobsled races so far this season. Funding issues and driver turnover have curtailed the numbers. Developing drivers can’t jump immediately into the circuit’s top level.
7. Raise your hand if you know the second Winter Youth Olympic Games open Friday in Lillehammer, Norway.
Raise your hand if you know there is a Youth Olympic Games, winter or summer.
Okay, raise your hand if you can’t understand why the IOC continues to indulge Rogge’s legacy gambit (he pushed to create the YOG) by spending millions on these off-the-radar events.
Ah, there you are.
(If you want to see what it’s all about, NBCSN is doing an hour-long highlights package for 10 days, beginning with the Opening Ceremony.)
8. There is no more dominant athlete in OIympic winter sports this season than Japanese ski jumper Sara Takanashi. The 19-year-old Takanashi has won 11 of 12 World Cup competitions and finished second in the other.
In her last competition, the gap between her and the runner-up was greater than the gap between places 2 and 12. Most of her wins have been that decisive.
"The aggressivity of (her) takeoff, no fear in flight and better landing when jumping around (the hill size distance) are on a higher level than in previous seasons," U.S. women's coach Vasja Bajc said in an email.
Takanashi had overwhelmed the competition almost as completely in the 2014 season (16 firsts, 2 seconds, 1 third in 19 World Cup events).
That she gets help from sponsors and the national ski federation in a country with a strong jumping tradition is an advantage, given that most women jumpers still are finding their way in a sport that made its Olympic debut only two years ago.
"Sara is jumping for many years, (but) the last three seasons, she built a (support) team around her, and nothing is left to chance," Bajc said. "She is a professional and 100 percent committed to jumping. She can afford all what she needs to be successful."
But she finished fourth in the Olympics that year and has yet to win an individual world title in three tries.
“It’s not just me that is disappointed - look at how many people have supported me in my journey," Takanashi told an IOC reporter after the Olympic event. "My nerves cost me my medal.
“The fighter in me will fight till the very end, I want to come back to the Olympics a much more polished ski jumper and do my country proud.”
9. After piling up medals on the World Cup circuit this season, U.S. long track speedskaters Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson Bergsma hope to continue that success at the World Single Distance Championships beginning Thursday in Kolomna, Russia.
Both had historic success at the meet’s 16th edition last year: Bowe won two golds and a silver, Richardson a gold, silver and bronze. Only U.S. woman, Chris Witty in 1998, previously had won gold at the single distance worlds; none previously ever had won more than two medals in the same year.
10. Two years ago today in the mountains outside Sochi, the most decorated U.S. woman’s skier in Olympic history won a surprise bronze medal in the combined. It was the fourth Olympic medal of her career – twice as many as any other U.S. woman.
Happy anniversary, Julia Mancuso.