Cue the Condom Story

450,000 condoms to be distributed to athletes in Rio… Three times more than London… Media can’t resist requisite Olympic Village sex report…

Those Olympians with their ripped bodies and their pent up desires… Someone give those kids some latex and let them have some safe fun.

It’s become a Summer Games rite of passage. A short time before every Olympics and here comes the story about the titanic amount of romping Olympians must do in the Village, and those caring condom makers that supply hundreds of thousands of prophylactics to make sure the fun is all wrapped up safely.

There’s the Zika virus to worry about this time, kids, so don’t mess around. Up your game and dive under the sheets three times more than ever before, but just make sure you’re careful.

Is anyone buying this?

Sure you are. This is vicarious existence at its best. Sports and sex and illicit fun, and euphemism without the R-rating. Who can resist?

Some stats this time around: In the Rio Olympic Village 350,000 condoms will be there for men; 100,000 female condoms (for the first time); 175,000 packets of lubricant… All for 10,500 total athletes and staff. The ratio: About 43 safe sex acts per participant. In 13 days. Ah, to be so lucky…

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The Joy of Swimming, by Lisa Congdon

Searching for a gift for your Olympic Trials qualifier? Look no further… Hot off the press, released this month by Chronicle Books, is Lisa Congdon’s The Joy of Swimming. The subtitle says it all: A Celebration of Our Love For Getting in the Water. Less a story than a piece of graphic art between two covers, Congdon’s book invites you to dip in and out, immersed in a swimmer’s world.

From colorfully painted portraits to back-in-the-day photographs to loads of did-you-know nuggets, all delivered in a dreamscape style, this is one of those books that’s required on every swimmer’s bookshelf. It’s as accessible to an age-grouper as it is charming to the oldest Masters swimmer.

This is the work of a fine artist and illustrator; it’s about the visual presentation more than the prose. And Congdon is a serious talent with the brush. Indeed, a look at her website (lisacongdon.com) reveals a client list of bold faced names – from Harvard to the MoMA to Martha Stewart Living. She’s also a swimmer’s swimmer with an identity dipped in chlorine, just like the rest of us. For her, it began in Northern California, in San Jose and a summer team called the Shadowbrook Splashers. She includes a few 70s sepia toned photos from those days, which look pretty much exactly like my memories of the Overlee Swim Club in Arlington, Virginia, where my own life was first swallowed up by swimming.

For Congdon the joys of swimming include the ephemera that’s so familiar to anyone who spent his or her formative years at swim meets and endless practices. There’s the chicken nugget sized medals (shoeboxes of which still sit in my parent’s basement); the rainbow of disposal summer meet ribbons that are never disposed of; the parkas; the evolution of goggles and suits and caps.

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The Case for Permanent Olympic Host Cities

The Games need a permanent home, or a couple of homes… Here are a few to consider…

For virtually every world city, hosting the Olympic Games is a pretty bad bet. It costs billions, for things that won’t get much use afterwards. It’s a political nightmare. And it puts a target on a city for many of the very worst people on earth. The real fears of terrorism create a security budget that far exceeds what an entire Games used to cost not so long ago. As for the facilities, you’d be hard pressed to come up with public works projects with less long term gain.

So, why do many world capitals continue to line up for the privilege to bid? Backlash from a city’s citizens is inevitable now. The bidding process itself is a high priced protracted interview process – for a job where you’ll be the one spending, and losing, all the money.

Still, hosting a Games comes with an ego-boost luster that’s irresistible to plenty of international power players that have long since retired their common sense. The bidding continues for the “privilege”, but for how long?

Talk of a permanent host city or cities is gaining traction, and for good reason. Not too many Olympiads from now, hosting a Games will come to be seen as an expensive chore not a privilege to bid on. So, why not centralize operations and dispense with all this nonsense that surrounds the bid and the migraines that come after “winning”?

It makes sense. Though, when you start considering just who these hosts could be, it gets complicated in a hurry. Here’s a look at some obvious picks, all with some significant strikes against them.

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IOC says it is “totally relaxed” about the Olympic rings tattoo

The damage control arrived in my Inbox the next morning. The IOC wanted me to know that it is “totally relaxed” about Olympians wearing the rings tattoo in competition. IOC Director of Communications, Mark Adams, wrote that: “this announcement was made by the IPC not the IOC.” The distinction, he said, was that “it was an IPC event not an IOC one. They made the decision – we would be totally relaxed for a Paralympian or an Olympian to have a rings tattoo.”

Cue the bus, screeching to a halt, as the International Paralympic Committee is thrown under it. An interesting sacrifice of an organization that the IOC calls a close partner. Indeed, they are in the midst of a multi-year agreement that extends through 2020. On the IOC website (Olympic.org), President Jacques Rogge states that “the IOC and the IPC have a long and strong relationship and it is with great pleasure that we are able to extend this agreement with the IPC and ensure that the Olympic and Paralympic Games continue to be held in the same host cities until 2020. Our continued financial support to the Paralympics shows the Olympic Movement is universal.”

Continued support… Yes, well, evidently that does not include support for athletes with an impairment and the Olympic rings tattoo in a visible place on their bodies.

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Calling All Swimmers with the Olympic Rings Tattoo

Paralympic Swimmer disqualified because for a tattoo of the Olympic rings on his chest… Sparks call to arms against clueless IOC…

It’s a branded rite of passage that announces membership in one of the most exclusive clubs on earth. For many it’s the only ink they’ll ever get. The Olympic rings tattoo – that’s one you’ll never regret. And over the last thirty years, it’s become more and more de rigueur among newly minted body proud Olympians. Except now apparently it’s illegal.

On Monday May 2nd, British Paralympic champion Josef Craig was disqualified at the IPC European Swimming Championships because the 19-year-old has a tattoo of the rings emblazoned over his heart. He was DQ’d after his prelims swim in the 100 freestyle – because the tattoo of those rings “breached advertising regulations.” Said the utterly out of touch spokesman for the Paralympic International Committee: “Body advertising is not allowed in any way whatsoever and that includes the Olympic rings. The athlete did not wear a cover and was therefore disqualified.”

Um, excuse me? There are so many things wrong with this that one sputters trying to put the outraged thoughts in order. A tattoo of the Olympic rings is advertising? Oh really? So, that would mean that every Olympian is, by that definition, a spokesman or woman for the Olympic movement? When the athletes recite the Olympic Creed at the Opening Ceremony, is it in service of a corporate brand? Somewhere Pierre de Coubertin is rolling over in his grave.

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Drinking Like a Swimmer

From Grant Hackett to Michael Phelps to countless others, a swimmer’s relationship with booze can be a complicated thing…

Grant Hackett has a problem. I don’t mean an alcohol or a pill problem, those are just symptoms. It seems to me he has a lack-of-moderation problem. Which is to say, he has a swimmer problem.

On April 17th Hackett faced some unfortunate humiliation when he ‘tweaked the nipple’ of the guy in front of him after the 6’6″ Hackett objected to the passenger reclining his seat. Giving unsolicited titty-twisters to strangers abroad aircraft is generally inadvisable. In fact, no good is likely to come of it. Particularly if you’re shit-faced and you’re a public figure. No good came of this.

Not for the first time, Hackett was looped in public and found himself explaining some seriously embarrassing behavior. In February 2014, he was seen in the late night hours of a Melbourne hotel, mostly naked, very confused, searching for his four-year-old son. A couple days later he checked himself into rehab, citing a dependance to a drug called Stillnox – aka Ambien. (A drug it must be noted that is reputedly used widely by elite swimmers to help them adjust to jet lag when competing internationally…)

Like Michael Phelps in the wake of his substance-sparked mishaps, Hackett has always appeared afterwards contrite and taking full responsibility for his actions. I don’t know the man, but I know that he is beloved in and out of the sport, and commands about as much respect from his peers as any swimmer alive. It’s a damn shame that the most frequent adjective before his name these days is “troubled.”

Yet his troubles aren’t exactly surprising. Due to our rather extreme wiring, many swimmers have a very hard time with the m-word. In the dry land world, moderation is a prized quality. For swimmers, moderation seems to imply just doing enough. Enough to feel good, but not really going for it. In the pool, who respects that? And so, when swimmers climb out and crack one open, things can often get out of hand. Particularly when we dry off for good, or what seems like for good, and face a life without morning workouts or meets looming on the horizon.

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Forget About Laps

Introducing ‘Speedo Fit’ Water Training… Featuring Lochte, Missy, Cullen… and Mr. Laird Hamilton

Upper West Side, Manhattan, Equinox Fitness Club, 7:30am.

It’s not often that Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, and Cullen Jones are overshadowed when they’re standing around a pool. They’re three of the most recognizable faces in the world of swimming, and on Tuesday morning in New York City the trio was serving as ambassadors for Speedo’s latest initiative. I was there to cover the event for Swimming World. Their sponsor is launching Speedo Fit – think of it as cross training in the pool. Complete with running shoes, compression shorts, and an assortment of exercises familiar to dry land workouts, but seldom executed underwater.

It’s an interesting though less than revolutionary concept. (Water aerobics, aqua spinning, underwater hockey, they’ve all been ‘things’ for awhile now…) And that’s just what the event’s main attraction was quick to point out. “The first underwater cross training was introduced by the Polynesians a couple thousand years ago,” he said. His name is Laird Hamilton, aka world’s greatest Waterman – and with all due respect to Kelly Slater, the most recognizable surfer on earth.

Lochte, Missy, and Cullen might be superstar bold-faced names in the Olympic orbit, but Laird has transcended all those pool-bound glories. Seeing him speak to the assembled 60+ media, with the Speedo stable looking on, was a bit like watching Michael Jordan showing up at March Madness. Sure, the players on the court are riveting in their own right, but we’re talking single-name icon here.

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Over the Northern Border

Once again, a large portion of the Canadian Olympic Team is made up of swimmers who do not train within its borders… With Team Canada on the rise, led by multiple Olympic medal prospects, a look at that forever touchy issue: When it comes to fulfilling potential in the pool, should they stay or should they go?

As usual the NCAA had a hand in picking another country’s Olympic team. Last week at the Canadian Olympic Trials in Toronto, nine U.S. universities – USC, Georgia, Cal, Missouri, Texas A&M, Minnesota, SMU, Ohio, St., and Indiana – helped qualify swimmers onto Team Canada. Georgia produced two Olympians, seniors Brittany MacLean and Chantal Van Landeghem, one of whom, MacLean, is arguably Canada’s top female medal hope.

For decades – in Canada and elsewhere – it’s been a proud, and disputed, tradition. NCAA coaches come calling anywhere in the world that there’s talent and fast times. Some programs embrace foreign athletes more than others; some (jingoistic?) coaches take an opposing view, claiming that it’s not for the NCAA (‘National’ referring to the American nationality) to help train future Olympic competitors from other countries. While that’s an unfortunate point of view, that ignores the cross-pollination and heightened competitive environments produced by a diverse cultural stew of athletes, it’s a view shared by many coaches on the other side of the border too.

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Bolles Nation

The three greatest swimmers in the NCAA – Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, and Caeleb Dressel – all hail from the same place: Bolles. The single finest place on earth to develop champions in the pool…

It was impossible to choose. Any other year, any one among the three would have been the slam dunk unanimous pick, but this year all three gentlemen were flawless, and so it was only proper to bestow the honor on the trio. It wasn’t the first time they’ve shared center stage.

Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, and Caeleb Dressel have known each other a long time, since they were young teens at Uible Pool on the Bolles School campus in Jacksonville, Florida. They’ve always been record breaking chosen-one studs, since they were kids. Murphy has been a backstroke prodigy since he was a boy. Schooling, a butterfly genius since he arrived from Singapore. And Dressel, well, he’s the sort of speed freak phenom that you could see turning pro in any number of sports.

Together, they’re now in the midst of compiling a collective collegiate resumé that has never been witnessed in the history of swimming.

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The Rage to Master

What defines a prodigy, across every sport and art? According to a prominent psychologist, it’s the “rage to master”… It’s a mad hunger to hyper-achieve that can be seen in the eyes of Phelps, Ledecky, and few others…

You know the look. You see it behind the blocks, as they walk out stone-faced, on another plane of existence. They have those highway eyes, looking far off down the pool to a destination they’ve already determined. It’s somewhere no athlete has gone before. They’re about to do something that will astound. All we can do is sit back and watch.

You know the look. The one at the finish, soon after they touch the wall. They turn and see the clock, and then they combust. All the focus and execution and pain comes pouring out of them in a defiant celebration. You know they’re happy, but they don’t look it. They look angry, full of righteous rage.

Ellen Winner, the psychology chair at Boston College, would probably identity that look as the “rage to master.” The aptly named Winner wrote the book on child prodigies – literally. It’s called Gifted Children: Myths and Realities. What appears to be anger might better be described as a maniacal persistence, an all-consuming devotion to the task. “They’re singled-minded,” she says. “They just want to get better and better.”

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Icons at the Pool

Beatles-pool - sml Ali Underwater-sml Keith 2 EH-C675T HST-Pool Polaroid - sml Fitzgerald family at pool - sml Dylan diving - sml Bill Murray underwater, Rushmore - sml