Only two months remain until 21 students and scholars from across 13 states will board planes and trains for the transcontinental trip to London as part of the 2012 Tiffin University Olympic Academic Experience. A green and gold TU banner is ready to be flown to another amazing global destination for the sake of education in sports, politics, and culture.
Who will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremonies on July 27? Will the ultraconservative King from Saudi Arabia allow a female to compete? Will tickets at a reasonable price become available for track, swimming, gymnastics, or a few other popular events? Will there be sightings of Prince William or Harry or Queen Elizabeth II? Will Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps again be the demonstrative figures at the Games?
Who will become America's next Olympic sweetheart to rival the popularity of Mary Lou Retton, Cathy Rigby, or Kerri Strug? Will this be an Olympic year without a major catastrophe like the Beijing Drum Tower stabbing or Atlanta's Centennial Park bombing? How approachable will the athletes be and how many of the TU contingency will take advantage of the opportunity to explore other countries while in Europe over 12 days?
NBC's game coverage and periodic reports sent back to The Advertiser-Tribune will help answer these and many other question by the time the group returns home to US soil on Aug. 6. In the interim, the group is connecting via a Facebook page, which includes members of the TU contingency who traveled to China and Greece for their Olympic excursion. Graduate student, Beth Clark, is making her second trip, proving that the allure of the Olympics and success of the TU program are worth the relatively high price tag. The general advice from former participants is to be open to random, unexpected opportunities that make the TU Olympic Academic Experience an adventure like none other - and to always remember the address of where you keep your luggage.
An unprecedented event witnessed by almost everyone of the former TU participants in Beijing and Athens is the final stages of the Olympic Torch relay. The past two summer Olympic parades vacillated somewhere between controlled chaos and an all-out riot requiring heavy security forces. Thousands of locals line the streets, proudly waving their national flags amidst pockets of foreign tourists who stick out like a sore thumb. It is customary during the torch relay for visitors to wave two flags, demonstrating respect for the host country and, of course, their own national pride. Flags for the host country seem to be plentiful - and typically free - during the torch run.
Olympia, Greece always serves as the starting point for the Torch Relay leading up to the final entrance to the Main Stadium, signifying the official start of the Opening Ceremonies. There is speculation that the likely candidate to light the cauldron will be Steven Redgrave, a five-time Olympic Gold medalist in rowing. Other British athletes in consideration include celebrity soccer star David Beckham or Roger Bannister, who ran the first sub-four minute mile in 1954. Sebastian Coe, another wildly popular track sensation, is another possibility, but doubtful since he also serves as the head of the local organizing committee.
In other sports news, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman wants an NBA franchise to help occupy Nationwide Arena, home of the Blue Jackets. Why not? Rumor is that the Sacramento Kings are a prospective contender if expansion isn't an option. Of course, Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert, is balking that a second NBA franchise in close proximity is a concern. Cleveland and Columbus are considered mid-markets due to a much lower population than metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, which hosts the NBA Lakers and Clippers or Chicago, home of the Cubs and White Sox.
On the national sport scene, sadness looms since Junior Seau's apparent suicide and the connection to the NFL's concussion epidemic. Locally, sadness looms since Lonny Allen finally decided to hang up his baseball cleats in exchange for the shirt and tie he wears almost every day as TU's athletic director. Imagine what Lonny Allen would have thought if he coached the high school baseball team in Arizona that forfeited the state championship game last week. The forfeiture was because the opposing team had a female playing second base and the church associated with the "Our Lady of Sorrow" Academy forbids co-educational athletics. Unfortunately, the Lady of Sorrow is now a full Team of Sorrow.
On a positive note, records are falling in high school track competition as quickly as the mercury is rising during May's glorious summer-like weather. June's surely to be a hot month for state-bound athletes from the area. Oh, the fun of following spring sport championships and gearing up for the little league mayhem around the corner!
Stay tuned next month for more reports on the upcoming TU Olympic Academic Experience and interesting sport stories from our small community in northwest Ohio to around the globe.
Bonnie Tiell is the Dean of Graduate Studies at Tiffin University.