Nothing brings out centuries-old national tensions quite like the Olympic Games. Britain dominated the indoor cycling events at the Olympic Park Velodrome, winning seven of 10 gold medals. France, a proud cycling nation still smarting from Britain's first ever Tour de France victory on their soil, was shut out of the top spot on the podium.
Their top sprinter Mickaël Bourgain failed to medal in what he called, "an obvious athletic failure." So how are the French taking it? By continuing the proud French tradition of accusing their adversaries of cheating.
French cycling director Isabelle Gautheron complained that the Brits were using "magic wheels" and 70 percent of the 50,000 respondents to a survey conducted by L'Equipe said they suspected the British were "tainted by cheating." This, of course, was widely reported in England—"Quelle horreur!" mocked the Daily Mail—going all the way to the Prime Minister's office. "It's driving the French mad," David Cameron told the BBC radio, setting off another round of breathless coverage on Fleet Street.
As for those magic wheels? "They're round. They go fast because they pedal hard," the British PM said, Britishly.
Yesterday brought the story of seven Cameroonian Olympians who disappeared from the Olympic village, with hopes of making better lives for themselves as immigrants. Today, Radio Netherlands Worldwide spoke to a handful of Cameroonians who all were "unfazed and even empathetic" toward their fellow countrymen.
Those interviewed expressed an understanding of the stress of Cameroon's difficult economic conditions, compounded by the trying conditions endured by Olympic athletes who are forced to train without little-to-no financial backing. "Having been around these sportsmen and knowing the conditions under which they live and train, we can at least understand that in a survival reflex, they try to flee," journalist Jean-Bruno Tagne said.
A local Cameroonian added, "Admittedly not all of them are going to succeed, but those who are a bit lucky will be able to train one day under good conditions, will be paid correctly, which is currently very far from being the case for athletes engaged in Cameroon." That's a heavy condemnation of the Cameroonian Olympic body, as it's hard to imagine that an Olympic athlete would be better off as an immigrant because his or her home country is so detrimental to the training process.
Olympic officials from Cameroon have asked for the British police's assistance in trying to locate the missing athletes. It would seem that many of their fellow citizens are hoping that they aren't found.
"Young diver drools at prospect of competing for Ja," says the authoritative headline in the Jamaica Observer. Like Israeli papers claiming Aly Raisman, or Nigeria fielding a basketball team of American-born athletes, smaller countries will generally take what they can get when it comes to athletes of ambiguous provenance or varied cultural affiliations. So it makes sense that a Jamaican paper is thrilled to hear the awesomely named Leeds-born diver Yona Knight-Wisdom chose to compete for Jamaica.
But still, drooling is a bit of an exaggeration; Knight-Wisdom settled on Jamaica for, among other things, one reason they may not be all that proud of: "I figured I could get into international competitions this way instead of waiting to make the Great Britain team."
If he qualifies for the 2016 Games, the 17 year old will be the first Jamaican diver ever. If he chose to represent the UK, he'd be competing against internet-famous British diver Tom Daley and other members of the fairly robust British diving team. The situation highlights some of the paradoxes of the Olympics: "teams" are usually just people from the same country in direct competition with one another, and for all the jingoism and flag-waving of the games, athletes with complex lineages are often better positioned to find a smaller country willing to send them as its own.
There are other reasons Knight-Wisdom wanted to represent Jamaica. It has better funding than Barbados (where his mother was born) and, naturally, he's a huge fan of Usain Bolt, as evidenced by this tweet.
4. "Indian Hockey Is Clearly Dead; Long Live Indian Hockey" Cries Most Confusing, Depressing Editorial Ever | India
"In the end, it proved to be a false dawn; if anything, Indian hockey has only plunged deeper into darkness after an odyssey called nightmare in London." Bobilli Vijay Kumar opens in his Times of India blog. And from there, it seems, Indian field hockey (and the column) descend into a pit of wallowing self-pity.
"As a country, we alone are responsible for this gut-wrenching decline," Kumar pined. "We merely sat and watched the fun as selfish and squabbling officials destroyed the sport; we didn't even raise a whimper, let alone a protest, even though they have been gnawing at it for years. Finally, they have got to its soul too."
What will happen if we don't stop these soul-stomping tyrants? Kumar has the answer: "We must stop them before they take off on these fanciful flights and lull us into hope again; we must stop them before they plunder the game some more, not even leaving any remains for a decent burial."
Kumar is quick to crush any sense of optimism as he notes that the fact that the Indian field hockey team made it to the Games was just trickery that resulted from India playing diminished teams. This might explain why an over-hyped Indian team lost all of its matches in group play. And with that Kumar lost all hope, "Indian hockey is clearly dead; long live Indian hockey. Let us stop looking for a new dawn."
In 2008, Australia won 20 swimming medals (second only to the United States' 31). However this year the typically swimming-strong nation has won just 10 medals-including just one gold-in London's pools. As a result, the Sydney Morning Herald wrote up a laundry list of potential scapegoats.
"Susie O'Neill has blamed work ethic, Shane Gould says science has been prioritised over people, while John Coates says sports science in Australian swimming has fallen behind," wrote Caroline Wilson for the Herald. "Don Talbot agrees the swimmers have become complacent, while the coaches feel irrelevant, losing talented charges to a centralised program."
O'Neill, a two-time gold medalist, has been tapped by Swimming Australia to help conduct a review of the nation's swimming program.
In an act of preparation (and probably a bit of frustration) Swimming Australia chairman David Urquart left London earlier than he had anticipated to begin what the Herald called a "radical review of swimming," all in an attempt to get the swimmers from Down Under back on top.
Kate Bennert, Isaac Rauch, Dan Gartland, Michael Gluckstadt and Tom Ley contributed to this article.
For a handy master schedule of every Olympic event, click here.