Olympic Stories

The Olympics are an exciting time.  Most likely you will run into someone tomorrow who will be expressing their opinion of  the opening ceremonies. I was fortunate enough to be living in Atlanta during the 1996 games and attended several events.  One of my favorite memories was my Dad, brother, sister and sister-in-law returning from a soccer match with newly acquired Nigerian baseball caps, scarfs and flags.  Team USA was not participating in the game they attended, so they cheered with the Nigerian fans all around them for Team Nigeria and were rewarded with all the new gear for their support.  Those Nigerian flags weren’t the only country flags we acquired during the games. I remember waving flags for Japan during a baseball game and South Korea during a badminton match.  Of course there was plenty of American flag waving and distributing going on also.

This coming Tuesday WOSU TV will profile two Olympic athletes that have made their own unique mark on the games. First off  “ Jesse Owens: American Experience” profiles Jesse Owens, one of Ohio State’s greatest athletes.  On April 2, 1936, when the 22-year-old Owens entered the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, he was, he later remembered, barely able to control his anger. “I was angry because of the insults that Hitler and the other German leaders had hurled at me and my Negro teammates on the Olympic squad.”  Owens would channel that anger into some of the most remarkable achievements in the history of athletics, winning four gold medals.  There was a lot of pressure on Jesse Owens at the time to attend the Olympics, he was ready to boycott the games in the face of Nazi racism. Even with his incredible success Owens struggled to find a place for himself in a United States that was still deeply entrenched in racism.

Cheryl Haworth is a young woman with a big dream: to be the strongest woman in the world.  I remember hearing her story those many years ago in Georgia.  At that time she was a girl trying to get into a big man’s sport.  Now the story picks up with the 300-pound U.S. Olympic weightlifter preparing for her third Olympic games, Beijing 2008.  “Independent Lens” filmmaker Julie Wyman follows Haworth in “Strong“,  as she struggles with injury, confidence and particularly her place in a world where larger women are not readily accepted.  Haworth is now retired from the sport with a Bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney games and the North American record in the clean and jerk lift (319 lbs.) and the snatch (275 lbs.).

Jesse Owens:American Experience” airs Tuesday, July 31 at 9pm on WOSU TV followed by “Independent Lens: Strong” at 10pm.  Both programs will have an encore presentation on Wednesday, August 1 beginning at 9pm on WOSUPLUS.