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Olympics

The Karolyis and Larry Nasser

Ouch.

A report commissioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee into the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal was strongly critical of the culture created by longtime coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, saying that the atmosphere at the couple’s Walker County ranch gave disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar “broad latitude” to abuse young gymnasts.

The 237-page report compiled by the Boston law firm Ropes & Gray, which was made public Monday, also said that two top USOC officials, former CEO Scott Blackmun and chief of sport performance Alan Ashley, failed to take prompt action to protect gymnasts and others after receiving initial reports of allegations against Nassar in 2015.

[…]

The report is critical of what it described as USA Gymnastics’ lack of oversight regarding Nassar’s activities at the Karolyi Ranch between Huntsville and New Waverly, the longtime site of the USA Gymnastics women’s training center.

It also said the Karolyis created “an expectation of absolute perfection and a single-minded and exacting focus on an athlete’s training and performance-readiness to the exclusion of everything else.” This, combined with the ranch’s isolation, “gave rise to a perfect storm of circumstances that facilitated and enabled Nassar’s abuse of elite gymnasts” at the ranch.

Nassar, the report said, took advantage of a culture that was “intense, severe and unrelenting … (and) demanded obedience and deference to authority.”

Even one of the signature moments in the history of the sport — Kerri Strug’s vault at the 1996 Olympics, after suffering an injured ankle, to help the U.S. women win a gold medal — is cited as an example of an approach that emphasized results over athletes’ safety.

Strug’s vault, the report said, “has since become a source of national pride. And yet it also serves as a warning about the casual disregard for athlete safety by those entrusted with their welfare and the overwhelming pressure on athletes to persevere at any cost.”

[…]

Regarding the Karolyi Ranch, as well as the Karolyis’ roles as national team coordinators for most of the past two decades, “no institution or individual took any meaningful steps to ensure that appropriate safety measures were in place to protect the young gymnasts. And within the isolated and secluded environment of the Karolyi Ranch … Nassar had broad latitude to commit his crimes,” the report said.

The culture faced by gymnasts during the era when the Karolyis were influential, the report said, “normalized intense physical discomfort as an integral part of the path to success.” It also led to social isolation and encouraged gymnasts “not to rock the boat.”

“When those pressures were coupled with the harsh and isolated conditions at the Karolyi Ranch, they together gave rise to a perfect storm of circumstances that facilitated and enabled Nassar’s abuse of elite gymnasts,” the report added.

See here, here, and here for some background. The irony, of course, is that for the longest time that “expectation of absolute perfection and a single-minded and exacting focus on an athlete’s training and performance-readiness to the exclusion of everything else” was considered the Karolyis’ main virtue as gymnastics coaches and the fulcrum for all of the adoring press they’d received over the years. Turns out that kind of system has its flaws. The 237-page report is embedded in the story, but if you don’t want to read it you can instead read this ThinkProgress summary of it, which makes that case that the USOC should join USA Gymnastics on the junk pile of history. Deadspin has more.

USOC moves to decertify USA Gymnastics

About time.

On Monday night, the U.S. Olympic Committee made a long-overdue announcement: It is taking steps towards decertifying USA Gymnastics by revoking its recognition as one of the USOC’s National Governing Bodies (NGBs).

Now, what’s to come is not going to be an overnight fix. Decertification is a complicated process — one that involves a review panel, a formal hearing, and a finding-of-fact before it becomes official. But the USOC has stressed its commitment to making sure that athletes are well-served during this time and that all training and competitions proceed as planned in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. Additionally, the USOC plans to play a part in building and fostering a revitalized, athlete-centric governing body for the sport. It’s a significant step toward true accountability and change.

However, hold the applause. It’s crucial to remember that the USOC is not the hero of this story. That honor is reserved for the brave sexual abuse survivors who have been calling for drastic measures of this kind for years.

The USOC had numerous opportunities where they could have — and, indeed, should have — stepped up to protect the athletes over whom they has responsibility. Time and time again, however, the USOC decided to do absolutely nothing.

Just go read the rest. The entire story of USA Gymnastics and its utter failure to do anything to protect its athletes from the predation of Larry Nasser is more than enough reason to blow it up and start over. This time, maybe put some actual gymnasts in leadership positions. The Chron and Deadspin have more.

Another Lopez brother gets banned from taekwondo

Steven Lopez this time.

Two-time Olympic taekwondo gold medalist Steven Lopez has been banned permanently from competition by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, based on the results of the agency’s investigation into Lopez’s sexual relationship with an underage female in 2000.

The relationship, according to a report compiled by SafeSport, involved a 14-year-old neighbor whose family was a friend of the Lopez family, and occurred at a time when the complainant was a taekwondo athlete and Lopez was establishing himself as one of the sport’s dominant figures, eventually winning five world titles along with the two Olympic gold medals.

Investigators said the relationship progressed over a four-year period, beginning when the complainant was 10, from what was described as grooming to sexual contact to oral sex, the latter occurring at a time when the complainant was 14 and Lopez 22.

The sexual relationship, SafeSport concluded, took place “in violation of the SafeSport Code, the criminal laws of the State of Texas and the standards expected of USA Taekwondo members.”

Lopez, who with his older brother and coach, Jean Lopez, has been named as a defendant in a federal court lawsuit filed in Colorado, declined to be interviewed by SafeSport regarding the allegations.

See here and here for some background on Jean Lopez. Steven Lopez had been suspended in May by SafeSport, and both he and his brother, along with SafeSport and USA Taekwondo and the US Olympic Committee, are defendants in a lawsuit over this whole sorry and deeply disturbing mess. All that matters at this point is finding some justice for the victims, and doing everything we can to make sure that this shit never, ever happens again. Deadspin has more.

“How Chinese Baseball Came to North Texas”

Fascinating story.

The Texas AirHogs are members of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball, a federation of twelve, mostly Midwestern, teams unaffiliated with Major League Baseball. Inning breaks are punctuated with water-balloon-toss competitions and mascot races. The level of play is good, but with more overthrows and rundowns than you’d find on an average night at a big-league ballpark. Admission starts at $8 for adults, the parking is free and convenient, and season-ticket holders like Green and his roommate, Sharen Norton, get treated like big-shots. The AirHogs’ general manager, J.T. Onyett, visits the pair every game and sometimes offers up the VIP amenities. When the temperature crept to 110 degrees earlier this summer, the AirHogs’ staff ushered Green, Norton, and a few of their friends up to a vacant air-conditioned luxury suite. “I love the Rangers,” Norton, a 62-year-old grandmother says. “But would they do that?”

Almost everything about the AirHogs’ existence feels folksy and draped in Americana. So it came as a surprise to the team’s small group of season-ticket holders when, at a meet-and-greet with team executives before the start of the season, Onyett told them that their little hometown ball club would be undergoing a first-of-its-kind experiment. Instead of fielding a typical American Association team of fringe prospects, has-been minor leaguers, and guys trying for one last shot at The Show, the 2018 AirHogs would, in effect, lease out the majority of their roster to players from the Chinese national baseball team. Ten veteran non-Chinese pros—five pitchers and five position players—would supplement the national team squad, acting as on-field ringers and off-field mentors.

The Chinese have long been afterthoughts in Asia’s baseball pecking order, lagging well behind their athletic and political rivals Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Few people in China watch or play the sport; the development system is tiny, and the country has yet to produce even a high-minor-league-caliber player. (Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have all produced major-league stars.) But with baseball returning to the summer Olympics in 2020 after a twelve-year hiatus, the Chinese government saw a reason to invest in the sport. Shipping their players to North Texas to play one hundred games against American pros would be the first big step.

When Green and Norton first heard about the impending arrival of the Chinese players, they didn’t know anything about the history of Chinese baseball. But they did know about their team in Grand Prairie. The AirHogs had won the American Association championship in 2011, but lately, they’d been more like the Bad News Bears. The team hadn’t had a winning record since 2013, they’d finished in last place two of the past four seasons, and—with barely a smattering of fans attending most home games—it sometimes seemed like they might not be able to stay in business. So when Green learned that China, a nation of 1.4 billion, was sending the “cream of the cream” of their baseball talent, he couldn’t help but get excited. Norton was even more hopeful.

“I wondered what the other teams were going to think when we started bashing the pants off them,” she said.

When the AirHogs’ season began on May 18, Green and Norton quickly recalibrated their expectations. The Chinese national team players that arrived in Texas were young, inexperienced, and far from world-beaters. “They didn’t know what was going on. They would do some things that a Little League team would do,” Green said.

But in August, watching the AirHogs take on the Sioux City Explorers seventy games into the season, Green was pleased with what he saw on the field. “They’re really jiving,” Green said. “And the Chinese guys always run it out, which I like.”

Go read the rest, you’ll enjoy it. As was the case with Rinku Singh and the “Million Dollar Arm” experiment, the population of China is so great that the talent pool for baseball would be very deep even if the sport only developed in a limited fashion. Bringing the Chinese national team here to get their feet wet amid higher-level competition was a super idea, one that I hope leads to something bigger. Now I want to take a road trip to Grand Prairie and see these guys for myself.

Taekwondo coach Jean Lopez un-banned

Hard to understand this.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport has lifted a permanent ban imposed earlier this year on Sugar Land taekwondo coach Jean Lopez, clearing the way for Lopez to resume coaching while he and his brother, two-time Olympic gold medalist Steven Lopez, still face a federal court lawsuit accusing them of being sexual predators.

Jean Lopez’s status is now listed by SafeSport as “interim measure — restriction,” the details of which are not spelled out on the agency’s website.

However, Lopez’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, told USA Today the restriction is that Lopez is not allowed to contact his accusers.

“The main thing is that (Lopez) had been banned from coaching, and he’s no longer banned from coaching,” Jacobs told the newspaper. “We hope this is the end of it.”

The Lopez brothers, however, still face a lawsuit filed in Colorado by four women, including former national team members Mandy Meloon, a former Sugar Land resident who now lives in Austin, and Heidi Gilbert and former collegiate competitor Gabriella Joslin of Houston.

Jon Little, the Indianapolis attorney who represents the four women, said Saturday the decision to rescind the permanent ban reflects what he described as the “toothless” nature of Safe-Sport, which was established by the U.S. Olympic Committee to sanction athletes, coaches and others accused of sexual misconduct and other violations.

“I have other avenues to deal with Jean Lopez,” Little said. “Sadly, though, the USOC is putting medals and money ahead of the safety of children for the umpteenth time. This is what I expected of them.”

See here for some background. There’s some dispute over how the SafeSport appeals process is supposed to go, and I’ll refer you to these two USA Today articles for the details. I feel like any process that allows for a lifetime ban for multiple credible allegations of abuse to be lifted that easily is a process that should be reviewed. Deadspin has more.

Add taekwondo to the list of problematic sports

Also a sport with local ties.

Last week, four female USA Taekwondo (USAT) athletes filed a joint lawsuit against the USOC and USAT, alleging that the two organizations engaged in sex trafficking by forcing its athletes — including minor females — to travel and train with sexual predators.

According to the lawsuit, officials in both organizations knew about allegations of rape and sexual assault against brothers Jean and Steven Lopez, who are commonly referred to as the “First Family of Taekwondo,” as far back as 1996. And yet, the organizations allegedly failed to either investigate or punish the Lopez brothers, or protect the minor female athletes who were forced to train and go on international trips with these men if they wanted to follow their Olympic dreams.

“The USOC knowingly trafficked these girls to obtain medals and money, time and again,” Jon Little, one of the attorneys representing the women, said in a statement obtained by the Indy Star.

The USOC’s role in the systemic sexual abuse of athletes has been under the microscope lately, owing to the fallout from the sexual abuse of more than 250 girls and women at the hands former Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and USOC doctor Larry Nassar. Many of Nassar’s victims have filed lawsuits against the USOC for enabling Nassar’s abuse, and failing to prioritize the protection of its athletes.

This suit will hardly help the USOC rebuild its tarnished reputation. It specifically alleges that current interim CEO of the USOC, Susanne Lyons, as well as four other current top USOC officials “had knowledge of the numerous complaints of rape and sexual assault made by female taekwondo athletes against both Lopez brothers” but all declined to take pro-active steps to ensure that the athletes would be free from harm.

[…]

Essentially, the allegations center around two brothers, Jean and Steven Lopez. Jean was Team USA’s taekwondo coach at the 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic Summer Games, while Steven was a five-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist. Together, they have been the face of USA Taekwondo for the better part of the past two decades.

The lead plaintiff is Mandy Meloon, who the Lopez brothers allegedly began to abuse in 1994, when she moved to the U.S. Olympic Training Center at the age of 13.

There’s a lot more, so go read it. I know I’ve seen a bunch of laudatory stories about the Lopez family in the past, much as there had been many such stories about the Karolyis before the media started cluing into the problems that had existed. Taekwando has a lower profile than gymnastics, so maybe that’s helped keep the Lopezes’ alleged sins out of the public eye. But as with gymnastics and swimming and so many other things, the story is one of victims not being listened to and victimizers not being held accountable. I sure hope we’re learning a lesson from all this, because the price many women have paid for it is really steep. USA Today, CNN, and Deadspin have more.

Investigating the Karolyis

I’m fine with this, but I feel like we’re overlooking something.

Nearly a week after prominent USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to prison for the sexual assault of several female gymnasts, Gov. Greg Abbott has asked the Texas Rangers to investigate misconduct allegations at the famed Karolyi Ranch, the U.S. Olympic training facility in southeast Texas, north of Houston, where Nassar treated athletes.

“The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching,” Abbott said in a statement Tuesday. “Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less.”

The Walker County Sheriff’s Office confirmed last week that it was looking into the ranch.

Abbott added that the Texas Rangers, the state’s top criminal investigative unit, and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office must collaborate on the case because of the far reach of the allegations, which are spread across jurisdictions and state lines.

There’s more in the Chron, where we find out that Simone Biles is ready to speak to investigators about the assaults she endured. It’s appropriate ti have the Rangers help out with this investigation, as I’m sure they have more resources and experience than the Walker County Sheriff’s Office, and of course we want all of the facts to come out so that everyone responsible can be held to that responsibility.

At the same time, though, I think we need to look past the criminal aspect of this and really ask ourselves how this was happening for nearly 20 years without anything being done about it. Among other things, maybe we need to have a good hard look at how the Karolyis operated for all these years and ask ourselves why we didn’t see the potential for problems all along. The isolation, the dictatorial methods, the extreme pressure on young girls to conform and submit to an absolute authority – is it any wonder a monster was able to flourish under those conditions? Yet as recently as 2016, in the runup to the Summer Olympics, the Karolyis were still the subject of fawning coverage; a lawsuit alleging they had a role in the Nasser scandal – he was forced out of US Gymnastics in 2015, you know – followed a couple of months later. But even before that, former gymnasts led by Dominique Moceanu had been sounding an alarm about their training methods; she was vindicated by an investigator last year. We were warned, well ahead of this recent news. We need to understand why we didn’t heed those warnings.

No athlete should go to the Olympics if they don’t want to

Spare me.

It’s like a Draymond Green kick straight to your special place.

The world’s grandest athletic stage, providing a public platform for the greatest basketball stars alive to unite for a single cause.

Cherished history and untouchable names – Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson – forever attached to your personal résumé.

The nation tuning in, a country coming alive and the summer of 2016 defined by draping a gold medal across your neck in Rio de Janeiro,instead of another boring offseason dedicated to free-agency rumors and daily tweets.

But Cleveland’s King won’t be there. Neither will the Rockets’ Weird Beard, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and a ridiculously self-absorbed collection of the NBA’s finest.

LeBron James gets a pass. He did what’s never been done. He returned decades of lost belief to the misnamed mistake by the lake. He can now do pretty much whatever the heck he wants until training camp.

The rest of the Association’s me-first, brand-second, country-third superstars could use a week-long reminder course in why they’re actually playing basketball for a living.

That’s as far as I got before my eyes rolled so far back in my head that I could no longer read what was on the page. I mean, gosh, can anyone think of any reason why someone might hesitate before getting on a plane for Rio this summer? Anyone at all? Just so Brian Smith – who mostly wrote this because he doesn’t like James Harden – knows, this was the first result that came up in Google for “rio olympics”. Yeah, yeah, Olympic ideals, representing your country, blah blah blah. I get that, and no doubt that is more than enough to lure plenty of athletes this summer. But good Lord, man. Have some perspective. And if you yourself go to Rio – are you going, Brian Smith? – I’d advise you to visit your doctor first and follow his or her advice to the letter. Maybe James Harden and Steph Curry and the rest of those NBA players did exactly that themselves.

Bring the USWNT to Houston

I’m in.

If you love the beautiful game, you should want to help Jen Cooper.

Cooper has been on a crusade for women’s soccer in Houston for almost two decades. She’s on a mission again.

Cooper is one of the key figures leading an Internet campaign to get Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan and the rest of the 2012 Olympic gold medalists to Houston. A petition is available at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/houston-wants-the-uswnt-at-bbva-compass-stadium.

Former U.S. men’s national team forward Brian Ching, who was a member of the 2006 World Cup squad, has agreed to join the effort as one of several folks from throughout Houston participating in a video asking the U.S. Soccer Federation to add BBVA Compass Stadium as one of the 10 stops on the Fan Tribute Tour.

Dynamo president Chris Canetti said he and BBVA Compass Stadium general manager Doug Hall are eager to get the U.S. women’s national team to Houston.

“We think the fan base is very excited about this opportunity, and we would put on a great show and great event for U.S. Soccer,” Canetti said. “Hopefully the opportunity presents itself before the end of the year.”

The team was last here in Houston in 2004, and they drew one of the best crowds of the tour. We’ve now got a great soccer-oriented stadium, and a proven audience for soccer. This should be a no-brainer. Sign the petition and help them make the right call.

Armstrong gives up the fight against USADA

Wow.

Lance Armstrong

With stunning swiftness, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Thursday night it will strip Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he dropped his fight against drug charges that threatened his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time.

Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban on Friday. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, he could lose other awards, event titles and cash earnings while the International Olympic Committee might look at the bronze medal he won in the 2000 Games.

Armstrong, who retired last year, effectively dropped his fight by declining to enter USADA’s arbitration process — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests he passed as proof of his innocence while piling up Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said. He called the USADA investigation an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”

“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” he said. “The toll this has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”

USADA reacted quickly and treated Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt, hanging the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation’s support for cancer research.

“It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes,” Tygart said. “It’s a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There’s no success in cheating to win.”

Tygart said the agency had the power to strip the Tour titles, though Armstrong disputed that.

You can read Armstrong’s statement here, and his lawyer’s letter to the USADA here. The funny thing about this is that if USADA does strip Armstrong of his titles, there may be no one else who can be awarded them.

The Tour has taken away titles from two riders: Floyd Landis in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2010. Each tested positive for a banned substance while riding to his Tour victory.

Landis, a former teammate of Armstrong, iniataed USADA’s investigation of Armstrong.

If Armstrong’s titles are taken away it is unclear who would be declared the winner. Most of the cyclists behind Armstrong on the podium were suspended for using drugs including Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Alexander Vinokourov.

Here’s a radical idea: Why even bother testing? If they’re all doping anyway, then no one is really getting an advantage, and they playing field is sufficiently level. Well, it would have been level for everyone except Armstrong himself, who has passed every drug test given to him, and he managed to win anyway. I don’t really follow cycling, and I never paid that much attention to the Tour de France, even when Armstrong was dominating it. I have at best a surface-level knowledge of the history here. From that perspective, I have no idea why the USADA has been going after Armstrong so hard. I don’t get it. Be that as it may, it looks like the USADA will finally get what it’s been after for all these years. Mission accomplished, I guess.

Friday random ten: Closing ceremonies

Inspired by this, here’s one last Olympics-themed Random Ten:

1. Bicycle Race – Queen
2. Holy Diver – Dio
3. The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel
4. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
5. Jump – Big Daddy
6. Nightswimming – You Say Party! We Say Die!
7. If I Had A Hammer – Pete Seeger
8. A Horse Named Bill – Flying Fish Sailors
9. Balance Beam – Laurie Berkner
10. Star Spangled Banner – Eddie From Ohio

Yeah, I have the first three songs on the Coverville list, which is why this inspired me. Good thing this isn’t the Winter Olympics, because I don’t have a lot of snow and ice-themed music, at least outside of the Christmas carol genre.

Friday random ten: Going for the gold

Continuing the Olympics theme this week:

1. Band of Gold – Freda Payne
2. Gold – Emmylou Harris
3. Heart of Gold – Johnny Cash
4. Gold for Bread – Blitzen Trapper
5. Not Enough Gold In The World – Eddie From Ohio
6. Silver And Gold – U2
7. Silver Dew On The Blue Grass Tonight – Hot Club of Cowtown
8. Silver Dagger – Solas
9. Silver Rainbow – Genesis
10. Silver Tongue – Carolyn Wonderland and The Imperial Monkeys

For the record, I have no songs that contain the word “Bronze” in them. I was prepared to search for and include songs with the name of other metals in the title if I didn’t have enough Gold and Silver songs – brass, iron, steel, what have you – but as you can see I didn’t need to so I didn’t go looking for them.

Friday random ten: Let the games begin!

It’s the Summer Olympic Games! Pomp! Circumstance! Tradition! Overwrought personal stories! Athletic orgies! Ten songs about games!

1. Fool’s Game – Bonnie Raitt
2. The Name of The Game – from “Mamma Mia!”
3. Play The Game – Queen
4. Wicked Game – The Model
5. Cat’s Game – Greg Camp
6. Crazy Game – Indigo Girls
7. Evil Woman Don’t Play Your Games With Me – Crow
8. Game of Love – Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders
9. Love Is A Losing Game – Amy Winehouse
10. Patriot Game – Black 47

And in honor of the Mitt Romney Gaffe-A-Lympics, which are happening concurrently in London, a bonus song:

11. Regretting What I Said – Christine Lavin

Let the Games begin!

Marathon weekend

I’m sure you know that this Sunday is the Chevron Houston Marathon, but did you realize that there’s some hot marathon action happening on Saturday, too?

The 2012 Marathon Trials course

Organizers for Saturday’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials arrived Tuesday to find a city and a race course doused by rainfall, cooled by a timely cold front and poised for what organizers describe as ideal conditions for Saturday’s stop on the road to the 2012 London Olympics.

Saturday’s trials, a prelude to the 40th annual Chevron Houston Marathon on Sunday, will feature an estimated 158 men and 223 women racing for the three spots available in each category for the 2012 Games.

And the weather, in contrast to the miserable conditions that have gripped Houston for months, could scarcely be better.

[…]

Saturday’s trials will take place over a course that may be unfamiliar to fans of the Chevron Houston Marathon, which celebrates its 40th anniversary with Sunday’s run, but is well-known to the tens of thousands who attend the city’s Fourth of July celebrations in the Buffalo Bayou greenbelt west of downtown.

After runners start from the Discovery Green area near the George R. Brown Convention Center with an initial loop through downtown, the 26.2-mile Olympic trials course will follow an eight-mile loop on either side of the bayou following Memorial Drive to South Shepherd to Allen Parkway.

Runners will travel the loop three times before hitting the finish line at the convention center.

Here’s the Marathon Trials website. The main thing you need to know, at least if you live in my neck of the woods, is that Studemont and Heights/Waugh will be closed off between Washington and Dallas. They’ve had marquee signs up advertising that since New Year’s Day. It confused me a bit at first, because I knew the 14th is a Saturday, and the Marathon is always on a Sunday. Now I know. Metro service will also be interrupted by this, so beware. You want to see some really skinny people run really fast for two hours, this is the place to do it.

Olympic Marathon trials coming to Houston

We get multiple marathons in 2012.

Houston outbid the prestigious Boston and New York marathons and will host the men’s and women’s 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, the first time a city has staged both races.

USA Track and Field CEO Doug Logan said the organization’s board voted unanimously to award both races to the city and the U.S. Olympic Committee approved. He made the announcement Monday at Houston City Hall.

The races will be held Jan. 14, 2012, the day before the 40th Houston marathon. Runners will compete on a closed, multiple-lap course along Allen Parkway and Memorial Drive, with the top three men and women making the U.S. team.

Houston was picked because its fast, relatively flat course resembles that of London’s Olympic marathon; the mid-January date fits with the athletes’ training cycle; and it submitted “a stand-up, big-boy, adult bid,” Logan said.

Houston pledged $1.4 million to host one race, and $1.7 million to stage both. The funds, which will pay for event logistics, athlete travel and prize money, will come from corporate sponsorship, with support from the city and Harris County, Houston marathon managing director Steven Karpas said.

It doesn’t say who the sponsors are; I assume they’re already lined up, and we’ll know plenty about them before too long. Kudos to those who made it happen. Hair Balls has more.

Special Saturday random (more than) ten: Olympics

Linkmeister throws down the gauntlet.

The Olympics motto is “Swifter, Higher, Stronger.” Here are songs from my iTunes library which have those words, synonyms, or root forms in their titles:

Click the link to see his list. Here’s mine, which is jumbo-sized for weekend consumption:

1. Don’t Come On Strong And Run – The Mollys
2. Stronger – Mieka Pauley
3. You’re Stronger Than Me – Patsy Cline
4. Back In The High Life Again – Steve Winwood
5. Bust The High School Students – Austin Lounge Lizards
6. First Time High – of Montreal
7. Gettin’ High – Asylum Street Spankers
8. Groovin’ High – Charlie Parker
9. I Want To Take You Higher – Ike & Tina Turner
10. Shoot High, Aim Low – Yes
11. The Tide Is High – Lager Rhythms
12. The Trees They Do Grow High – Gordian Knot
13. Fast As I Can – Great Big Sea
14. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
15. Fast Freddy – Trinity University Jazz Band
16. Half Fast Jam – Enter The Haggis
17. Quick – Eddie From Ohio
18. Papa Come Quick – Bonnie Raitt

No swift songs, but I do have fast and quick ones. I have more high songs than this, but limited it to one per artist, and didn’t use songs with “Highway” or “Highland” or the like. So there you have it.

Metro does historic preservation

I was sent this press release about Metro workers getting some interesting training as they prepare to build the new light rail lines, and thought it was worth sharing.

‘Hardhat and blue collar’ was the dress code for training classes offered at METRO in mid-December. The classes weren’t elective; they are required study for contractors and subcontractors working on Houston’s East End, North, Southeast and Uptown Light-Rail Transit (LRT) Corridors to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 and the Texas Antiquities Code, and to help workers understand the impact of their work in a broader context.

Duane Peter, a professional archaeologist, and Marsha Prior, an architectural historian, both consultants for Houston Rapid Transit (HRT), presented a mix of information that touched on everything from bricks to bones and many points in between. Prior noted that historic buildings could be more fragile than other structures in a construction area; therefore, special care must be taken to ensure that workers are aware of the historic buildings and know how to operate around them.

“So far, 19 historic properties have been identified along the Southeast Corridor, and they range from houses and religious facilities to government and commercial multiple-story buildings,” Peter noted. “The Niels Esperson Building (814 Travis), the S.H. Kress & Co. Building (705 Main), and the Annunciation Catholic Church (1618 Texas) have features that are unique, such as limestone columns, terracotta coverings, or arched and round windows that require special care. Awareness of these properties on the part of the workers will ensure that they are not accidentally damaged during construction.”

I think I’ve mentioned before that when Tiffany and I visited Athens in 2000, we used their newly-constructed rail lines to get about. They were still working on some other lines, which were to be ready for the 2004 Olympics, but had a hard time meeting their deadlines because every time they stuck a shovel in the ground, they found some historical or archaeological artifact. One of the local museums had an exhibition called “The City Beneath The City” about what they’d found, which we got to see while we were there. Needless to say, Houston will not have anything like that to deal with, but it’s good to know that if the construction crews do find something of interest, they’ll know what to do with it.