Olympic Moments

A marathon through the downtown tunnel, a rowing venue in a flooded Katy Freeway, the javelina throw -- how splendid, how Houston!

(A television screen flashes with an aerial shot of Houston, followed by a zoom-in to a stadium broadcast booth.)

Bill Smith: Welcome, sports fans from around the world. We've finally come to the closing ceremonies of these splendid 2012 Olympic Games. And this competition will certainly rank among the most exciting ever, thanks largely to our host city of Houston. Let's go down to the arena floor to Jim McKay and Bob Costas, for their take on this terrific spectacle.

Jim: Bob, who would have ever believed back in 2002 that the Bayou City would even be selected? I still remember the bad raps on this feisty challenger: the heat, traffic, floods and that always elusive monkey on their backs -- that the area lacks an international landmark, world status…

Bob Costas and Jim McKay covering the 2012 
Olympics in Houston, which changed the way the world looks at the Games.
Scott Gilbert
Bob Costas and Jim McKay covering the 2012 Olympics in Houston, which changed the way the world looks at the Games.

Bob: Absolutely. And just look at how that IOC selection has turned the tables so dramatically in the years since then. Seems like every city in the running has resorted to emulating Houston in wooing the Olympics. Who'd have dreamed there'd ever be billboards on the Eiffel Tower? And a Champs-Elysées Elevated!

Jim: Yes, Paris may be copying Houston in trying to snare the 2020 Games. But don't doff your beret to Paree yet. I just saw where Rome's adding a dome and skyboxes to the Coliseum. Sure knocked the wind out of the sails of our own San Francisco -- now they're having to morph Fisherman's Wharf into Houston's own Bayport!

Bob: Heh-heh. And how about those Russians? The Muscovites creating the Kremlin Mills Mall? You can still see Lenin's tomb in the special chilled mausoleum area of the Marble Slab ice cream shop.

Jim: No doubt they've all learned from these Houston games that Mother Nature creates her own obstacles. It has been nothing short of amazing how this city has managed to make the floods a factor in its favor.

Bob: Yes, civic leaders really sweated over paying for 27 enclosed arenas. But with residents getting flooded out a few times each summer, that added up to a lot of folks needing lodging and transportation. And with the 135 percent stadium tax on hotel rooms and rental cars, it helps the cause even if it kinda "Hertz" the locals. But, hey, high water really generates a heck of a, um, revenue "stream."

Jim: And that was just leading up to these games. The three tropical storms during the competition really tested the city's ingenuity. Who'd ever have thought that the Katy Freeway would become the rowing venue? Sad that the Bulgarians took only the silver because they stopped to rescue two motorists. But downtown's flooded Hyatt Regency atrium was a classy venue for the high diving. That's the only time those athletes will get elevator rides up to the tenth-floor springboard.

Bob: How about that noble effort for the distance runners -- when they started dropping from the heat, Houston routed the marathon through the downtown tunnel system. Nobody's gonna forget Kenya's brilliant Kuwahathoma Kuma making his move up the down escalator of the Chase Tower, to claim the gold for his--

Jim: To interrupt, we've got breaking news. All we can confirm for now is that a large number of law enforcement officers have blocked off traffic from both directions of Westheimer beyond Loop 610.

Bob: Terrorist situation, no doubt?

Jim: Nope. Word's just in that former mayor Lee Brown is back out in his car, searching for pirate signs. The police are only trying to protect the motoring public.

Bob: As for terrorism, let's go to Tom Brokaw, who's standing by in the newsroom to update us on that unfortunate hostage incident. Tom?

Tom: Yes, Bob. As you know, a man had seized a female spectator, later identified as Shirley DeLibero. She's said to be the head of Metro, the transportation system here. Authorities speculated that the man had forged a pass into the VIP section. Turns out he was credentialed -- the guy's an area congressman named Tom DeLay. But he grabbed DeLibero and began babbling strange demands.

Bob: For the liberation of Palestine? The release of al Qaeda captives?

Tom: Nothing quite like that. This DeLay threatened harm unless Houston immediately rips up the Metro light rail line. He demanded that the city take yet another vote on it.

Bob: How did negotiators get him to release the Metro chief?

Tom: They explained to him that these were the track and field games; that they've got absolutely nothing to do with any light rail. So he let her go, got his motorcade and went back to Sugar Land.

Bob: What a relief…Violence would have been difficult to take, on top of the other incidents marring the field events.

Jim: In Houston's defense, some were understandable language problems. Certainly that was the case when the local officials forced contestants to heave those wild boars. It was finally explained to them that it was the javelin -- not javelina -- throw.

Bob:And that, uh, situation at the beginning of the sprints?

Jim:Yes, I'm sure all our thoughts are with the family of Gunter Grebalhagen, the longtime German starter for the track events. As you know by now, the runners were in their blocks. Grebalhagen drew his starter's pistol -- immediately, he was hit by 27 rounds fired from the sheriff's deputies and constables working security.

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