Photo Credit: Oli Scarff, Getty Images
Thursday, 6:00am ET/11:00am Local: Summer Sanders: Ryan Lochte Leaves London a "Multiple Gold Medalist"
When we're about to watch the greatest rivalry in swimming history -- and one of the greatest sports rivalries ever in the Ryan Lochte-Michael Phelps duel for dominance -- how great to talk to another swimming legend, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist Summer Sanders. "It is an iconic rivalry," Summers told me during an interview at the P&G Family Home, noting how people are comparing it to other historic sports rivalries such as Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier in boxing and Magic Johnson-Larry Bird in basketball.
"Ryan is an unbelievable swimmer and if Michael Phelps wasn’t in the picture, he would have been a star in the past two games," she said. "He would be gold medalist galore. It just so happens that he was an amazing swimmer in the era of Michael Phelps."
So what can we expect? "This is Ryan Lochte’s games, I think he will shine the very first day, that 400 IM (individual medley) is going to be an absolute showdown between two American guys," the mom of two added. "These two guys, more than anyone I’ve ever met in my life and I know a lot of competitive people, Michael Jordan being one of them, I have never met two people who love to race more than these two guys so they will not give up, they will lay everything on the line the very first night of the competition," which is this Saturday night!
Sanders predicts Lochte will leave London with multiple gold medals and that Phelps will easily become the most decorated Olympian ever. He needs just three medals to earn that honor. Sanders expects him to do even better and go home with seven!
Thursday, 5:00 a.m. ET/10:00 a.m. local: First Look at the P&G Family Home!
Check out these stats: The Procter & Gamble Family Home is 65,000 square feet in size, expected to be visited by 1,500 athletes and their families each week and offers 600 to 800 free meals every day. At this "home away from home," athletes and their families can do everything from get a makeover to enjoy a shave to watch and read messages of support on a virtual wall.
It can make all the difference, said Summer Sanders, who should know -- she won gold at the Summer Games twenty years ago. Back then, she said there was no family home, no email, and no real access to friends or a support system. "There was this one woman that I guess felt so compelled by watching me swim… and I was down to my last race and she felt the need to send me a Western Union telegram," Sanders told us. "I never met her, she’s from Texas, just to say she believed in me and thought I could do it and I have that in my scrapbook to this day. That is what the virtual stadium is now, it is literally that telegram from 1992."
Olympic moms -- Rita Wieber (mom of gymnast Jordyn), Ike Lochte (mom of swimmer Ryan) and Joy Robles (mom of weightlifter Sarah) -- enjoyed trying out the virtual wall. With a wave of their hands, they would see texts, emails and videos showing support for Team USA, including this one, "We believe in Wieber, go for the gold." Rita told me she was stunned that so many people who don't even konw Jordyn were sending her well-wishes.
Other areas of the P&G Family Home that are likely to be very popular with Team USA include a 24-hour laundry service (so no athletes need to worry about being down to their last pair of clean socks!) and a so-called "mancave," complete with a pool table and shave service, showing that dads are not forgotten. Jodi Allen, P&G's vice president of North American operations and marketing, joked, "My greatest fear is we'll never get anyone to leave."
Wednesday, 4:40 p.m. ET/9:40 p.m. local: Wheels Down in London!
I am not sure which made me smile more -- the signs throughout London's Heathrow Airport welcoming me (and every other Olympic visitor!) or the three Canadians waving flags as I left customs and entered the main terminal. No, they weren't cheering for me but still it was such a wonderful way to begin this -- my first Olympic adventure. (Pinch me now!)
I don't know where all the Londoners had gone but they weren't on the highway on the 40-minute journey from the airport to my hotel, which is right near Big Ben, the British Houses of Parliament and the River Thames. My driver told me that most roads are now closed -- most of the day -- to all cars except those directly connected with the Olympics. Violators can get a ticket that in U.S. dollar terms would put you back a hefty $250!
I arrived to some not so happy Olympic news -- the first social media casualty of the Games, with a Greek athlete, a triple jumper, thrown out for a tweet that appeared to mock African immigrants. Also, a diplomatic snafu -- the London organizers accidentally showing the flag of South Korea during a soccer match featuring the North Korean women's team.
Now all eyes are on the weather forecast. After one of the wettest Junes on record, will the rains stay away Friday for the Opening Ceremony?