Olympic Torched

The London Olympiad is upon us, and I for one am thrilled. In a ‘win at any cost’ sports culture that mimics our larger society whether we want to admit that or not, the Olympics somehow float high above the grit despite the sponsorships, despite the doping, and despite the professionalization that’s foundationally changed the Olympics over the past few decades.

Underpinning it all is a wonderful set of tenets we could all do worse than to strive to achieve in our everyday lives:

Not to win but to take part.

Not the triumph but the struggle.

Not to have conquered but to have fought well.

So here are a few ideas I think merit recognition for their ‘going for gold’ if not ever achieving it.

Gold: Huffington Post
HuffPo may not have vanquished traditional News formats across media, but it certainly has made its presence known– and quickly. In just seven years it’s been bought, become one of the most visited News sites, and won a Pulitzer Prize. Not bad. What I like most about it is that it’s the proverbial box of chocolates. It’s got hard news and gossip, syndication/aggregation and original reporting, national and hyper-local news, liberal and conservative points of view. There’s something for everyone without being just completely vanilla, as in the USA Today. Rather than saying nothing, HuffPo says seemingly everything. Cool.

Runner-up: Facebook

Like The Dream Team, people love to hate. But, Facebook is bringing lots of the best parts of the web together under one blue roof. Acquisition of Instagram, integration of Spotify, and many other land grabs continue to make The Facebook the shiniest site on Earth for most folks.

Silver: MobileMe
What if all your stuff was synched and stored in the Cloud? Wouldn’t that be awesome?! Yes. It is. Before iCloud and other services made that de rigueur, there was MobileMe, Apple’s Hindenburg meets Pinto blemish. A great idea that just never worked, MobileMe was tantamount to asking all of your stuff to stop working. It effectively shut down all conversation between devices like a third martini over dinner with your in-laws. Undaunted, Big Mac came back strong and MobileMe is all but forgotten. I like that Apple makes computers but isn’t a computer itself. This was the ultimate feet of clay demonstration of that. Happens.

Runner-up: RIM/Blackberry

Seeing Blackberry’s struggles is like the opening sequence of The Agony of Defeat. I’m not even sure if that epic tumble was from the Olympics, but it was Ski Jumping, so close enough. Blackberry pioneered the multi-purpose mobile space, blazed the trail, was run over by an iTank, dusted itself off only to get speed bumped by a speeding ‘droidmobile’. They brought their 400m game to the Marathon with predictable results.

Bronze: Napster
In so many ways Napster was the ‘straw that stirs the drink’ for so much of what we have today. Before getting squashed like a bug, it egged the Music Industrial Complex, ushering in the likes of Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud and others who crossed the chasm from traditional to digital delivery on a bridge fashioned from the charred bones of Napster. P2P got rolling in earnest with Napster. “Don’t own it, share it” became the mantra for a whole generation, second only to “don’t buy it when you can burn it.” While its reach did exceed its grasp legally and ethically, Napster began the process of people looking to each other and not to corporations for answers, ideas, and of course, music. Rock on.

Runner-Up: Samsung

Apple and Samsung need to get a room already. These two remind me of the Harding-Kerrigan soap opera. Engaged in an Olympic-sized pissing contest over patents, Made-in-the-USA (by way of China) Apple stares down the “menace from the East” with global Gold in the balance. Sorry, that was the made-for-TV Olympic-hype version. But don’t sleep on Samsung. They could very definitely medal in the Handset 400. My money’s on Apple to nip them at the tape.

None of these products won it all and that’s precisely the point. They strived. They tried. They pushed themselves and their competition to the limit. Isn’t that what we all should aspire to do? Not competing against anyone but competing for someone. For ourselves, our ideals, our ideas. The Olympics are about Personal Best, not destroy everyone in your path.

Prediction Time
It wouldn’t be a Sporting event if we didn’t have wages on it.

All of us. That’s right. I think over the next fortnight or so we’re going to get a glimpse into how multiple technologies, multiple screens, can be used in a complementary way for regular folks, not just the Adderall-with-a-Mountain-Dew-chaser gamers. Use the web to learn more about events, contestants, venues…while also providing your own color commentary on your social web. With the apps out there and the anticipated coverage London will receive, it will be easier and more fun than ever.

Chicago. The City of Broad Shoulders wanted the Summer Olympics. When they see what an enormous cluster it is for Londoners, they’ll thank Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow they lost the bid. It’s not like they’re not used to losing.

Innocence. I think the Olympic flame stirs something in even the most jaded hipster among us. What it stands for deep down at its core is pretty good stuff. While the McOlympification continues to dismay and disappoint, I think there’ll be enough genuine passion, genuine appreciation, and genuine sportsmanship and camaraderie to keep the flame aflicker.

Let your Games begin.

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