Very Olympic Today is SI’s daily Olympics newsletter. You can receive each issue for free in your inbox by subscribing here. To continue reading the newsletter at SI.com every day, along with the rest of our Olympics coverage, readers can subscribe to SI.com here.
Welcome to Very Olympic Today! To some of you, I say … welcome back. Longtime followers (and/or those who read our announcement) may remember the name from SI’s daily Olympics podcast in 2016. Aside from my invention of the octopus—long story—my podcast during the Rio Games is easily the professional endeavor I am asked about most. This is flattering and gratifying, as it 1) was now a full five years ago, and 2) remains one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on.
The name is an homage to Cool Runnings, and we’re working hard to be the world’s premier Summer Olympics newsletter that’s named after a Winter Olympics movie.
For the Rio Games, I cohosted the podcast with Alex Abnos. Alex gave me permission to reuse the name here. We probably could’ve done it without his permission, but I thought it was polite of us to ask. I told him that in return I’d say one nice thing about him. (He’s fine.) That version of VOT involved the two of us bingeing sports all day and then recording in a studio each night at 2 or 3 a.m. in New York. And I’d say my No. 1 goal with this newsletter is to capture the spirit of that podcast that he and I, and our listeners, enjoyed so much.
One thing that I think drove that podcast’s success was that we focused not just on the major sports—track, swimming, gymnastics—but the smaller events that typically get less attention. We interviewed an American rugby player. We delighted in how frequently handball teams pulled their goalies. We lost our minds over field hockey penalty shootouts.
The other thing I loved, which truly exceeded my expectations, was the way we built a community. Listeners reached out to us from the Netherlands to talk about their national handball teams and from South Korea to tell us what the badminton commentators sounded like on TV there. We heard from people in Hong Kong, Sydney, London, and all over the U.S. We got regular updates from a listener who was through-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
So let’s try to do it again!
The past week has already been very nice, hearing from former listeners who reached out to trot out our old inside jokes and tell me they’re excited to subscribe to the newsletter. But don’t feel left out, new readers. I’m sure over the next three weeks we’re going to come up with new inside jokes.
This is where you come in. I’ll be writing 21 days in a row and would love nothing more than to enhance these columns with smart, fun, interesting, entertaining notes from our readers. Please send me tweets, Facebook messages or emails.
Send me whatever’s on your mind. If you don’t know where to start, today’s prompt is: What are you most excited about, and why? You can @ me or use #SIvot2020. (You can also suggest a better hashtag! It’s kind of clunky, but no one has used it yet.)
You also have my full permission to tell me if I get something wrong. It has happened before, though after 2016 I will never mistake a paddle for an oar again.
I spend a lot of time following the Olympics, and I am fortunate to have a job that enables me to devote more time to them than most people—especially during the next three weeks. But I won’t claim to be the world’s preeminent expert in every sport. Admittedly, I have some brushing up to do on karate before the action starts. But I can promise you I will watch every minute I can and pass along all the best stuff to you.
So I’ll do my best to find fun facts and teach everyone new, entertaining tidbits, and I’ll happily cede the floor if you have something to add that falls within your area of expertise.
A final note that I can’t ignore in my first edition of this newsletter: As you can tell, my intention is to thoroughly enjoy the Olympics. But I’m fully aware there are many people out there who feel they shouldn’t even be happening right now, amid a state of emergency in Tokyo. While I want the newsletter to be full of fun archery and judo commentary, we also won’t shy away from some of the less savory stories that deserve attention. This will be our lead topic tomorrow.
So for now, like I said above, get in touch. And maybe more importantly: Tell your friends. If you like the sound of this welcome email, and you think you’ll like this newsletter, now’s the time to get your friends in on the ground floor.
Let’s build this group up and experience the Olympics together.
I promised coverage from Tokyo, and our writers have already started before anyone got there. Here are some of my favorite SI stories in the lead-up to the Games.
• Stephanie Apstein wrote our magazine cover story on Simone Biles, and what she learned about herself in the year of the pandemic.
• Our photo department also compiled SI’s best photos of Biles.
• Pat Forde wrote about his daughter Brooke, who qualified for the Olympics. This is one of my favorite stories I’ve read at SI this year
• Pat also recently caught up with Michael Phelps.
• I have a Q&A with women’s water polo captain Maggie Steffens. We discussed what her training was like when she didn’t have access to a pool early in the pandemic.
• I also have a Q&A with rugby player Alev Kelter on growing up in Alaska and switching from Division I ice hockey and soccer to rugby.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.