I don't know that I've ever taken such a controversial position before, but if there was ever a bandwagon that needed smashing, this is it.
Let me get this out of the way: OK, so Michael Phelps is a great swimmer. He may even be the greatest swimmer ever. But to call him the greatest Olympian ever, or the greatest athlete ever, is really taking this whole thing way over the top.
First of all, his particular discipline has a ridiculous amount of events, and without so many events, he wouldn't be able to land so many redundant gold medals. Maybe our female gymnasts would be able to rack up 8+ golds if there was a 1-minute, 6 ft. balance beam, a 2-minute, 6ft. balance beam, a 3-minute, 6ft. balance beam, a 12-ft. balance beam relay, a 4 by 4 floor routine, an 8-by-8 floor routine, a backflip-only routine, a 12 ft, 24ft, and 36 ft vault, and so on and so on and so on. Would they then be the greatest athletes of all time!?
Second of all, how many swimming records have been broken in this Olympics? Everyone is breaking records, all over the place, men and women. Every time I've seen anyone compete -- even in the heats! -- someone has beaten that green line. From what I hear, the new depth of the pool is a contributing factor, as are these Speedos that have been hailed as the greatest technological advancement in human history. So, who's to say that if Mark Spitz had had these extra benefits, he wouldn't have knocked the records way out of reach.
All I'm saying is: Let's not get carried away. NBC commentators are comparing Phelps to Michael Jordan. I mean, come on.