Sunday cafe: Sochi


My sister is curling. Surely I can do ski cross.

It’s about time that I check in with common thoughts on the Winter Games in Sochi.  And when I say ‘common’, I don’t mean dull.  It’s just that when I’m among a group of adults these days, we’re inevitably laughing at our similar reactions to all things Olympic – good, bad, ugly.

First, the good:

They’re the Olympics.  When I was a kid, we had to wait every four years for both the winter and summer games but now it’s only two as they take turns and we’re treated to massive inspiration on a more regular basis.  There’s too much to love about the whole affair.  Not a sports fan and yet you can’t tear yourself away from the two-man bobsled?  We get it.  The Olympics appeal to young and old, Republican and Democrat, white, black, and brown.  Feeling down?  Need a lift?  Watch Jeremy Abbott’s epic fall on the ice in the men’s figure skating.  No one thought he was going to get up.  He did and finished his routine, successfully jumping, spinning, and stirring the Russian audience to its feet, awed by the demonstration of resilience in the face of defeat.

I was particularly moved by Nate Holland, a snowboard cross competitor who just can’t seem to get the Olympics right.  He’s an unfortunate but important example of the ancient phrase “Shit happens”.  He’ll survive despite disappointment.  That’s not to say that the actual champions of the games – Ted Ligety, Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin, Davis and White – are not awe-inspiring as well.  Hard work can pay off in spectacular ways.

For the athletes, the Olympics are a showcase for perseverance and spirit.  For viewers, they’re therapeutic motivation.  Do something enough, and with purpose, and you’ll get better at it.  Gold medals aren’t always the prize but that’s the point.  It’s the journey that creates the person, not the end result.

The bad:

That’s easy.  Bob Costas (never liked the guy).  Bob Costas’ eyes.

Sochi’s sub-tropical climate – it looks like the Summer Olympics.  Where is the romantic Alpine setting of hot chocolate and roaring fires?  Palm trees?!  Nordic skiers in short-sleeved shirts?  The IOC blew it on this one.  Isn’t the rest of Russia snowy and cold right now?  Why a seaside resort?

Desperate attempts to create more events.  Slopestyle skiing AND snowboarding?  Pick one.  Snowboard AND skiing halfpipe?  Pick one.  Snowboard AND skiing cross?  Pick one.  Team figure skating?  So stupid.  Team speed skating?  Even dumber.  Why not ice volleyball?  Snow tennis?

Snowboard and freestyle skiing apparel.  They all look like a bunch of bums.  And while I know this makes me sound like a drag, athletic uniforms are supposed to enhance your performance or be a non-issue.  Sweden’s Henrik Harlaut was the extreme, but he wasn’t the only one grabbing at his shirt and pants on a run that involves jumps high enough to kill you on a distracted landing.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  I need to examine why this has made me angrier than any other aspect of the games so far.

The Chevy Tahoe commercial.  I was in the market for a car this week (that’s another post) and this ad would prevent me from even looking at a Tahoe.  The babysitter ups her seemingly agreed-upon price after deciding the family she just sat for is rich.  I hate everything about that message.  Perhaps I need to examine my reaction to this also.

The Bode Miller interview.  The husband and daughters were watching with me.  We all shouted at the television, trying to get Christin Cooper to stop.  By now, this is an old story but it still represents television journalism at its worst.  That NBC Olympic executive producer Jim Bell defended Cooper is an example of someone doing their job poorly.  Bell should have apologized regardless of Miller’s forgiving attitude.  It’s okay to admit you were wrong.  Why has that become impossible for so many in positions of power?

The U.S. Men’s hockey team.  Woops.  They forgot to show up for the Bronze medal game.

The ugly:

Vladimir Putin.  He’s a badass and not in a good way.  Dictatorial, humorless, anti-gay.  As a pure PR gesture, he should have adopted all the poor stray dogs in Sochi instead of having Gus Kenworthy take care of the issue for him.  And maybe having Cossacks whip the Pussy Riot protesters wasn’t such a good idea.  But he doesn’t care.  He’s Vlad.

I will miss the games, but not the sleep deprivation I feel every two years for two weeks.  Despite my complaints, long live the Olympics!  Must start training for ski cross now.  I’m not too old.  I’m not.  Stop it.  I’m not.





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