Believe me, I’m not at all unaware of the deep irony. In fact, I am fascinated by it. I have come to despise every single snow flake that resides in community splendor with millions or billions of other such watery whitenesses on the meadow this long winter. I truly do hate them all. They have tortured me in ways that “try men’s (and women’s) souls.
Yet, it is undeniable that between the Summer Olympics and the Winter Games, I much prefer the latter. It may be that I have experienced many of the sports (albeit in juvenile forms) that are in the Summer agenda. But then I’ve skated, and sledded and even tried skiing once. At the time, as a child, I adored at least the first two, having my own “professional” fitted boot skates. So I’m not sure exactly why I like winter sports more than summer.
But I do. I love the skiing events, the skating, both figure and track, the sledding, most all of it, although I do take a rather dim view of “curling.” Some of the summer events I most like are seldom televised, or only briefly. The equine events are barely touched, and well, forget synchronized swimming! As for the basketball and tennis–we I think they are cheap gimmicks to draw attendance, and have no real place, since somehow professionals take a siesta from professionalism and the millions they garner, all in the name of “sportsmanship” for their country.
Then of course, there is the question of who one competes for. It seems that for all intents and purposes, people live pretty much in places other than the country who pays their way and is the banner under which they find their “team.” Think of the hockey and you see what I mean. Men who play for American hockey teams all of the sudden are “proud” Canadians or Russians as the case may be at Olympic time. It all seems mildly distasteful. Give me the days of true amateurism please.
Anyway, we sat down and watched the opening hours staged by Vancouver. I was impressed, and expected a good show. After all, Vancouver is one of those “good” places to die. Course, hopefully you’ve spent a good time living there before the end. While nothing could top the Beijing “bird’s nest” or the opening ceremonies they produced, I agreed that the Canadians could make it their own personal showplace, and in large part they did.
The technological masterpiece was wowing from time to time. It was also moving, with Hallelujah by K D Lang. The Joanie Mitchell cloud song was interpreted beautifully by a young man who glided through the air with acrobatic splendor. Only a snafu with the hydraulics at the end marred in any way a delightful show.
Still, there was pain and sadness throughout, as only that morning a young man from the country of Georgia died on the luge track. We, of course, have seen tragedy before at the Olympics. No one my age certainly can forget the ugly brutal days in Munich when so many Israeli athletes were destroyed by the forces of political opposition. And athletes have died in pursuit of the gold before, making mistakes, taking a calculated risk that, well, didn’t work out.
This tragedy may smell of something more insidious. At this point we are not sure. A report in the Huff Po suggests that the luge track was dangerous, and this fact was well known by everyone associated with it. Not dangerous in the sense that careening down a hill at breakneck speed with nothing but a helmet on is not dangerous per se. But dangerous in the sense that the track design well exceeded safety protocols.
It seems that tracks are designed for speeds of 85 mph. That is the level that athletes train for, and have some familiarity with. This track tested out at 95 mph, and thus posed a danger of human reactions not being fast enough. Technology can outstrip human reaction time, so we cannot go ever faster without consequences.
There is an ugly undercurrent that the Canadians let this go by, allowing their athletes to practice on this track until they had mastered the highest speeds, knowing that they would have an advantage over other countries who could not either go that fast or could not do so safely. One doesn’t like to think of Canadians this way. That makes them too much like Americans–willing to risk the lives of others for the benefits that might accrue to themselves.
The Olympic Committee, has rather rapidly declared that the fault of the accident at the luge yesterday lay with the deceased himself, Nodar Kumaritashvili. This even though the World Luge Federation had complained that the track was unsafe.
In any event, as the “tribute” of silence and words of consolation came from the lips of Olympic officials, I felt a bit bitter at the whole thing. It leaves a bad taste, and somehow tarnishes my enjoyment. It seems more of the same, doping and cheating to gain advantage. Politics interfering in what would and should be a celebration of the human athletic spirit.
And, as an aside, perhaps it is best that on the application form to be considered as an Olympic site, they might include: Do you have snow in the winter? (H/T to Stephen Colbert).