They say that it can take years, decades often to gain a perspective on an event sufficient to speak intelligently about it. So, I figured with only two days to go, it was high time I pontificated on the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Now let me say first of all, that I have a slightly dis-favorable view of Vancouver based upon the only person I “know” from there. A fellow blogger whom I no longer follow put me in my place some years ago. She announced rather huffily that she was a phenomenal judge of character, and Obama would be a terrible President since he had “cold dead eyes.”
Okay, so I figure Vancouverians are judgmental asshats who should spend more time worrying about why so many Canadians would rather be US citizens if their country is so darn perfect as they often suggest it is.
Note that I do not make this assessment of Canada in general, or had not as to date, since I find their approach to health care, gay union, and a whole host of issues spot on and an embarrassment to us southern neighbors who are backward heathens by comparison.
But, I did say, as to date. The Olympics definitely have changed my mind. First lets talk about climate. Are we to understand that Vancouverites are finding this winter a polar opposite of so-called normal winter there? If not, then they should have come clean that it was a bit too warm there, subject to RAIN and all around not so conducive to WINTER sports. From skiing to speed skating there are reports of bad snow, bad ice, slow ice, slop, slush, rain, fog, and well, conditions that do not lead athletes to put in their best performances.
Then we get to the venues, those places constructed for various sports. The luge we need not get into deeply. The course was designed to be faster than any other, and it is. Canadians had access to practicing on it for months to get used to the speed. Nobody else did. And someone died. End of story there. Similar stories are told about the speed skating where other athletes were denied access to the venues for training until the last minute.
I am continually amazed at the cheating that goes on. The designer of the ski venue deliberately designed the courses to favor the women from his country (not Canadian). A Canadian was a judge in the final of the men’s 500 short track when two Canadians were in the mix, and the disqualification of Apolo Ohno benefited and gave a medal to a Canadian skater who fell. I’m at a loss why the Olympic Committee doesn’t work harder to avoid these “appearances” of favoritism.
Mostly I’m rather disgusted by the Canadian battle cry of “owning the medal podium.” I am as disgusted at this as the nightly “medal count” that NBC seems to think we are all interested in. I frankly find it demeaning, divisive and all sorts of unsavory things.
Then, lets get to the human interest stories. Most of them are okay. I enjoy learning a bit about athletes from far off places whose families and they often sacrifice mightily for them to pursue their dreams. But oh, my the nonsense that nations are tottering on the edge of collapse, all hope riding on the shoulders of some emaciated girl barely 20 years old who straps on a pair of skates and dance/jumps her way to victory.
I mean Finland cries that it will be a national catastrophe if their ski jump team doesn’t come home laden with gold, and the Koreans have everything riding on a few skaters. The economies apparently are teetering, everyone holding their breath, everyone packed to move to another country should a fall, slip, slight error, knock their favorite from the podium.
I find it all loathsome, whiny, and overly dramatic. I’m sick (sorry but I truly am) of hearing about the “daughter of Canada” who skated despite her mother’s unexpected death. I mean, don’t they all carry on under these circumstances? I’m truly sorry for her loss, but this maudlin questioning of her thoughts is just exquisitely boring. I mean, NBC is still boring us to death with Dan Jansen, and how many years ago was that? His tragic fall, his resurrection six years later. . . .blah, blah blah.
Perhaps that is what is wrong with sports. The attempt to make winning or losing the end all and be all of human existence. And it almost never is. The losers go on to fine lives, or not, but it seldom has much to do with the sport. Same for the winners. In fact, argument can be made that the winners are the big losers in the end, many of them go on to tragic lives of over exposure, personal issues, and obscurity that is bitter to them.
Mostly I just think that Canada wasted a lovely opportunity to stand above the fray. I fully expected them not to engage in all the tricks and national flag waving. I fully expected them to stand head and shoulders above the rest of us, proclaiming the real point–fair, civil, honest competition, saluting the winners and those who came in a bit late. Promoting the human spirit, rather than “grabbing gold” would have been a much more elegant and noble enterprise. Alas, they acted like everyone else.
NOW TEAM USA, BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF THE CANUCKS IN THAT HOCKEY FINAL!!!!
Mystical Seeker said:
The US doesn’t have a monopoly on nationalistic fervor, and the Olympics are an expression of tribal loyalties through the medium of sport. I am not surprised by “owning the podium” rhetoric because nationalism is a disease found in every nation, and as enlightened as Canada is in many ways it too suffers from this disease, And the Olympics cultivate nationalism–by defining everything about the competitive structure in terms not of individual athletic competition but rather in terms of teams defined by national boundaries, and then, to top it off, when the winner is declared, they play the national anthem of the country that the winner comes from. The Olympics are about raw nationalism, not the purity of sport.
(I have visited Vancouver and think it is a really lovely city, one of the best places to visit. But it is true that its Pacific Northwest climate does seem less conducive for winter games than other places might be.)
Mystical I agree. I hate the politicalization of sports like this. And it has been with us for decades at least. I just thought Canada which is such a class act, might do a better job of tempering the nationalism. I have lived near Canada for years, to the point we often drove the tunnel in Detroit to have lunch there. I also lived near Port Huron where there is a bridge to Sarnia Ontario. I’ve relatives in Canada, and have spent a fair share of time there. Love the people and the land. Just disappointed in the rah rah bit.
Renegade Eye said:
I’m terrible about following sports; I like rasslin and UFC.
The spectacle of the Olympics, is bigger than the sum of its parts; national chauvinism, ultra competitive athletes, steroids etc.
Politics has been a big part of it, until the end of nation-states.
I hear what you say Renegade. I very much think that they really are ruining the concept with all the politics, cheating, and other drama.
Sherry, I share your fatigue. All this backstage drama has eclipsed the true excitement of seeing human beings defy physics, which is really what athletics is about and what the Olympics are intended to do.
Oddly enough, for the first time in nine seasons I’ve succumbed to the “American Idol” virus. Watching that in parallel with these Games exposed how formulaic they’ve become. Both shows go out of their way to make us root for the underdog–to the point they’ve dug up anything they can find to make every contestant one. I never thought I’d miss the old days, when rich kids who could afford skiing and singing lessons had the upper hand. But I do.
As for Canada, well, God bless them for trying. As a creative director (and former creative VP at the agency that produced the Athens ceremonies) I was disheartened by how mediocre the Vancouver opening was. I found it unfocused, bizarrely self-indulgent on the creative director’s part, and confusing. (Really? How in the world do dancing fiddlers represent Montréal?)
Let’s not even discuss the goofy idea of two cauldrons, even if the indoor lighting had gone flawlessly. Without leaving my seat, I can think of a dozen ways that could have been executed more effectively. For starters, installing a retractable section in the stadium roof would have been cheaper than what it cost to imbed one cauldron in the floor and construct another at the harbor.
The whole escapade only reminded me not everything is within everyone’s reach. There’s a reason why talented Canadian athletes and artists head south.
PS: I’m not even watching tonight’s closer. I’m going to the movies.
Yeah, we skipped the closing as well Tim. We always start out enjoying the athletes and then the commentators turn it into all this country versus country rivalry and personal tragedy, redemption etc etc..crap until it’s utterly stupid. If I had to hear one more time about lindsay vonn’s “injuries” and her courage in skiing through it, I was gonna vomit.
YOu provide an interesting prospective on the artistic elements. I too thought a couple of the opening acts were a bit puzzling. The part I liked the best was the “whales” swimming, and the kid who was singing and flying, and the KD Lang, which was utterly terrific.
Well, weather-wise, in Vancouver’s defense, we have had an unusually warm winter up here in the Northwest… ‘Course, that don’t ‘splain the general paltry feel of these games overall. Maybe “niceness” as a national motto leads to mediocrity?
Remember how politicized the games were during the Cold War? And wasn’t it thrilling then? Olga Korbut, the Miracle on Ice, Katerina Witt! It all seemed so much more powerful, somehow.
But the stuff we’re seeing this year is just stupid. Phhtthh. Who cares if the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team beat Canada: they’re all – every single one, American & Canadian alike — pros in the NHL anyway! And only one of the Canadians plays for the Vancouver Canucks. So, yeah, rah rah hometeam. Whatever.
And all that disqualifying going on in speed skating — just dumb ol’ tit for tat.
Like I said, Phhtthh.
agreed Blisterina…you got it right about the hockey..I hate the basketball and tennis in the summer games for the same reason…just a bunch of pros searching for more awards.
I just expected Canada to raise the level of honor and integrity and they ended up being even more nationalistic about winning gold. So tiresome..
I have to agree with much here, and posted my rant on the Own the Podium concept which I felt cost me as a taxpayer too much money, and if we spent 12 billion to host the games, don’t we already own the damn things anyway?
But I suspect a bit of good old patriotic wind took hold and by the end of the games I noticed even me, the curmudgeon who hates the idea the olympics, was cheering.
Perhaps a bit of American hype and glory got a hold of me. Dunno, but was fun for a brief moment in time, and many of forgot our problems and enjoyed a good old fashioned hockey game where we all “won”.
Life throws ya curve balls, and good games once in a while.
To all the “we must win at all cost” folks out there, here is one of my fav’s:
“Ladies and gentlemen take me advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice”
Great post as always
Thanks David for your prospective. Most of my life I lived in closs proximity to the border and traveled in Canada a good deal, always finding everyone so friendly and helpful. I have relatives in Ontario as well.
I just didn’t think they put their best food forward as it were. It’s mostly that I am angry that the Olympic committee seems to push this type of nationalism and I think it just sucks.
Thanks for contributing!./
Darlene Pumphrey said: