Sunday, February 25, 2018

Winter Olympics 2018

In truth my Olympic enthusiasm has worn down over the past years, but still once it occurs something stirs.  Some of the reasons for less excitement are commercialization, too many events to track and perhaps my kids are not pushing me.  The circus atmosphere has some advantages, but can also be tiresome.  Drug use has also disillusioned me.  Ben Johnson lost a gold medal but I have read that all the other runners in the same race had used drugs.

My enthusiasm started as a 12 year old.  I consciously remember the 1960 Olympics in Rome where I cut out newspaper clippings and watched a few delayed tapes.  Over the years watched and then taped television coverage, sometimes even including the unique tv commercials.  Both my kids seemed to enjoy it as well.  This year I slid over the first week, but in the 2nd week my interest picked up, but realized I had missed many outstanding moments.

Canadians get a chance to watch more Olympics on tv. as the CBC put out over 10 hours per day and worked out an agreement with other networks so that pretty much all events could be covered.  This coverage makes at least Canadians more aware that we live in a big world with many time zones.   Complaints were common that it was so difficult to see some events (especially if you have to work the next day).  With the internet it was difficult to avoid spoilers which actually spoil experience for some would be viewers.  There is a trade off between live and taped.  We all love to watch winners whether we saw it live or on tape.  In some ways I prefer the hi-lites.

Politics is always intrusive.  North Korea conducted a charm offensive after a few months of playing nuclear brinkmanship.   Mike Pence seemed very distant from the North Korean leader's photogenic sister, but claims he had a meeting with North Koreans that they cancelled.  It was also disclosed that the vice president insisted that the North Koreans must abandon their nuclear weapons totally  Koreans took pride in their accomplishments and wanted to show off.  They did impress technologically.  They made an effort to develop athletes building on success with short track skating. A surprise was their women's curling team that drew a lot of attention and won a silver medal.    Ivanka Trump sent to offset the North Koreans and probably left a better impression than Mike Pence.

The coach Canadian Sarah Murray, of the Korean women's team found herself in the midst of Korean  global diplomacy when North Koreans became part of a deal and she had some North Korean players added to her roster.  A North Korean figure skating pair drew a lot of positive attention but were marginal contenders.

There has been an effort to clean up drug abuse and one of my Facebook friends, Akaaj Makaraj has been part of the action.  Forcing Russia out got a lot of attention.  A sense of fairness is critical to appreciating sports.  Mixed feelings as Russians (like NHL Players) give the games excitement as far as quality is concerned.  Of course the top Russian players actually played to an ice hockey gold medal, but under a different banner.  A drug tainted event diminishes credibility.

Gay athletes made a statement.  Adam Rippon made a point of not wanting to shake hands with Mike Pence.  Many people don't know any gays and thus buy into stereotypes and prejudice, however when they represent your country and win it is hard to maintain the same level of prejudice

Climate change forced some adjustments.  Cold, but not enough snow.  Artificial snow to the rescue.  Caught some wind mills in the background.  Also saw some athletes with short sleeves and even shorts in bobsleigh runs.

The NHL took a risk and offended fans and the players union by blocking involvement of their players.   But they missed an opportunity when one thinks of the World Cup which assures the fans who is the best in the world.  Undoubtedly they will be paying attention to the technology.  When the referee blows their whistle it is digitally connected to stop clock.  Seconds do count, but fans also like to be assured nobody gained an unfair advantage.  Parity is happening with men, but with women it is still mainly the United States and Canada, although other nations are closing the gap.  Germans were the big surprise, but most of their players had basic training in Canada.  I understand that they have a well developed domestic league that likely will now draw more participation.  Marginal professional players actually opened up opportunities for the non traditional countries

Curling, not something I think about, but covered quite a bit.  Parity is occurring at the expense of Canadians.  Mixed doubles not seen except in hi-lites seems like a good idea.

I watched Facebook friend, Jesse Lumsden competing finishing 7th in two man bobsled and I believe 4th in the four man event.  I caught his father, Neil who I used to work with in the crowd.

Virtue and Moir Canada's favorite couple who are not a couple.  They certainly pair very well together.  Meagan Duhamel helped win a gold and a bronze for Canada, but also took time to rescue Korean dogs headed for the slaughter house.  Her pairs partner Eric Radford became the first openly gay man to win a gold medal (in the team figure skating contest).

Always in the Olympics there are lots of stories.  The ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat are on full display.  Expectations are key.  Some are just glad to be there and perhaps achieve a personal best.  A Facebook friend was disappointed with a Canadian women's reaction to losing a very  tight game.  He is right it is far easier to be classy when you win, but more critical when you lose.  Still us armchair quarterbacks have not put in the effort required to even be there.  The original Olympics of 1896 were conceived as a sort of amateur gentleman's contest valuing sportsmanship and fitness. Hopefully we have not totally lost sportsmanship along with amateurism.  Canadian hockey teams have had very high expectations and have been known to resent even having to play for a bronze medal.  This year the Canadian men fought hard to earn a bronze medal and it could be argued that some flukey mishaps stopped them for contesting for the gold.

The Skate Gala is always a hi-lite for me.  The skaters are not competing and can make a statement.  Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir did a tribute to Canadian icon Gord Downey for their last Olympic skate.  A Spanaird and an Italian did humorous skits.  I missed the pairs contest in the first week, but saw very impressive medal winners in all divisions at the gala.  Both Japanese men were impressive, but the most impressive skater for me was Yazuru Hanyu.  Figure skating has been criticized for being more art than athletics, but all sports combine both elements  Two of my favorite artists remain Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky.

In the end I did get a lot of enjoyment out these Olympics, but regret I didn't pay more attention at the beginning.  If they don't add too many new sports I will be able to appreciate their artistry more next time around.  I saw only parts of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, but felt Koreans really do know how to put on a show.  I added a bit to my K-Pop collection.

A previous blog on the 2016 Olympics:

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