I love the Winter Olympics

I love the Winter Olympics.  I’m going to write just a little bit of a rambling stream of consciousness.

I like the different sports and the fact that a lot of the smaller countries that we normally don’t hear from (Norway, Finland, Switzerland, etc.) do well.  Right now Norway (4.8 million people) has 18 medals and the U.S. (300 million people) has 28.  Ok, they have more snow.  But a lot of our medals are in the newer, less traditional sports like snowboarding.  The variety of the sports is pretty impressive.

Anyway, for the same reason a lot of sportswriters don’t like the Olympics — because the sports are different from what they are used to — I like them.  Not all of the events — I can’t get into curling, and the shooting part of biathlon doesn’t seem like a sport though interestingly, there were some cool spy missions back in the day in Northern Europe, so that was an important skill.  I think it’s cool to see these sports.  I respect the athletes who worked hard their whole lives to get here.

It’s interesting to think about how certain sports are huge in certain countries — cross country skiing in Norway, speedskating in Holland, ski jumping in Austria, hockey in Canada (Look at this map of where hockey players are born. Why so many from the Czech Republic and Slovakia?  http://www.quanthockey.com/Maps/MapsCoB.php?CoB=Global&mapType=0).  Just like there are a lot of great marathon runners from Kenya.

I have good memories of watching the Winter Olympics — the skiing, the speed skating, and the hockey.  There is always heartbreak — like the speed skater who went into the wrong lane, or redemption stories like Bode Miller winning three medals.

I’m glad I went there last week.  I saw Nordic Combined, men’s and women’s cross country, the women’s downhill, and three hockey games. The one other event I would have like to have seen was speed skating but it was hard to get tickets.

Yes, there were problems — the usual ones you heard about such as poor planning — there were only outhouses for bathrooms at Whistler — think of thousands of people going to the bathroom without washing their hands — they could have built some actual bathrooms especially since you would think they’d use these venues for future international competitions; they didn’t allow food at the events but the only place to get food and drinks had long lines and closed after the events closed; many of the volunteers couldn’t answer basic questions, but mostly, things went well.

Vancouver is a great city — a perfect size to walk.  It’s surrounded on three sides by water and mountains.  One of my best memories is just walking through the city at night and seeing thousands of revelers singing “Oh, Canada” or chanting “Canada.”

As for some of the Olympic sports – I have a suggestion.  For cross country skiing, ski jumping and alpine skiing, it seems like the uniforms do not necessarily correspond to the colors of the country.  Not only that, but they rarely listed the country on them, so it’d be more fan friendly to fix those things.

Alpine skiing is great because if you’re too aggressive you fall, but if you’re too conservative your time is too slow.  Short track speed skating is great because of how quickly people can be passed and how easily you can wipeout.  Bobsled, luge and skeleton are just unique.  At first the snowboard and ski cross seemed cheesy but they are pretty exciting, you have to admit.

I just think it’s a cool atmosphere.  The Summer Olympics are great too, but they are so massive – you’re not sure where they begin or end.  I think after a rough start these games have gotten better, and it’s cool that it’s been snowing at Whistler and Cypress in the last few days because it should be snowing at the Olympics.

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