10 things we’ve learned from the Winter Olympics
Two weeks ago, I gave 10 reasons why I thought the Winter Olympics were “Higher. Faster. Cooler.” Now they’re almost over, I thought I’d reflect briefly on what, if anything, we all learned. So. In no particular order, here are 10 things.
1. Climate change is real
Thought I’d throw this one up the top because I don’t get enough right wing spam hate mail. Here’s the thing, though. Vancouver had its warmest January on record and has probably just recorded its warmest February too. Daffodils are out a month early. OK, so it’s the warmest city ever chosen to host a winter games. And yes, other parts of the northern hemisphere have had unusually snowy winters. But really, an average daily max temp of 10 or 11 where it’s usually four or five is one hell of a massive anomaly.
2. London is going to suck
As the stuff-ups subsided and the clouds cleared, beautiful Vancouver gave us a magnificent Olympic backdrop. Twee as it sounds, the Olympics need to take the world’s couch potatoes on something resembling a trip. How on earth will London manage this, wedged as it is between Beijing/Vancouver and Sochi/Rio? No snowy peaks or Copacabana Beach in the south east of England. Just boring, bloody red buses and Beefeaters. God help us all if Oasis or the re-re-re-formed Spice Girls perform at the opening ceremony.
3. A backside switch is not a new type of cosmetic surgery
Apparently it’s a snowboard move. All the same, it might not hurt anyone with the surname “Sidebottom” to try one.
4. Australian women are awesome
As the local sporting focus switches to male-dominated footy codes, ask yourself where we’d be as a sports nation without fabulous Aussie females? In Beijing, the gals won eight of our 14 golds, including all of our swimming gold medals. In Vancouver, Lydia and Torah were the golden girls. Kinda makes you wonder why none of our biggest domestic pro sports leagues are for women, doesn’t it?
5. Eddie McGuire wasn’t actually that bad. Well, he wasn’t.
Plenty of people spent the games bagging Eddie, but his interview with Dale Begg-Smith was probing and insightful. He even redeemed his homophobic moment by inviting figure skater Johnny Weir onto the set numerous times. On snow, his passion for a sports contest, any sports contest, largely made up for his lack of technical knowledge. Having said all that, his stumbling Wayne Gretzky interview was like watching a Millionaire contestant botch the $100 question.
6. The IOC does not value human life
Their ads shriek “Celebrate Humanity”. So here’s how IOC chief Jacques should have celebrated the humanity of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. He should have bumped the luge program back a couple of days. Just a couple of days, out of respect both for the athlete and the other competitors. Instead, the IOC raced ahead with competition the very next day, albeit on a modified course. Lip service has a new name.
7. Every mountain range in Canada is (apparently) the Rockies
These Winter Olympics were held in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia. Drive inland and you come to the Selkirks, the Purcells, the Monashees, the Bugaboos and countless other ranges (not necessarily in that order). After about 1,000km, near the Alberta border, you eventually reach the Rockies. Didn’t stop most media outlets blindly calling Vancouver’s peaks The Rockies. The SMH did it great big letters on its front page salute to Torah Bright, which was kind of like saying the Bells Beach surf classic happened at Bondi.
8. Canadians are infinitely worthy of parody
Few stories on satirical news site The Onion have ever been as Oniony as last week’s story where Canada’s Olympic Committee chief Chris Rudge admitted, in deathly tones, that his nation would not, sadly, “own the podium” (Own the Podium was the title of a govt-funded sports program whose specific aim was to win more overall medals than anyone else).
Essentially, it says we apologise for sucking but will pour all available resources into determining the precise cause of our suckfulness. Meanwhile, in one of life’s ironies, Canada had a late gold rush and has now won more gold medals at a single games than anyone, ever, in winter Olympic history.
9. Ice hockey is a shocking spectator sport
It’s the Vegemite of team sports, in as much as it’s a taste you have to be born with. But even if you manage to get interested in a particular game because of its importance (like today’s USA/Canada gold medal match), the fact is it’s impossible to see the darn puck. Where is the bloody thing? Did someone just score? Who’s got it now? What just happened? Sorry, can’t help you. On the flipside, curling is actually interesting. Maybe they should use curling stones in ice hockey so we can all see what the hell’s going on.
10. Winter sports don’t yet pass the Crawford test… but they could soon
One of the key findings of the Crawford Report was that sports deserve to be funded if they hold a place in the “national psyche”. Well, it’s clear that winter sports are not there yet, given the general ambivalence towards the Vancouver games I detected both in the general public and among the sports nuts I work with. But this is almost certainly bound to change. When I spoke to senior AOC media guy Mike Tancred on ABC radio on Sunday, he made it clear than a generation of grommets has already been inspired by our medallists in Vancouver. Snowboarding and surf culture are intertwined in many ways, and this is one winter sport in particular which will continue to resonate with young Australians. Meanwhile, kids are storming ice rinks inspired by 16 year old figure skater Cheltzie Lee, according to a skating official I interviewed.
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