Higher. Faster. Cooler.
The Winter Olympics start this weekend and I’m ridiculously excited. I love the Winter Olympics much more than that over-hyped impostor, the Summer Games. Here’s why.
The Winter Olympics are sexier
Well, they are. No Greco-Roman wrestlers or weightlifters in this lot. Winter Olympians have body shapes which can almost universally be described as “lithe”. What’s more, everyone wears clingy outfits. It’s a visual feast. Doubly so if you have a lycra fetish.
Medals cost less
Australia has won six Winter Olympic medals. These medals may not score highly on the national feelgood-o-meter, but at least the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia funds just six of the 15 winter Olympic disciplines, picking the eyes out of events where we’re likely to bag a medal. Summer Olympic funding is much more scattergun.
They’re more entertaining
Take nationalism out of swimming and you’re left with all the excitement of laps at the public pool, minus the lane rage. Winter sports are much more action-packed. Well, except curling, the only sport in the universe in which janitors have a natural advantage. But even curling is captivating for its sheer weirdness.
They’re the pinnacle in every sport
Tennis has Wimbledon and football has the World Cup, which is why tennis and football have a ho-hum presence at the Summer Olympics. In every winter sport you can name, no event is bigger than the Olympics. Win here or be anonymous.
They’re evolving quicker
The sport of snowboarding is less than three decades old, yet there are already six snowboard medals at the Winter Games, plus a range of wacky new events like ski cross. The latest addition to the Summer Olympics? Some newfangled thing called golf.
They’re part of our culture now
One of Australia’s greatest (if luckiest) sporting moments was Steven Bradbury’s Salt Lake City gold, which you can watch any time at the National Museum of Australia. More generally, the “we’re a hot, dry country with no interest in snow” narrative is getting awfully tired in an age when the NSW and VIC snow resorts receive around two million visitors per year, most of them domestic. Elite winter sports may not be mainstream in these parts. But they’re not like cricket to Americans either.
These games are in “our backyard”
Whistler, 90 mins up the highway from Vancouver and the alpine skiing venue at these games, has become a little island of Australia like Earl’s Court or Bali. Generations of young Aussies have saved up and flocked there to work and play, as I did way back in 1988. I didn’t forget to celebrate our Bicentennial in a typical Australian way either, as the attached pic shows.
Norway Norway Norway. Oi! Oi! Oi!
Notwithstanding Australia’s burgeoning winter sports pedigree, it’s still fun to support a random country for two weeks. Try Canada this time, who have the unique and utterly pitiable distinction of being the only country to win no gold medals at their own winter games (Calgary ’88) and summer games (Montreal ’76). Ouch.
In the bad old days, local TV coverage of the Winter games consisted of two weeks of dreary ice skating as Mike Gibson salivated over that “rootable darling of the ice” (Billy Birmingham’s hilarious line), East German Katarina Witt. This year , Fox Sports has four dedicated stations with all the big events and all Aussies. That should spur Channel Nine to rise to the occasion and vary their coverage up a bit.
It’s not the cricket.
See my blog from earlier this week. The cricket this summer has been like pulling Shahid Afridi’s teeth, while tennis barely got a look in thanks to Home and Away. Well, forget Summer Bay. In fact, forget summer. Winter just came four months early.
- Anthony Sharwood will co-present three one-hour Winter Olympics specials on Sunday mornings from 10-11am on the Weekend Halftime show on ABC News Radio. First show this Sunday.
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