Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thoughts on the Olympics

As a kid, I loved the Winter Olympics and watched every minute I could.  My interest flagged as an adult and I didn't watch them for a long time.  In addition, I didn't even have a TV for a while and every time I was in a bar with a TV on during the Winter Olympics, the events seemed to be either figure skating or curling.  I liked watching ski events, both alpine and cross-country, but they tended to be shown at 2 a.m., so I didn't bother watching.  Until this year.

I started watching this Olympiad during the second week, when, while idly passing a Saturday afternoon, I flicked on the TV and saw the Women's 15k Biathlon.  I love Biathlon.  The combination of skiing and shooting reminds me of Finnish ski troops whooping Russia's ass during the initial stage of Russia's invasion of Finland in 1939 and 1940.  I didn't even know they had women's biathlon events now (Title IX reaches across borders).  The event was won by Darya Domracheva from Belarus.  We noticed that she was quite beautiful.  Googling her, I found a picture that would be a fantastic promotion for gun sports in the US.

How to market gun sports
 (Her name and face reminded me of a Russian student who was in my calculus class and school chorus at the last school I taught.  She was smart, charming, a talented athlete, and beautiful.  Yes, life isn't fair.  She went on to college here on a basketball scholarship.  I googled her and she's a financial analyst in Moscow now.  I wonder if she peruses websites for American mail-order husbands)
Evidently, upon further research, I learned photo shoots of scantily clad women's biathlon teams are all the rage.  There were even shots from a nude calendar of the Canadian Women's Biathlon team (You can go find the pictures yourself.  I get enough views from porn spammers and I don't want to encourage it).  Though a vehicle for fundraising, it is a fun yet exploitive way to promote the sport.  In comparison, gun sports are promoted all wrong in the US.  Here, proponents urge providing guns to teachers and look like the fellows below.

How NOT to market gun sports
I found a website that compared a nation's prowess at the Olympics with population and GNP.  With or without such considerations, the Olympics prove that Norway is better than the rest of the world, whether or not their waxes on cross country skis were ok.  Economics students have devised models that predict the number of medals a nation earns by inputing the longitude, per capita income, and population.  They predict the medal tallies pretty well, except for the totals from the Dutch speed skating gods.   I suppose in Holland onesies have skates.

I also found evidence that those who deny global warming may have a point, as the British Virgin Islands sent a skier to the Olympics.  Very crafty of the islanders to line the beaches with hotels to hide the snow-capped peaks in the interior.

Peter Crook skis upside down for British Virgin Islands,
demonstrating the clear misunderstanding of skiing in the Caribbean
The Canadians beat the US in the final of Women's Hockey.  Reading the scroll on the Guardian website made me realize I should have watched that one.  Evidently life stopped everywhere north of the 49th parallel to watch the game.  Beating the US in hockey is evidently a consuming desire of all Canadians (and I thought they were all so nice).  That night even geeks got laid in Toronto.  On the bright side, they played "Oh, Canada" for the winners, which everyone in the arena sings with joyous abandon, as opposed to the silent solemnity that accompanies "The Star Spangled Banner" because nobody can sing it.  Fortunately the US did not respond as the Russians did when Finland beat Russia in Men's Hockey:
RUSSIA INVADES FINLAND (again) - Enraged over Finland's 3-1 defeat of Russia in the Olympic Games, President Vladamir Putin has ordered the Russian Armed Forces to invade Finland. Russian tanks drive across the frontier (below left) while amused yet concerned Finns and reindeer join forces (below right) to treat the invaders as their comrades did on the hockey rink in Sochi. Many former fighters in Afghanistan were seen to chuckle at the news.
Ok, I posted this on Facebook already, but I really like it

The US hasn't invaded Canada in 200 years, and that invasion went as well as Russia's invasion of Finland. Fortunately the only stake the US had with Canada in the game was a case of beer.

We watched some of the pair and individual figure skating and I noticed a marked change from when I was a kid: the commentators weren't wearing tuxedos anymore.  For a generation, Americans watching Olympic coverage imagined figure skating was a black tie event, with the hushed voice of Dick Button describing the moves and twists, perhaps between sips of champagne and nibbles of French cheese.  Perhaps the Kerrigan/Harding controversy 20 years ago dispelled any illusions of elegance in the sport.

Commercials frequently feature the music from Chariots of Fire, and a recent one with an ironic context of kids on a waterslide reminded me of the 1981 movie with Ben Cross and John Gielgud.  The movie featured elite Cambridge University student athletes competing with their fellow amateurs from other nations, the ideal of the Olympics in the 1920s.  One of the themes of the movie was the budding conflict between the amateur and the professional in sports, with those advocating the professional seeming to embrace the future compared with the prim old champions of the amateur ideal.  A few years after the movie's release, the wall between the amateur and professional came down in the Olympics.

The Paris Olympic Games in 1924, featuring athletes drawn from the elite universities of the world competing overseas, with receptions for the athletes wearing tails and the Prince of Wales, have little to share with the more democratic and professional games of today.  On the other hand, I did notice that many members of the US women's hockey team, a branch of the sport that has little following in the US (WOMEN'S hockey, not men's), play for Harvard University.  If there's little money to be made, the sport still embraces the elite amateur who can afford to pursue his or her passion.

I do have a new favorite Winter Olympic sport, replacing biathlon: Ski Snow Cross.  Heats of 4 frantic skiers racing, flying through the air, weaving down the hill bumping into each other.  Just watching the sheer craziness of it is a drug--I can't even imagine what it's like to participate.  Some of the other new "freestyle" ski sports leave me cold: leaping and twisting in the air down a pipe of snow thrills me no more than the kids on skateboards at the skate park underneath the expressway, even with the dark spice of the possibility of crippling injury or death.  But give me a TV channel with 24 hour Ski Snow Cross and I will never sleep.

Coolest sport ever.
The media featured a few of the now perfunctory biennial articles about the Olympics of Orgies in the Olympic Village, with record numbers of condoms provided the athletes.  The topic titillates some interest, but then again, it isn't really news.  If memory serves, when we were in high school, it was the athletes who got laid all the time.  Evidently nothing changes, except the Olympic athletes make our high school athletes look like band geeks.  So now, after we've finally moved on from high school (sometimes it took some therapy)  we get to imagine all the outstanding blond physical specimens of the northern hemisphere (it is the WINTER Olympics, after all) using up 100,000 condoms over the course of two weeks.

Spirit of the Olympic Games.  No short programs, please.
Olympic organizers provided less total condoms to the athletes at the Soochi Games than to the athletes of the London Games.  But a little math confirms what everyone dreams about ski holidays: officials provided 100,000 condoms for 3,000 athletes at the Soochi Winter Olympics, about 33 condoms per athlete, with some extras for the gold medal winners.  They provided 150,000 for almost 11,000 athletes at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, less than 15 condoms per athlete.  Each winter athlete gets more than twice as many condoms as a summer athlete.

As a former math teacher, I like to devise word problems.  So, let's play with the numbers above.  With 33 condoms per athlete, that's actually a potential 66 couplings per athlete (assuming they're sharing and not double bagging).  Athletes who play for Team Sappho (this is the Olympics) do not need condoms, so the potential protected plug and play possibilities increase and thus the grand total of combinations. In addition, many athletes try to stay focused until their events and wait until after their events to blow off steam.  There.  Consider the possibilities of those last few days of the Olympics.  Hoonelly.

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