I don’t plan on watching much of the Sochi ’14 Olympics on TV this year, except to maybe take in some of the sledding and ice hockey events. The negative vibe resulting from Vladimir Putin’s association with this year’s games turns off a lot of people. And how crazy does it seem to those of us in the Northeast US to read reports that the coastal Russin resort town needs to manufacture snow to properly maintain some events?
I’m not a big fan of figure skating and many events having names like slopestyle, mogul skiing, and half pipe seem more suitable programming for a niche cable channel supported by energy drink sponsorship. Even the grandeur of the traditional alpine events seems diluted and overextended. Will future games someday see a “Super-duper Giant Slalom” further diminish the achievements of previous triple crown alpine champions such as Jean-Claude Killy?
There was always something uniquely epic about the Winter Games. Before the days of ESPN round the clock sports programming, there were less TV channels and fewer alternative viewing choices. Plus cold weather tends to keep people indoors more to watch TV. But compared to most American teams sports, and, more so than the Summer Games, the staging of the Winter Olympics play out mankind’s struggle to overcome the harsh but often beautiful realities of the natural world.
In the spring of 2000 I travleled to Scandinavia with an educational tour group. Part of the tour took us to Oslo, the capital city of Norway, a country where children learn to ski and ice skate almost as soon as they can walk and talk. Our group made a stop at the Holmenkollen ski jump facility and the site for the ski jump event at the 1952 Winter Games. I very recently learned that the original ski jump tower (pictured below) had been torn downed and replace by a new state-of-the-art facility and ski history museum. People of the Nordic countries regard cold weather athletic events with great pride and as something well beyond mere “games people play”. In fact history books celebrate the courage of Norwegian ski soldiers and their fierce resistance of the Nazi occupation of World War II.
The following spring our same tour group went to Greece and I was able to spend a few moments inside the stadium where the first modern Olympic Games took place. Perhaps organizers of future games should consider the idea of rotating the event among a semi-permanent route of Olympic Heritage Sites such as Athens, Oslo, Paris, Rome, etc. This might free the games from much corruptiion and political turmoil and restore honor to the original intent and traditions of the games. And the haphazard swapping in and out of so many events needs further scrutiny. How ridiculous would it be to eliminate wrestling from the Games and dismember another connection with the original ancient Greek competition?