Monday, March 1, 2010

The Olympic Games

I have watched way too much Olympics over the last two weeks. I thought the games were a success, although there are too many "new" x-games type sports. In my mind, the traditional skiing events are central to the Olympics. Not aerials, skier cross, moguls. Not all the snowboarding events.

Yes, I have become an old man.

I was angry in an old man way, when I realized that the long distance skiing events on Saturday and Sunday had been changed to mass starts. I liked the old time trial format, which has been used for 150 years, much better. No true cross country skiing fan really wants to watch skiers in a pack for two hours, only to see Petter Northug win a close sprint finish. But it's better for the casual viewer, because they can wrap their minds around a bunch of skiers poling like nuts for the finish line.

Best moment of the Games? Without a doubt watching Justyna Kowalchyk and Marit Bjørgen's sprint duel at the end of the 30K Saturday. Okay, I realize the irony, since that moment would never have happened in a time trial.

Who do I root for, you ask? Well, like many, I always root for the underdog. I love when Americans or Canadians do well in skiing events (real skiing, see above) but hate it when they do well in x-games events. Devon Kershaw of Canada took fifth in the men's 50K, missing out on 4th by a few inches. That is absolutely huge for a North American man (Beckie Scott of Canada has medaled before) and, frankly, a bigger accomplishment than a Canadian gold in an x-games event.

In skiing, I hate when Norway does well. But, of course, they always do well, so it's futile. I watch all the events on either Swedish, Norwegian or German TV, depending on whether I want to hear the announcers despair or gloat. Note: The Norwegians always gloat or wail like kindergarteners, so it's fun to watch events where they lose. Like when Northug took 41st in the opening 15K: great to watch on Norwegian TV. The Swedes are much more gentleman-like but also very patriotic. Swedish sounds like an old-fashioned sing-song Danish that can be very comedic (to Danes). Natali tries to speak it all the time, after hearing it on TV. When the Swedes are winning, it's fun to watch their TV. I got goose bumps when Björn Ferry won a gold in biathlon or when the Swedish men won the cross country relay.

The Germans always take the high road, no matter what; they are almost neutral observers. When the German team speed skaters almost lost the semi final - a skater fell and glided on her stomach across the finish line, but the still qualified - the German announcer said something akin to "why, tally ho, there is something you don't see every day".

Denmark, you ask? I think the highest placed individual athlete was a woman - in skier cross. Our greatest cross country skier finished dead last in the 50K on Sunday. The curling women were actually tipped to win a medal. Instead, they posed topless and got tons of attention but no medals.

The best Danes can do is pretend to be Swedish or Norwegian during the Olympics

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