The Olympics are back with us, and I hope that all goes well in Rio. Some athletes, or at least certain tennis players that I know of, aren't participating due to health concerns, Zika being one of them. But the games will probably go well enough; there will be many great stories, and the amateur athletes will get their moment in the sun.
Canada has hosted the Olympics three times: one summer event and two winter games. Two of them were somewhat embarrassing, for we did not win one gold medal in either. We set our own kind of record — of futility.
Montreal hosted the 1976 Olympics: the games famous in my mind for the Romanian gymnast, Nadia Comeneci. She won 3 golds (which bring up a problem that I will get back to later) and scored a perfect 10.
Our biggest medal of the Montreal games was a silver won by high jumper Greg Joy. I remember listening to the event on an old radio at the cottage and hoping against hope. (Note: just checking that we did win 5 silver and 6 bronze, but Joy is my only significant memory.)
Then, in 1988, Calgary hosted the winter Olympics. Canada's hopes rested on men's figure skater, Brian Orser. In the Battle of the Brians, he was narrowly beaten out by Brian Boitano, who had a magical skate. (Elizabeth Manley also won a silver in figure skating, and we also won 3 bronze medals.)
By the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, things had changed considerably with Canada standing first with 14 golds, 7 silvers, and 5 bronze. Just by way of note, we did almost as well at Sochi in 2014: 10 gold, 10 silver, 5 bronze.
Not that medals matter so very much, but these are things that I remember.
What I also remember for a very very different reason are the 1994 winter games in Lillehammer. These stand out for two reasons: the first being from the Harding-Kerrigan brouhaha, which I won't rehash.
The second reason is that I watched from the floor. That was the time of my notorious back attack. I went to school one morning, came home before the second period, and didn't return for almost two months. It was a bulging disc that put me down and required many expensive physiotherapy sessions.
The single standout memory was watching from the floor all through one, sleepless night. That morning, on my way to physio I had suffered what I suppose in retrospect was a prodigious muscle spasm that rendered me almost helpless for some hours and in great discomfort for many more. So, I watched ski jumping most of the uncomfortable night. It wasn't exactly rivetting, but it helped to get me through.
Finally, I return to the problem that I alluded to earlier: medal counts. Comeneci won three at Montreal; Phelps won 22 in all, including 18 gold, over three Olympics, and so on.
It almost seems like the system is rigged for some sports.
What I mean is that you can win a medal for a 100 metre swim, another for 105 metres, and so on. (Yes, I exaggerate greatly to make a point.)
Meanwhile, for example, a hockey team of 23 players must play 6 games over two weeks to win one single medal. Now, I don't know how it could be different, but I do know certain sports are greatly favoured when it comes to medal counts.
Now, although it may sound like it, none of this really bothers me: not the lack of golds or the stacking of medals for some sports. These are simply things that come to mind when I consider the Olympic games. I guess this is why I am somewhat ambivalent about it all. I love the amateur spirit and the individual stories, but there are things that I don't love. And I didn't even mention the slimy politics or the significant doping problem.