Monday, August 08, 2016

A Few Olympic Thoughts

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.


ADRIAN said...

Are there any amateurs?
It leaves me cold but each to his own.

Marie Smith said...

What I notice with this Olympics is the poverty of the people in Brazil and the money spent of this extravaganza. I won't be watching.

Tabor said...

Unfortunately my watching of the Olympics will be tainted with the horrible backstories that HOB revealed in a recent documentary. Those who are poor are moved aside and/or lose services, etc. so that this event can take place in their country. I am thinking we should hold it in Greece every year for the summer events and perhaps some other country for the winter?

Jayne said...

I like the idea of it being in the same host city, summer and winter. WHY on earth spend BILLIONS in new cities creating all these "venues" that will then be abandoned once it's all said and done. Is the benefit really worth the financial outlay in so many cities around the globe?

Ruth said...

Good point about the way certain sports can garner many medals. I never thought of that. Lying on the floor in pain is not the ideal way to imprint Olympic events to memory, but it obviously worked. I will have to give this method of learning some thought ;-)

Shammickite said...

I was in the 1976 Montreal Olympic stadium when Greg Joy won his silver for the high jump, what an exciting moment! One of my childhood fantasies was to go to an Olympic Games (as an observer, I have no athletic ability at all!) so going to Montreal was a highlight for me. I also watched Michel Vaillancourt win his silver medal in the individual showjumping on his horse Branch County. OlderSon was only 5 and missed the exciting action as he went to sleep.
I agree, the way the medals are won or lost leaves a bit to be desired and yes, the dodgy politics and the doping and the big money deals are all shameful, but that will not stop me watching the competition.
Go Canada!

troutbirder said...

I like the Olympics as well. Especially the team sports...:)

Jim Flack said...

I am a winter sports fan, so the summer games don't get my attention. I read an article lately how the poverty stricken were definitely "shoved aside" to make room for the games. That in itself is shameful. My opinion only.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

I have only watched the Olympics recap online the following morning and while I am glad for the U.S. victories, it is disheartening to read about the poverty aspects that others have mentioned.