I have to say that these Vancouver games were the best ever.
From the amazing opening ceremony with whales cruising through the stadium to the Russians singing a new version of the old Soviet anthem at the closing ceremonies…I was hooked.
I am one to enjoy the Olympics no matter where they are. I like sports. And the Olympics deliver. Well, they would if NBC would actually let you see any of it. There is no excuse for not packing their channels full of coverage, especially since we were all in the same time zone. The NFL must have been giving NBC greed and fan unappreciation lessons. I just wait and hope that ESPN will win the next broadcasting bidding war.
NBC did do a few things right. After complaints about the men’s ice skating (skater performs, commercial. skater gets scores, commercial. skater takes ice and talks to coach, commercial. skater performs, commercial) they broadcast the ice dancing and women’s skating with no commercial interruptions thru up to 5 skaters. While it made it hell for me to hit the bathroom or go make a snack, it was nice to just watch the skating. And the commentators did just the right amount of talking. They didn’t pick apart everything they did as they were doing it. If there was a huge mistake, or if they made some amazing jump, they would let you know. Otherwise they would shut their yaps and let you enjoy the performances.
The exact opposite was in play in the sports I know very little about. I don’t know who was doing the bobsled commentary, but it was great. He frantically tried to keep up with the rocket sleds, telling me when a mistake was made, or when they did something really well. Silence in that event would have made it less exciting. Same for the snowboarding, nordic combined, short track speed skating, etc. Other than Costas, they did great (just not a fan of Costas in general, sorry man).
Our Olympic team delivered as well. Have you ever watched Nordic Combined before? How about the ski jumping? We were competitive in events they never really even showed. And the Snowboarding team, while perhaps a little wild, injected some vigor into a ski system that often seems old and stodgy.
Canada won gold on their home soil. Athletes lived up to the hype and fell under it’s weight. I cheered for people I had never heard of, and mourned a young man that we would all now never forget.
I wondered why suddenly Apolo dropped the Anton. I was glad, for once, that the ice skating judging is rigged…the sympathy bronze was heartbreakingly necessary for Joannie Rochette. And she skated well enough to earn it.
In a weird way I admired Shani Davis. Sure, he won’t win any congeniality awards, and he may have cost them gold in the team pursuit. But here is a guy that could have way more than 15 minutes of fame: he is the story the press loves in a sport that America likes. Instead, he skates, does his best, and goes about his life without pandering to the press or the marketing machine. We are so used to everyone wanting to be famous we can’t understand someone who would prefer he is not. I like that. A lot.
There was the a-hole Plushenko. He would have won gold if he had just shut up and skated. And after finishing 2nd, he continued his self absorbed delusions by awarding himself a platinum medal. Yikes. The man has issues. But the skater that bore the brunt of Plushenko’s ire, Evan Lysacek, showed us a true sportsman. Instead of being able to enjoy his achievement, he had to defend it. And he did it with grace and maturity that schooled Plushenko on how a real man behaves.
Another surprise was Johnny Weir. Talk about a guy who likes the spotlight. But he skated great, and then put the Canadian commentators to shame by not starting a war of words over their ridiculous comments. Instead, he defended their right to be assholes and stated “I hope every boy has the opportunity to grow up to be like me.” He meant that he pursued a dream that was his passion, and when it was time to deliver, he did, skating the best he ever has (according to Scott Hamilton). I agree, everyone should have that life.
There were horrific failures. The speed skaters’ coaches wouldn’t let them onto the ice because the resurfacing was such a joke. There was no snow, and many Whistler events had to be rescheduled (not really their fault, but it doesn’t make eating a scalped ticket feel any better). A speed skater missed out on gold because his coach made him switch lanes on the wrong pass.
And then there was the sliding course. There is no excuse for creating a course that makes already dangerous sports truly life threatening. There were plenty of complaints that went ignored. Nothing was done until it was too late for Nodar Kumaritashvili. The Olympic Committee took moral responsibility for the incident. No shit. Soon they will be swallowing legal responsibility. I just hope his family hires an American lawyer.
In another story of greed over games we have Ralph Lauren. The polo pony logos on the Team USA opening ceremony outfits were bigger than the Olympic patch. And then there was no flag until you scanned the outfit and noticed the teeny weeny flag on the hat. Seriously? While I recognize that Polo supplied the outfits at no charge, they didn’t have to so blatantly try to squeeze every ounce of free advertising out of the honor. I thought I noticed someone had blacked out their gigantic polo pony of the apocalypse with a sharpie. Thank God.
I must have the outfits that the US snowboarding team wore in competition. Even though I will look like an incomparable dork, I can’t resist snow pants that look like baggy jeans. I just can’t.
In the end, however, I think it was the spirit of Canada that made these games so watchable. There were crowds at every event (they got so rowdy at a curling match it made a competitor cry). And even though they didn’t necessarily own the podium, the Canadian Olympians now own our hearts. There was a laid back style to these games that only the Canadians could pull off. Who else would incorporate the technical failure of the opening ceremony into the closing ceremony? Who else would even let William Shatner appear?
Sochi…you have a lot to live up to.