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Winter Olympics: Once Is Enough

February 7th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Olympics

The Winter Olympics is an acquired taste. Unless you grew up where winter dominates life. Say, Russia. Norway. Lapland. Buffalo.

The Winter Games generally are held in a city/town that is hard to get to (from places where people actually live) and feature a lot of winding mounting roads that either are icy or slushy. Either way, you probably are wearing the wrong shoes.

The Winter Games entail about 12 days of action stretched over 17 days of competition. Which actually is an improvement over the Winter of decades past, which was maybe seven days of action dragged out over 11 days.

(I covered one of those, Sarajevo 1984; if a blizzard hadn’t descended and wiped out a couple of days of programming I’m not sure what we were supposed to do for those 11 days.)

Still and all, I recommend dropping by a Winter Games, if it happens to land within a couple of days’ drive of where you live.

But just the one.

The Winter Games have always been something of a freak show, from the perspective of people who live in places not wintry enough to fully grasp what sports in winter are about. Which includes most of the world and at least three continents — Africa, South America and Australia.

The old standbys of skiing, sledding, ice skating and biathlon are a bit exotic, when you think about it. Biathlon involves cross-country skiing … and shooting. Which comes in handy if you declare war on Finland.

And then the International Olympic Committee, keenly aware it needed more programming to keep TV viewers interested over two-and-a-half weeks began adding goofy stuff, so much goofy stuff that the Pyeongchung Olympics, which begin Friday in the South Korean mountain town, includes 102 events in 15 sports.

Sarajevo, by comparison, had 39 events in six sports. (Racking my brain, trying to remember how I killed time between medals.)

A lot of us never quite got used to short-track speed skating, which resembles roller derby on ice, before it was trumped by the truly bizarre: Freestyle skiing and its 10 events, snowboarding and its 10 events, and new events that add a wrinkle to older stuff — “mass start” speed skating, mixed team alpine skiing and mixed doubles curling. (No, really.)

If you get to a Winter Games, I recommend buying tickets to indoor events. A lot less hiking over snowy fields, and the temperatures in the figure skating arena may be a bit chilly, but not so much that you might suffer frostbite.

I covered six Winter Olympics for my newspaper groups, and the last five (Albertville, Lillehammer, Nagano, Salt Lake City, Turin) were pretty much unnecessary, when it comes to getting a sense of it all.

One of them? Great. Go for it. Two or three? How about saving your money and going to the next Summer Games?




1 response so far ↓

  • 1 David // Feb 8, 2018 at 7:12 PM

    Respectfully but completely disagree with you on this one, Paul. I loved covering the Winter Games. Being a hockey guy certainly had something to do with that (though that sport’s appeal this time around is badly damaged by the absence of NHL players), but I found so many of the other sports really compelling once I was exposed to them. I’m disappointed I only got to go to two.

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