At the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, the guy setting up the ice for the hockey finals was a Canadian. As most Canadians know by now, he planted a Canadian loonie directly under centre ice, and Canada won two hockey gold medals. Of course we all know that there is no causal relationship between these events (the loonie didn’t cause or even help the hockey teams to win), but it makes for a pretty cool story. Since then, the whole “lucky loonie” thing has been used at the 2003 IIHF World Championships, the 2006 Winter Olympics (though not for hockey, only for curling), and even the 2006 Stanley Cup finals between Edmonton and Carolina.
While watching the women’s snowboard cross last week, I heard the announcers mention that the course builders had planted a Canadian loonie under the course somewhere, hoping to give the Canadians a bit of an advantage.
Note to those Canadians involved with setting up events at the Olympics, whether at Vancouver or other future games: It’s been done. Let’s just drop it now, OK?
I love the Olympics. I can’t explain why, but I’m one of those people who doesn’t give a crap about most of these sports at any other time, but will happily watch them during the Olympics. On Monday night, Gail and I watched women’s 100m hurdles, 200m sprint, and gymnastics. The other morning while working out, I put the Australia-Japan women’s softball game on and kept watching for another half-hour after my workout because it was such a great game. I eventually had leave the game in the 9th inning to go have a shower and get ready for work, so I missed Japan scoring the winning run in the 12th.
Olympic sports I love watching:
- gymnastics — gymnasts have to be graceful and artistic, but very strong as well. I particularly love the rings, high and uneven bars, and vault, and the balance beam is brutally difficult. We watched American Shawn Johnson (who looks like she’s 4’6″ and 75 pounds soaking wet) win a well-deserved gold medal the other day by nailing her routine on the beam. Even rhythmic gymnastics isn’t bad.
- swimming — Not sure if it’s the swimming itself that I enjoy watching, or just watching how far ahead of everyone else Michael Phelps can get.
- men’s 100m sprint — truly the fastest men on the planet. This Bolt guy is unbelievable — he put his arms up (which has got to slow you down) with 20m left in the race (i.e. he’d only completed 80% of it), and still set a world record. The Canadian in the race said that Bolt could probably do a cartwheel at the end of the race and still win.
- beach volleyball — if you had asked me before it was added to the Olympics whether it should be there, I would have said unequivocally no. But I enjoy watching it. And not only because the women’s event consists of very fit women jumping around in bikinis.
- diving and synchronized diving — synchronized diving is another sport that I questioned when I heard of it being added, but I still like watching it.
Olympic sports I don’t:
- water polo — I watched part of a match last week, and it was more boring than soccer, if that’s possible.
- BMX racing — Are you kidding? If this is in, where’s skateboarding? Or hacky sack? How seriously can you take a sport whose athletes include someone whose legal name is Kamikaze?
- synchronized swimming — The first time I ever saw this, I thought it was a joke someone made up, like something you’d see on The Onion. I’m still laughing. Yes it’s difficult, and no I couldn’t do it, but come on.
- equestrian events — the horses should be getting the medals here. Not that getting the horse to do these things is easy, but it’s the horse doing the real physical work (i.e. the thing that makes it a sport), not the rider. These events should be testing an athlete’s physical abilities (i.e. strength, agility, stamina, etc.), not the ability to control a horse.
- race walking — I find it hard to watch these people with their butts wiggling back and forth and not giggle.
I have wondered for several years now why lacrosse is not in the Olympics. It was, back in 1908, and was then a demonstration sport in 1928, 1932, and 1948, but not since. Apparently to be considered, a sport has to be widely practiced in at least 75 countries (50 for women’s sports) over at least four continents. OK, this is probably not true for lacrosse. But I have a hard time believing that it’s true for beach volleyball, water polo, table tennis, handball, rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline, synchronized swimming or synchronized diving. When was the last time some roads were closed in your town for a big race walking event?
The other day, Bryant Gumbel said this on his HBO sports show:
Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t care about them and won’t watch them… Because they’re so trying, maybe over the next three weeks we should all try too. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the winter games look like a GOP convention… So if only to hasten the arrival of the day they’re done, when we can move on to March Madness — for God’s sake, let the games begin.
What a moron. He’s right – there are far less black athletes at the winter games than the summer games, but there’s a logical (and rather obvious) reason for that. These are winter events, primarily dominated by northern countries – the Nordic countries, Europe, Russia. Not a lot of black people there. It’s not a global conspiracy to keep black people out, so why play the race card here? And implying that the world’s greatest athletes must be black is just plain racist. I think it’s funny that he goes on to mention March Madness, a college basketball tournament in which at least 80% of the players are black. Has anyone complained about the lack of white players in that tournament?
I’m rather surprised that this hasn’t been a bigger thing in the media. If a white reporter had said that he doesn’t like the March Madness tournament (or the NBA, or the NFL) because of the lack of white players, it would be front page news across North America and he’d be fired on the spot. Yet, Gumbel makes a patently racist statement and insults every athlete participating in the Games, and not only doesn’t get much media coverage, but doesn’t get fired. Apparently the president of HBO was interviewed yesterday and defended Gumbel*. I don’t get it.
* – Sorry, I looked around for a link to this interview but couldn’t find one. Bob McCown mentioned this on Prime Time Sports yesterday.
I love the Olympics, particularly the winter ones. A lot of people say this, and it’s absolutely true — nobody gives a damn about luge, bobsled, or cross-country skiing at any other time, but during the Olympics, we’re all glued to it. Same in the summer – am I ever likely to sit and watch a swimming or gymnastics competition outside of the Olympics? Not a chance, and yet during the Olympics, I have no problem watching that stuff — actually, I really enjoy watching Olympic gymnastics. The combination of grace and strength is amazing.
A couple of things about the Games so far – an American hockey player has been complaining about the Canadian women’s hockey team “running up” the score in their first two games, saying that it was disrespectful to the other teams. Hogwash. The Italian coach said before the game that he was hoping to keep the goal differential to “under 20” (and they did – the final score was 16-0). They knew they were playing a powerhouse team, and fully expected to be blown away. At the same time, Canada is playing to win the Gold, and one of the factors if there are ties in the standings is goal differential, so it’s in their best interest to score as many goals as they can. Personally, I think that not playing to the best of your ability and just passing the puck around, trying not to score would be more disrespectful, essentially telling the other team “not only are you not going to win, but we’re not even going to bother trying”.
Major kudos to the Norwegian cross-country skiing coach who gave a Canadian skier a new pole during the race when the Canadian’s pole broke. The Canadians ended up winning a Silver medal, while the Norwegians finished fourth. That’s the embodiment of the “Olympic spirit” and good sportsmanship right there. Funny part: the coach said that it was no big deal, but that he wouldn’t have done it for the Swedes.