Faster! Higher! Weirder!
Ah, Vancouver! The beautiful Pacific Northwest city that brought us Married Life is now giving us 17 days of ice-packed sport 'n' spectacle, in the form of the 2010 Winter Olympics. I like to think that David, Patricia Clarkson, and Pierce Brosnan occasionally sneaked off to ride a shopping cart down the luge track during breaks in filming, but that seems ever so slightly doubtful. Still, David did briefly strap into a pair of skis as Ian in Simone de Beauvoir's Babies, and give an indoor skiing lesson of the "bend-ze-knees-five-dollars-please" variety. So we Groveians are not unfamiliar with Olympic sport.
I've always loved the Winter Olympics more than the Summer Olympics. For one thing, there's fewer events, so it's more intimate. The Summer Games seem so vast and diffused, with thousands of athletes and events ("Coming up next! Women's Team 100m Normal Hill Hopscotch Round B Qualifiers!"). The TV networks breathlessly hustle you from one far-flung event to the next, and you never really get a sense of what's going on.
There's also the nostalgia factor. Kids around here grow up sledding, skating, and skiing, dreaming of winter glory. When I was a kid, every November the river that ran behind our house flooded into the wetlands, creating a miles-long ribbon of glossy ice which every kid in the neighborhood flocked to. I spent countless afternoon hours gliding around in my brother's hand-me-down hockey skates, dreaming of being an Olympic speed skater like Eric Heiden or Bonnie Blair. My feet would turn into numb blocks of ice, so cold I'd have to run home and hold them against the radiator until the feeling came back. As dusk came on, we raced through the trees and around the hummocks of grass, playing tag and crack-the-whip, or seeing who could slide the farthest. (We tried Marco Polo once, but that turned out to be a bad idea on skates).
That ancient itch still comes back the moment I put on a pair of skates. I can't jog or bike for more than ten minutes without getting bored, but skates make me want to fly fast and far, forever. It can be frustrating when the pond ice is crappy or the rink is crowded. I ventured out last Sunday to the pond in our neighborhood park with skates in hand, and the ice was awful. It was rutted, cracked, bumpy, and slushy. In some spots it was soft enough that your blade would sink down abruptly, pitching you forward gracefully onto your face. Still, there were a few patches of smooth ice, and it was fun to awaken the old dream, to chain together some 3 turns and spins and waltz jumps under a soft afternoon moon, to hear once more the hollow hiss of a blade carving through ice, the shouts of kids, and the clop-thwack clop-thwack clop-thwack of the ritual pond hockey faceoff. It has been awhile.
And, OK, I admit it: the Winter Games also appeal to me becauase of the element of thrill and danger. The summer events are mostly athletes puffing around a rubber track, or back and forth in a pool. Somebody might trip, or pull a hamstring, but the events are decidedly sedate and earthbound. Once you add snow and ice and wooden planks and steep hills, suddenly you've got speed, flying bodies, and spectacular stunts. You get entertainingly inexplicable events, like Nordic combined and biathlon (skiing and shooting? why not skiing and cooking? Or shotput and sonnets?). Also curling, an activity where people with brooms yell at a granite rock. Fans are passionate about it. I was in a bookstore in Canada once, and - I kid you not - there was an entire section devoted to curling. There had to be at least fifty different titles. My favorite was Burnt By The Rock, which seemed rather melodramatic for a sport that involves long periods of standing around staring at painted concentric circles. One does wonder if David, with his lawn bowling experience, might not be a natural at this sport. It's not as physical or rough as Aussie football, but then again, Ian Stewart never got burnt by the rock. *scoff* (Confession: I picked that name at random from Wikipedia. I don't actually know the names of any players. Thank goodness I invented the internet.)
The fourth reason I love the Winter Olympics: the bizarre fashions. When you think "athlete", you generally think streamlined, utilitarian, and basic. Skintight spandex, say, or a basic tank top and shorts. Something that shaves off those all-important hundredths of seconds. And yet the Winter Games bring the ruffles, the sequins, the psychedelic patterns and fake jeans and general silliness. You never know what you're going to see next. A farmer? A gondolier? Some guy in a skeleton outfit? Figure skating is responsible for the bulk of these, but the other disciplines also contribute their share. Feast your eyes on some of the imaginative outfits we've been treated to thus far:
We love you, Overalls Guy!
Johnny Weir, the Crystal Enchantress of the ice, in a pink lace-up corset.
Evan Lysacek. By the way, his free skate won 100 points for Slytherin.
Evgeny Pluschenko, rocking the "parking valet attacked by a Bedazzler" look
Ukrainian pairs team wearing unitards made up of equal parts mithril, Unobtanium, and melted aluminum 1950s tumblers, with contrasting trim made out of that molten metal stuff from Terminator 2. It took them five hours to get through international airport security.
The men's downhill was won by a giant candy cane.
Dig these cool Tron-like Australian short track outfits (with the 4-pack of abs!)
Are you ready for pants?...
I said, ARE YOU READY FOR PANTS!?
The Norwegian men's curling team. I think. They could also be harlequins golfing.
The Azerbaijan team outfits for the opening ceremonies. Their pants are a 50/50 blend of paisley and awesome. As far as I'm concerned, they won the Olympics right then and there.
In other news, Oliver gnaws a radiator valve, continues to have ears:
Posted by dessicatedcoconut
at 6:58 PM EST
Updated: February 20, 2010 9:16 PM EST