Last night the 2010 Olympic games drew to a close. I watched the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as quite a bit of coverage in between. Here are some thoughts and observations:
The Danger Element
The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run brought the danger associated with many Olympic events to the forefront. While watching on television it is difficult to appreciate how fast the luge, skeleton, and bobsled sliders are going. It is even more difficult to a realized how fine the line between a good run and a devastating crash is.
Danger exists apart from the sliding track. Most of the winter Olympic sports have some element of danger involved (I think curling might be the one exception). Ski jumping amazes me. People on skies traveling more than 300 feet off of a jump. I will never do this. . .
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The record for distance on a ski jump is well over 700 feet, which enters the realm of extreme ski jumping, also known as ski flying (ski flying is not an Olympic event, and few facilities are set up to accommodate it).
I watched very little figure skating and no ice dancing. Two questions and an observation crossed my mind during the few moments I watched the men’s figure skating long program. How do they avoid getting dizzy during rapid spins? Has a skater ever gotten dizzy and consequently wiped out? Male figure skaters tend to look like villains from comedy movies.
I never want to see another bobsledder in spandex again. And if I must, I hope they select the non-see-through kind. I saw terrible things.
On the bright side, the oversized knit hats some of the bobsledders wore over their helmets between runs were awesome.
Incorporating the Flag
It would be nice if the uniforms and helmets of the athletes featured the flag of their country. At times it got really confusing, especially in the cross country races. Even some of the short track speed skating qualifying races were confusing at first.
Cross Country Skiing
I wonder how often cross country racers get stabbed with ski poles? I saw one skier get grazed, but not an outright stabbing. In the pack early in the race this must happen at times.
The Word of Announcers
When I watch baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or tennis I have a solid grasp of the rules and strategies of the game. So when an announcer or commentator makes a point I usually have an opinion about it. I can spot the stupid statements quickly. In Olympic sports this is not the case. I feel rather defenseless as I watch a match. I can’t tell if a ski jumper showed poor form; I do not detect the curlers poor choice in throw weight; I’m oblivious to the lack of technical elements in a figure skaters regime; most of the non-crashing halfpipe runs look the same (except Shaun White, who is head and shoulders above the rest of humanity) and every ski aerial jump looks the same.
It’s a weird feeling to rely on a commentator to point out subtleties in an athletic competition.
Vancouver did an excellent job in my book. The weather did not cooperate at times, there was a glitch in the climax of the opening ceremony, the sliding track was controversial, and there seemed to be a shortage of functional zambonis around the speed skating tracks; but every event faces challenges.
I do not think NBC did a good job covering the Olympics. First, they did a terrible job communicating what networks would be broadcasting events and at what time they would be shown. Second, they elected not to show many premium events live in order to save them for prime time, resulting in large chunks of programming with known results occurring in many evenings. Third, they made little inane documentaries about Canada that aired while events were taking place. If they had to make these little documentaries couldn’t they air them at times when no live competition was happening? Fourth, they abruptly stopped airing the closing ceremony in order to start The Marriage Ref. Not only did this prevent me from seeing the end of the ceremony, it also caused me to view a frozen dog corpse in a living room.
I watched quite a bit of curling from the quarterfinals on, and I found it to be enjoyable. Now I have a reasonable grip on curling rules and a slight appreciation for strategy.