Winter Olympics (Flashback Edition)


(This originally appeared in The Patterson Irrigator in February 2006 at the outset of the Torino Games. Even though 12 years have passed, I still feel the same excitement! ―E.)

Do you hear it? Here it comes- the grand trumpet crescendo that could only mean one thing? The Winter Olympics! You know the song I’m talking about. The one that invokes the desire to pump your fist in the air, stand up and cheer for athletes from obscure countries you have never heard of. The song that makes 250-pound hockey players dissolve into a blubbering pool of incoherence.

I love the Olympics. Everything about it. When, the Olympics are imminent, I get the Olympic Television Viewing Guide and schedule my life around it. Every sport suddenly becomes intriguing and engaging-even when I have no idea what is going on. For the Olympics, pushing a stone on ice isn’t merely playground fun in Saskatchewan, but an actual sport called Curling. Someone flinging their body head-first down an ice-chute at 80 miles an hour with only a small piece of cozy steel separating them from certain death, is aptly named “Skeleton” because the odds are that by the time they reach the finish line a skeleton is all that would be left.

And if that isn’t worth watching, I don’t know what is.

During those 16 days, I don’t miss a second of the coverage – and not just the athletic events. A favorite of mine is the inevitable story that chronicles that one underdog athlete whose struggles tug at the world’s heartstrings. Like a young cross-country skier from rural Moldova, son of a poor farmer tragically struck by lightning whilst tending his goats. During this television segment they introduce you to this young man and show footage of him peddling for change in front of a Budapest branch of McDonald’s to pay his own way to the Games because his own country is so corrupt that they do not have the resources to support him. By the end of the segment, he is crying and you are crying, too. You then find yourself getting up at 5 AM to watch him on a subordinate cable network in the preliminaries of his event, only to see him finish 31st, but with a bright, gleaming smile on his face. And that is what the Olympics are all about.

So, I suggest you tune in during these Torino Games. Whether you are a sports fan, or not, it is a shining example of the beauty of the human spirit. Oh, and a lot of the guys are really cute, too.

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