February 13, 2014

Thoughts from a Sports Fan. Sort of.

I remember moving to Strathcona Park Lodge where we had no cable television for a couple of years. The kids and I were happy with rented movies and borrowed VHS tapes from the library, but by year two, after enduring many, many evenings with me and my collection of Jane Austen made-for-TV movies, my husband made a decision: we were going to get a sattelite dish. With the FIFAWorld Cup of soccer and the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics coming up that year he just could not stand our TV-free existence any longer. My husband is, by far, the biggest sports fan in our house. He will happily watch anything from darts to football. I spent a great deal of our first months of married life watching the various tennis tournaments with him and our two male roommates, Derek and Finn, at Panorama Resort where we all worked for the summer of '92. Over the years of being the wife of a sports-enthusiast, and picking up a certain amount of interest in it through osmosis or resignation - perhaps a bit of both - I developed into a fan of tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf and later, Roger Federer whom I still cheer for although other younger players are outshining his star on a regular basis now. The year the Blue Jays won the World Series in baseball I was cheering just as much as anyone, although I have not cared much about baseball since. I will admit that it was indeed good to be able to watch and cheer on the Canadians competing in Salt Lake for the 2002 Olympics. We had come 24th in the medal rankings in Sydney and then 4th in Salt Lake behind Norway, Germany and the USA. Not too shabby!

The Winter Olympics are an exciting time for many Canadians, I think because we, like many winter nations get the rare chance to really show the world what we are made of. Besides the obvious skill and talent of our athletes, many of them are well spoken and generous to athletes from other countries, even supplying them with equipment when they have not the funding to supply it for themselves. The more medals we win the more this fact about our people comes to light. Our athletes are proud to represent our country and know that their country is proud of them in return.

I have been a fan of the Games since I was a young girl stuck in the house one rainy summer with not much else to do besides read and watch the summer Olympics. I distinctly remember Romania's Nadia Comaneci and her perfect score for her gymnastics routine; I could barely believe her talent. Back then in the early 1980's, the Cold War was raging and boycotting the games was rampant. 65 countries boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, which led the USSR to lead 14 Eastern Bloc countries to boycott the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Some athletes from the boycotting countries still managed to compete under the Olympic flag. Every Olympics seem to be fraught with calls for boycotts for environmental concerns, for human rights concerns, for political reasons, and for the huge amount of money spent by the hosting country to put on the Games when it could be spending it on projects like affordable housing and improved health care for its citizens. (I heard yesterday in an interview with the head of the Sochi Olympic Committee that they spent about two billion dollars putting on the Olympics and seven billion basically building a city to host them in.) Despite these protests the Games continue to go on, every two years, alternating between the Summer Olympic Games and the Winter Olympic Games.

One could argue that the Games serve to shine a spotlight on the hosting country, for better or for worse. Hopefully, after the Games, the host country works at dealing with whatever problems have come to light while it realizes how to best take advantage of the good things the world has discovered about it - Sochi looks like a beautiful place to visit with its dramatic mountains and Black Sea shorline. The Olympics have also served to gain equality for women in sport in most countries, as every sport over the years has been gradually represented by both sexes to the point where we now care just as much about how, for instance, the female mogul skiers do as the males. 'Equality' and 'Peace among nations' are phrases one hears linked with the goals of the Games. To me, the Olympic Games are always a bit of a litmus test of the global climate at the time. If you look back in history, you can find elements of this global climate in everything from the choices of team logos and uniforms to the various scandals which have come to light, scandals which have demonstrated, at long last, a general distaste in the sporting community for things such as the notoriously dubious judging in figure skating and incidences of blood-doping among athletes.

A poster featuring a dove of peace - of large concern
during the days of the Iron Curtain.

My youngest has just become keen on the Olympics this year. She announced this morning that she likes the Luge and other similar events best because of the uncomplicated judging aspect.There is nothing to get muddled about in her mind - no subjective elements like in many of the other sports. You are either the fastest down the track or you are not. She and I cheered on our mogul skiers on Monday. The moguls are one of my very favourite events, perhaps because I have attempted to ski moguls myself and can appreciate how much strength and skill it takes to do what these athletes do. Our Canadians, both from Quebec, topped the podium and it was quite a thrill for my daughter to witness their climb from the top twelve to the top six, and then, oh glory be, to the win! She was so inspired she made some Olympic themed cookies that afternoon.

I have always enjoyed the figure skating events, but I will admit, here and now, that I got a little bored after watching short program after short program of the Pairs Figure Skating event this year. So many of the routines began to look the same after a while: side by side triple jumps, throw triple 'sow cows' or however they are spelled, that over-the-head spin they do, the footwork section, etc. Oh, I appreciate the work that went into their skating and their routines, but perhaps as I get older I realize that for me, something is missing in figure skating. I suppose when one is watching a sporting event which involves artistry, one has to expect the technical elements to trump whatever else is going on, because that is what sport is about. Artistry, on the other hand, is more subjectively judged. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Canadian pair, Duhamel and Radford, because they really appeared to be dancing their routine, rather than powering through the technical elements like so many of the others. They were in third place after the short program. The Russians, in first and second place, certainly deserved to be there. Their programs were virtually flawless and ticked all the judges' boxes, but what I could not stop thinking about while watching their routines was the beautiful dancing in the ballet interpretation of War and Peace in the opening ceremonies this year. That really does it for me. While I enjoy figure skating, ballet is just that much more special, I suppose because while it involves serious athleticism, it is the artistry that trumps everything else - the athleticism is merely a vehicle for the art. That being said, and for someone generally on the outside of the sporting world looking in, I find the Games fascinating for so many reasons, and will continue to be impressed by these young athletes and what they can train and push their bodies to do.

Speaking of sports fans, my dear Dad is currently in the hospital. He is having some heart trouble, but is in good hands. I was half-way through editing this post when I got the message. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers. 


  1. will keep dad in my prayers...
    oy i am torn on the olympics...i will say i have watched less than i thought i would...i enjoyed the opening ceremonies...artistically done...judging...ack...its all a political game as well...

    we have craigslist here too...smiles.

    1. Thanks, Brian. It's hard, but I am hopeful, too.

  2. You're not a "sort of" fan... you're a real fan! You're just particular about what sports and when you watch. :)

    I admire your appreciation for the winter Olympics. As you said, the athletes work so hard and they deserve our attention and support.

    Unfortunately, this time around, I am very distracted by a few things going on in my life, so I'm missing most of it.

    Prayers and blessings for you Dad, Rebecca.

    1. I guess you are right! I am pretty particular.
      I grew up in a winter wonderland, and now that I live where it is green nearly all year long, I appreciate the snow all the more. Call it nostalgia :)

      I hope all is well in your life, Anita...?!
      Thanks for your prayers for my dad.

  3. Lots of love and prayers for your dad!

  4. I hope your father is pulling through Rebecca. I have surprised myself with my interest in all things Winter Sport. We had someone with a gold on a speeding tea tray I believe.

    1. My dad is still in hospital but doing better and in good spirits. Thanks :)
      Go UK for the speeding tea tray event! The Jamaican bobsled team's fans put out a fun song/video to cheer them on. I think it's almost as warm as Jamaica in Sochi today.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!