Sunday, February 28, 2010

Oh Canada, Great Job in Vancouver!

I've been meaning to write a post on the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, but have been distracted by domestic political developments as well as finding myself completely addicted to watching the broadcasts every night. While I did not make my goal to visit Vancouver over the weekend while these games were going on, I still enjoyed watching the games on television. Vancouver is one my favourite cities that I've visited. It is truly among the most beautiful cities in the world. It's Canada's equivalent to San Francisco or Sydney. I would not be surprised if Vancouver become the first city to host both a Winter and Summer Olympics...but that would be decades from now (Toronto desperately wants to host a Summer Olympics).

When these Winter games were just getting started, the local media reported on the increase in hotel reservations in Vancouver, WASHINGTON, which is just across the river from Portland, Oregon...and a six hour drive to the namesake city in Canada. The media loves to report about dumb Americans, as this only reminded me of a favourite media story during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when residents of New Mexico had wanted to buy tickets to the Summer Olympics but was told by ignorant ticketsellers in Atlanta that they had to buy tickets through their national office in Mexico City! In good spirit, New Mexico actually rented a "New Mexico House" to hold parties during the games in Atlanta, for the visiting residents of New Mexico.

I had mentioned to my supervisor this news item about Vancouver WA getting hotel reservations by Americans who thought the Olympics was being held here and said, "Vancouver WA will never host an Olympics!" My supervisor responded, "Never is a long time." She doesn't seem to understand that there are hundreds of cities in the world that will want to host the Olympics, but this event only happens every four years. There's no way an unremarkable city like Vancouver WA would impress the IOC to host an Olympics. Portland OR has a much better shot, but even that possibility is a long way off. There are plenty of other American cities that want to host the Olympics: Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Miami, Minneapolis, Houston, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC. If that weren't enough, the U.S. has to compete with Canada and Mexico for hosting duties when North America gets its turn. Both Toronto, Canada and Guadalahara, Mexico want a future Summer Olympics, and the USA held the last one (Atlanta). North America has to compete with Europe and Asia for hosting turns. With South America getting their first Olympics in 2016, its unlikely that the North America will get one in 2020, especially when some in the IOC have indicated that they would like to see Africa host an Olympics sooner, rather than later. And we can't forget about Australia or New Zealand, where Perth or Auckland might make a bid in the 2020s (2024? 2028?).

So yes, I feel safe saying that Vancouver WA will never host an Olympic least in our lifetime. Or in several lifetimes. Vancouver BC has a better chance of winning a Summer Olympics than Vancouver WA. One city is very telegenic, the other is not.

These games opened with tragedy, as one luge athlete from the former Soviet republic of Georgia died on the day of the opening ceremonies during a trial run. There were also weather woes that caused problems for some skiing events. Overall, though, I would have to say that these are one of the best Olympics yet. I'm still partial to the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. They had the best opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics and a great theme ("Light the Fire Within"). But Vancouver has a better backdrop of an impressive and beautiful city skyline, where the Mountains meet the Ocean. Like Portland, Vancouver is mild in the winter, where it rains, while the mountains receive the snowfall.

The medals are pretty unique and artistic. I still think the 1992 Albertville, France Winter Olympic medals are the best (they were crystal with gold, silver, or bronze edges). I can't remember what the Salt Lake City Olympic medals look like, but I did not like the 2006 Torino Olympic medals (it looked like a doughnut). I think the Summer Olympic medals are required to look the same in each Olympics (only the ribbon is specifically designed by the host city), but the Winter Olympics has more freedom in the actual design of the medals. This only gives the impression to some people that "the Winter Olympics is not a real Olympics" (as one co-worker had said). Oh, its real, alright. The ancient Greeks did not have winter sports to compete in, so of course the Summer Olympics is seen as more legitimate. Whatever.

The definite star of these Olympics is Apolo Anton Ohno. I amazingly have never watched short track speed skating until these Olympics. Each Olympics, I tend to find something new that captures my interest. In 2006, I really got into the snowboarding half-pipe, which I also watched this year. However, for 2010, short track speed skating captured my interest as watching it is a complete adrenaline rush! I can't believe I haven't been watching it since the 2002 Salt Lake games. Its fun to watch, especially with a masterful athlete like Ohno when he avoided several crashes by other speed skaters next to him. Its also interesting to learn that you can be disqualified if you touch another speed skater and they take a fall, but if they don't fall, you won't be penalized.

In interviews, one can see Ohno's charisma in action. The guy is simply that good. He oozes charisma that it makes you sick. Good for him, though! I think he's a good role model for youth. He is a perfect example of how having a positive attitude, even when you disagree with a referree's call (such as when he was disqualified from winning his eighth medal because the Canadian he touched in the final sprint to the finish fell down). He still exuded his charismatic charm. Not to get political or anything, but I think its great to see a guy with mixed Asian and Caucausian heritage receive all this attention and endorsement deals. He certainly fits in with Obama's multicultural America...the kind of America that Palin and her supporters dismiss as not being "the real America." Nope...Obama and Ohno represent the best of this multicultural America, where one's mixed race heritage does not matter. In fact, it could be viewed as an asset.

Above is a picture of Katherine Reutter, the female short track speed skater who won the Bronze in the Women's 1000 meters. She is by far the cutie of these games. I'm a fan of short track speed skating watching both the men's and women's competition. In fact, I'm really impressed by the strong dominance of the South Korean skating delegation in these Olympics. From short track speed skating to the women's figure skating, South Korea has finally arrived as a major force in international sports.

In fact, I was quite surprised to see the increased number of Asians in these Olympics, especially in women's figure skating. It wasn't long ago that Russians and East Europeans dominated the figure skating competition. Now, it seems like the sport has shifted east to Asia, with Korea, Japan, and China doing well, and Asian-Americans competing for USA (like Kristi Yamaguchi and Michelle Kwan in the 1990s).

Another interesting thing I found with these Olympics is how having a child seems to have mellowed both speed skater Chad Hedrick and downhill skier Bode Miller. Both were kind of "the bad boys" of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. Hedrick had a public spat with teammate Shani Davis. This time around, having a wife and baby daughter seems to have mellowed him. Bode Miller was famous for being the man to beat in 2006 and wiping out in every event. His reputation for an all-or-nothing approach to skiing and hard partying after the skis come off did not help him much four years ago. This time, he accomplished what I call the perfect win: a complete set of gold, silver, and bronze medals. I wonder how many people accomplish that? To me, that's more impressive than winning all gold medals, because its not like one is trying to finish second or third. It just happens and you get all three, like a set!

The other noteworthy event is that while I'm not a big fan of figure skating, I was glad to see that the judges awarded Evan Lysachek the Gold medal over the Russian guy, who showed his lack of class by griping about his second-place finish and sneaking up to the Gold medal stand before being awarded his Silver medal. What a douchebag! With the next Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Evan told Bob Costas that he might not even go, fearing that it might not be safe for him to set foot in Russia because of this controversial win.

What is the Olympics without controversy, though? For every amazing and inspiring win, there are several disappointments. That's what I love about the Olympics. Its unpredictable. From the weather to the performances, you just don't know if someone is off their game or distracted or completely focused on the task at hand. To me, the Olympics is a great metaphor for life. Its also quite an example of living a spiritual life. Athletes often talk about "being in the zone", where you are completely focused in the present moment. Its hard to win if you're distracted by other things. Being in the present moment means you are doing what you are meant to be doing. There's a gold medal performance for staying "in the zone."

What an inspiring two weeks! Thank you, Vancouver, Canada! You did a great job! May you win the gold medal at the sport that matters most to you: Men's hockey. You deserve this win most of all. I'm definitely rooting for Canada over Team USA to win this medal. Not because I'm a traitor, but because I consider myself a fair-minded internationalist. This medal means more to Canada than the USA and would be the perfect end to a perfect Olympics. Go Canada!

1 comment:

NickUSCS1861 said...

Nick, I very much enjoyed the Olympics, as well. Canada did a wonderful job and the charm of the Winter Olympics always makes it more of pleasure to watch than the Summer version. I think things are getting out of control with the number of events with which one can medal (86 events for the Winter and 300 for the Summer), but it's still fun to watch. I'm very intrigued at what Russia will do in 2014. You can be assured of one thing: they will likely finish in the top three of the medal count. They were most displeased with their medal tally this time around.

- Nick Smith