Despite a) knowing next to nothing about any Winter Olympics sport, from rules to competitors to the name of the sport and b) through last Friday, not caring at all about the Vancouver Games, I’ve recently found myself — like many Americans and obviously all Canadians — in the throes of full-bore Olympic Fever. IT’S ALL OVER MY BODY GET IT OFF!
What’s made this terrible illness so exciting, I think, is the fact that its contraction was completely unexpected. The Winter Olympics, as we all know, are totally boring. Short of a Tonya Harding attack, there is nothing that can compete with the awesomeness of a record-setting 100m dash; no event on snow that can come close to matching a race in water. The divide is straight up Dickensian; for these Vancouver Games to break free of that would be almost a crime against nature.
So they don’t try. Instead, Vancouver has from the start embraced all that is decidedly NOT summer (you saw the opening ceremonies’ giant polar bear, right?) and reveled in the peculiarities of a community that actually enjoys winter. And comparing 2010 to 2006, it has offered some major improvements in the process!
2) Men’s Figure Skaters Gayer Than Ever! (Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That!)
American figure skater Johnny Weir makes Christian Siriano look like Jerry Falwell. That his upcoming documentary/television show will be unforgettable is a foregone conclusion.
3) Stephen Colbert!
In late October, one of the US Speedskating team’s largest sponsors, Dutch bank DSB, went belly-up and left the team $300,000 underfunded. Enter Stephen Colbert, who offered to sponsor the team in exchange for a (pre-Olympics) uniform logo and regular skate-related sketches on The Colbert Report. Somehow, this is all true.
And yet it seems totally appropriate to the Winter Games, which event for event offer more levity than anything (except maybe Women’s Beach Volleyball, and its lady-lady sensuality) you see in the Summer. Athletes just seem looser. More willing to go with the flow. Leaving room for a satirical television personality to come in and have some respectful fun with it all just feels like par for the course.
So far, he’s gone head-to-head with Shani Davis, apologized to Canadian fans for ever making fun of them, and explained his role as “Assistant Sports Psychologist” to Bob Costas. I don’t think any athlete has put in as much effort at Vancouver as Stephen Colbert.
(Click the image to watch the full 1500m Short Track Final at the exceedingly proprietary NBCOlympics.com)
5) Non-Midget Stars!
Past Winter Olympics coverage seems always to have focused its attention on some tiny, squeaky-voiced American figure skater who, by being tiny and squeaky-voiced, “wins America’s heart.” NOT THIS YEAR. Unlike in the Great Depression, when viewers turned to child stars like Shirley Temple for comfort, our Great Recession leaves us yearning for something more adult. Time for all the Tara Lipinskis and Sarah Hughes to step aside — Vancouver’s shit is teeming with GROWN MEN and WOMEN who will not be turned away by amusement park height restrictions.
And they’re STUDS. On Wednesday, the trio of Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, and Shani Davis — all three already household names — won Downhill Skiing, Halfpipe, and Speed Skating, respectively, and gave America its winningest day in Winter Olympics history. (High five, guys!) Yesterday, the flawless Evan Lysacek dominated Men’s Figure Skating, the first American gold medalist in 22 years. Is it any surprise that America is having its best Winter Olympics ever with a team full of adults? No. It’s not.
6) …And So Much More!
Amidst all the excitement of the past week, it’s easy to forget that there’s PLENTY of non-boring stuff going down, including:
– Scandinavians filmed by someone other than Lars von Trier
– That conspicuous Alpine Skiing post-race pillow, available to only the current top three racers (all others are unceremoniously KICKED OFF)
– A four-years sober Bode Miller medaling in Men’s Downhill
– Bob Costas’ endless supply of houndstooth coats and wide-eyed expressions
And the Winter Games continue! Always looking to live vicariously through real people accomplishing real things, Lifting Fog will no doubt have a few more Vancouver posts to come. At least one of these will be about Curling.