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Opinion

The Winter Olympics

Rewarding insanity, obscurity and then perhaps talent.

At the time of writing I am watching speed skating.

It’s ridiculous. Five men – some with mustaches – line up, then for some reason they attempt to complete “nine laps of the track!”. The track, incidentally, is a tiny oval, within which these men spend a couple of minutes skating like morons. Apparently, these men just travelled 1500 metres, on ice, in a circle, to win a bit of gold. Obviously, it’s prestigious, without a doubt, it’s the Olympics; I’d take a medal if I could. Yet it seems ridiculous to train to the extent these people do, to dedicate their lives, as these people do, just to get a medal. What the hell is a medal? No one deals in medals any more! It’s like a horse getting a rosette, what does that mean?

I suppose that, maybe, over the years the Olympic Games have earned themselves a fair bit of attention, and rightly so. Nothing else has lasted that long. Jesus supposedly turned up at a similar time (i.e. ‘the beginning of time’) and look what happened to him. It’s impressive that an event that is essentially a display of fairly unnecessary talents has stood the test of time, and anyone that comes out as victor in such an event in modern times deserves some credit for it. Even if just to be part of a colossal legacy. I suppose it’s just the winter bit that gets to me.

In ancient times, when there was no abundance of fairly useless modern distraction tools, a competition to see who could run really fast in a straight line, or who could throw a rock the furthest would have presumably been a fantastic way to while away the time. Making it a competition is just a natural progression.

Most of the sports are essentially insane. The basis of the majority of the events is putting something on your feet, or putting yourself on something, and then just sliding down a hill. Skiing, snowboarding, luge, skeleton, bobsleigh, they’re all fundamentally the same, but in an environment where there are a lot of hills, and where it snows quite a bit – as you’d expect – it is literally the winter equivalent of the summer games. Running is just a way of getting around, so is skiing. Why not make it a competition every now and then? The part that baffles me is the UK’s involvement in it, and the extent to which we attempt to compete.

There aren’t that many hills in Great Britain. We have a few, but they’re nothing special. Most of them very rarely accommodate snow. If they do, it’s so rare, that no one owns the skis to utilise it. Luge, skeleton and bobsleigh tracks don’t even rely solely on the weather. You can make ice, but we’ve barely got the hills to make doing that worthwhile. Yet still, every four years, the BBC is commandeered by coverage of the UK being distinctly below average at winter sports, because as a country with a temperate climate, we can never quite reach the peak of that domain.

Everyone knows we’re not going to win – a couple of days ago the commentators were ecstatic when we got eighth place in some form of snowboarding, they must have gone insane when we actually won our first gold medal in eight years. Obviously it’s great if we can excel in some aspects of the games but it seems like there’s a little too much excitement and anticipation. Can we not just set our standards a little bit lower? That’s clearly a horribly pessimistic suggestion. We’d never achieve anything if we adopted that attitude. I’m not quite sure if there is a solution, or even a problem. We probably all just need to calm down a bit.

Photo by Iwona Erskine-Kellie..

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