I Love Sport. So Why Do I Hate The Winter Olympics?
Fuck you, Winter Olympics.
I love sport. I was the tousled-headed little freckled kid kicking a footy across the street outside our suburban house, kicking goals like I was Sticks Kernahan and busting out runs on the roadside gravel like I was Craig Bradley up the wing of the ‘G. When I wasn’t doing that, I was Pat Cash, destroying other seven-year-olds at tennis, or being Dean Jones and trying to smash my little brother for a million sixes out of our backyard and breaking at least three windows. I’d be kicking a goddamn soccer ball and screaming “MARADONA!” at bewildered school chums, while crossing over whack mofos on the basketball court like a chunky, slow, white, red-haired Gary Payton.
I love sport. So why do I hate the Olympics?
The way I see it, essentially, the vast majority of Winter Olympics events are just different ways of falling down an icy hill. Whether you’re strapped to a pair of skis, a hunk of sharpened steel, an overgrown skateboard, or one of those little trolley things they use in Skeleton, that’s kinda it. Falling. Down a hill. In lycra.
I hate the fucking ski jumping. It’s basically finding out who can fall down the hill the furtherest.
I hate ice dancing. Dancing’s not a sport, it’s a mating ritual. Something people do when they’re drunk and trying to get laid. Or settle street fights, if they’re Brazilian. The Summer Olympics rightly don’t have ‘dancing’ as a competitive event, so I can’t give a crap when a bunch of people looking like they’ve rummaged through Barry Humphries’ closet do it on some ice. Ice dancing and figure skating are about as fun as sitting through a Kevin Hart movie (well, this is more fun than a Kevin Hart movie).
The best part of the Winter Olympics — amid all the gleeful reporting of shitty Russian carpentry — is that it gives us moments like this:
Or having Sir David Attenborough provide a blow-by-blow analysis of curling:
My main problem lies in redundancy and rewarding lesser achievements, with a gold medal. For instance, say you want to win a gold medal in luge? Okay… But you suck at the single… Well, just get someone else to lie on top of you, and you get another shot.
Therein lies the problem. How the hell is that finding out who’s the best in a sporting discipline? “Oh, but I won in the double luge, that makes me, er, us, the best, er, double luger!” No, it doesn’t. The person who won the luge is the best at luge. You just convinced another human to lie on top of you as you fell down a hill in an ice chute.
And as much as I dig Skeleton, and how much I hoped it’d be some sort of Chemical Brothers film clip come to life…
Based on how purely insane it is…
And how awesome their helmets are…
Really… It’s just headfirst luge. This is akin to having the 100-metre sprint run backwards. Screw Usain Bolt — the Summer Olympic 100-metre finalists would be headed by AFL umpire, Shane McInerney.
I have no problem with snowboarding, or skiing, or ice skating aesthetically — they’re fun, they look good, and they’re impressively hard to do. I’m not hesitant, either, when it comes to voicing the phrase “Slopestyle is dope as fuck”, because it is.
Slopestyle is so badass, even Shaun White shrugged, pulled out, and went “Shit be hard, yo.” But I take umbrage that there’s ten freestyle skiing events, ten snowboarding events, as well as a further four ski-jumping events — there’s too much overlap on the same exact sets of skills.
It’s rampant in the Olympics. At its inception in 1924, the Winter Olympics had 16 events in 6 sports (with 9 different disciplines being represented across those sports). The current Sochi Winter Olympics has 98 events in 7 sports, with 15 different disciplines. It’s too much, and it cheapens the sports being represented.
As much as I love Cool Runnings, what are those two middle people doing, beyond adding speed and ballast? That’s what the Olympics are all about — needless complications and inefficiencies.
As for for speed skating, how do 18 gold medals and 9 events OF BASICALLY THE SAME THING, JUST OVER DIFFERENT DISTANCES sound? Sure, ‘Short’ Track and ‘Long’ Track are speed skating on different types of courses and with differing skill sets on show, with the main difference being that you’re in a group of people versus in a time trial. C’mon, that’s taking the piss more than Rove hosting a talk show in LA. When you can compete for four or more different gold medal events — say, you do the 500 and 1000 metres for both short and long track — in what amounts to the same sport, it makes your discipline look like a bigger joke than After Earth.
I have the same problem with the Summer Olympics. Really, we need to run the 100 metres, and then go “Fuck it, double the length, THEN we’ll really know who’s fastest. And then we’ll do it again. And again. AND RUN A RELAY! And then do long distance!” That’s absurd.
AND SWIMMING. Fuck me, swimming. Someone was all like, “Hey guys, I know! Let’s race for 50 metres. And 100. And 200. And 400. And 800. And 1500… AND ALSO BE ABLE TO DO IT IN FOUR DIFFERENT WAYS!” And now we’re stuck pretending we care about Ian Thorpe’s ‘struggles’.
Fuck off, swimming. You too, rowing (“Look! They can use one or two oars. AND with or without a cox! We need eight events for the men, and six for the women!”). The Summer Olympics had 302 events in London in 2012. 302. For 26 sports. Yikes.
And that’s the rub. I believe sport and art have the ability to display and represent the finest facets of human endeavour, and I guess that’s why I don’t like the Olympics — they should be better at doing that. It’s an oft-quoted ideal, but when you offer the same reward to competitors for ‘winning’ an event that’s of the same genus but only slightly different (say, the two middle guys in the bobsleigh, or ski jumping) as you do to a more skilfully challenging event (like the two person bobsleigh team, or Slopestyle), it cheapens everyone’s accomplishment. An accomplishment, don’t forget, that everyone — I’m not discounting anyone’s effort — has worked their arses off to achieve.
Even the curlers. Curling is weird.
What I’d rather see is each sport broken down to its idealised form. Get rid of superfluous events. Figure out their most defining disciplines, then run events for them, and that’s it. Each event would be more important, more gratifying, more indicative of who that sport’s best athletes are.
You know what the best part of the Winter Olympics has been? The ice hockey. Why? Because they don’t dilute their product and make an event out of a one-on-one tournament, or a puck-handling skills challenge, or long-distance shooting. It’s simple: play games of ice hockey, and figure out which country is best. And it’s been riveting.
“But Jaymz, why do you have such a problem? You don’t have to watch the Olympics, just change the channel.” To that I say, “Bah!” Then I’d miss stuff like this:
Escaping two weeks of constant, never-ending bombardment of Olympic highlights on TV, in newspapers and everywhere on the internet is hard. Harder still? Avoiding people who say shit like “I don’t usually like sport, but I just get soooo excited for the pageantry and tradition of the Olympics.” I DID change the channel. I spent most of last night ignoring my girlfriend getting angrier and angrier while I watched six hours of basketball.
Still, I can’t escape it, or the people exhorting just how fabulous the Olympics are, or how our Olympic heroes are feted the same as our ‘everyday’ sporting heroes. Why? Because they’re not that famous to begin with, it makes it somehow more pure? No, it just means that their (for the most part, very admirable) achievements are in a sport that has been deemed across history to not matter that much.
I hate that the Olympics get me this angry. It’s full of super-athletic people who’ve worked hard to be the best in their chosen field. It’s not their fault that I feel like the framework of their pinnacle competition is broken. Strip it down, make it awesome, give the sports back their meaning. Then I’d not have to do this thing where I hate myself for hating the Olympics every couple of years. That’d be nice.
Until then, I vote this become an Olympic event:
Jaymz is a New York-based writer (originally from Melbourne, and the former Editor of triple j magazine), super-yacht enthusiast, hi-tech jewel thief and Bengal tiger trainer. He enjoys wearing monocles, finely spiced rum, constructing pillow forts, and zip-lining from Hong Kong skyscrapers. You can find him on twitter via @jaymzclements