Winter Olympics 2018

olympicsI love the Winter Olympics!  When you have a ton of young people flying through the air and chasing each other on glare ice — what’s not to like?  Plus you get hockey!  Unfortunately, even though all winter sports are based on the single, simple premise that ice and snow are slippery (Think about that for a moment!) the Winter Games are starting to get cluttered up with too many variations on that theme.  For example, you have two kinds of ski jump, several kinds of skiing and God only knows how many kinds of figure skating.  Folks, there are only so many things you can do with frozen water before it just gets silly!

Let’s take a look:

Curling — The Scots invented golf, the hammer throw and the caber toss. Curling is just the last in a long line of sports that allows you time to have a beer and a cigarette while you’re waiting for your turn to play.

Speed skating — This sport makes sense to me.  I think it evolved when a bunch of Europeans were skating around, puttin’ on the brag.  “Hey, Heinrich! You are like the skilpaddeMin bestemor can skate faster than you.”  Heinrich got pissed at Olaf for dissing his gromutter, and the race was on.  This worked well for a number of years — until the Dutch decided to play.  Ever since then, it’s been “I don’t know what you bet, but if you’re not wearing orange, you’re not going to win.”  Of course, the most exciting event is the relay — which is basically Roller Derby with knives on your feet.

Biathlon — This one is just weird!  Ski as fast as you can with a high- powered rifle on your back until you come to a target; stop, whip out your weapon and shoot.  Then, pack up, ski off to the next target, and do it again.  This happens several times.  Who the hell thought up this sport —  Nordic assassins?

Skeleton and Luge — I think these two are basically the same sport!  In both events, the participants jump on a sled the size of an iPhone  and fling themselves down a mountain at 80 miles an hour (130 km/h.)  Sounds like fun, huh?  The only difference I can see is Skeleton people go headfirst because they want to look death in the face; whereas the people who favour Luge, lie on their backs because they want it to come as a complete surprise.  However, I do believe the Luge folks should get extra points.  Take a look: those kids are steering that sled with their bum!

Half Pipe — The name says it all.  I’m pretty sure most snowboard events were invented by stoned Lifties on their day off, because no sane, sober person would ever attempt any of that stuff.  Fun Fact: Snowboarders were originally called snurfers and “real” skiers made fun of them.  These days, snowboarding is a multi-million dollar industry.  Who’s laughin’ now, Jean-Claude?

And finally:

Ice Dance — Libido on ice.  I’m certain the real reason Puritans outlawed premarital sex was because they were afraid it would lead teenagers to Ice Dance.

Our Olympic Anniversary

The reason the modern world has festivals and anniversaries is that, long ago, primitive peoples had such short, brutal lives that, every once in a while, they had to stop working themselves to death and have some fun.  In the days when people still toiled, these quick breaks were important to regenerate the emotional batteries.  It was an excuse to take the day off, get together with the tribe, get drunk and eat all the food that was going to go rotten anyway.  These events were usually local and also served to strengthen the common bonds of a town or village.  Today, February 11th, we celebrate the one year anniversary of one of the best festivals Canada ever had.  One year ago, Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic Torch and we partied like it was 2010.  Essentially, for 17 days, we forgot we were Canadians and became a primitive tribe marking out our territory in the world of winter sports — although it could just as easily have been a buffalo hunt or a successful raid for ponies.  For one brief, shining moment, we were citizens of our country — and we liked it.

It’s difficult for Canadians to be Canadian, simply because we have no single imperative to hang our toques on.  In case you haven’t been watching, Canada doesn’t work the same way as most countries.  We really don’t have a defining moment that stamps us out as Canadians.  There was no war of liberation nor a revolution that gave birth to our nation.  We negotiated our country into existence as an extra-territorial Britain, and then bought the rest of it — including a very confused native population — from the Hudson’s Bay Company.   Once a year, journalists try to shoehorn Vimy Ridge into our national consciousness, but somehow, it never rings as true with us as Bunker Hill does with Americans or the Storming of the Bastille does with the French.  Nor do we have an historical persona that identifies us; we were never Vikings or Cossacks or philosopher kings.  Our best effort was the Coureur de Bois (who was, in reality, a petty crook, trying to trade furs without a license.)  Besides, the plaid shirt and red toque has always been an object of fun — on both sides of the Two Solitudes.  Furthermore, we do not produce larger than life leaders, like Churchill or Gandhi — at least not since Sir John A. discovered single malt.  Nor do we lionize our military.  We have no collective cultural memory that leads us to exalt the art and architecture of our Golden Age.  Nor do we depend on cheese or cuckoo clocks to distinguish us from our neighbours.  Our cuisine consists of everybody else’s, and our national dress is probably a parka.

There is no single overwhelming ideal that guides us, no event that names us, no crisis that forged us.  Yet we are the people called Canadians, and for a brief moment last February, we knew why.

So what the hell happened last year?  The answer is easy.  We had something to believe in.  As our young people chased their young people up and down the ice and snow, we believed in them.  We wanted to win.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, fair play, good sportsmanship and camaraderie, but in the end we wanted the podium.  We want to stand one head taller than everybody else and hear our music being played.  We wanted to prevail.  And when we did (and even when we didn’t) we gathered around our totem – the red maple leaf – and celebrated our accomplishments.  We were no longer Canadians by accident of birth or immigration record, we were Canadians by the power of our deeds — a great northern tribe, jubilant in our triumph, dancing by our fires, far into the night.