During the games, I tend to root for the athletes from the USA, Canada and the host country. But this time, I was so appalled by the politics that I kept hoping the Russian athletes would lose. I'm quite aware that that's unfair, because the Russian people have suffered enough and they don't always believe what their government tells them to believe. (Like me during the also appalling, endless eight years of the Bush administration.) At least I could be proud of our current president for (1) being "too busy" to attend, and (2) sending openly gay American athletes as our official representatives. Putin must have loved that; oh, to be a fly on the wall when he got the news.
I used to be a big fan of figure skating. I knew all the big names and watched most of the competitions on TV. In 1996 when I was living in the boondocks, my friend Kathy and I drove three hours to see a big skating exhibition. Brian Boitano did a jump right in front of us, and when you're relatively close and there in person, it's impressive enough to make you gasp out loud.
But Olympic figure skating can be weird. The peculiarities of the sport are open to interpretation, and the judges apparently answer to no one. The outstanding skaters occasionally get screwed, usually because of technical scores. That's just what a lot people think happened to the Republic of Korea's Yuna Kim, who was defeated by Adelina Sotnikova, a Russian teenager who gave a mechanical performance that included one more triple than Kim performed. The always kind Scott Hamilton, who was doing commentary, said Sotnikova was like a cash register: cha-ching for this triple, cha-ching for the next, ringing up points, and of course I am paraphrasing. But really, the point spread was ridiculous. One of the American skaters, Ashley Wagner, did very well but was rated much lower than another Russian teenager who fell more than once. Were the Russian judges biased? Is the Pope Catholic?
Here's a good article about the complexities of the controversy, most of which is beyond me. I just know that I feel for Yuna Kim and the lovely Italian skater Carolina Kostner, because it seemed obvious that they should have gotten gold and silver. But what do I know?
To lighten the mood, this is Will Ferrell doing a figure skating routine to the music from Downton Abbey on last Thursday's Tonight Show. He's actually not that bad, although I'm sure the Russian judges wouldn't give him gold.
Since I'm a fan of the singles and pairs, I usually pay less attention to the ice dancing. Not this time. Instead, I got into it for pretty much the first time and okay, it was probably because the U.S. had a winning pair in Meryl Davis and Charlie White. They were wonderful and in my not so expert opinion, they deserved their gold medals. Unfortunately, they were wearing what I thought were the ugliest costumes in the competition, and that's saying a lot when you're talking about figure skating. Come on, is it me? Are these costumes hideous, or what?
Skiing, sliding and whatnot
While I usually enjoy the downhill, slalom and super G, I can only take so much before my eyes start to glaze over. It's not that it's boring, but when you see one athlete after another going down the exact same course using the exact same camera shots and the difference is counted in a percentage of a second, well, you can see where I'm going with this.
This time, I was transfixed by the snowboard cross and the ski cross races and wondered why I'd never gotten into them before. These athletes race together down a hill laced with several frightening-looking jumps, often falling and knocking each other down, and several of them literally slid across the finish lines on their butts. Every single one of these races had me on the edge of my seat. Note that in the photo below, they're not on the mountain -- they're in the air.
I also enjoyed some of the sledding this year. Especially the strangely named "skeleton", which is one driver on a very thin piece of something, sliding down the bobsled track head first at over 80 miles per hour. And like the rest of the world, I was rooting for the Jamaican bobsled team. Why? Because they're the Jamaican bobsled team. They don't have to win. They just have to be there.
The Opening Ceremonies, Speed Skating, Pink Eye and Dogs
The opening ceremonies are usually cool and I enjoy them, but this time it was like watching a bizarre presentation performed by extraterrestrials. (Maybe I'll skip the closing ceremony.)
I usually enjoy the speed skating and short track, but (okay, pun) it left me cold this time. Although there were a couple of fun speed skating stories having little to do with the actual competition. Like Olga Graf, who won a speed skating event and started to unzip her costume, only to remember too late that she wasn't wearing anything underneath. And there was the weird drama about the new, specially designed U.S. speed skater costumes that were apparently slowing the athletes down -- was that real, or just paranoia because we kept losing?
And then there was everyone's favorite Olympic broadcaster Bob Costas, who showed up the first night with a bad case of pink eye. It ended up being a continuing joke, with Matt Lauer talking about disinfecting his dressing room with Lysol, and Bob eventually showing up and saying he was sitting in for Matt Lauer. But I like Bob Costas and felt bad for him. It could not have been fun to suffer from such a nasty infection in a foreign country, topped off by the entire world seeing you look your absolute worst.
And there you have my biased and inexpert coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics. What did you all think of the Games? Comments? Opinions? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
And since might be my only chance, can I somehow get in the wonderful photo of the dog that looks like Putin?