Doux News: Olympic Edition

For the past couple of weeks, our televisions have been dominated by the 2014 Sochi Putin Homophobia Winter Olympic Games, with a side trip to the sad and bloody demonstrations in Ukraine. I usually like the Olympics. This time, I can hardly wait for them to be over. Thankfully, the closing ceremonies are tonight.

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.

Figure skating

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.

Ice dancing

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?


migmit said...

Being Russian myself, I can't agree more with your comments about Homophobia and Obama's absense. I'm not into sports, so Olympics omnipresense on our TV is annoying as hell. And I'd love to se Gollum's face when he got the news about gay athletes too.

Billie Doux said...

Gollum. :) That's great, migmit. I've never heard that one.

Jess Lynde said...

I've been pretty bored with these Olympics, too. Usually I love the Winter Games, but I just haven't been feeling it this year and we've watched very little of the primetime coverage.

I did, however, take in a fair amount of the figure skating coverage on NBCSN during the day and was absolutely delighted by Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski as analysts. We caught some of their coverage over the first weekend during the team event and really enjoyed their commentary (insightful, critical when appropriate, and fun), so it was kind of delightful when the rest of the viewing public got all excited about them, too. It's too bad that the folks who could only watch in the evening didn't get to enjoy that team.

The ice dancing has become my favorite figure skating event over the last several years, and this year it was particularly wonderful to get so many high level performers. Davis and White are certainly extremely talented and their execution is top notch, but I'm actually partial to Moir and Virtue (the Canadians). They bring an emotional component to their skating that the other couples just don't match. It's something about the way they look at each other and touch each other when they skate --- like there's no one else in that arena except the two of them. Their free skate was absolutely beautiful. They are also one of the very few pairs where I find myself focusing on both the man and the woman, instead of just the woman. The second American couple that skated to Les Mis also had a beautiful free skate. Their final lift was perfectly choreographed and actually made me tear up a bit. Lovely.

Also, I managed to once again get unexpectedly sucked into a few curling matches. (It happened during the last Olympics, too.) We turned on the USA v. SWE match during dinner one evening --- because that's what was on --- and ended up getting completely engrossed in the thing. I think it must be something about the strategy involved in the stone placement.

sunbunny said...

I'm not a winter sports fan. The only thing I want to watch is the Figure Skating. Of course, because of the way NBC does it, I ended up watching more than I wanted to. It seemed like when I was little, they had events on for more than 10 minutes at a time before switching to something else? It was very annoying.

Yuna Kim and Carolina Kostner both did absolutely beautifully, but I'm not upset at Adelina Sotnikova's winning. Kim and Kostner both focused on giving the most beautiful performances they could (and did they succeed!) but Sotnikova used a different strategy and simply came out on top. Argue against the points system all you want (it makes very little sense to me) but I wish the media would leave the 17 year old Sotnikova alone. If there was funny business going on, I doubt she was the mastermind of it.

On a happier note, Yuna Kim's short program was stunning. I love how there was a point that the commentators just shut up and watched because they had nothing to add to that flawless performance.

lisa menaster said...

The Russian people do agree with their government about homosexuality. A poll showed 70% of Russians believing homosexuality is wrong.

Billie Doux said...

Lisa, with all due respect, a majority of people believing something doesn't make it right.

Patryk said...

Actually looking at tv ratings you could say that what the majority believes is usually wrong. :)

ChrisB said...

My Olympics experience this year was limited to the bank of televisions over the bar where I serve drinks. Lots of people were cheering and yelling for all kinds of things, but I just couldn't drum up the enthusiasm this year.

Jess's comment made me smile. The curling was on one night and my customers went wild for it. Much debate around the rules, the customs, and the athletes, but it provided an unusually lively evening.

Great piece, Billie. I now feel as though I saw much more of it than I did. And, I agree about Ferrell's routine. I laughed out loud.

drnanamom said...

Ferrell's routine was a blast, especially the facial expressions. He can do the most ludicrous things and make them seem hilarious. I wasn't that interested in the Olympics but as a country we went wild over the hockey golds and were a bit miffed about the ice dancing. I didn't even watch any of it so can't really comment. For me, holding the games in Sochi just highlighted the hypocrisy of the whole thing and how commercial it all is so that dampened my usual enthusiasm. Great coverage Billy.

Katerina said...

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.

I remember that very well! :) I haven't followed ice skating that closely for a long time, but I did watch it during the Olympics this year. I was disappointed by the performances of the "top" men, but enjoyed it overall. I really wanted to watch curling, but never caught it on tv.

Believe it or not, Billie, the current incarnation of that skating exhibition came to town last year, now that there's an ice arena, but I didn't go to see it. Maybe this year.