Thursday, February 18, 2010

Winter Olympics: discontent in Vancouver

Having promised not to discuss the topic of snow again for the foreseeable future, it’s with a heavy heart and a crushing sense of inevitability that we turn our bleary eye once more to the Winter Olympics.

Not that snow has much to do with it, really. British Columbia  is enjoying (if that’s the word) its mildest winter since records began, and lorry-loads of the white stuff have had to be ferried in to Cypress Mountain from chillier parts 160 miles from Vancouver.

All of which launches us, bobsleigh-like, into something of a vicious circle: unusual climate conditions provoke extra carbon emissions from the Olympic ice road truckers, which in turn cause even more unusual climatic conditions. Or do they? Let’s not get into that one right now.

In any case, it’s a good bet that any extra emissions will be offset by the spectacularly embarrassing torch malfunction during the opening ceremony, which resulted in the non-combustion of a good 400 litres of prime lamp oil, and thus saved the planet from destruction for at least another six months.

Anyway, we sat down to watch the snowboard cross a couple of nights ago, and whatever the local problems – lack of snow, closure of spectator area, BBC commentators touting expensive branded jackets and triggering tabloid outrage (what are they supposed to wear, string vests?) – it was all pretty exciting.

And it was fairly obvious why.

Because the competitors were racing against each other, and bumping into each other, and pushing each other off the track.

In so-called sports like ice dance, this just doesn’t happen. No event where the outcome depends on a mark for artistic impression can really be called a proper sport, and even bona fide challenges like downhill skiing get pretty tedious.

Unless there’s a prang, of course.

And then there’s the small matter of the Brits not winning much.

OK, we brought home the gold in women’s curling in 2002. Remember the huge surge in kids wanting to take up curling that that sparked?

OK, Shelley Rudman won silver in the women’s skeleton bob in 2006. It was a great performance and a heart-lifting moment, but it was the only medal the entire country won at the entire Torino winter games.

So when Clare Balding starts getting worked up because our best hope in the skiing is holding his position in the top 40, you know she’s clutching at straws.

And when it’s 10.30pm in the UK, and most  viewers have gone through contortions with the digital red button to get to watch in the first place, you know that Hazel Irvine knows that in two hours’ time her only audience will be the terminally insomniac or those with an unhealthy fascination for ice hockey.

Let’s face it, the Winter Olympics just isn’t our thing. Unless, of course, we win something.

1 comment:

  1. Hugh, I stubled upon your blog today after a search for bloggers in the Bath area.
    I am doing a Life Writing project for university. It is based on the internet and how it has changed the way we communicate.
    I have been asked to interview two people for this and was wondering if you would take the time out of your busy schedule to be one of them.
    If you are interested please let me know.

    Gina Grainger-Windridge