The Winter Games are Coming

It was about 30 years ago I was into winter sports a lot more than is currently the case. I was active in cross country and downhill skiing, had a season pass to the local downhill area, which featured night skiing and was about a half hour’s drive from my home, and was working on improving my telemarking technique. I used three or four different sets of skis and was a big fan of Warren Miller skiing movies. I purchased my ski pass on the spring sale and was skiing after the snow turned hard and icy. There was always a ski rack on the roof of my car and I often had a set of skis up there.

I also was a fan of watching winter sports. In fact, we were laying plans to travel to Calgary in February of 1988 to attend the winter Olympics. I had a cousin who lived in Calgary and we were planning to travel to Calgary with my mother, who would provide child care part of the time so that we could attend outdoor events. We felt that our children would benefit from seeing the olympic village and the crowds of people from all around the world. We carefully selected the events we wanted to see, balancing our desire to watch big stadium events such as figure skating with a desire to watch at least some outdoor events. Then we got the big, official looking envelope in the mail that informed us that we had been the victims of a ticket scam. Our check had been seized by officials and would not be cashed, but was being held as evidence in the case. Olympic officials were offering us the opportunity to purchase tickets to selected events if we responded by a very close deadline. We read through the list of available tickets. There were no stadium events. There were no events to which we would consider taking our children. The only events involved standing outdoors for many hours. I know that biathlon is a challenging sport, but when competitors race against the clock, it doesn’t have the same visual effect as speed skating. And the sport lacks the thrill of watching slalom skiers running the gates. We decided that the 88 games were not for us.

OK, a short break for trivia. I know 30 years isn’t divisible by four, but there were really winter games in 1988. Back then the winter and summer games took place in the same year. But the Olympic committee had already decided to place the summer and winter games on separate cycles to have them in offsetting years, so we got back-to-back winter games in 1992 and then again in 1994 so that the current system could be observed.

I’ve paid attention to the Winter Olympics for as long as I can remember, though I’m a bit less likely to watch the games on television these days and I certainly don’t keep up with the competitors like I once did. When I think of the games, I remember several moments that probably won’t go don in history as the highlights, but were nonetheless fun for me.

In 1998, at Nagano, Japan, Picabo Street won the Super G Gold medal after having won the downhill at the 1996 World Championships. We had recently moved from Idaho to South Dakota and Picabo was a local hero in Idaho, especially on Bald Mountain at Sun Valley. We skied there only once or twice a year. It was expensive, except on all Idaho day, when our lift tickets from our local hill were accepted at all of the ski resorts in Idaho. But I had seen Picabo on the hill and in the lodge and had a sense of here connections with the state. Her name, after all comes from the town of Picabo, not far from Sun Valley.

Then in 2002, we watched the opening of the Salt Lake Games on television with the grand opening ceremonies with music composed by John Williams and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing in the stadium. I purchased a recording of the music from that event and get it out from time to time announcing that it is the theme song I had composed for my wife’s birthday, which was the same day as the opening ceremonies.

So, yes, I plan to pay attention on February 9 - 25 this year when the XXIII Olympic Winter Games are held in PyeongChang, Korea. It was recently announced that North Korea will send a team to the games, the first sign of meaningful talks between North Korea and other countries after a season of saber rattling and threats and dangerous expansion of nuclear weapons. It is helpful to think of fair competition in such a threatening situation.

Then, of course, there is the specter of cheating hanging over all of the Olympic games. The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from sending a team to this year’s games, with only certain Russian athletes allowed to compete under the designation Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR). There will be no playing of the Russian anthem or display of the Russian flag at these games. It has to do with a long-standing controllers of the used of banned drugs to enhance the performance of athletes. The doping scandal has left a scar on the celebrations not only this year, but it affects how we think of the games in general.

So I’m paying attention to news about the games, but I don’t have the enthusiasm I once had for them. And I realized not long ago that I have come to a different place in my life. I used to think that attending the winter games was one thing that I would accomplish at some point in my life. It was an item on a sort of informal list of things I wanted to do. Now I realize that I don’t really care if I live my whole life without attending the games. I can watch and pay attention from a distance without needing to be there in person. Maybe it is part of aging. Maybe it comes from the perspective of having watched from afar for so many years. Whatever the reason, I’m comfortable with the games proceeding without me.

I’ll still watch on the computer, however.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!