Winter Olympics

The Olympics are underway in PyeongChang. There have been quite a few stories about the politics, who attended, who talked to whom, what invitations were issued and at the like.

It shouldn’t surprise that so far Norway is leading the medal race, with 1 gold, 4 soldier and 3 bronze. The Netherlands, traditionally a home for skating, has 5 medals so far, Canada his no surprise with 3 and Germany has 2. So far team USA has one gold, earned by a 17-year-old snowboarder from Colorado.

It is said that may Olympic sports grew out of normal survival skills. Skiing and skating began as ways to get from one place to another in a cold and icy season. Biathlon is a deeply of hunting skills. There are a couple of other sports that are hard to imagine having much practical application, however. Bobsleigh, luge and skeleton seem like sledding for the fun of sledding. More accurately they are sledding for the fun of going fast, although I guess one could question how much fun is involved when you are going head first down an icy track at 80 miles per hour on a tiny sled. Lugers go feet first, but they don’t seem to be able to see where they are going. I guess there are people who think that it is fun.

We were talking about the olympics a bit yesterday as we unloaded wood from trucks and trailers. On this particular trip, we had 5 trailers and only one of them was a dump trailer that unloads itself. The rest had to be unloaded by hand. Of course all of them had to be loaded by hand on Thursday in preparation for our delivery. I didn’t pay attention to the thermometer all of the time, but the general range of temperatures was between -15 and +4 Fahrenheit. Despite the cold, there was little wind and workers were shedding layers as they pitched the pieces of split wood from the trailers to the pile. As usual, dedicated workers made short work of the process and we soon had made our delivery. Still, we delivered 185 miles from home, so there was a fair amount of driving in the round trip. It took about 9 hours to get it all done. It was a fair day’s work.

We were treated to good road conditions and sunny skies and although the wind picked up a little bit in the afternoon, for the most part, we didn’t have to endure too much wind. I had peeled off my coveralls and was a tad chilly as I put a half tank of diesel in the pickup for the return trip, but that was the only moment of feeling cold. I had a thermos of hot tea that lasted me all the way home and a sandwich to keep me from being hungry.

The adventure got me to thinking about other potential winter sports. Woodchucking is the obvious one growing out of yesterday’s activities. Since wood is used as a primary heat source in many parts of the world, the event could be focused on different parts of the task of obtaining firewood. There are already lumberjack competitions for speed sawing with both traditional bucksaws and chainsaws. I’m unaware of a firewood splitting contest, but it would be quite an event if traditional mauls were used instead of hydraulic splitters. Stacking could be judged both for speed and for beauty. The ability to make a tight pile that won’t blow over in the wind is just the beginning. Google “artsy wood piles” and take a look at the images some day and you’ll be surprised at how much work some people put into their wood piles.

I’d enjoy watching a driveway shoveling competition. Ideally the event would be held don my driveway after a spring blizzard, but I think it would be fun to see competitors going head to head clearing snow from sidewalks and driveways.

I’m not sure I’ve got all of the rules of curling down, but those people have to stand up and move around on the ice without falling down. There are days when just being able to stand up on the ice is an impressive feat. Maybe we could have a speed walking on ice or another similar event. At least curlers get to hold sticks to keep their balance. As a side note, have you noticed that some teams have short sleeves and others have long sleeves on their jerseys? What is with a short sleeve shirt as a uniform for a winter sport? I think it makes them look unprofessional, which of course they are supposed to be - at las the Olympics used to be for amateurs only. In general, the curling uniforms are less than elegant. What is with checked pants, after all? They look like golfers.

It would be fine to have a few indoor events as well. I know that the Olympics do have stadium events, but most of them, like figure skating, curling and speed skating still involve ice, which isn’t a natural indoor phenomenon. I’m thinking more of events like soup making or cookie baking. I’d be willing to serve as a judge if they needed volunteers for that task.

And, of course, what would winter be without colds or the flu? There could be a tissue tossing event, where contestants were awarded points for distance and accuracy. A crumpled tissue isn’t exactly aerodynamic and it’s fairly hard to throw with any accuracy. Of course points would need to be deducted for tossing the tissue into the territory of your competitor.

Pill taking and gargling might also be events that could be considered.

For this winter, however, the Olympics are focused on sledding, skiing, snowboarding and skating and that’s fine with me. The athletes are truly impressive and world class competition is decided by such small margins that all of the competitors are champions in my mind.

Still, it would be fun to watch someone else shove my driveway . . .

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