Steve Patterson
Damn do we ever need these Olympics!

The PyeongChang Olympics: Here’s to the best of times, in the worst of times.

If there were ever a time in history that the world could use a pleasant diversion from politics, pettiness and puerility this is it. So bring on the Winter Olympic games!

Sure, they’re taking place in South Korea, which, as you may know, is just below North Korea, which isn’t, well, a “great” situation. Matter of fact, these games are taking place in PyeongChang, where the “c” had to be capitalized due to the similarity of the name Pyeongchang to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang where not only are the Olympics not being celebrated but nothing is being celebrated. Because their leader, the 2nd most idiotic and dangerous world leader in the world right now is picking a fight with the most idiotic and dangerous world leader (I’m not saying who he is but here’s a hint: he weighs “239” pounds.

So all athletes competing in the games have to worry about not only outracing their competitors but also, possibly trying to outrace a nuclear missile being fired at them from point-blank range. (On the bright side, I guess this could lead to a LOT of new Olympic record race times.)

One country that isn’t sending athletes is Russia since the country was banned from competing after proof of systemic doping of athletes in a wide range of events over a long range of time. Still, apparently some Russian athletes who are dope free will be allowed to compete under the Olympic banner. Though no one has discussed what anthem will be played if those athletes win. I’m guessing it’ll just be their favourite song or maybe Boney M’s “Rasputin” (I’m hoping for the latter).

 

And for those of you who lamented that there weren’t already enough events in the Winter Olympics, get ready to lose that lament. Because this year, there are new ones! Including:

  1. Curling “mixed doubles” (this refers to men and women on the same team. Not an extra-strength cocktail. Though I DO think that would make any sport, including curling, more exciting to watch)
  2. Snowboard “big air” where EXTREME athletes do EXTREMELY risky things EXTREMELY high up in the air and if you don’t end up EXTREMELY dead, you win!
  3. Alpine Skiing TEAM event: I think this is where entire countries’ ski teams go down the hill together so world-class skiers can all experience what it’s like to go down a hill in Whistler during the holidays.
  4. Speed Skating MASS start: Where (and this is true) skaters crowd onto a small rink and jockey for position over one another like roller derby on ice.

Of the four my very clear favourite is the last one.  Partly because I feel like I was cheated out of  “primetime roller derby” on television in my youth (I don’t know if this was a thing, but I still wish I’d seen it) and also because I got a chance to meet and interview one of Canada’s team members in this event who is a medal holder and medal favourite, Ivanie Blondin (below) and I can tell you it takes a special kind of focus, resilience and just plain toughness to do what Ivanie and all Olympic athletes do.

Imagine spending the majority of your waking hours dedicated to being the best in the world at what you do. Now imagine not really getting paid much, if anything, for all that time. And finally, imagine having 1 chance every 4 years to showcase your life’s work, knowing that a lot of the world is watching.

No wonder Ross Rebagliati had a toke of that soon-to-be-legalized stuff before he went down the hill (and won gold) in 1998.

No wonder Maelle Ricker looked like literally the happiest (and most relieved) woman in the world when she won the first Canadian women’s gold in Vancouver in 2010.

And no wonder everyone who finishes 4th bawls their eyes out and apologizes to the whole country (as if being 4th best in the world at ANYTHING is something to apologize for)

The Olympics today certainly aren’t what they set out as back in….whenever they set out (you can Google it. I’m on a roll here) Back then there was no corporate sponsorship, no female participants and it was common for the males who were participating to do so naked (thank GOD both of those last 2 things have changed) But what there was and still IS, is the power of the human spirit. The power of people to push their limits, lift themselves up stronger, higher and faster than ever before (except for the race walkers of course. For them, breaking into a trot is cheating.) and by extension to lift the spirits of all who watch them.

Now, of course, you can’t watch any Olympic coverage without constant mention of an official Olympic sponsor (apparently Coca-Cola helps you be athletic.) the world’s best men AND women are involved and all of them compete while covering their genitals (likely with a genital covering sponsor like Speedo).

But at its core, the idea of the Olympics lifting the human spirit remains intact. We want our countrymen and countrywomen to win! We want their life’s work to be realized. But the best stories are often the ones of athletes who don’t quite win. Who hobble over the finish line after a long distance race. Who fall hard but get back up. Or even do the seemingly unthinkable and sacrifice their own dream to help a competitor from another country complete his or hers.

It sounds cliché but the Olympics, at their best, show humans being their best not just against but with each other. And if there’s anything the world could use more of right now, I don’t know what that anything is. (other than maybe a time machine to take us back to the Obama years).

Steve Patterson:
Stand-up comedian, Sit-down host of “The Debaters”, Producer and Host of The Smartass-ociates, author “The Book of Letters I Didn’t Know Where To Send”, 8th place, Ontario Catholic High School’s 5000m finals 1986, Parents’ 5th favorite son

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