Winter Olympic Thoughts (Part 1)
Since I’m going to be spending much of the next two weeks watching the Winter Olympics, I thought I’d make some observations here like I did with the 2008 Summer Games. I promise not to make any jokes about Canadians saying, “Eh?”
I probably should have skipped the opening ceremony. The scary awesome show the Chinese put on two years ago made me tune in this year, but the Canadians couldn’t top it. (No surprise, given that the budget for the show was about a tenth of what the Chinese spent on their ceremony.) I wasn’t surprised to see Steve Nash make a detour on his way from Phoenix to Arlington for the NBA All-Star Game. Usually these ceremonies are notable for the weird fashion choices during the Parade of Nations, but the only outré looks I saw were the pants on Azerbaijan and Czech Republic’s Olympians. The hockey fan in me did get a kick out of seeing so many ex-NHL players as flagbearers: Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic), Ville Peltonen (Finland), Alexei Morozov (Russia), and Peter Forsberg (Sweden).
The show had a lot of Canadian musicians, but the one you probably didn’t recognize was soprano Measha Brueggergosman belting out the Olympic anthem. The 32-year-old Toronto native doesn’t seem to roll the way most other opera singers do, but she’s got quite a voice on her. Her MySpace page has audio tracks, and YouTube has clips of her singing everything from Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” but I’m embedding her rendition of “George” from William Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs. Love the Afro, love the t-shirt, love everything:
From the games themselves, I notice that TV still hasn’t found a way to present the biathlon. With the staggered starts and so much of the race taking place off camera, it’s too difficult to tell who’s ahead of whom.
As you’ve no doubt heard, Canada finally broke their Olympic gold-medal drought on home soil when Alexandre Bilodeau took the top spot in freestyle skiing. Look for his story to become a bad made-for-TV movie on the CBC in the next few years. In all seriousness, look for some more gold medals for the athletes wearing the maple leaf.
Speaking of freestyle, does anyone know how I find out which songs the skiers have playing over the PA system while they’re competing? I don’t feel any desire to track down which pieces of orchestral music the figure skaters are working with, but I’m interested to see what the mogul skiers are listening to. One of the medal contenders on the women’s side went old-school with “Beat It,” while another female competitor skied the course to the Ting Tings’ “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” probably more appropriate for skiers while they’re waiting in the starthouse.
One under-the-radar story is Canada’s women’s hockey team defeated Slovakia 18-0 — no, that’s not a typo — in the group stage, while USA beat China by a slightly less embarrassing 12-1. Those scores could have been worse, too; Slovak goalie Zuzana Tomčíková and Chinese goalie Shi Yao both made 49 saves in their losing efforts. (Tomčíková, a sophomore at Bemidji State University, actually earned some raves for her performance.) The lopsided scorelines raise questions about whether enough teams are competitive in this sport to justify its inclusion in the Games. I wouldn’t feel too bad for those Slovaks, though. That’s the same team that beat Bulgaria 82-0 in an Olympic qualifier. Presumably if Canada had met Bulgaria, they would have hit triple digits.
I’m looking forward to the start of men’s hockey. Ever since they let the pros in, it’s like the World Cup soccer tournament on ice. Can anyone beat Canada this year? Stay tuned.