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Torino? ToriYES

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, February 13, 2006

Unless you’ve been cooped up in your basement for the last few weeks engaged in an epic Dungeons & Dragons campaign, you no doubt know that the Winter Olympics have reared their frost-bitten and frozen snot-encrusted heads this week. The Olympics offer a great opportunity for all the nations of the world to come together, forget their political headaches and remember how America is better than them in a variety of athletic events.

This year’s games are being held in Torino, Italy, and those Italians started the festivities off with a banging opening ceremony on Friday. Opening ceremonies in recent Olympics have proven unsatisfying, as if lacking a certain something. Well, the Italians have figured out what that “something” is: flaming rollerbladers. Yes, you know your Olympic opening ceremony is off to a good start when a legion of blazing extreme athletes is an integral component.

The ceremony also includes the traditional parade of all the countries’ athletes. It is a great time to drink in the spectacle and pageantry of these games. I would be lying if I told you I didn’t get a little misty when Liechtenstein walked out to the tune of “Funkytown.” This is what sport is all about. The American Olympic Team made their appearance sporting some berets that can only be described as “jaunty.”

Per usual, there are a few select athletes that the media latches onto like some sort of latching device, and they become the poster boys and girls for the U.S. Olympic Effort. This year’s notables include Bode Miller, Apollo Anton Ohno and Michelle Kwan’s groin. Kwan, who backed into the games despite not qualifying, will not compete due to a nagging groin injury. No doubt countless American hearts are broken by this sad news, as Kwan will never be able to win that elusive gold medal. Furthermore, all those hearts will be female, as the men of America will be preoccupied with activities such as scratching, burping and not watching figure skating.

Bode Miller has put a bad boy edge on these Olympics, as he has recently been embroiled in controversy stemming from talking about skiing while drunk. When asked to elaborate on that 60 Minutes interview, Miller said, “Raflghbk,” and then vomited all over his skin-tight neon blue Spandex jumpsuit.

Of course, due to the immense nature of the Olympics, there is a lot to take in – almost too much in fact. There is round-the-clock coverage on NBC, CNBC, MSNBC, XYZNBC and NBCNBC, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But do not worry, stop crying. You have just got to narrow down the field and only watch your favorites. It will be OK; we will get through this together.

Maybe you are into the more graceful sports, in which case you might want to check out ice dancing. I am not exactly sure how that differs from figure skating, but I am hoping that the key difference is that crosschecking is allowed. Of course, I am probably wrong, and the difference is just more sequins.

Or perhaps you like to take your coffee with two creams and danger. If you like living on the edge, you will want to see freestyle skiing. It is like regular moguls skiing, but it has been XTREME-icized by adding 360 degree jumps and flips throughout the course. It’s the love child of Picabo Street and Tony Hawk, the XTREME love child.

What event am I looking forward to the most, you ask? Short track speedskating. That is right, not long track, but short track speedskating. Apollo Anton Ohno’s specialty, this is the event where four to six skaters compete by racing in circles around a track roughly the size of a half dollar. It’s great because with so many skaters and so little room, there are plenty of opportunities for some good old fashioned bumping and pushing. It is like Roller Derby on ice. Many times races end in one giant folderol (thanks, English major!) when one skater falls, thereby taking out several members of the field in one swoop. This is why I like speedskating; it teaches you valuable life lessons. In the 1,500 meter Race of Life, sometimes you are gliding along, you can see the finish line racing towards you, and all of a sudden, some guy from South Korea comes out of nowhere and blindsides you. That’s life.

No matter what you choose to take in during this two week extravaganza of Spandex and chapped lips, be sure to remember the spirit behind the Games. These amateur athletes compete simply for the purity of the sport. There are no entourages, agents or shoe deals at the Winter Olympics, just some guys heaving rocks and rubbing brooms at them.

Peter Schroeder is a senior English major. As for plans after graduation, he is open to suggestions. He can be contacted at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.