Catch the Olympic fever
Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Cool. Hot. Yours.
That’s the slogan for these 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, where the world’s greatest athletes (but clearly not its greatest marketing professionals) have descended for two weeks of international competition.
The slogan, according to a press release, “is intended to be a universal solution successfully combining innovation and dynamism.” Describing the Olympics as hot, cool and yours seems to make no sense whatsoever, especially in light of how many other adjectives better capture the nature of these Games.
The Olympics are different. Whereas most professional athletes we watch in the big four American sports leagues live their entire lives in the spotlight, for athletes in the Olympics — save the hockey players and a few other stars — the Games serve as their lone shot at international glory or any semblance of relevance, an Everest-like pinnacle of four years of training.
With this in mind, the Olympics are intense. With so long between each Olympiad, an athlete may only have one chance to compete while still in their prime, heaping untold pressure on each Olympian. The differences between gold and silver or third and fourth can be canyons, with athletes willing to go to and over the edge to best their peers.
The Olympics are unpredictable. For every can’t-miss, sure thing (like the Dutch in speed skating), there’s a hyped-up favorite that slips to silver, or off the podium entirely (looking at you, Shawn White.)
The Olympics are problematic. In addition to the serious problems on the scale of corruption, terrorism and homophobia that Greg Hadley outlined in this space on Monday, there has been plenty of humor from Sochi’s gross unpreparedness. Upon arrival, journalists and fans took to Twitter to detail a variety of #SochiProblems, ranging from unpotable water and a lack of dividers between toilet stalls to stray dogs and one uncooperative Olympic ring during the opening ceremonies. (The person responsible for the latter presumably sent to Siberia along with the Olympic marketing team, a true #SochiProblem.)
The Olympics are also whimsical, as characters in lesser known sports take advantage of the spotlight to have some fun. This was on display from the opening ceremony, as skier Antonio Pardo, the lone representative from Venezuela, bounded through the arena, hamming it up and winning over the crowd. It could also be seen in American luger Kate Hansen, whose warm-up is an elaborate, psyched up dance routine to “her girl” Beyonce. #DancinHansen finished far from the podium, but her enthusiasm did win over a multitude of fans.
All in all though, the Olympics never cease to be compelling. Especially in the Winter Games, the events are so foreign to us that it’s hard not to get caught up in the storylines, whether cheering a 40-year old Norwegian biathlete on to victory or yelling at the inept American curling squads (as I found myself doing at various points this week.)
It’s fun, it breaks up two boring weeks of February, and the coverage is wall-to-wall, so you might as well give in to a once-every-four-years case of Olympic fever.
After all, these Olympics are yours.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.