Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Olympic Gold: Sports, Sportsmanship, Health, and Joy

The Final Gold: CANADA 3-USA 2 (OT)

Although saddened by defeat for the gold, the Americans have been graciously congratulatory and positive throughout about the Canadian-hosted Olympics.

Silver medals (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) The U.S. team wears its silver medals after falling to Canada, 3-2, on Sunday in the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The U.S. won the medals race for the first time since 1932.

Besides, this one may be on the podium some day:

Fans wait for the men's Gold medal hockey match opposing Canada to the USA at Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver, BC during the 2010 Winter Olympics, February 26, 2010.
Photograph by: Jean Levac, CNS

There are many articles covering the Olympic final, including these from Canadian papers: Seeing-eye pass from 'Iggy' all Sid needed to ice the game; The Golden Goal; Canada's Golden GamesArab News has carried international feeds on the games, from AP and Reuters: Crosby's golden goal caps Canada's Olympics; Canadian gold rush puts hosts on top of world; Triumphant ending for Vancouver Winter Games; Luongo steps out of Brodeur’s shadow with gold medal.

There has of course been some controversy amidst the joy, the most recent in the form of the ongoing complaint from Russia (and Putin himself) about the Men's Figure Skating Gold being awarded to the American, Evan Lysacek, rather than the Russian Silver Medalist, Evgeni Plushenko. Despite the recent affirmation of the judging, by Jacques Rogge, the original Pravda article was quite humorous, as is the opinion piece at the conclusion of the Games.

More ominously Medvedev has announced the removal, voluntary or involuntary, of all those responsible for Russia's poor performance  in terms of medals (11th overall) in these Olympics, as a preventive to humiliation at home when they host the 2014 Olympics in Sochi: Medvedev wants heads to roll after Vancouver Olympics debacle.

Yet, perhaps more disconcerting to North American hockey fans, and in fact European ones too, some think that NHL players should not be allowed to play in the Olympics, just as they were previously excluded from competition, given their professional status. However, given that Soviet athletes were in fact employed by the state, NHL professionals were ultimately allowed in the competition. It seems as if a new Cold War is setting in.

Diversity and the Olympics

Diversity within the teams being fielded by traditional countries, is increasing as is the inclusion of teams from non-Nordic countries, ones who do not usually compete in the Winter Olympics. Sometimes their athletes are dual citizens of northern countries who were unable to make the national team of that country, and now have a way to participate. This happened in the past with the ice dancing brother and sister duo, Paul and Isabelle Duschenay, who did not make the Canadian team, and so skated for their mother's native France, which was not then strong in figure skating. They set the ice dance world on fire with their highly interpretive and rule and gender-bending style, eventually winning over the judges, winning the 1991 World Championship, and taking the Silver Medal at the 1992 Olympics . They also transformed ice dance, away from its conservative ballroom roots, to which it never fully returned.

Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay 1990 Worlds free dance

In these 2010 Winter Olympics, the winning overtime goal that gave Canada the Men's Hockey Gold, and a record number of Gold medals, was set up by Jarome Iginla, who got the assist with a "blind pass" to an "urgently screaming" Sidney Crosby. Iginla is a Canadian of mixed Nigerian and American heritage, who is one of the NHL's top players, an Olympian with the Gold Medal 2002 team, and one of a number of "black" NHL players, current and past. While dominated by white Canadians, and now more white Americans and Europeans, the NHL has a surprising and increasing number of players whose origins are Middle Eastern, as well as Asian, and Latino.

Jarome Iginla [Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla], centre, a young hockey prospect at the NHL draft held in Edmonton in July [1996], is shown here with father Elvis [Nigerian, changed his name from Adekunle, a lawyer] and mother Tuyla [American, raised Jarome in Edmonton, Canada, from age 1 after divorce] on December 20, 2005. Photograph by: Judith Paquin, Calgary Herald.  More there of his career, in pictures.

Among the non-traditional winter sports countries participating were (Africa) Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa;  (Americas) Argentina, Bermuda, Brazil, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Jamaica, Mexico, the Virgin Islands; (Asia) Cyprus, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey; (Oceania) Australia, New Zealand. Arabs competed for Algeria, Lebanon and Morocco, mainly in skiing; and, may have been part of the other national teams, for countries where they are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation immigrants.

Translating Inspiration to Action

In some cases, as in the Bermudan one, individuals have been so determined to represent their country in the winter Olympics that they have created, often with their parents, sports federations comprised of the parents as executives and the individual as the sole athlete. However, this is a beginning of formalizing a sport for high level competition, in any country, and in some it is more a question of getting recognition and training opportunities for a reasonably sizeable group of practitioners.

Equally challenging might be to go from couch potato Olympics fan to active participation in a sport, or from one sport to a wholly new one, unrelated to one's prior experience. The benefits however are immense, including improved health and fitness, improved mood (endorphins), more social life (through clubs and competitions), and of course last, but not least, better s*x (which studies show improves with better fitness levels, more positive mood, and better body image).  A new sport can challenge one's adaptability, new learning skills, new muscle memories, and put a spark into stale exercise and sport routines. It can broaden one's horizons and introduce one to new social groups.

The Closing Ceremony

Just before we all jump up from the computer to try a new sport, or resume an old one, the pictures from the Closing Ceremony are a fitting way to close this post.

FIXED: Rather than gloss over it, Vancouver officials make a joke out of the malfunctioning Olympic cauldron [causing a 2 minute delay in the Opening Ceremony] at the closing ceremony at the BC Place Stadium (Getty Images)

FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS: And the Olympic cauldron, which failed to properly work during the opening ceremony, is well and truly on fire at the closing ceremony (Getty Images)

Closing Ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at BC Place on February 28, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

TRADITION: The Mounties march in the raise the Canadian flag at the start of the closing ceremony in Vancouver (Getty Images)

SNEAK PREVIEW: Sochi organisers are given eight-and-a-half minutes to give the world a sneak preview of the 2014 Winter Olympics (Getty Images)

Eye-catching (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) More colorful sights at the closing ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on Sunday night at BC Place.

Sochi's piece de resistance was their giant zorbs, rolling around the BC Place at the Vancouver 2010 clsoing ceremony (Getty Images)

RCMP on the case (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) Inflatable figures of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers are guided by performers dressed as Mounties, providing a singularly Canadian image to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony Sunday night.

ORGANISED CHAOS: A tongue in cheek part of the closing ceremony were all things Canadian dominate proceedings at the BC Place in Vancouver (Getty Images)

Pageantry in Vancouver (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) A parade of performers and figures at the closing ceremony Sunday night evokes the Canadian experience.

A crowded arena (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) Performers portraying French Canadian voyageurs and dancing maple leaves join outsized replicas of beavers at the closing ceremony at BC Place.

STEREOTYPES: More self-deprecation from Vancouver 2010 organisers as giant Mounties and ice hockey players - the two most authentic Canadians - take pride of place in the BC Place Stadium (Getty Images)

ONE OF THEIR OWN: Michael J Fox, perhaps best known for his starring role in the Back to the Future Trilogy, insists he is still as Canadian as they come despite spending much of his life in the USA (Getty Images)

Canadian crooner (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) Singer Michael Buble commands the spotlight at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony Sunday night. [The strutting one in the spotlight is Coolred, trying to get the attention of her beloved Bublé]

Entertainers dressed as Mounties perform during the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics at BC Place in Vancouver on February 28, 2010. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performer (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / February 28, 2010) Neil Young performs at the base of the Olympic flame at BC Place during Sunday night's closing ceremony in Vancouver.

FITTING: Canada's own Neil Young brings an end to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, performing Long May You Run as the final embers die out on the Olympic flame (Getty Images)

SO LONG: The Olympic flame is on its last legs as the curtain is all but down on the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver (Getty Images)

2014, in Sochi, Russia!

Fireworks explode over BC Place Stadium at the end of the closing ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 28, 2010. (REUTERS/Chris Helgren)

What are your best memories of these Olympics?
What controversies  do you feel strongly about? What is your opinion?
How much diversity were you aware of in these Games, or sports?
What importance if any does diversity in sports hold?
Which winter sports do you already practice? Which would you like to take up?
How much exposure does holding the Olympics give to a country, and to its culture?
Have you ever felt inspired to travel to a country because of  its Olympic exposure? Which one(s)? Did you?
What did you learn about Canada over the course of these Games? Has your impression of the country changed at all? How?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?


Add said...

GOLD baby GOLD! ;)

Qusay said...

If there is one thing I love to watch during the olympics, it would be the ceremonies. However, I missed these and I thank you for the wonderful collection of pictures, and of course... mabrook on the win :)

Susanne said...

Congrats to Canada for owning the (gold) podium. Did I say I almost have "O Canada" memorized now? :) Some of my favorite memories of these Games involved Canadians including the guy who won Canada's very first gold. It was sweet seeing him with his older brother who has cerebral palsy. Also the young lady who lost her mother... what a touching story that was for all of us here.

As for the hockey game, at least it wasn't a shut out. In fact it was quite exciting from what I hear. I didn't watch much of it, but did turn on the TV 3 or 4 times to catch glimpses of it. I did watch all of NBC's coverage of the closing ceremonies and highlights from 7 to 10:30 PM though. Their coverage of the funeral of the luger that died and showing his village say goodbye to him was incredibly touching and it made me cry to think of someone so young dead and his family grieving. :(

Russian leaders are scary sometimes. To their own people, too. :-/

My name nerd friend predicted many baby Sidneys in Canada within the next year. Or if Canadians do the last-name-first-name thing like many do here, we may hear a lot of Crosbys there, eh? :)

I don't care for brother sister duos in ice skating. It's just too intimate (touching places; staring into each others eyes) for siblings.

I loved the opening ceremonies and seeing Iran and Israel (separated by Ireland) march in.

Re: the the malfunctioning Olympic cauldron and the comedy in the closing ceremonies surrounding that: The NBC commentators said that Canadians were good about laughing at themselves

I didn't know quite what to make of all the blow-up things. The giant beavers were funny!

LOL @ your caption including Coolred! :-)

Those are my thoughts of the Games.

Souma said...

Nothing comes close to how sexy a sharp photograph is. The photographer in me just had to put that out there; and Abdullah Mohiuddin would agree.

Now, that aside, I never understood sports. I'd love to provide useful commentary, but I cant seem to wrap my head around sports.

Chiara said...

Add--YES!!! Did you hear me when I turned toward Saudi Arabia and screamed YES!!! LOL :)

Qusay--you are welcome, and thank you for the mabrook. Also, I am glad to see that you appreciate the ceremonies, since an evil cousin who shall remain nameless once ridiculed me for doing so. Hah!

Susan--thank you for your congratulations and your delightful comment. It is so true that Alex Bilodeau's words about being inspired by his brother's struggles were very touching, and was Joannie Rochette's personal bests and bronze medal right after her mother's sudden death.

True about the hockey game. The Americans played extremely well and right to the end with the tying goal coming with <25 seconds to play. I was rather miffed at Parise or would have preferred he had played for Canada (born and raised Montreal) instead of using his dual citizenship (one parent was American) to play for the US. It made the end of the Games so much more dramatic and a friendly peaceable competition to have it between Canada and the US. I must say the US and the US media have been most gracious throughout from what I can tell. Early on Joe Biden was particularly effusive, when we needed it most, as early in the games there were problems with the weather and the death of the Georgian.

Yes there will be a lot of baby boys and girls named Sidney and probably Crosby for the boys.

I didn't realize that Iran were in the Games, or I didn't retain it. More the reason to watch the ceremonies. Another being the comedy routines, and the great singers I missed. I did catch the Russian ballerinas though--very impressive even if their government hasn't been.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts of the games.

Souma--thanks for your comment. It reminds me that there is often athleticism needed for great photography, and that sports photographers have special skills, including practicing certain sports well enough to do certain types of photography of them.

Hopefully Abdullah will comment here as well, especially since a lot of his photography involves major league hiking and backpacking.

Other types of photography are wonderful as well, and I consider it one of the arts, or maybe one of the arty sports in some instances. Thanks again.

Chiara said...

Susanne--Susanne!!! not Susan ...Sorry, eh?!!!

Chiara said...

Susanne--I just remembered, I agree that there is something uncomfortable about watching ice dance or pairs skating partners who are brother and sister. It is hard to suspend the undertone of incest in what are usually highly romantic routines in both aspects of the sport, even while knowing they are acting a role.

I would imagine all the holding on in various places is very platonic, given the nature of the training, the repetitions, the performances, and their relationship. But then I have no brothers and have never been an Olympian. LOL :)

coolred38 said...

If I had a body like that spotlighted girl...Micheal wouldnt have a chance...if he played hard to get Id simply run him down and keep him locked up Misery style. ha ha!!!!

I agree that brothers and sisters need to keep a certain buffer between them...and his hand on her crotch isnt exactly a buffer now is it.

Chiara said...

Coolred--thank you for your comment. I trust that poor Michael would be done for.

I believe the grab is upper thigh but I take your point. I know from other experiences that such things are so rehearsed and codified that there is little to it but acting, and probably especially so between brother and sister, but is always sits in the back of ones mind when watching such partners enacting romantic scenes.

It is easier to maintain the fantasy with other partners even if there is no romance there either.

Thanks again for the comment, and I hope Michael survives his concert in Salt Lake City. :) :P


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