Before these games get too far underway, I would like to set the record straight. I keep hearing people who insist that the Winter Olympics are the equal of the Summer Olympics, and this is, quite frankly, completely untrue.
Here are just a few reasons, although they are by no means scientific or comprehensive.
“Ah,” I hear you say, “but what does it matter that the Winter Games are not as fun to watch? The Olympics, as a whole, are an exercise in pointless jingoism and spurious national camaraderie, and the actual subject of the competition is really of little significance. If there were a contest to see which nation’s sons and daughters could make paint dry or reload a Web page most rapidly, we would still have to stand on the sidelines and chant, ‘USA! USA!’ What is so wrong with curling, anyhow?” And, well, if that’s the way you feel, that’s the way you feel. I think, though, that when the sport in question comes precariously close to the raw, madcap excitement of watching people try to cross a recently washed floor, you are entitled to ask whether it’s really worth rounding up all of Sochi’s poor wild dogs.
10) Founders’ intent. There was no slalom in Ancient Greece. We got rid of wrestling and the pankration, a brutal and exciting sport whose only rules were that you could not bite or gouge or out your opponent’s eyes and that if you killed him, he won by default, and we still have to watch curling? Are we kidding us?
Seriously, legend has it that the fighter Damoxenos pulled the entrails of his opponent Cruegas out with his fingers. It’s no ice dancing, is what I’m getting at.
9) The Winter Games just doesn’t draw the same crowd. Just for numbers’ sake, since its addition to the Olympic roster in 1924 (figure skating as an individual event made an appearance before that), the Winter Olympics has never managed to attract participants from more than 82 countries at a time. Contrast this to the Summer Olympics, where 204 National Olympic Committees were present in 2012. If the goal of the Olympics is to be a world-wide event, then maybe don’t restrict it to activities you need complicated equipment and very specific weather conditions to be any good at.
8) Almost every Winter Olympic event can be summarized as follows: Someone is on a plane of snow or ice (it can be flat, or inclined) and that person falls down or does not fall down. There are different ways of falling down or not falling down. The speed varies. The terrain varies. Sometimes there is music playing in the background. But if you see someone watching the Olympics and you ask, “Oh no, did the person on the snow or ice fall down?” you will blend right in to the conversation 100 percent of the time. This is wrong.
7) The Olympics is supposed to be a world Games, not a Snow-World Games. If we wanted to watch people in layers struggling through the snow and falling over, we would visit any of the areas afflicted by the Polar Vortex. Enough spreading the wealth around. I know that people from icy, frigid climes want to be good at something, too. But we don’t have to humor them. They already control large sections of the world economy.
6) Even the weakest summer sports are more interesting than some of the strongest winter sports. Synchronized swimming goes neck-and-neck with ice dancing. Beach volleyball? Who can even contend with beach volleyball? Slalom? Slopestyle? Bob Costas said of the latter that “I think the president of the IOC should be Johnny Knoxville. Because basically this stuff is just Jackass stuff they invented and called an Olympic sport.”
This being said, I love ice dancing and figure skating. So I can say, with love, that these should not be a full 2/21 of the competitive events, even if they do offer all the fun of gymnastics without any of the guilt at the fact that all the participants are twelve.
5) The barrier to entry is lower. You don’t have to pay the equivalent of visiting an amusement park every time you go jogging. In fact, you don’t need any fancy equipment at all. Contrast this to skiing, where you cannot even wear cotton on the slopes or people yell at you.
4) You can’t tell if the participants are attractive or not because everyone is wearing layers that make them look like either those dancing windsocks outside used car dealerships or Power Rangers. “That’s good, because I do not want to be distracted from the athleticism by lustful imaginings” was seldom said by anyone.
3) In recent memory, the Opening Ceremonies at the Summer Games have been infinitely weirder. What was going on in Beijing? What was going on in London?
2) Star caliber. The Summer Games gave us Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, and the list goes on. The Winter Games gave us Apolo Anton Ohno, whose last name is literally “Oh no!” because his forefathers must have known he was going to try to bring the soul patch back.