Maybe we’ll all get medals

Who knew awarding the winter Olympics to a summer resort town would result in problems?

So thought the International Olympic Committee, apparently, when it awarded this year’s Games to Russia eight years ago. I’m sure no rubles exchanged hands over this deal, which resulted in Sochi getting picked over Salzburg, Austria. You know, a place that actually has winter.

By now you’ve heard all about them hauling in snow, exterminating packs of wild dogs stalking the grounds and finishing hotels at the last minute. The gall of these journalists, expecting their rooms to have doors. And potable water. And light bulbs. Duh, how did you expect Russia would afford all these venues? They clearly gave all their money to the IOC’s site selection committee.

We must keep in mind that the reason we move the Olympics around the globe is that it gives us an opportunity to learn about the host country’s culture. For example, we’ve learned from Sochi’s accommodations that Russians think it’s OK to build toilets side-by-side, with no divider in between. Apparently they embrace the buddy system.

What we’ve also learned is that there are a lot of zany activities passing for Olympic sports. At this rate, we’ll all own medals. The International Olympic Committee deals more hardware than Ace. If only it offered door handles.

If you’ve watched any of the coverage, you’ve seen a lot of niche pastimes have become Olympic events. The next thing you know, the world pinochle champion will be heading to the medal stand.

Check out what qualifies as an Olympic sport:

•         The biathlon, a disturbing combination of skiing and gunplay. Honestly, who other than James Bond ever needs to shoot a rifle while skiing?

•         Curling. This stone-tossing, ice-sweeping pastime is best described as a cross between shuffleboard and housekeeping.

•         Snowboarding, an event that somehow managed to rise from X Games obscurity to Olympic prominence. I know the kids love it, but let’s lay off the half pipe when we’re choosing Olympic events, OK?

Just when you think every pastime has become an Olympic event, it turns out the IOC actually does draw the line somewhere. There are several sports that are recognized by the IOC, but not contested at the Olympics.

These include the tug of war, orienteering and bridge. After it was allowed as a demonstration sport in 2002, bridge was dropped. Players around the world rebelled against this perceived injustice as only bridge players can: By sitting silently for hours and thinking really hard.

All of these activities require skill, of course. But so does writing a weekly humor column for an audience of up to nine people, and you don’t see me whining about not getting a medal.

Some of the events require athleticism and endurance. But so does navigating the grocery store with small children in tow, and that’s not an Olympic event. If anyone deserves a medal, it’s a mother trying to grab a gallon of milk and a tub of butter as one kid begs for Pringles, another darts into the liquor aisle and the baby removes his diaper.

Perhaps the image of that struggle will help the athletes and media in Sochi keep their problems in perspective. Perhaps the curling team could put its sweeping efforts to good use and help that mother clean her house.

And everyone can stop whining about the side-by-side toilets: Nobody with children under 5 gets to use the toilet in solitude. “Hey, Mom. Hey Moo-oooom! Can you get me some Pringles?”

Let that lesson be one more taught to us by Sochi. We’ve learned so much.

First, that eight years isn’t enough time to prepare an Olympic venue.

Second, that the shooting of rampaging dogs is not popular around the world, and should not be combined with the biathlon to form some new, twisted Olympic event.

And finally, that cities with subtropical climates shouldn’t host the winter Games. Fifty-degree temperatures aren’t ideal for winter sports. Unless, of course, you’re vying for the world pinochle championship.

Follow columnist Ben Bromley on Twitter at ben_bromley. You can also reach him at BBromley@capitalnewspapers.com. A former Lillie Suburban Newspapers editor, he now writes for the Baraboo News Republic.

 

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