Thursday, February 20, 2014

Winter Olympics

I was pretty happy when the Sochi Winter Olympics started. Many of my friends aren't interested but to me, some odd sports every four years (or two depending on how you count) is fun. Every four years I can be interested in curling. Or biathlon, that combination of shooting and cross-country skiing I never could have come up with on my own. I'm not a skier but the old opening of the Wide World of Sports mean I'll always be interested in seeing someone slide down an icy mountain just barely in control. Nostalgia for the miracle on ice is only reason I'm interested in Olympic ice hockey. It's on regularly and I don't really pay attention and now it's even the same competitors as are in the NHL. No hockey doesn't qualify as an "odd sport". Figure skating does but I'm less interested in it than others. There are only so many times I can watch basically the same routine over and over.

And that brings me to my problem with the Winter Olympics. There aren't enough sports. By my count there are basically 9 sports and they have some (perfectly fine) variations. A speed skating sprint is a different thing from a 10k just like Usain Bolt isn't a marathoner. My list is:

  • Figure Skating
  • Speed Skating, Short Track Speed Skating
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross Country Skiiing
  • Ski Jumping
  • Snowboard: slopestyle, halfpipe, cross
  • Luge, Bobsled, Skeleton
  • Curling
  • Hockey

I've come to terms with not really understanding the difference between downhill skiing, slalom, giant slalom and Super G (let alone combined). At least it seems to be various different trails that they ski down. Moguls are different too and while I have friends that like skiing them, I find watching the world's best do it really boring. Adding a small jump at the end doesn't help, particularly compared to the other jumping events.

This year I've found the snowboarding the most interesting. It started with Slopestyle, which I had never seen before and was just amazed at. Halfpipe is similarly amazing and sure, why not have some downhill racing on snowboards too. I like that they make it more interesting in snowboard cross and have several people racing at once. So that was fun, but then I see skiers do the slopestyle and even the halfpipe tracks! A. that seems crazy, B. why do skiers have to do the same thing, they have their own sports. Is cross-country snowboarding coming next? Or snowboard biathlon? Though I do wonder what kinds of tricks Shaun White could do in snowboard jumping with that 125m hill. At least they got rid of ski ballet.

Luge is fine, but after watching men's singles and women's singles and then men's doubles and women's doubles and then skeleton and then bobsled in the various combinations, it's more than enough. There was even a luge relay! It's all the same track! I don't know how many times I can hear an announcer talk about turn 5 or 14.

Speed skating is fine but each gender has five different distances and then there's team pursuit for each. Then add short track speed skating which is more exciting because of crashes (it's seems like ice roller derby) but it's also three distances for each gender and then relays for each. It seems like if they have to build a separate venue for it they want two weeks worth of use out of it.

Biathalon has the same problem, there are 11 biathlon events at the olympics, plus 12 cross-country events which is just biathlon without the guns! Then there are three Nordic Combined events which is cross-country with only those competitors that are also crazy enough to also do ski jumping. Maybe someone else will figure out this odd relationship and add guns to ski jumping.

There's also way too much figure skating. They've added the team competition which seems similar to what they do in gymnastics where the teams go first but then each competitors' scores also count for qualifiers in the individual events. But it's not the same because it's not the same athletes in each of the events. It's different people doing the individuals and pairs and dancing and they even seem to be doing the same routines in the team and individual events. Gymnastics does more (different) events and everyone has to do all the disciplines. I think they get it all done in the first week while figure skating drags on for the whole two weeks.

The wikipedia page says there are 98 events over 15 disciplines in 7 sports. I think they need to find more disciplines not events. At this rate they'll be a curling relay or short track hockey. And no, I don't really know what those new events might be.


Karl said...

Snowshoeing (with various variations) readily comes to mind. Of course you could take just about any sport and move it to ice/snow (snow volleyball?). Another option would be to shift some of the indoor summer sports to the winter. Having many different events per sport isn’t necessarily all that different from the running or swimming at the summer Olympics. I think it just is more apparent since there are less options to cover. The 98/15/7 ratio for sochi is not all the different from the 302/39/26 ratio for London.

Howard said...

Yeah I agree about swimming and track in the summer games, but it works better because all the swimming is in the first week and all the track in the second. I kind of like the idea of moving Gymnastics to winter.

Wikipedia mentions previous winter olympic sports, including dog sledding! Is snow volleyball performed in bikinis like beach volleyball (as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue would suggest)?