Opinions Expressed in "Rants," while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.
This one is going to get some of you fired up, but here goes...
Everything Wrong with the Winter Olympics
So its the Olympics, or more accurately the WINTER Olympics, which in a country that has a 6 month winter, is the IMPORTANT Olympics. Its the sports we love the most, skating, skiing, curling, HOCKEY, etc - ice and snow - that's what Canada is known for.
That is, with the exception of one place in Canada, which curiously happens to be the place where Winter Olympics 2010 is held - VANCOUVER. They don't really get winter in Vancouver, when they get more than 2 cm of snow, they declare a state of emergency. So go figure, this winter Olympics was plagued with weather problems, imported and manufactured snow and ice - lots rain, lots of fog, lots of stress, and lots of money.
It all started with the passing of the Olympic torch. Wait a minute, am I wrong, or are we supposed to pass the torch, rather than just the flame of the torch? Anyway, the torch wasn't passed, just the flame - maybe that's the way its always been.
But what is with the Olympic torch? It doesn't look like a torch! It looks like a giant JOINT!! Something is amiss here - I think someone pulled a funny on us with its design, and is now laughing their ass off at us. It eventually was used to light the Olympic, uh, what is it? geometric object - lets call it the Olympic fortress of solitude - and of course they hydrolics broke on it too - then they put it behind a concentration camp fence so no one could - what, pee on it? - who knows. That, and the lame-o slogan "Eh oh Canada" that never caught on, have been a non-stop source of comedy. I guess we can't expect much more from a country that calls its currency a "loonie."
I used to be a scientist, and when I was we did experiments. The results of these experiments were rarely EXACTLY as predicted - the experiment was a success so long as it fell within a certain MARGIN OF ERROR. That margin of error accounted for factors that cannot be eliminated from the results, as in an IDEAL environment, factors like wind resistence and friction, static electricity, meniscus, parallax and other measurement errors, impurities in the chemical substances involved, gravitational pull of the moon, vibration from the ETS bus stop down the block, etc. These factors could account for sometimes up to 10% skewing of the expected results.
What's my point? Well, in the Olympics, we have sports, like for example, downhill skiing, where the difference between the gold medal winner's time and the 5 place competitor time can be 0.13 seconds. Do you know how long 0.13 seconds is? I think its amazing that they can be that CLOSE to each other in time, considering that they're different people with different masses, different body shapes, different aerodymanic features, etc. For a three minute downhill, that is less than 4 one-hundredths of a percent. How can we say that this difference isn't due to slight changes in the breeze from one run to the next, the temperature of the snow varying slightly as the day goes on changing the coefficient of friction with the skis, or a bird flapping his wings in a nearby tree, rather than the superior ability of the winner over the loser?
Any sport in which the results are determined within tenths or especially hundredths of a second cannot be attributed to the superior athletic ability of the winning competitor, because the differences in time cannot be differentiated from error factors. What does this mean? It means that for a lot of these sports the difference between the winners and the losers comes down to one thing - LUCK! This includes a lot of winter olympic sports, such as downhill skiing, bobsled, skeleton, luge, speed skating, and so on, which are all extremely cool to watch, but LUCK.
If there's an actual RACE, where competitors are racing each other AT THE SAME TIME in the SAME CONDITIONS, even if the winner is determined by a photo finish, then yes, we can call the winner, THE WINNER. Otherwise, its just the toss of the dice - who wants to win, or worse LOSE a gold medal, after training all your life to become an expert in your sport of choice, by the toss of the dice? Not me.
As a scientists, I'm amazed that the top leaders can even be within a second of each other - so if anything, I think they should just give everyone that finishes within 1 second of the leader the gold, and so on - then it would measure ability, not just luck.
I must admit, a sport for which determining the winner is infinitely more objective is also, in my HUMBLE opinion, the most boring sport in the universe: CURLING. Oh I hate curling - with 10 innings/periods/rounds/whatever they call them, with 10 rocks each team per, and SO MUCH TIME TALKING about what they're going to do next - and SO MANY GAMES - I swear there must be 10 TIMES more curling coverage than any other Olympic sport. We've had 24 hour Olympic coverage on three stations here in Canada - MOST of it has been CURLING!!
Is it fun? Sure, for those who like it. Does it require physical skill and complex stategy? Yea, I'll admit that. Is it a sport? I guess - the way BOWLING is a sport - but in the Olympics? I dunno. I'd certainly be hesitant to call a curler an ATHLETE. Glad they don't dress like the speed skaters.
Curiously enough, this lack of objectivity also does NOT include figure skating, at least not anymore. I don't particularly enjoy the sport, but I have to admit, results are much more objective now, particularly than they used to me. Most of us Canadians can still feel the sting of the Salé/Pelletier fiasco in Salt Lake City, when our Canadians got screwed out of their rightfully won gold medal, only to be awarded later through the ensuing scandal.
Now we can see the score cards first hand - what elements count for how many points, and they're judged for how well they complete those elements - and usually we can agree with the judges on these factors. On the other hand however, we still have SUBJECTIVE judging for ARTIST COMPONENTS, choice of music, costume design - what do these have to do with sports or athleticism? It would be like giving Hulk Hogan an Olympic wrestling medal. Is he an athlete? Absolutely. Is WWE a sport? Don't think so.
Nonetheless, as much as I don't like figure skating, and I especially don't like figure skating's stupid little brother, ICE DANCING, I must admit, I was caught off guard, and found myself enjoying the performance of Moir and Virtue winning their Gold medal. They're cute, and they know what their doing. And Joannie Rochette's bronze in women's figure skating was pretty inspirational too, in light of her circumstances - not that I watched, but I did care, and am happy for her achievement.
There's one sport that dominates the Winter Olympics, at least for us Canadians. Maybe that's a bad thing, that one sport gets so much more attention than all the others - that doesn't happen in the summer games. Nonetheless, hockey is it - and fitting that the NHL's best participate in the men's event. I also like the fact that the Canadian women dominate so much - some have said that women's hockey should be eliminated because its not competative enough among the nations (aside from us and the U.S.) - I think those other countries need to get better hockey teams.
In any case, Hockey is our sport, our national past time - we invented it - and part of our national identity involves dominating in it. It also unites us like nothing else can when our teams can bring home the Gold Medal - especially if we can beat the Americans, who are always Goliath to our David in every other way. Awesome if it happens here.
As I write this, that final, all encompassing result is yet to be determined - the Gold Medal game is Sunday afternoon. Go team Canada.
Or is it Eh Oh Canada!
Are we too focused on gold medals? Certainly our neighbors to the south are. Unless you win, you LOSE. When the Olympics were first conceived, the real honor and glory was in COMPETING, not in WINNING.
Still, watching Canada win makes better TV than watching them place 17th.
So cheers to our Canadian Athletes, and the Canadian Curling Team too. You've done us proud, by participating, and by winning a heap of medals too.