Watching this year’s Olympics was pleasure for this old ski instructor of more than 50 years in Minneapolis, Southern California and at Heavenly Resort here. The TV coverage clearly showed the difference between “Sunday” skiers like me, and the Olympians. The bumps footage was exciting and showed just how good today’s Olympians are. They took the bumps at full speed, knees bobbing as if on flat snow.
And the ice skating was near perfection, showing how practice made near perfect. And it was beautiful to watch the grace on ice at its best.
Like all international sporting events, the Winter Olympics have suffered squabbles and dissension. The Winter Olympics has a checkered history, which many may like to know about. Following is a lightly edited version.
The 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, United States, featuring 77 nations and 2,399 athletes and 78 events. I was lucky at Salt Lake because I got to ski part of the downhill course before opening day. It was fun, and I certainly didn’t break any speed records. But it scared the spirit out of me and I decided I was certainly not Olympic material. Incidentally, Salt Lake relaxed its oodles of laws dealing with bottle booze for the games.
Canada became embroiled with Russia in a controversy that involved the judging of the pairs figure skating competition. The Russian pair of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze competed against the Canadian pair of Jamie Salé and David Pelletier for the gold medal.
The Canadians appeared to have skated well enough to win the competition, yet the Russians were awarded the gold. The judging broke along Cold War lines with judges from former Communist countries favoring the Russian pair and judges from Western nations voting for the Canadians. The only exception was the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, who awarded the gold to the Russians. An investigation revealed she had been pressured to give the gold to the Russian pair regardless of how they skated; in return the Russian judge would look favorably on the French entrants in the ice dancing competition, according to sources and posted on Wikipedia. Both teams received gold. Australian Steven Bradbury became the first gold medalist from the southern hemisphere when he won the 1,000 meter short-track speed skating event.
Turin in Italy hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. It was the second time Italy had hosted the Winter Olympic Games. South Korean athletes won 10 medals, including six gold in the short-track speed skating events. Jin Sun-Yu won three gold medals while her teammate, Ahn Hyun-soo, won three gold medals and a bronze. In the women’s cross-country team pursuit Canadian Sara Renner broke one of her poles, and after seeing her dilemma, a Norwegian coach gave her a pole. In doing so, she was able to help her team win a silver medal in the event at the expense of the Norwegian team, who finished fourth.
In 2003, the IOC awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver, thus allowing Canada to host its second Winter Olympics. With a population of more than 2.5 million people, Vancouver is the largest area to ever host a Winter Olympics. More than 2,500 athletes from 82 countries participated in 86 events. The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training run on the day of the opening ceremonies resulted in the Whistler Sliding Centre changing the track layout on safety grounds. Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen won five medals in the six cross-country events on the women’s program.
A Soviet delegation had won gold medals at every Winter Olympics from 1956 to 2006. Russia’s disappointing performance at Vancouver is cited as the reason behind the implementation of a doping scheme alleged to have been in operation at major events such as the 2014 Games at Sochi.
This was the first time Russia hosted a Winter Olympics. More than 2,800 athletes from 88 countries participated in 98 events. The Olympic Village and Olympic Stadium were located on the Black Sea coast. All of the mountain venues were 31 miles away in the alpine region known as Krasnaya Polyana.
With that bit of history, readers may be able to better enjoy what’s still to come.
Great Basin National Park
Most Nevadans don’t realize they live in the Great Basin of the United States. It’s so named because water flows into the area, but not out. For more on this subject, check next week’s column on the Great Basin National Park to the east. Nice place to visit in the spring.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.