This past Friday, the world shifted its gaze to Sochi, Russia, where, in snow that looks even crustier than our own, elite winter athletes have gathered from across the globe to see how long it takes Vladimir Putin to appear shirtless in public.
To some, the Winter Olympics are an opportunity for nations to unite in peace and corporate sponsorship; to others, they represent global inequality and needless grandiosity. One thing everyone can agree on: the 2014 Sochi Games are a great excuse to spend two straight weeks glued to the TV, firmly convinced you’re doing something worthwhile.
And, because swimming is a summer event, you’re mercifully spared all your wife’s commentary about Michael Phelps’ body.
On the flipside, the Winter Olympics are ground zero for skin-tight spandex bodysuits.
The Sochi Games feature 98 events in 15 disciplines. Personally, I’m partial to biathlon, an event that combines cross-country skiing and rifle-shooting. Speaking, myself, as an amateur cross-country skier who takes a fair amount of guff for it, the rifle-shooting really toughens it up a lot. It’d be like combining synchronized swimming and knife-throwing.
Of course, I also enjoy the Alpine events — specifically, Super G, which happens to be the name of my crime-fighting alter ego — as well as the “Extreme” winter sports. And who doesn’t love ice dancing?
Also, I’m a total fan of the Sliding Center events — bobsleigh, luge and skeleton. I mean, not enough to follow them in the intervening three years and 11 months the Olympics aren’t happening; not even enough to remember the difference between them. But for these two weeks, I’m a “sleigh’r,” a “luge-fiend,” a “skeletonhead.” I kind of want to build my own sliding center at home, you know, hose down my driveway, break out some plastic cafeteria trays, slip into my skin-tight spandex bodysuit…
The Sochi Games will take place in two different locations, Sochi Olympic Park (the Coastal Cluster) and Krasnaya Polyana (the Mountain Cluster). Building these two clusters entailed a massive upgrade of the region’s utility, transportation and telecommunications infrastructure, in which Russia constructed several hulking hotel complexes, a manmade island and 15 separate sports venues including arenas, a stadium and the Ice Cube Curling Center — named after rapper Ice Cube, a noted curling fan.
Originally budgeted at $12 billion, economists project a price tag in excess of $50 billion, more than the previous 21 Winter Olympics added together. To further put that number in perspective, these Winter Olympics will cost more than the combined GDPs of Dominica, Malta, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga and Zimbabwe, six of the seven countries making their debuts this year (note: it also exceeds the GDP of the seventh, Paraguay, by $13 billion). Oh, well. That’s what you get for putting Fabergé eggs and beluga caviar in all the athletes’ gift bags.
Whatever the cost, it’ll be worth it. Hosting the Winter Olympics is sure to put Sochi on the map — just look what it’s done for cities like Alberville, Nagano and Lillehammer.
Luckily, a full two weeks exist before the whole thing wraps up and we can focus our attention back where it belongs: the Oscars. But as you watch the remainder of the 2014 Winter Olympics unfold, consider these ponderables:
What’s that smudge under Apollo Anton Ohno’s chin? Is that supposed to be a “soul patch,” because it’s much more akin to my three-year-old son’s “brownie mouth.”
Is it just me, or is Shaun White a dead-ringer for Carrot Top? Ever notice how you never see the two of them in the same room together? Although, I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with Carrot Top, either.
Did you know Bob Costas went to my high school? Rosie O’Donnell, too. I take solace knowing I’m not the most annoying alumnus to graduate Commack High.
At long last, the Winter Olympics features women’s ski jumping. If a woman wants to catapult herself off a 30-storey frozen waterslide — and not even get paid for it — who’s to say she can’t? Not even Putin would deny her that right.
The 2018 Winter Games will be held in Seoul, South Korea and the host of the 2022 Winter Games will be selected among Krakow, Poland; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Lviv, Ukraine; Oslo, Norway and Beijing, China. But the bidding’s open for 2026, and apparently Anchorage has formed an exploratory committee to consider it.
Are we going to be shown up, here, Juneau?! Weren’t we just voted second-best ski town in the United States? Let’s mount our own bid, people — Juneau Winter Games 2026.
Now that would be a real Mountain Cluster.
Shameless plug (for a good cause): If you’re looking for a break from the Olympics, this Valentine’s Day get a babysitter, designate a driver and raise a glass for early childhood education as Juneau Montessori School hosts its first-ever Valentine’s Day Beer and Wine Tasting, Friday, Feb. 14, 5-8 pm at the Hangar Ballroom. Tickets are $35 each and include all the wine and craft beer you can taste (taste responsibly!), plus hot and cold appetizers and a live auction MC’d by a certain Empire columnist. Proceeds benefit JMS, a non-profit pre-school and kindergarten open to all students following a need-blind application process. Tickets are available at Hearthside Books, the door, from JMS parents (like me) or by calling JMS at 364-3535.