Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The XXII Winter Olympiad


I know it might come as a big surprise to all of you, but I'm a huge geek about the Olympics. Is there any better way to chastise yourself for being a lazy slob than by watching insanely good-looking and fit people compete for medals in insanely difficult sports? WHILE YOU SIT ON THE COUCH AND SHOVE PIZZA INTO YOUR FACE? No. No, there is not. My post will be mostly photos since I'm sick right now and it's easier for me to click my mouse and upload photos and write snarky captions than it is for me to post a bunch of text. So, if you hate clipart, this is your warning to get out now. 

Curse that Yulia Lipnitskaya! Curse her! 

I can't get enough of that. 

The XXII Winter Olympiad is taking place in Сочи, Россия. If you aren't old still butthurt about Sputnik, I invite you to tune in. 
Sputnik is kicking your ass at figure skating, too.

First, let's talk about the opening ceremony. Aside from the slight mishap of the now-infamous Snowflake Malfunction aka Snowflake Gate aka Snowflake Meltdown, I enjoyed the opening ceremony.  I really liked the War and Peace ballet, but I am a dance geek and I took several years of dance so I loved it. IT'S THE FREAKING BOLSHOI, PEOPLE. And look, you've been saved actually having to slog through War and Peace. And what would  you rather see in dance form? Tolstoy or the Book of Mormon? I thought so.

Because shit never goes wrong in live productions.

And I'm sorry, America. You're not allowed to stage a ballet production of Natasha's ball. You'd turn everyone into zombies. 

You know you would.

The trip through Russian history was really creatively staged, although my one quibble was that I don't think Peter the Great was ever that nattily dressed. From what I understand, dude had sartorial issues. I wasn't totally in love with the jellyfish Swan Lake costumes, but it was a creative way to light up the dancers in a way that allowed them to move. 

This is what we did to Swan Lake, you guyz. 

At least Russia didn't subject the world to square-dancing Mormons. 

Seriously, America. Seriously. 

I also enjoyed the avant-garde-cum-Bauhaus Soviet set pieces.

Some people on the internet felt like the ceremony glossed over and romanticized a touchy part of Russia's history. Good thing Americans would never do that.

Like ever. 

And anyway we're used to much higher quality programming.

My favorite part of the opening ceremony was the Cyrillic alphabet opening. It was all so lovely and classy. Хорошо.

Bouncy castle FTW. 

If you couldn't find 'Murika in the Parade of Nations, or were confused about why we came in after Zimbabwe, I can offer you some handy and non-condescending (I promise) assistance. 

The Cyrillic alphabet consists of 33 letters. There used to be more, but Lenin got rid of them. The old style letters are still used by the Russian Orthodox church, much like how the Roman Catholic church still uses Latin. Абвгдеёжзийклмнопрстуфхцчшщъыьэюя. The United States is Соединённые Штаты Америки. So, as you can see, C = S and it falls right about in the middle of the alphabet there, after Zimbabwe (Зимбабве). 


On to the events. As you may be aware, the Russians won the team figure skating event, which was held for the first time ever. Canada earned silver and the U.S. of A. earned bronze, thanks to an awesome short dance by Meryl Davis and Charlie White (who are from MICHIGAN) and solid performances by Jason Brown for the men and Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner for the ladies. But there was no catching the Russians.

A Russian pairs' team won gold every year between 1964 and 2010, the only year they lost. pressure.


This is an event I haven't really paid much attention to in the past, but is very interesting for the modern Nordic elf: the biathlon. The biathlon is basically Lord of the Rings but on skis. 

Quick, Legolas! Frodo needs your help getting to Hot Cocoa Mountain!

The biathlon consists of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. I feel like this is something the Viking gods inventing after having too much grog at a festival during the Vimblewinter. Seriously, isn't shooting a rifle while skiing something you do when you're very drunk? Anyway, it's awesome and fascinating.

We will settle this dispute on the track of our forefathers at the biathlon! To Sochi!

Short Track

Despite my hatred for Apollo Ohno, his greasy hair, and his soul patch, I have always liked short track. One athlete to watch from the U.S. is J.R. Celski, who is from the Seattle area. One Russian athlete who has caught my attention due to his really sad and kind of puzzling story is Viktor Ahn. Ahn is originally from South Korea, but is skating for Russia after leaving the Korean short track federation. Ahn's won a bronze for Russia, but Sang Hwa Lee of Korea has won a gold medal in the ladies' speedskating. This is really an event to watch the Koreans, in both the ladies' and men's divisions. 

Have you been sneaking into the ENCOM program?



Figure Skating

I invite everyone to tune in the figure skating competition. The U.S. is not -- I repeat -- NOT going to dominate the FS events, but if you are a fan of the sport, you will see some really great skating from athletes from all over the world. Plus, come on. You gotta watch Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski commentate. You just gotta.

Tara: What do you think about you and I coming back as a pairs team?
Johnny: I enjoy being thrown.

From what I saw from the team event, the U.S. doesn't have much of a shot at a gold medal in anything but ice dancing, but Gracie Gold might pull out a silver or bronze in the ladies' competition. It really all depends on what happens the night of competition. We haven't seen the young Polina Edmunds skate on the Olympic ice yet, but she did well at U.S. Nationals and placed third over all. I'm expecting Ashley Wagner to finish in fourth or fifth place. Jason Brown MIGHT MIGHT place high in the men's competition. He's very artistically expressive and an entertaining skater to watch, but he doesn't have a quad and the men's field is so strong right now. But you gotta gotta gotta see his Riverdance free skate. Yevgeny Plushenko is back to attempt another gold medal at the age of 31, and based on his performance in the team event, there's no reason why he can't win. Plus he's hilarious.  However, I am sad that Maxim Kovtun wasn't appointed to the Russian Olympic team. He's an awesome skater and totes adorbz.  I don't think either of the U.S. men will medal, but they are very fine skaters. Look for Patrick Chan (CAN) and Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) to round out the medals in the men's singles.

River this dance, bigez.

The pairs' team of Castelli and Shnapir skated solid short and free programs in the team event, and while I don't think they can beat the Russian or German teams, they are a good young team with a great future. The pairs short dance was held Tuesday, with the Russian team of Volsozhar and Trankov easily ranking first with a short dance that screams Anna Karenina to me. They and the German team of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are favorites to win the gold.

Yeah, I can totally fix the sink when I'm done here. Two seconds.

For ice dancing, the big rivalry is between Canadians Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue and Americans Davis and White. *Ahem* And this is painful. Go...Blue. There, I said it. 

If you drop me, I swear. I bloody swear.

The teams themselves train together in the Ann Arbor area, but they are the two top ice dancing teams in the world right now. There was a silly rumor on the internet from a French newspaper, claiming that a Russian insider told the paper that the Russians and the Americans were conspiring to help the Russians win the team event so the Americans could win the ice dancing. 

The Russian skaters don't need help winning shit. Neither do Davis and White. Also, keep an eye on little Yulia Lipnitskaya. I've been watching Miss Thing this season, and her performances of her short and free skate at the team competition were the best I've seen her perform both routines. Her Schindler's List free skate was breathtaking during the team competition. Anything can happen in competition, so there may very well be a Russian upset against the heavily favorite Yu Na Kim (KOR). I heard a statistic the other day that I could not believe until I looked it up on Wikipedia and Wikipedia does not lie: No Russian woman has ever won a gold medal in ladies' singles. Ever. Will Yulia be the first? The gold is kinda hers to lose right now.

Obviously, there are many events I haven't mentioned here. I'm also a big fan of the luge (LUUUUGGEE), bobsled, speedskating, super G, super combined, Alpine skiing and ski jumping. They're even letting the LADIEZ participate in the ski jumping event in the Olympics now, despite the known risk to their uteri (which is... none). 

If you want to watch a lot of the Olympics and not just highlights, I'd recommend that you watch online on Or if you have cable, head over to NBC Sports Network. You can watch regular old NBC, but they are only showing highlights and focusing on American athletes. Plus Matt Lauer is hosting for Bob Costas for a few days. So that should at least up your snark-o-meter. 

The problems that people had upon arriving seem to have been addressed, and barring a figure skating scandal a la 2002, this promises to be a successful Olympics. 


Since the Olympics are open to almost every country, that means every country that participates gets a chance to host. How else can people interact with people from other parts of the world, and maybe change minds or attitudes (and it goes both ways) if everyone just stays home? Personally, I'd like to be able to travel abroad without having to tell people I'm from Canada, so if the U.S. could be a little less judgey and bomby and a little more leading by example, it would be appreciated, I think, by everyone. Every country that gets the Olympics also gets the ParaOlympics, and by having them in Russia, this may bring some attention to the fact that disabled Russians are in desperate need of policy change from their government. I'm an incurable optimist, so you never know. Most of the Russians cheering at these events are proud of their athletes and they should be. No country is perfect. Except maybe Canada.

Eh. Maybe not.

What the Olympics are all about.

Also, I want these hoodies:

Next Olympics in 2018 is in Pyonchang, South Korea. Prepare your horse dance, my friends. You will be judged on technical points and grade of execution.


Maggie Cats said...

Wow, awesome post! I have been a very casual Olympics viewer this time around, but agree with everything you said.

That was easy.

Arsenic Pie said...

Those USA team Cosby sweaters are hidz. I'm sorry Ralph Lauren, but no, no. Just because you're not using a sweatshop in China this time around that doesn't mean you can make ugly Team USA sweaters.

Clovis said...

Dude. I have a whole theory about Yulia Lipnitskaya: I swear, she is a robot built by Putin to win the gold as part of a James Bond-style international scheme. It all makes sense:

What happens is Yulia activates her skating algorithms to secure a flawless if emotionally void performance on the ice. You can practically see her inner monologue, "ACTIVATE PROTOCOL: SKATING."

The thing is, really Yulia is going to be the catalyst for a nuclear launch code whereby that big Olympic torch will be revealed to be a missile that's aimed directly at the United States. Yulia must perform perfect sequences in order to start the biomechanical processes in her robotic body while trying to pass as an actual human. (Inner Monologue: "ACTIVATE PROTOCOL: WAVE AND SMILE.") Who can stop her now? Only American's hero: Olympic skater Gracie Gold.

It's a prefect set-up, Gracie (who is CLEARLY a CIA agent in disguise tasked with infiltrating the US team to take down Putin's secret robot ice skating weapon) must figure out how to stop Yulia before it's too late. There will be much bloodshed and frantic running on the night of the closing ceremonies when YuliaBot ascends the Olympic torch to launch the missile and Gracie Gold has to skate up it and fight her on the top. It will end when a battered, but determined Gracie Gold manages to throw YuliaBot into the fire and valiantly pull herself out of the nuclear inferno below as YuliaBot plunges to her destruction. (Inner Monolgue: "ACTIVE PROTOCOL: SELF DESTRUCT DUE TO FAILURE")

Arsenic Pie said...

This is some really elaborate Cold War-era fan fiction, dude.

Arsenic Pie said...

This is some really elaborate Cold War-era fan fiction, dude.

Arsenic Pie said...

But where does Johnny Weir fit into this equation? Clearly his incisive commentary and sparkly jackets are only a ruse...