So, from what I hear, this winter has been legendary. (And I bet you’re all sick of hearing me complain about it.) The whole country, it seems, has suffered from the Polar Vortex. And here in Buffalo, we’re told that we’re already approaching record snowfall for the year, and it’s only early February. So we’re all tired of it, and we’re all ready for spring. At least, we’re all ready for spring… in a few weeks. Because right now, it’s THAT TIME, the miraculous time that only comes every four years, when winter is fun again.
Yes, I am talking about the Olympics.
My first memory of being really aware of the Olympics was the 1992 Albertville games. I’m sure I was conscious of the Games before that, but Albertville was the first time I remember getting really into the spirit of the thing. It certainly helped that I was watching the Games while on a ski vacation to Lake Placid, site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics. Olympic fever was everywhere. You couldn’t walk out the door without seeing the Olympic rings. For the week of our vacation, I fell headlong down the Olympics rabbit hole. During the day, I was either skiing Whiteface with my family or ice skating on the Olympic Oval (or on Mirror Lake). And in the evenings, after dinner, we all trooped back to the hotel room to watch the Olympic programming from France.
I was especially enchanted with the figure skating – naturally, being a ten-year-old girl. Team USA had some strong players that year, and I loved Nancy Kerrigan, but for me there was only one figure skater, and that was Kristi Yamaguchi. I waited with bated breath for Kristi to skate her programs, and I still remember the sparkly blue costume she wore during her gold medal skate. And I also remember arguing vehemently against my dad’s contention that figure skating was “an art, not a sport,” and didn’t belong in the Olympics. I like to think I gave a rousing defense of the sport of figure skating.
These days, I’m much more interested in the skiing and snowboarding, and in the men’s ice hockey, than I am in the figure skating events – although I’ll watch any Olympic programming eagerly and enthusiastically (and I was glued to Meryl and Charlie’s ice dancing performance, just like the rest of the country). I love to cheer for Team USA, to critique their Opening Ceremony garb (were we all going to an Ugly Sweater party after the ceremony?) and to follow their stories from childhood to podium. And while I have some great memories of the Summer Games – watching Michael Phelps’ marvelous performance in Beijing, for example, or Misty and Kerri’s three consecutive gold medals in beach volleyball, and of course the little viewing party that hubby and I had with Katie and Jeremiah during the 2012 London Games (we made scones!) – it’s the Winter Games that hold my heart. Someday, someday, hubby and Peanut and I will get to the Games in person. (Hubby and I tried for Vancouver tickets, but were shut out of every event we applied for.) And in the meantime, I’ll spend these few weeks not whining about the snow. Instead, I’ll spend them pulling Peanut around on her little sled while commentating as if she’s a tiny bobsledder, celebrating big events like the Opening Ceremonies with caviar and blinis (hey, it’s Russia!), watching Twitter like a hawk in case Jon Stewart puts out fake spoilers again (my favorite from 2012: “Sailing teams lodge official protest over Greece releasing Kraken. #fakespoiler”) and jumping off the couch and pumping my fists whenever Team USA notches another medal.
I love the Olympics. I love the gathering of nations in the spirit of friendly competition. (It brings back Jessup memories. Holla back, fellow moot court nerds!) I love the five rings, the Olympic flame, the kitschy yet cool opening ceremonies, the athletes’ visibly pumping adrenaline, the flags rising over the medalists as the gold medalist’s national anthem pumps loud and proud… and for a little while, anyway, I love winter. Because without winter, there’d be no Winter Games.
Now… let’s go USA!