Possibly, it won’t get better than this.
Maybe it’s all downhill from here. And as the downhill events unfold, the Austrians and Norwegians will win everything.
At this point, on the first weekend of these Winter Olympics, we might have peaked. But peaked perfectly. In the early going, we are the champions of cute. Worldwide, even galactic champions of cute. We’re not warriors, we’re adorable.
Well, that’s my tentative conclusion after watching hours of TV coverage from Sochi. In a single day we won Gold, Silver and Bronze. Two comely sisters won the Gold and Silver. And held hands. Who can beat that for adorable? Nobody. And a Bronze went to snowboarder Mark McMorris, a kid from Regina who did it with a broken rib and then kinda went, “Phew! Did it. No biggie.” Not a hint of ego among the lot of them.
Next thing, along comes that imp Kevin Reynolds. All mop-top hair and ragamuffin grin. Guarantees a Silver for Canada in the way-too-complicated figure-skating team competition. Reynolds, of course, famously can’t find boots to fit his wee feet. Yes, wee feet. We have athletes so adorable we fret about their wee feet. In the annals of adorableness, there has never been such a thing.
Here’s a thing about watching the Winter Olympics on TV – you have to listen to a lot of repetitive prattle before anything scintillating happens. And then when it does happen, nobody in the TV commentary racket says the right thing. If two days of CBC TV’s Sochi coverage is any guide, originality of expression is frowned upon. Cliché is king.
Canada had the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters in the running for medals in the women’s moguls. On TV, Jennifer Heil, a fine former athlete, and Mitch Peacock did the commentary. It went on and on through three rounds. Heil used the term “big 360” so many times it was burned into viewers’ brains. Peacock was the stats man, informing us that somebody we’d never heard of had been eight at the games in Turin. Or something. He also used the odious word, “podiumed.”
Then the two Dufour-Lapointe sisters came first and second. More prattle in the commentary. What they needed to say, and what everyone watching was thinking, was “We’re the cutest! We’re the cutest!” The best somebody on TV came up with, I can’t remember whom, was to describe Justine Dufour-Lapointe’s grin as “a gold-medal smile.” Yep, TV is adept at capturing images of cuteness. Not so good at describing it.
Nobody is going to say this on TV, but you could finish the Olympics now and a lot of Canadians would be happy. We are champs of adorableness.
In Vancouver four years ago we had swagger. We peacocked. We did, after all, own the place, even if we didn’t entirely own the podium. Parties on the street. A fabulous vibe. You could fee it off the TV screen. This is us. We play hard, party hard. Check. It. Out.
In the matter of Sochi, it’s like we sent our sweet youths out into a cold, brutal world, far, far from home.
There’s hardly anybody there. The figure-skating venue looks be about 30-per-cent full, on TV. There are reliable rumours of the fix being in for the figure skating. (The French sports daily L’Equipe, by the way, is not some tabloid rag. It’s a venerable publication.) The impression you get from TV is that Sochi is a miserable place where, indeed, nefarious plots are hatched. They hunt down stray dogs and eliminate them. They subject the media to mind games involving half-built hotels, dubious water supply and, if some accounts are to be believed, buses taking the media from events that veer off toward Chechnya, for a malicious laugh.
Soon, it will be the men’s hockey under way. Don Cherry on TV harrumphing about the Russians. Sochi locals will be the object of his acid scorn if seen riding bicycles around the place. We’ll be in warrior-mode again. And we’ll look back on the first weekend as the best, when we were the cutest.
If you’re going to keep watching on TV, be prepared for a dose of nostalgia for this brief time when we didn’t merely win medals, but were the champions of the charming and delightful. At our winsome best. Possibly, it won’t get better than this.
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