It’s strange, the species of cicada that only appears above ground every seventeen years. Equally strange is human knowledge of winter sports, which is dormant in most brains for four-year stretches and then, almost miraculously, emerges when the Olympic theme music is played. Very few of us have given a conscious thought to halfpipe snowboarding or aerial skiing or ice dancing since the games of 2006, which were held in… oh, heck, where was it? Somewhere in Italy, I think.
But here we go again, as the 2010 Games get underway in Vancouver: Suddenly our expert opinions have resurfaced. We can watch a curling match and detect a slight flaw in the sweeping technique of that team from the Netherlands. We instantly recall that the Nordic Combined event consists of ski jumping and a cross-country race, and that times are adjusted to compensate for the competitors’ staggered starts.
We can tell when a figure skater was just slightly under-rotated on the landing. And when it comes to figure skating, why do those TV announcers feel they need to explain to us the difference between a double salchow and a triple lutz? C’mon, we’ve had that tucked away in our memory banks since Dorothy Hamill (who, of course, invented the “Hamill Camel”)!
We do have a new sport to learn this year; skicross is an Olympic event for the first time. It will probably only take you a few minutes to form strong opinions about it, but just to whet your appetite, it involves skiers in packs of four on a course that has moguls and jumps; collisions are almost inevitable. What I’m saying is, don’t bother mentally computing style points.
Since you’re an expert on most Olympic sports, you don’t need me to tell you that Germany, Canada, and possibly the U.S. will be the top medal winners. Among those not making frequent trips to the victory stand will be Peru and Ghana, but the biggest loser will be NBC, which overbid on the broadcast rights and stands to be in a $200 million hole by the end of the Vancouver Games.
Of course, every athlete who is interviewed on television insists that winning isn’t that important — they say stuff about it being an honor just to participate in something as wonderful as the Olympics. They don’t really mean that; they’re just trying to help NBC feel better about its crushing loss.
All right then, fellow experts, enjoy the Games. Oh, and don’t forget: only two years until Synchronized Swimming in London!