I’m embarrassed by how little of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games I watched. I caught an event here and there, most often on the internet after the fact. But in the past I was religious about watching the Games. Beijing was my first “real” games, and I sat in front of the television like my life depended on it; Vancouver got me hooked on speed skating thanks to Olympic hero Apollo Ohno; and London was a 24/7 ordeal with Twitter, Facebook and every other social media outlet buzzing about it around the clock. But Sochi seemed different. I don’t know. Maybe it was because it’s my first Olympics in college, where I don’t have constant access to live TV. Maybe it was because it was the winter games and – let’s be honest – they’re just less popular (the only time I’ve watched ice skating of any kind was in Blades of Glory).
Looking back on Sochi, the first thing that comes to my mind was the buzz about the living conditions in the Olympic Village – especially that popular shot of the two-toilet restrooms and that rumor about the wolf in the hotel. Everybody said that Sochi wasn’t prepared to host the Games, but before the opening ceremonies I gave them the benefit of the doubt. Then, of course, the internet happened, and the most popular news story from the multi-national mega-competition was about some guy busting through a wall to escape the bathroom.
The second thing that comes to mind – bearing in mind that I didn’t get a whole lot of live tube time – is hockey. I love the winter Olympics because they remind me of how much fun it is to watch that sport. In a pattern I feel like I’ve seen before, it was a mixed bag of emotions. The US Men’s victory over Russia was a glimmer of hope and patriotism, and it was the first time during the Games that I heard even a whisper about Sochi on campus (I’m starting to think that UMBC, or at least the parts I frequent, just kind of ignore major sporting events). Then the trifecta of shameful losses hit our shores: an extremely late and surprising loss against Canadian Women, an ego-crippling shutout against the Canadian Men, and finally an embarrassingly steep loss against Finland which lost us a medal. Oh, hockey. Maybe I should finally start watching NHL games…
An event that I didn’t even hear about until a few days ago was a silver medal in Skeleton, the scariest and honestly most badass of Winter Olympic Sports, by American Noelle Pikus-Pace. That was one inspiring celebration to watch. She exploded when she crossed the finish line, jumping halfway to the sky and screaming for joy. She leapt into the stands and stayed with her family for the rest of the competition; later interviews revealed that she was so overloaded with emotion that she wasn’t even aware that she’d launcher herself into the stands until she was there.
Speed skating wasn’t quite the same rush this year as it was in 2010. Ohno has retired, but younger skater J.R. Celski (of whom I’m a huge fan) was still on the ice, and he did well. Not Ohno well, but well. Shani Davis, a hard-hitter at Salt Lake in 2002 and a favorite for gold this year, didn’t even make it to the podium. After his defeat there was a big stink about the skaters’ Under Armor uniforms, saying that they slowed the skaters down. I bet anything that if we’d done well, nobody would be praising Under Armor. I don’t even have words for how irritated about that short-lived media scandal. Read the reports yourself and feel your brain cells die in the process.
Sochi just wasn’t as exciting or as satisfying as Games in the past. We didn’t have a Michael Phelps, Apollo Ohno, or Gabby Douglas. There was no spectacle during the opening or closing ceremonies like the drummers of Beijing or the “interesting” decade-by-decade showcase of London (to be fair, the failure to light the fifth Olympic ring made waves, and the closing ceremonies humorously honored the incident during the silver-shiny-fish act). There’s no reason to say that Sochi was a failure; eighty-eight Olympic Committees came together and continued a great athletic tradition. But looking back at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, all I really want to say is that I’m ready for Rio.
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I obviously have a very limited and biased opinion of what was important, and most of what I just said could be gathered by watching a three-minute highlight reel. What did you guys think of the 2014 Games?