Posted by: Brad Nixon | February 9, 2018

My Winter Olympics Preview

With the opening ceremonies completed only a few hours ago, I’ll take a look at some of the new events being contested this year in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

Beach Volleyball

While not new as an Olympic event, the decision to move the beach volleyball competition to the winter games has been met with a certain degree of resistance. The refusal of the American delegation to compete has opened up the field, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the remaining nations deal with the challenge of playing volleyball outdoors on an icy beach dressed in heavy clothing.

There was a great deal of discussion about wearing gloves, types of gloves that might meet approval, etc., with the final decision that the difficulty of judging the fairness of hits precluded their use, despite the extremely cold temperatures expected in South Korea. Ouch!

Skate Jumping

Extending the “X-Games” trend of adding extreme winter competitions like half-pipe and other snowboard pursuits, this event promises to be a real crowd pleaser. There’s some disappointment that in this inaugural year, the skaters will only be sliding down a “small hill,” just under 50 meters. Even so, watching men and women crouched low, on skates, not skis, moving downhill at tremendous speed and then soaring into the air for distance and attempting to land safely on a sheet of ice should be thrilling to the max.

I have high hopes for the future of the event, if, as planned, the skaters will someday be expected to perform a routine to music after landing. Ultimately, the real thrill will come in 2026, with the introduction of Pairs Skate Jumping, sliding downhill side-by-side before jumping, landing and performing their on-ice routines (if they survive).

Figure-Eight Crossover Bobsled and Luge

Commonly but inaccurately referred to as “Demolition Derby,” everyone’s looking forward to what may be the ultimate extension of the “X-Games” mentality. Competing sledders race downhill on parallel 1,200 meter downhill bobsled/luge runs with a typical number of banked curves. At about 900 meters, the tracks intersect and cross one another. Competing in two- and four-person bobsleds, or on those funny little lying-down-feet-first sleds, competitors race through the tremendously high, fast curves. Then they reach the intersection with the opposing track. Needless to say, the stakes of getting there a few seconds ahead of the competing sled, moving at more than 100 kilometers per hour, are high.

Due to the newness of the event, and with competitors coming from nations with dozens of languages, no precise terminology is commonly agreed upon for the crossover point. They range from the bland “Intersection” favored by the English-speaking International Committee to Finnish kuolemaa, which means something like “death point.” Personally, I like the Spanish team’s term, Cabello se eriza, “Hair stands on end,” and hope it catches on.

A lot of attention is being placed on the draws to determine which teams are paired against one another, with more than the usual amount of whining, bellyaching and pouting from all quarters, exemplifying the true Olympic spirit.

6-Degree Incline Ice Skating/Ice Dancing

With construction delays on the complex mechanical works of the venue jeopardizing the start of competition until just days ago, everyone’s looking forward to this innovation as more and more skaters land multiple previously unattainable multiple quad jumps, making them just another day on the ice. Freezing and then tilting the entire surface of the rink six degrees out of level, making an uphill and a downhill direction along its length is just the thing this sport needed to add some excitement.

Skating uphill, competitors will be required to complete at least one triple rotation. The other direction, it’s a free-for-all. With the additional speed and distance possible from skating downhill, some quintuple spins may be in the offing! Pairs competition should be particularly enthralling, and I look forward to seeing whether some of those couples ─ who always look like they’re on the edge of having an argument, anyway ─ come off the ice pointing fingers, openly arguing or simply not speaking to one another, ever again.

Rumors are that the Canadians, Swedes and especially Russians have the advantage, with Arctic streams that sometimes freeze solid overnight, providing natural, sloping frozen surfaces they’ve been able to practice on without constructing special facilities.

Ice Football

The beleaguered FIFA organization makes a pre-World Cup attempt to regain credibility with this introduction of football (“soccer” in the United States) played on a standard-size ice hockey rink. No one knows what to expect, frankly, and the complete absence of any of the world’s top football players makes handicapping the teams a matter of guesswork. In fact, Brazil and Argentina would have refused to compete, had FIFA not made participation a precondition to World Cup entry, but we certainly won’t see Ronaldo, Messi or any of their teammates. As it turns out, North Korea has a longstanding ice football tradition, played at indoor sports arenas that couldn’t be heated, due to lack of resources, and may be a surprise medalist.

As I write, there’s still disagreement on the size of the goals, and it may be unknown until the first teams take the pitch … I mean ice, some time early next week. Look for something much less than the standard 7.3 meter width, but I hope they’ll be significantly wider than a hockey net, or there may be a lot of shoot-outs.

Enjoy the Olympics, everyone. I hope your teams do well and everyone exemplifies the Olympic Creed: Faster, Higher, Richer.

© Brad Nixon 2018


Responses

  1. Actually, we may have SOME idea of what ice football might be like, although the description below pertains not to what we in America call “soccer” (and which is called football elsewhere throughout the world), but to American style football.

    On December 31, 1967, two American professional football teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, played the NFL Championship Game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, outdoors, with temps at minus 13 degrees F., and wind chill at 36 degrees F., below zero. The playing field was of course completely frozen. This game was dubbed “The Ice Bowl.” The Packers won 21-17 with 13 seconds left in the game.

    This was the coldest weather in the history of NFL games played outdoors (before the advent of indoor domed stadiums many years later).

    Enjoy!
    😁

    Like

    • I’ll approve this, but be prepared to have soccer fans worldwide roll their eyes at another demonstration of American foolishness. Despite having attended only 2 professional football games, one of them I saw was the 2nd coldest, the ’81 AFC Championship in Cincinnati, 9 below 0.

      Like

      • I tried to write it in the funny spirit of the blog post.
        But you can delete it if you think it may cause a flurry of angry replies.

        Like

      • Oh, no. Not angry at all. Just fun, as you intended. Thanks!

        Like

  2. My partner and I organised an adventure group for 12 years. We organised lots of obscure sports such as Ice Broomball and Ice Karting, but Ice Volleyball sounds like an April Fool we would have run! My partner and I rode on the Olympic Bobsleigh track in Tignes a couple of years ago – exhilarating and very scary, but such a blast!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds like great fun. Good for you. Of all the sports I’ve ever seen on TV that are outside my experience, the one I think I’d like to try … once … is bobsleigh. That must have been a thrill! Thanks for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person


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