The Summer Olympics are finally upon us, which means we are only a few months removed from what really matters: The Winter Olympics.
I’ve always grown up dealing with the Summer Olympics as a nice diversion from watching baseball for a fortnight, but my passion for worldwide competition stems from memories of experiencing the Winter Games. They were always more relatable to me from the perspective of a skier, always seemed to have a more-intimate level of competition where the United States didn’t dominate the field like the 1927 Yankees.
Thanks to a year-long COVID-19 delay, the 2020(1) Olympic Games in Tokyo will now run into the winter version less than 200 days later in Beijing . And despite pandemic-related snafus still gumming up the works in Japan, perhaps we, as skiers and riders, should brace for these Games as a nice appetizer for an Olympic schedule that, according to us at least, matters a lot more.
There’s less of that sense this year though, with the Olympics adding events like sport climbing in 2021, becoming even more friendly to outdoor enthusiasts like ourselves. Snowboarders can enjoy watching the grandfathers of their sport, surfing and skateboarding, make their Olympic debuts. Those of us who trade in our skis for paddles in the summer can watch with awe as Olympic kayakers and canoers do things we could never imaging doing ourselves on the Saco.
Indeed, as skiers and riders, these may be the coolest Olympics ever.
Oh, sure, the threat of them being cancelled due to an outbreak of COVID remains a very real possibility, even as things get ramped up. There will be no spectators in the stands, giving the sports the same sort of eerie vibe with which we watched most televised games over the past year. There’s also the whole landscape of social failure concerning the International Olympic Committee and its tendency to lay waste upon the countries it calls home two weeks a year.
One only has to look at Boston’s recent bid for the 2024 Games for a potent reminder of what other cities around the world are in for when placing a bid for future Olympics. Case in point, Brisbane, Australia recently won the rights the games in summer, 2032.
It was a slam-dunk decision for the IOC. After all, Brisbane was the only city that even bothered to put in a bid.
Still, despite all the flaws, the Olympics have a gravitating pull that is hard to ignore. This year, nearly 40 New Englanders will be looking to bring home the gold in their respective sports. In just a few months, even more will strap on their skates and skis for a go in winter, when New England athletes truly shine on the worldwide stage.
In the meantime, we’ll have to enjoy what swimming, track and field, and rhythmic gymnastics add to our viewing pleasure. It will be cool to catch some surfing and canoeing on TV, but it just can’t compare to the thrill of watching the Winter Olympics, which contain events right in our collective wheelhouses. Enjoy your 4×100 medley relay. I’ll still take the downhill.
With its latest additions, these Summer Games are, admittedly, still pretty cool. We’ll watch, but we also know there are more compelling Olympic events just on the horizon.