Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The 2008 Olympics

In less time than it takes to say, "Hey, that German chick's a dude" the Beijing Olympics will begin. The motto for the 2008 games is "One World, One Dream" which doesn't exactly sound inspirational coming out of the mouths of commies. It sounds... ominous. Not even the cuddly panda mascots can make it sound cute.

A more realistic motto should be "One Smoggy Country, One Canceled Event."

Back in 2002, I wrote an essay for about my love for the Olympics.
Citius. Altius. Fortius. No, those aren't the names of the Latin Three Stooges. The words mean faster, higher, stronger and together they form the official motto for the Olympic Games. In my world however, it's become an ironic term since, after two weeks of lying on my back watching the televised events, I have become slower, lower and weaker.

I love the Olympics. I have loved the Olympics since I was a little girl. So, when some of my February gigs were cancelled at the last minute, I was secretly thrilled to find myself home and in front of the TV for the entire two weeks of the Salt Lake games. And I watched it all. Katie and Matt in the morning. Hannah Storm in the afternoon. Bob Costas in primetime. I even managed to endure the late night coverage with the unbelievably annoying Pat O'Brien (for whom I've coined the term hackass, which is a delightful combination of the words hack and jackass). Not since Bill Geist roamed, Godzilla-like, through the Olympic village in Nagano have I been so aggravated by a pseudo-journalist.

When I first learned that the 2002 Olympic Games would be held in Salt Lake City, I had a very un-Utah-like reaction. "Utah," I screamed, "What the f**k could they be thinking?" (The cursing, of course, being the un-Utah-like part.) My husband, the clairvoyant cynic, added, "Who did they pay off to make that happen?" Well, the Salt Lake committee paid off quite a few people, actually. Thus, the Winter Olympics were awarded to a city that could easily make polygamy a demonstration sport. Four man bobsled? Bad. One man, three women bobsled? Very, very good.

Don't get me wrong, Utah is a beautiful state, but when you invite the world to a giant party it's only polite to serve your guests more than green Jell-O. I've been to Utah. Getting a drink in Utah is only slightly more difficult that getting food in Ethiopia, so the thought of not serving a stein of beer to the giant German luger who had just won his fifth medal, made me just a tad nervous for the fresh-faced Bringham Young student forced to offer him a Coke instead. "Don't worry," the mayor of Salt Lake Salt Lake assured the globe, "You'll be able to get a drink at the Olympics." Ok, but what are we supposed to tell the team from Jamaiica?

Four years ago, I was fortunate enough to be in Ottawa for a good chunk of the winter games and, while the events were taking place halfway around the world in Japan, the good folks in Canada (or should I say the good folks at the CBC) had the sense to show the Olympics live. Much to my surprise, I was able to watch the Men's Ice Skating finals at 3 AM. Seventeen hours later, and with many commercial interruptions, the event was shown in the states. I was also treated to hours and hours of uninterrupted curling and I became a huge fan of the Canadian curling gold medalist Sandra Schmirler. Until her death from cancer two years ago, I can say, with some certainty, that I was the only American comic who did a Sandra Schmirler impression onstage.

In retrospect, it's difficult to choose my favorite moment from the 2002 Olympics mostly because my favorite moments would never make it on to an NBC highlight reel. In my book, if it isn't hilarious and worthy of ridicule, then it's just not a highlight. For instance, was it my imagination, or did the gold medal winning ice dancing team from France skate to Martin Luther King's "I Had A Dream" speech? Do you think trivializing great moments in history for the delight of the crowd could become a trend in ice skating? Perhaps Michelle Kwan would have won if she had just skated to the Emancipation Proclomation?

And boy, oh, boy, do ice skaters fall down a lot! Lately, it seems, the gold medal is awarded to the only skater who doesn't have ice on his or her ass. I'm suprised more of them don't skate to Spike Jones' music just so when they hit the ground it looks deliberate! Speaking of music, one female skater fell down quite a bit to The Man In The Iron Mask. Personally, I think once her medal dreams were dashed she should have just skated around the ice, grabbing her face and yelling, "Get it off! Get it off!"

Skaters aren't the only ones who fall flat on their faces. Occasionally, a weepy, fur-clad French judge will do the same. "Skate Gate"-- as the Pat O'Brien's of the world couldn't resist calling it-- dominated the coverage during the first week of the Olympics and through it all we learned two very important lessons that we should have already known. Number one: Figure skating judges are corrupt. Number two: The Russians still hate us. Is anyone all that suprised?

For those of you who did not witness the infamous event, I will sum it up for you in four choppy sentences. The Canadians deserved the gold. The Russians did not. The Canadians handled the controversy with grace. The Russians did not.

Anton Sikharulidze, one half of the undeserving pair, was quoted as saying, "We watched the tape. We deserved the gold." Anton, baby, apparently you fast forwarded through the part where you were flailing helplessly across the ice. On the Today show, his surly partner Yelena Berezhnaya told the perky host, "Why don't you just give out three gold medals? The Americans got a standing ovation, why don't you give one to them, too?" How do you say bitch in Russian? Geez, Yelena Berezhnaya makes Nancy Kerrigan look like the Snuggles bear.

Years ago, my husband and I won free tickets to see A Skater's Tribute To Broadway at the First Union Center in Philadelphia. (Or the F.U. Center, as we like to call it.) On the bill, along with Nancy Kerrigan, were Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze. For their tribute to Broadway, the pair skated while Alan Thicke stood next to the rink and sang live. Hmm...skating while you're listening to Alan Thicke sing... hmm... you know what, let them keep the gold. Perhaps they have suffered enough.

(It's time for a challenge: Try typing Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya really fast five times. Sorry, but Russians are not eligible to participate. Oh well, it just gives them one more reason to hate us.)

I'm going to miss the Olympics. I won't, however, miss watching the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Normally, I don't watch Leno, but since my TV was permantly tuned to NBC for two weeks, I found myself cringing nightly at his show. I ask you, when did Jay Leno become a gold medal cheap shot artist? He displays all the subtlety of an ice dancing costume. In a particularly low moment, he asked Canadian pairs skater David Pelletier if he became romantically interested in partner Jamie Sale when he looked up during a lift. I think his exact words were, "Did you look up and say 'Hey, I like that?'" Why didn't he just say, "Hey, David, did you decide to ask Jamie out after you got a good look at her crotch?" Shame on you, Jay Leno. Mr. Carson would have never done such a thing.

But I really will miss the Olympics. I'll miss hearing the national anthems. I'll miss the tears of joy and the tears of sorrow. I'll miss giggling at the two-man luge. Most of all, I'll miss just laying around with nothing to do for two weeks.

I have until 2004 to rest up for the summer games in Athens. I just hope they don't let the athletes compete naked like they did in the first Olympics. "Hey, the German is using two poles in the vault! Oops, my mistake!"

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