I'm in Whistler, British Columbia, and all the talk on the "street" is about the Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver in February next year. I'm quite fascinated by the Winter Olympics – I totally get that the Olympics were first conceived in Ancient Greece so that young men could run and throw things before grappling naked for hours and hours.
The Winter Olympics, however, is a little trickier. There's not a whole lot of snow in Greece so there was not that much snowboarding going on. I presume that very cold countries got a bit cheesed off with not doing very well in the Summer Olympics and decided that they should be represented in the Olympic arena. The extraordinary thing is that there are only seven sports featured in a Winter Olympics – skiing, skating, bobsleigh, luge, biathlon, ice hockey and curling. There are 86 medals to be won within the variations of these events but surely they could have come up with more events?
New sports for Vancouver 2010 are snowboard cross and the team pursuit for long track speed skating ... how about snowballing? It could be like javelin but ... with snowballs. Maybe it needn't be distance, it could be target-based. A man dressed as an American wearing a T-shirt with something rude on it about Canada could weave around the arena while the athletes aim to hit him.
What about snowperson-making? (Sorry, I've been in Canada for a while and have become very PC). This could be done on height of snowperson, with the tallest one winning. Competitors would not be able to use ladders or any help, so they'd have to climb up their own snowperson to do the top and would eventually collapse down in a heap. Maybe the snowballers could aim at the snowperson makers. I'm just riffing here... They could at least have a basic toboggan race from the top of a mountain to the bottom. I know things like bobsleigh and skeleton are dangerous (I did the Calgary Bobsleigh run and still have nightmares about it) but a no-rules downhill race would be awesome. I think I'll go and have a word with the organising committee when I get to Vancouver.
One thing I have got excited about already is the mascots. In Beijing they were a bit weird and kept popping up all over the place , with incredibly overheated young Chinese dancing in inflatable costumes. The mascots for Vancouver include, rather wonderfully, Quatchi, who is a huge, hairy Sasquatch. This, for those of you who don't know, is the infamous Bigfoot – the hairy missing link that is supposed to wander the thick woods of this area.
I love the fact that Bigfoot will be part of the Olympics. He looks a little like a crazy Chewbacca. The blurb that goes with each mascot tells me that "Quatchi loves all winter sports but he's especially fond of hockey. He dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie..." I'm hoping that he'll show a bit of attitude and let his new-found official recognition go to his large head. I want to see him beating up the other mascots in true ice-hockey style. They should bring out the mascots at half-time and just let them go at each other. Quatchi would quickly become a huge cult figure as Canadians, despite being a very polite bunch, love their ice hockey fights.
These should actually be an Olympic sport in themselves. I've never quite understood the rules. Everybody seems to give the fighters about 30 seconds to whack each other as they all stand in a circle around them (presumably chanting "fight, fight") before eventually intervening in a half-hearted fashion. Why stop it? If this is what the public want then give it to them. It could help hark back to Ancient Greece – it's Gladiators... on ice... with a Sasquatch... I'd watch it.
The other mascots are a rather fey "Seabear", a Marmot (a large squirrel) and the obligatory nod to "First Nations" Sumi – an "Animal Guardian Spirit". Quatchi will have these other three for breakfast. He's already a firm favourite with my kids, who want to head off into the forest to find the real deal. I'm up for that as I have always fancied myself as a bit of a Crypto zoologist (loony monster-hunter). I'm sure that I once saw the Loch Ness Monster but I was tipsy so I can't be certain... but I digress.
Canadian road skis put skids under opposition
Everywhere you look here you see Canadians zooming around on "road skis" – a kind of cross-country skiing on wheels. It looks incredibly tiring so I haven't tried it but I wouldn't bet against them in the cross-country events.