There was only one significant Summer Olympiad in my life https://oldladywriting.com/2020/08/09/personal-best/ , if I do not count the 1924 Paris Games, portrayed so gloriously in my favorite movie, “Chariots of Fire”—and, predictably, the occasional gymnastics competition that I caught when spouse (most decidedly not a fan) was not watching. But, I have tried to see the Winter Olympics every time, and when they suddenly showed up in 1994 after only two years, it was an extra dose of excitement for me.
I like to watch pretty much every winter sport with, again, a very predictable exception of curling. Some of it might be going back to the fact that in the limited TV offerings of my Soviet childhood, European and maybe even world championships of figure and speed skating, alpine and Nordic skiing and, of course, hockey took up a lot of viewing time. If something similar was going on in the summer, I cannot comment—summers were not spent in front of TV.
The first Winter Olympics I watched were the 1984 Sarajevo Games, they of the incredible Torville and Dean’s Bolero. Although we had more channels than I was used to, still, this was before cable and all of the other choices we have today, and my parents would not have missed the Olympics. It was a great time, seeing familiar sports (because to this day I have no concept of American football, and understand that baseball is basically an opportunity to enjoy a hot dog for the price of a steak), and even some of the athletes familiar from the Before Times. I may or may not have pranced around our living room to my own choreographed Bolero moves, as my love of Christopher Dean momentarily overcame my dislike of Ravel’s music.
And then came Calgary 1988. I was in college, and in my first wonderful year of solo apartment living. Although there were many highlights, including the Jamaican bobsled team, what I remember best is that, while almost everyone left for winter break, my BFF and I, neither in possession of a TV set, would trudge to our old dorm, watch the games on the TV in the first floor lounge, and bluntly discourage any stray denizen of East Quad from attempting to change the channel. There was one timid freshman who seemed to cherish a hope that he might glimpse some other program during this, his first big break away from home, but that was not to be in the presence of two brash Russian women. Eventually, he succumbed and joined us in our ardent and vocal support of Katarina Witt and Alberto Tomba.
That also happened to be the week that we somehow discovered the invention of answering machines, and were making an almost daily drive to the F&M Drug Store, now defunct, to buy, try, and return them in the quest for the perfect one, and then run to the payphone during commercials to check if anyone left us any messages. If the machine picked up after the first ring, there indeed was a message—in my case, inevitably from that moronic boyfriend who once used up the entire answering machine tape reciting the Gettysburg Address. Overall, this technology ended up getting used more for evil than for good, especially by my grandmother, who immediately mistrusted it and assumed that recorded message in response to a call is a harbinger of doom and a sure sign that I am dead or at least in peril, for what possible reason could any human have to be away from their landline, at any age or in any circumstance? In subsequent years, she has also been known to use up the entire tape with messages of escalating fury, usually in a span if some minutes, but in February of 1988, this new toy seemed hopeful and benign.
By 1992, I owned a TV set. Well, more accurately, my law school boyfriend did, and Alberto Tomba temporarily replaced Matlock in his affections. I seem to recall an unusual number of figure skating bloopers that year, with women flying out of hands of their partners and crashing into boards, people crashing on their heads, and that one female skater who fell literally every time she stood up and eventually gave up. Curiously, I cannot find any validation for this after an afternoon of extensive research, so either my memory is terribly flawed, or there is a major decades-long cover up. If anyone has any information, please comment!
I must add that in Winter Olympics, I do not always root for the Home Team, whatever name it might bear over the years. In speed skating, I cheer for the Dutch, the historic masters and inventors of the sport. If a Dutch skater wins, I stand and sing “Wilhelmus van Nassouwe”. OK, sing is not what I actually do—I mostly hum with interjections of “Prinse van Oranje” and “Koning van Hispanje” at random times. And I have a shot of genever in memory of Uncle Art. I have no idea if he enjoyed speed skating, but he was Dutch and liked genever, and that’s good enough for me.
In hockey, my loyalty is also time-honored. My grandpa was a huge hockey fan, and a great admirer of Team Canada. I live in Hockeytown, USA, where all the best players have always been Canadian. I actually know the words to “O Canada” and cry every time I hear it, and pretend to be Canadian whenever I think I can get away with it. And of course, Canadians are masters and inventors of the sport. Canada is near, and grandpa is always is my heart and never far from my thoughts. His saying, whenever a match outcome was less desirable was “Friendship won”. Oh, would that everyone had his generosity of spirit!
In bobsled, I root for Jamaica—who doesn’t?
This year, the Russian Freestyle Skiing team is packed with athletes from my home town. How cool is that? I am not entirely sure what this event is, being that it is a newer one, but I am watching, and cheering. I did hear one commentator acknowledge that a competitor was from Yaroslavl, which filled me with pride and joy.
Final thought: When I asked my students whether they had any questions (after I just finished talking about regulatory compliance obligation, an understandably riveting topic that kept everyone awake), the only one they had is the only one that was at the forefront of everyone’s minds: were Nathan Chen’s scores inflated? Because as a professor I must always take an opportunity to educate, I responded that no, I do not think so, and that he is indeed extremely capable. Privately, I awarded Nathan Chen extra points for skating to both Charles Aznavour and Elton John.
 Currently, it is Russian Olympic Committee, but throughout the history of the modern Olympics, it competed as the Russian Empire, Soviet Union, Unified Team, Russia, and Olympic Athletes from Russia. I am not bothered by the absence of the flag, but I miss the anthem.
 Occasionally they are Russian
 No, I am not making a false claim to citizenship, this is just in casual conversations—don’t report me to IRCC!