Saturday, February 11, 2006

Olympic Fever!
Yes, I have it. Olympic Fever.

I love the Olympics. Some may say the Olympics are dead. Others may not have even known they've begun. But I don't care. Even if I'm the only person watching the men's Luge right now, I don't care.

Winter Games. Summer Games. Doesn't matter.

I. Love. Olympics.

I love the tradition of it. I love the emotion of it. I used to know who all the athletes are. I always wanted the Wheaties boxes of the gold medal winners. I used to want to win my own gold medal in something. Not sure what. But I used to really want to get to stand on the podium while they played my national anthem.

Mostly because I'd get to be on a Wheaties box. And who doesn't want to be on a Wheaties box?

I don't even really care about most of the sports. Some things I'm pretty sure are not even sports. Curling? Really?

Doesn't matter. I will watch it.

I especially love the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. After a brief freak out this morning when I thought I had once again non-taped something I intended to tape, I spent several hours watching the Opening Ceremonies.

It's better on tape because I can fast-forward through the crap. And I'll admit, most of it is crap. But, I love the pageantry of it. I love the spirit of it. I love the production of it.

Most of all, I like to make fun of it.

Here are some highlights (not as much fun as my annual Grammy recap, but this will have to do):

A giant flame-spitting anvil
People on roller blades and skateboards
Spandex, and lots of it
An Italian flag corp
Something Cirque de Soleil-ish
Some supermodel in an oyster shell
People and body parts coming up through the floor
A Ferarri race car doing donuts in the middle of the floor
Plastic cows, complete with cow sounds
The Ricola guys
Like, 100 people in the shape of one really big skier dude (this was cool in fast-forward - he actually looked like he was skiing)
A drill team, possibly from the local highschool
Giant hot air balloons with scary faces on them and people hanging from them
Lots of fireworks
And, Susan Sarandon carrying a corner of the Olympic flag with 7 other ladies. It must be a heavy flag.

Really, the best part is the commentators that give the play-by-play. I don't know how they can say what they are watching without busting out laughing. It goes something like this.

"Mary, I believe what we are seeing now is a roller-blading drill team with fire shooting out of their helmets. And yes... I believe they are skating around giant plastic cows. This scene represents Italy's love of bar-b-cue in the Alps."

"Yes, Bob. And the cows are being operated by local children from a large orphanage. They've been given special flame-retardant suits so that the flame-shooting roller bladers do not harm these precious children. Also, the children have never seen live cows before. This is a big day for them."

"Oh look. Mary, the giant oyster is opening to reveal world-famous supermodel Olga from the Czech Republic. This symbolizes Italy's love of seafood, and the local cuisine of oysters that are native to the Alps here in Torrino."

It goes on and on like that. Really, if you have to explain the bizarreness that we are seeing on screen so that the audience knows what it "represents", maybe you should have kept it simpler. Or just let us wonder what we're looking at. The people watching live in the stadium don't get to hear the commentary, and they have no idea what they are looking at.

Just get the Ricola guys back out there for the rest of the show. We all know they represent cough drops.

My absolute favorite part is the parade of nations (this year done to the tunes of disco music from the 70s and 80s). I don't have any idea who these people are. I've long since given up keeping up with these athletes, and now they all seem like young kids anyway (except for the Australian Curling team - that guy was 40 years old!). But I LOVE to watch all of the countries walk by in their spiffy and weird (ahem, Mongolia - hats!) outfits.

See, the parade of nations really sums up the whole spirit of the Olympics. Some of these athletes, this is their whole life. They come from countries that place so much importance on cranking out superior athletes. This moment in the spotlight is already their crowning achievement. For the little countries who never win, this moment of walking into the stadium is the highlight. They may never win a medal. But on this first official day of the Olympics, everyone is still a winner. No races have been lost, yet. Everyone still has hope.

I love the small countries who have only one or two athletes. It's almost more exciting for me to see them there than all of the big countries with the huge entourages of athletes. I love that the Virgin Islands sends one athlete every year. She is the world's oldest Olympian. She's been six times. She never wins. They call her Granny Luge.

I love that countries that never see snow have athletes in the Winter Games.

I love that you can work and live in America, but if you were born in another country or have any ties whatsoever to another country, you can be on their team. The lone athlete from Thailand is a professor here in the U.S. That's so cool.

Really, the parade of all the nations is what we should strive for everyday. The world comes together for one purpose, in peace (as Yoko Ono so eloquently blabbered on about at the ceremony). North and South Korea march in together. Outside of these circumstances, they are at war. But for these two weeks, we have one agenda. We coexist.

Why can't it be like the Olympics all the time? Everyone cheering for everyone else. Loud disco favorites. Underdogs getting the spotlight for awhile. Understanding. Common goals. Peace.

Of course, as much as I love to watch all of the countries walk in the parade, I always get teary when the U.S. team walks. This year I thought about getting people together to watch the ceremonies with me. But then I realized that 1) very few people would care to come over and fast-forward through the ceremony with me, and b) I cry like a baby during much of it and that is embarrassing for me.

Today as I watched (alone), I also got teary as the Italian team walked in. They get to go last because they are the host country. Maybe it was because most of them are um, really hot (such beautiful people!). It brought a tear to my eye. But mostly, it's the sound of the crowd going wild at the sight of their own athletes.

I've decided that maybe I need people to cheer more for me on a regular basis. I just love the sound of it for other people. Maybe I'm not cheered for enough...

Last in the ceremony is the lighting of the torch. This is always pretty cool. Sometimes lame, but this year there were lots of fireworks with it and that's always cool. It's fun to see who the last few people are that get to carry the flame to the big torch. This year it was a bunch of Italians I've never heard of, but yay for them anyway!

The fire is lit.

The games have begun, people.

Go America.


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