Monday Musings: So long, Rio. It’s been weird and wonderful
August 5th. That’s when I must have been stung by a hornet. Because I had a feverish dream.
In that dream there was an international sports competition that was filled with amazing athletic accomplishments. But lots of odd stuff happened in there as well, making it all seem like a passage of weird, wonderful and head-scratching prose from Canada’s favourite rock poet.
The Rio Olympics had #PhelpsFace, diving pool water that turned green, and an IOC delegate who was arrested, in a bathrobe, for ticket scalping. It had a phony robbery story from U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, a fencer who had his cell phone fall from his pocket during a competition, and the story of a kayaker who may or may not have had his craft capsized by a sunken sofa. For a finale, it had not one but two coaches stripping down – in plain view of spectators – to protest their wrestler’s loss.
In the midst of all of that, you had stories of great Canadian triumph. The stuff from which legends can be made.
Oddities and Canadiana. Sounds like a pretty good album name to me. And we know just the guy to capture the Rio Olympics in all its profound absurdity. You up for it, Gord?
THE LITTLE THINGS
I guess you’re pretty good, Usain Bolt. But, I need a little more proof. Bobsleigh, 2018? Come on, do it, man!
CBC gave us daily virtual reality coverage of the Olympics. On a couple of days there, they provided us with virtual reality boxing which really came alive if you had someone smack you in the head every time a punch was thrown.
I really loved how the Canadian men’s 4×100 relay team showed their love of country with one small move when they came out onto the track. They all zipped up their tops at the same time. The zipper was first manufacured in Canada, y’all. Very patriotic.
It occurred to me that officials could have evened things up in the men’s sprints a little if they’d just forced Bolt to carry a couple of shot puts or drag a hammer behind him. They had those things just lying around….
In the equestrian competition, there was a horse named “Voyeur.” Going to be a terrible stud in its retirement if it just likes to watch.
Didn’t hit me at first but then it did. The closing ceremony at Rio was a letdown because it lacked an artistic re-creation of swimmers urinating on a gas station wall.
As well, I really wanted the Japan hand off portion to have Godzilla doing hurdles. Maybe they’re saving him for 2020. Hopefully when he lights the Olympic cauldron he doesn’t overdo it and set the whole stadium on fire.
When Ryan Lochte says he “over-exaggerated” details of the the gas station incident does that mean he feels he should have only exaggerated them?
I did not know there was such a thing as a TV show called “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” Note to self: Whenever I’m faced with a tough situation, ask myself “what would Ryan Lochte do?” And then, do not do that thing.
I’m glad Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons and third baseman Josh Donaldson settled their differences. When their blow up occurred I was thinking “why can’t those two just be more like Usain Bolt and Andre De Grasse?
United States' Jennifer Suhr competes in the pole vault finals during the athletics competitions of the 2016 Summer Olympics at the Olympic stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
It’s the Olympics, so everything looks difficult. But, doesn’t pole vault look especially difficult? Run with a giant pole. Jam it into a hole. Launch yourself straight up, feet first, while hanging on to that pole. At the apex of that launch, 19 feet high, let go of that pole and nudge yourself over the bar while pushing the pole back so that it doesn’t knock down that bar you’re also trying to avoid with your body. Simple. I’d just jump, well under the bar, and then rise out of the landing pit with my arms raised, celebrating, and hope no one noticed.
A horse called Trajecly Hipp ran in the third race at Toronto’s Woodbine Racetrack on Saturday, narrowly missing a third place finish. She’s not won a race as far as I can tell from the sketchy records I’ve tracked down but is only three years old and might just blossom as she gets a little more mature. Who knows? Might even go on to become a Canadian Legend. Some other suggested racehorse names: Weet King. Bob The Cajun. Race Too. Hoofs And Hearts. Tired As F**k may not be a great one, however.
Yes, there was all kinds of weirdness in Rio. To be fair, there’s usually at least some weirdness at each and every Olympics. Bound to happen when you cram so many visitors into a small area for a couple of weeks, crank up the proceedings with competitive juice, hype and celebration and then put cameras everywhere, pointed at everyone and everything.
So we got our big moments and our strange ones.
They will live on and be talked about for the rest of our lives. Some will be talked about beyond that. As a sports fan, I’m thankful for the brilliance of Usain Bolt and Simone Biles. Of Michael Phelps and Ashton Eaton. Of Penny Oleksiak and Andre De Grasse. And so many more, of course.
The records fall, the heights are scaled and the superstars shine.
Yet, invariably, for me, at the end of it all, my favourite things are the small moments. Why they hit one person and not another I’ll never know nor do I care. It’s just they way it is. I do know that there was a moment that became my personal favourite on Day 13.
I didn’t know much at all about Erica Wiebe, the wrestler from Stittsville, Ont., who now resides in Calgary. I tuned in just in time to find out she’d won gold and that they were presenting her medal. Just before the anthem started, she flipped that golden disc up and glanced down at it – for just a second – and I thought “man, I hope somebody got a picture of that.” Thankfully, they did.
Photo: David Jackson/COC
I can’t profess to know what is going through her mind at that moment but I like to think it’s something like “that’s an Olympic gold medal and that’s mine.“
I still didn’t know much about Wiebe for certain but in that instance I immediately felt I had learned a whole lot. There’s sacrifice and hurt and determination and love in that photo. There’s sense of accomplishment and pride and maybe even relief. In that picture you can feel years of memories – good and bad – all surging at once, overwhelming.
Moments later, I’d learn more about Wiebe as she cried and sang the anthem in both official languages. Still later, when I saw the replay of her match, I’d get more, especially when she picked up her coach and carried him on her shoulders in fun-loving celebration.
All endearing but you know what? She already had me the moment she glanced down, emotions contorting her face, to confirm this really was happening.
For all the live coverage, for all the great races and leaps and points scored and for all the super slo-mo replays we get, for all the questions and answers, isn’t it amazing that a second in time can capture the imagination like nothing else? If you manage to freeze that moment in a photo that’s, well, golden.
Everything you need is in that one photo of Wiebe. “Look what I just did.”