Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Olympic Games: Weirdness and Poignance

Wacky stuff in Pinerolo today. First up are the Swiss men (photo) in their pre-game footyfest – a typical sight outside European curling venues – before this afternoon's match against the Kiwis.

First, lead/alternate Simon Struebin lunged a bit too far for the ball and almost sprained his ankle – but no harm done. Then, just a few minutes after this photo was taken, Swiss Assistant Team Leader Pierre-Yves Grivel (not shown) plowed facefirst into a concrete pillar in an attempt to prevent the ball from getting away. He went to hospital on a stretcher, but the squad insists that he is okay and the Italians are just taking precautions.

In fact, Ralph Stoeckli's boys can't wait for the guy known affectionately as Jimmy Connors to hurry back, so they can commence making fun of him.

A great story from one of the TV guys. A co-worker was in Turin (about 40 minutes away from the venue in Pinerolo) and went to use a pay-toilet. Oh yes. A pay-toilet. Anyway, his two "squares" of paper were dispensed – oh yes, only two squares – and all appeared normal until... well, let's just say that some pay-per-use toilets in Italy have an automated cleaning system, which apparently gives you only 15 seconds to get the heck out of there after flushing. Said the storyteller:

So if you see a guy walking down the street on a clear sunny day in Italy who looks like a popsicle... you know he didn't make it.

A couple of Kanada facts, definitely weird: both teams have broken off keys in their apartment doors; and men's lead Jamie Korab has displayed some disturbing shopoholic tendencies... apparently he may go home with up to six enormous bags of... stuff.

FYI, following their weird and wild 6-5 win over Pal Trulsen this aft, the boys are off to the Canadian men's hockey game in Turin tonight. Meanwhile, the girls lost to Switzerland in the wee hours and have a big match in about 90 minutes against the wily veteran Dordi Nordby.

Switch gears: a poignant anecdote to leave you with. Japanese skip Ayumi Onodera – now a bonafide movie star back home – lost 9-5 to Denmark this morning, dropping Japan to 1-3. The tiny athlete was in tears throughout most of her lengthy media scrum in the mixed zone afterward, but she bravely stood her ground and never once broke down. Her faint voice only quavered, and her eyes flicked down to her feet as she wiping the tears and answered the swarm of reporters.

This is only day four of 12.

Near the end of the ordeal, tireless Japanese curling booster Hiroshi Kobayashi barged through the scrum and embraced Onodero in a bear hug, and the skip's shoulders seemed to sag just for a moment. Hiro punched her in the arm before for departing, and wiped away tears of his own.

She takes it very hard, Hiro explained. She has to figure things out for herself. This is her challenge and it is for her and no one else.

These and countless other anecdotes summarize the stunning variety of emotional power the Olympic Games reveal. And once in a while, through all the scandals, the fingerpointing and the overwhelming politics often on display, we can spotlight this and simply say: shame on you... you who scoffs nonstop at absolutely everything the Olympic Games offers.

To hell with you.

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