It’s their big chance to make an impression so don’t be surprised if Olympians talk some trash
Answering your frequently asked questions about the Sochi Olympics.
Any new events debuting in 2014?
Well, there’s now a team relay in luge—which is pretty much all the evidence required to support my theory that most of the International Olympic Committee can barely be bothered to care about the Winter Games.
Think about it from the perspective of IOC members: The winter version just isn’t as enjoyable. There aren’t as many countries or marquee events. And their monocles fog up when they go inside.
Basically, 90 percent of the IOC’s focus is on the Summer Games. Which explains a lot. For instance, some lobby group would come along with the idea to add another bizarre sport to the Winter Olympics, and Jacques Rogge would sit there—trying like hell to beat his high score in Angry Birds, but blah, blah, blah, these people will not stop talking—pretending to listen, then he’d nod a couple of times, and all of a sudden we ended up with ski cross in the Olympics.
Speaking of which: I think we’re all a little disappointed that more events didn’t get “crossed” for
the Sochi games. Why stop with sending four
skiers down a hill at the same time? Let’s launch four Norwegians off some moguls simultaneously! Let’s send four hockey players in on a shootout with eight pucks and 12 sombreros! Only one four-man bobsled on the track at a time? The youth of today find that boring, bro.
What are the key trends to watch for?
For athletes in obscure sports, the Olympics are their one chance to grab the international spotlight and score some endorsement cash. So watch for pretty much everyone who wins to go all Richard Sherman into your living room.
“I’m the best ski jumper in the game! When you try me with a sorry force like gravity, that is the result you are going to get! Don’t you EVER try to bring me to the ground prematurely with the mass-appropriate force of attraction, or I’ll configure my body and skis in such a way that the air beneath me is moving more slowly, and therefore has more pressure, than the air above me—giving me an additional dimension of lift when I need it most! L.O.S.!!! (Legion of Spandex.)”
What’s the latest on the drug front?
There’s been progress. Only four years ago, Olympic athletes were forced to respond to positive drug tests with naturally occurring excuses like, “I got it from a toilet seat,” or, “There must have been a mistake at the lab.” But the science of lying has rapidly evolved since Vancouver. In Sochi, many dopers are expected to use excuse-enhancing drugs (EEDs) to help cast doubt on the integrity of positive tests.
It doesn’t matter if you show all the hallmarks of the drug cheat: the mood swings, the cartoonish muscles, the telltale third arm. Using EEDs such as marijuana or several shots of rum, athletes can give an elevated performance in their news conferences, crying with the confidence of a soap-opera actress and giving heightened excuses like, “Dude, a ninja assassin shot me with a poison dart,” or, “Look! Over there! Scarlett Johansson in a tank top!” [Gets up and runs away.]
Does “free skate” mean we all get to try?
Turns out: No! It’s one of the many things I learned when I went on assignment to the Vancouver Games and they sent me to women’s figure skating, even though I knew nothing about the sport. Those ill-tempered European journalists sure got weary of me asking, “Is that a triple lutz?”—especially when the answer was, “No, it’s a single Zamboni.”
This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.