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Winter Games: Confessions of a summer sports nut

Updated: 2022-01-21 09:03 ( China Daily )
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The signs are everywhere: Winter (Olympics) is coming.

With apologies for shamelessly ripping off the slogan of Game of Thrones, it really is a tough grind to get myself excited about the Winter Olympics opening in Beijing in February.

Since large swathes of the world never sees a winter, the Olympic slogan was always more easily associated with the summer Games.

Citius, Altius, Fortius-faster, higher, stronger-was adopted as the Olympic slogan by Baron Pierre de Coubertin at the founding of the modern Games in 1894. Two years later, the first Olympics were held in Athens.

In 2020, they added the word Communiter-"together"-at the end of the slogan. Faster is first one around the track or the pool. Higher can be defined by the pole vault or high jump. Stronger is obviously the lifting of the most fully loaded barbell, the longest throw of a "hammer" or the most powerful puncher in boxing.

Before the naysayers jump down my throat for insulting their sports, I can understand "fastest down the mountain" in skiing, but there are sports in the winter calendar of events that are, well, Greek to me.

Biathlon is one such sport. The men and women ski and then shoot a target.

The sport supposedly began in Norway and involves cross-country skiing and being a good shot with the rifle.

Once they go around the track, they would stop, unsling their rifle and shoot. If they miss, of course there is a penalty.

Biathlon got on the Olympic calendar in 1924.

How is it scored? I suppose there is a point system (penalties) and who finishes first. Beyond that, I have no clue.

The other sport that gives me some enjoyment to watch is curling. Curlers slide stones across the ice before letting them go at what they call the hog line. Team with the stones in the "house" (the round target at the end of the track), wins.

What happens in between is where the fun begins for me.

The skip, who is the leader of the team, begins to scream orders at their teammates.

Some of the screams, I can only say, are blood-curdling, but it's hard to hear the actual words through the TV.

A shout of "whoa" means stop sweeping. "Hard" means sweep faster.

The screaming allows the skip to direct the shots and inform the sweepers who carry all those brooms how aggressively they need to brush the surface of the ice to influence the speed and distance of the stone.

The strategy involved in trying to knock the stones out of the middle of the house is fascinating.

Sportsmanship is highly valued in this sport, compared to, say, basketball, where trash talking seems deeply ingrained among the players.

I would love to watch the Games in person, take in the hockey matches, particularly the ones featuring the Canadians and the Russians.

Simple advice, please do not call it "ice hockey". For them, it is simply hockey. Drop the "ice".

How do I know? I was reminded pointedly by a few Canadian friends, one of whom is of Chinese descent and grew up in Toronto, that it is plainly referred to as hockey, and is their national sport.

Welcome to the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Let the screaming (in curling) begin.

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