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Pyeongchang 2018 Farewell

Every Olympic Games finishes with a similar feeling. Even more pronounced is how repetitive this feels in a writing context because basically every single final post, every two years, is me repeating the same boring thing about how sad I feel. It is not new, interesting or surprising.

This time feels slightly unique though and even though this is only in small subtle ways, hopefully I can express things differently.

Firstly there is the highlights. I’m going to miss things here because I specifically want to reflect on the spot without preparation and see what occurs to me, because it is those moments that are therefore living on in my memory.

  • We had the Men’s Ice Hockey tournament in general but particularly both the Men’s and Women’s finals.
  • Ester Ledecka. 2 different sports. 2 Gold medals.
  • A pair of Bobsleigh ties, one of them for Gold.
  • The Mixed Doubles Curling. Nothing too spectacular happened but so much happened before the Games even started and I developed such an attachment.
  • The race to the top amongst the elites of Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe.
  • The sounds of the Games. Ski Cross, Alpine Skiing, Speed Skating tinkles. More. That one is strange but I’m an ASMR-sensitive kind of guy and the Winter Olympics sound so cool.

That’s kind of all I can think of right now, which already shows how quick things move on, which is sad (because the great feats of the last fortnight are worth remembering) but good because it shows, as always, how my mind will always move and look forward. The unique feeling this time has partly been created by what a busy week this second week was, dominated by quidditch O-week efforts. I’ve actually had other things to worry about so watching and thinking about the Olympics hasn’t been my entire life. The constant (self-inflicted) stress associated with missing things and how I’m going to keep up and see as much as I can is also kind of fatiguing.

I definitely feel there was a different level of engagement in the first week. This is probably contributed to by the atmosphere created around Australian success that first week. I already vaguely mentioned in earlier posts that, as much as I don’t like to rely on them, i felt Channel 7 had gone into a certain chiller vibe over the second week which was influencing my vibe. Ever since the first post where I whinged about some things and felt that first fatigued lack of excitement, I think part of me has longed for the end. I’ve loved everything and the Winter Olympics still hold a soft spot in my heart, but I was excited to be free of the self-imposed structures and obligations around it. I certainly feel that a little bit now we’re here, but not nearly as much as I thought. Because of all this, and how conscious I am of feeling sad post-every major event like this, I think I’d tried to convince and condition myself that I’d just move on comfortably and be cool. After all, I felt like I had partly moved on already through Week 2 compared to Week 1, so I was half-way there right?. This is not how it has proved. Instead I’m left with a little bit of regret that I didn’t necessarily concentrate and pay attention as much as I could have. I didn’t really relax and just give in, appreciating what I’m watching, especially given how little I got to see this week.

Continuing this trend of not quite engaging how I should, I barely paid attention through the Closing Ceremony, though as referenced last night, this itself is perfectly justified and I didn’t miss much. I’d started doing other things and looking to the future. Then at the very end came the final Channel 7 montage of things over the last two weeks and suddenly I felt unexpectedly, though in hindsight inevitably, emotional. Seeing all this great stuff in Week 2 I either missed or didn’t engage with enough frustrated me but reminded me how awesome it all was. Seeing stuff from Week 1 meanwhile was pure nostalgia and really made it hit home how long an endeavour this was.

The Olympics always feels really long. As much as I felt I was busy with other things over the last week, this has been my life truthfully, and for well over two weeks, so dedicated was my preparation. I think that is what is making this feeling worse than I expected. It comes when I do little things like go to the website and see that same day-by-day schedule layout I got excited about a week plus before the Games, desperately clinging onto the tiny inconsequential pieces of pre-Ceremony action on those opening days as the greatest thing ever. My life was defined by these Games, unhealthy as it may or may not be. In fact it has been defined by the Games for pretty much a month, since the Australian Open finished and I got excited about the start of the Olympics two long interminable weeks away, and spent every day working on my spreadsheet. During the fortnight, my entire sleeping pattern was based around the scheduled hours. I did this blog to start and end almost every day, as an important part of my routine. Doing the same routine post-Ceremony last night felt very weird.

I mentioned earlier how long the Games felt, and made mention of the Australian Open. These are two things worth coming back to. The Australian Open provides an interesting comparison. It is obviously annual and, though I love it and engage fully in it, something easily able to be worked around and less all-consuming. But the Open is an important comparison point because it lasts almost as long (14 days compared to 16). This time around it was even more similar as both it and the Olympics were 11am to late night days, dominated by Channel 7. The experience was very similar. Thinking how fast the Open went this year really drives home how huge a behemoth the Olympics is. But reflecting on the similarities between them makes me realise that four of my last six weeks have fundamentally been based around rising at 11am for a day of sport (minus any time I had to go anywhere) which went late into the night and was followed immediately by bedtime. I think that is where part of my current freak-out comes from, as more than ever with something like the Summer Olympics, I don’t really know what to do now?

The answer of course is just to be functional. Such woe-is-me meandering here clearly reeks of privilege. I always try hard to remain fully aware of and grateful for the fact that my life is such that I can dedicate myself to these sporting endeavours. The fact I have done so, and know acutely that I’m stretching the tolerance of people around me thin in different ways, also makes me grateful to move on. Better, it makes me motivated to dive right back into other things, like pushing hard for lots of teaching work, working hard on my fitness and as is the end goal of such work, and dominating quidditch this year.

And now for a big grand preview of sorts, casting deep into 2018. One other reason I constantly maintained I wouldn’t feel too bad after these Games ultimately did prove true. There is so much on afterwards! Sometimes there is no close-by upcoming piece of excitement to latch onto in my life post-Olympics. This time we have lots:

Australia’s test tour of South Africa gets underway ON THURSDAY. The racing season is almost upon us and though the Australian Grand Prix is still a month away, that unexplainable seasonal sensation has shifted early. Despite still being summer and with Test Cricket to come, I already feel like I’m back in winter mode, as if there’s a Grand Prix this weekend. I’ve hit that racing conditioning as opposed to the Cricket one that naturally takes over around November and usually doesn’t wane until later in a normal year. It makes the wait torture but it’s going to be great, and Supercars THIS WEEKEND and Indycar the following weekend will serve nicely to satiate that.

The big ones though, come after that. The Commonwealth Games are only five and a half weeks away. I always struggle for excitement pre-Comm-Games, because they are so strange and anachronistic and ‘not the Olympics’. Yet I always get right into it when it happens. Who knows how I’ll go this time then given that I’M ATTENDING. That big and obvious difference is where the hype comes from, as my big trip to the Gold Coast looms on the horizon. Beyond all that, through an Autumn and early Winter of footy and the epic quidditch double of US Nationals and World Cup we get every second year, comes the biggest of all, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

This is gonna be a great year. I really should write about some of that sometimes. I probably won’t though…

 

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Pyeongchang Day 16 Results

The Olympics are over for another year. I’m feeling some emotions now that I will let develop then reflect on in more detail tomorrow, giving these two weeks the proper sign-off post they deserve and that I don’t always maintain the energy for in these blogging endeavours.

The Closing Ceremony has just finished and while it didn’t quite wow me in comparison to previous equivalent Ceremories like the Opening did, it was fun. The predominance of fairly unlistenable K-pop no doubt influenced that feeling for me. But it had the right balance of party atmosphere, further cultural showcase, and sombre reflection on a good time now behind us. There’s not a lot more to say as my focus had kind of moved on and there is no sin in treating the Closing Ceremony party and wind down as far more background entertainment than an Opening Ceremony would be. Again, more on this wind-down feeling tomorrow.

With the big gap in action, amplified by everything being finished and the whole Games therefore consigned to the past, today’s four daytime Medal Events feel like forever ago. All were eminently interesting, as of course was the Exhibition Gala. There was another Bobsleigh dead-heat, for Silver this time. There was one last cementing of Marit Bjoergen’s unmatched legacy, with the most successful Winter Olympian of all-time taking her 15th total and 8th gold medal. In Canada’s absence, the other great Curling powerhouse of Sweden sealed the Women’s tournament.

We all know what was going to be left for last to report on though. Even with everything that has come before and all the hype the unique matchup has generated, that Men’s Ice Hockey final was something special. Personally I am somewhat devastated. Though no Russian Hockey player in Pyeongchang has been implicated as attached to doping, there is something strange about the OAR concept, meant as a special exception for certain above-board individual athletes, extending to an entire team. For this whole two weeks OAR teams in any team sport have left a strange taste in my mouth. They were the favourites coming in though, to both tournament and match, and they were the best team throughout. They deserved to win and they did.

What a match though. After a tense first two periods in which the Russians scored in the first (0.5 seconds from the end!) and Germany in the second, all hell broke loose late. It was still 1-1 with six minutes to go, yet 3-3 by the end. A go-ahead Russian goal was equalised in just ten seconds, before Germany scored again. A German powerplay at 3-2 with 2:10 to go seemed like it would seal it. But the Russians got up the other end, pulled their goalie to offset the shorthand situation, and scored with just 55 seconds on the clock. After more than ten tense OT minutes, it was the Olympic Athlete from Russia team who scored the golden goal.

My devastation is not meant to be an attack on the Russian team. The story of this German team is remarkable, from absolutely nowhere in world Ice Hockey to one minute from being Olympic champions. How agonisingly close they were, only to concede twice more and lose it, ala the (happily now avenged) US Women’s team in Sochi, adds to such a feeling of course.

Because I don’t like to get drawn into the over-zealous focus on the Medal Tally, it took me a while to realise that not winning that Ice Hockey Gold was also the difference between Germany finishing second to Norway on total medals, and winning with an all-time record 15 gold.

 

TODAY’S RESULTS

CURLING

  Women’s
GOLD Sweden
SILVER Korea Republic
BRONZE Japan

BOBSLEIGH

  Four-Man
GOLD Germany
SILVER Korea Republic
SILVER Germany

ICE HOCKEY

  Men’s
GOLD Olympic Athlete from Russia
SILVER Germany
BRONZE Canada

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

  Women’s 30km Mass Start Classic  
GOLD Marit Bjoergen Norway
SILVER Krista Parmakoski Finland
BRONZE Stina Nilsson Sweden

 

FINAL MEDAL TALLY

No. Nation GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
1 Norway 14 14 11 39
2 Germany 14 10 7 31
3 Canada 11 8 10 29
4 United States 9 8 6 23
5 The Netherlands 8 6 6 20
6 Sweden 7 6 1 14
7 Republic of Korea 5 8 4 17
8 Switzerland 5 6 4 15
9 France 5 4 6 15
10 Austria 5 3 6 14

 

Pyeongchang Day 16

The Closing Ceremony of these 23rd Olympic Winter Games will take place at 10pm tonight. While always a slightly sad reflective time, such parties are always fun. It’s not on my mind yet though because there is eight hours of quality to come. Only four sports remain to play to conclusion but the events involved are all long, epic and awesome. Add to that the Figure Skating Exhibition Gala, which is always a highlight of the last day and will be the last time we see Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and probably many others.

The Women’s Curling Gold Medal Game has already begun and because its a final, the only thing on and the last day, Channel 7 can’t find an excuse not to play it and so we’re getting a good half an hour of coverage, by far the biggest block yet. It will no doubt be surely replaced by the Four Man Bobsleigh, after which the day afternoon becomes as busy as ever. With everything early-weighted in order to finish well in advance of the Closing Ceremony, there is great overlap, with the Curling, Bobsleigh and Exhibition Gala all at the same time and before that has finished, the big one for the day will have started.

Germany are in the Men’s Ice Hockey final. It is ridiculous. They are so clearly the underdog story worth going for, even before considering the fact they’ll be playing the pantomime villains of these games in the Russians. All the crazy happenings that have taken place in the Men’s draw distract from the fact that the OAR team were clear favourites coming in and now are clear favourites to fulfil that promise after one more game.

The competitive component of these Olympics will then end as they started, with a Women’s Cross-Country race.

 

TODAY’S MEDAL EVENTS

11:05am – 2:00pm Curling Women’s
11:30am – 2:00pm Bobsleigh Four Man
3:10pm – 5:30pm Ice Hockey Men’s
5:15pm – 7:20pm Cross-Country Skiing Women’s 30km Mass Start

Pyeongchang Day 15 Results

If there’s any sign that the end of the Games are near, it’s the sheer extent to which Channel 7 are letting everything run on autopilot. Tonight Hamish looked like he had a few, so loose were his movements and mannerisms. A couple of times he waved his hand around with his phone clearly visible. He keeps trying to seem like a regular personable bloke but unfortunately because he so clearly is a privileged elite white boy, the result is a unique blend of seeming neither personal or professional.

You can also tell because I’m just starting to get picky and default to it alone. They aren’t really getting ‘extra bad’ towards the end for the most part, I just such an extreme fatigue of a channel that is just so on-the-nose in its attitudes and values overall.

There was no sense of fatigue in the action that took place today, as so much was new and interesting, even on Day 15. Truth be told, the Alpine Team Event was a bit nothing actually, with some repetitive races down (by elite Alpine standards) an elementary slow and tiny Snowboard style Slalom course. The real thing was great though, with upsets aplenty in the Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom, but still a predicted champion, and the completion of a remarkable story in the Women’s. After almost randomly winning the Women’s Super G, Ester Ledecka came back to what she’s actually good at and duly dominated, becoming the first Olympian ever, Men’s, Women’s, Summer or Winter, to win two Gold Medals in the same Games in two different sports.

Then the day finished, as standard now, with a crazy Ice Hockey match, as Canada scored almost at will but could not put the Czech Republic to bed in the Men’s Bronze Medal Game. The first three goals came inside a single minute. Including a goal disallowed for interference (utterly contemptibly), The Czechs responded to Canadian goals with strikes of their own within 90 seconds four times. Canada were clearly better and never looked like losing but the Czechs constantly rallied, before Canada eventually wrapped up Bronze 6-4.

 

TODAY’S RESULTS

SNOWBOARDING

  Men’s Big Air  
GOLD Sebastien Toutant Canada
SILVER Kyle Mack United States
BRONZE Billy Morgan Great Britain

 

  Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom  
GOLD Ester Ledecka Czech Republic
SILVER Selina Joerg Germany
BRONZE Ramona Theresia Hofmeister Germany

 

  Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom  
GOLD Nevin Galmarini Switzerland
SILVER Lee Sangho Korea Republic
BRONZE Zan Kosir Slovenia

ALPINE SKIING

  Team Event
GOLD Switzerland
SILVER Austria
BRONZE Norway

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

  Men’s 50km Mass Start Classic  
GOLD Iivo Niskanen Finland
SILVER Alexander Bolshunov OAR
BRONZE Andrey Larkov OAR

CURLING

  Men’s
GOLD United States of America
SILVER Sweden
BRONZE Switzerland

SPEED SKATING

  Women’s Mass Start  
GOLD Nana Takagi Japan
SILVER Kim Bo-Reum Korea Republic
BRONZE Irene Schouten The Netherlands

 

  Men’s Mass Start  
GOLD Lee Seung-Hoon Korea Republic
SILVER Bart Swings Belgium
BRONZE Koen Verweij The Netherlands

 

MEDAL TALLY

No. Nation GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
1 Norway 13 14 11 38
2 Germany 13 8 7 28
3 Canada 11 8 10 29
4 United States 9 8 6 23
5 The Netherlands 8 6 6 20
6 Sweden 6 6 0 12
=7 Republic of Korea 5 6 4 15
=7 Switzerland 5 6 4 15
9 France 5 4 6 15
10 Austria 5 3 6 14

Pyeongchang Final Saturday

So this is officially almost it. Today is the last full day of action before the half-day that heads into the Closing Ceremony tomorrow. I am SO MAD KEEN though. Not just because upon reaching today, the realisation of a nice full day full of 8 medal events is putting off the post-Olympics blues. It is what we see today that I am really hyped for. Exactly half the medal events contested today are completely new to the Olympic Program. First is the Men’s Big Air, which I still haven’t fully gotten into but the names are recognisable and we get to see the resumption of hostilities from the Slopestyle, coming full circle to the first medal event of the Games a full two weeks ago.

But then it really gets interesting. This afternoon we have the first Alpine Skiing Team Event. I don’t even honestly know exactly how it works yet but it is so new and different. Simpler to understand but equally new and interesting are the Men’s and Women’s Mass Start Speed Skating races tonight, notwithstanding Channel 7’s utter cluelessness as to what they are broadcasting.

On top of that, we have traditional last weekend events. The Men’s Curling wraps up with the final between the United States and Sweden. The Men’s Cross-Country skiers have their marathon 50km Mass Start race. By young event standards, its now traditional to get the Parallel Giant Slalom Snowboarding late in the program. It’s completely different and more pure than the other Snowboard and Freestyle events, simply involving races against the clock and other racers.

Even before all that we have the other big traditional last weekend favourite, with the Four Man Bobsleigh having already started, to conclude tomorrow.

 

TODAY’S MEDAL EVENTS

12:00pm – 1:30pm Snowboarding Men’s Big Air
1:00pm – 3:00pm Alpine Skiing Team Event
2:00pm – 3:04pm Snowboarding Women’s Parallel Giant Slalom
2:15pm – 3:10pm Snowboarding Men’s Parallel Giant Slalom
4:00pm – 7:05pm Cross-Country Skiing Men’s 50km Mass Start
5:35pm – 8:30pm Curling Men’s
10:00pm – 11:45pm Speed Skating Women’s Mass Start
10:45pm – 12:15am Speed Skating Men’s Mass Start

Pyeongchang Day 14 Results

After my major comments earlier today, I will allow mercy to reign and say very little tonight. The main thing I will mention is once again, MEN’S ICE HOCKEY. I said pre-Games this was gonna be something special and oh has it been again and again. Tonight, the epic German story went to another level, as they thoroughly outplayed Canada then survived a late rally to knock out the great Hockey powerhouse 4-3. Germany will play the OAR team for Gold, having not win a single match in the last three Olympics (and only qualified for two). The Russians were 3-0 winners over Czech Republic, setting up a group stage rematch in the Bronze medal match, after the Czechs beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout first time around.

Another note I feel unwisely compelled to add on the whole Channel 7 thing; the Speed Skating confusion is getting worse. Tomorrow, we’re going to have the first ever Mass Start Speed Skating races, completely awesomely. In their promo for tomorrow Channel 7 spoke about it at length, using continuous footage (as opposed to a quick montage shot) of a bunch of a Short Track races. I know this race tomorrow is closer to Short Track than Speed Skating usually gets. I also know there is no previous usable Olympic footage to use. But without acknowledging the differences, they spent a whole sequence of time showing footage from one sport to advertise a completely other. Anyone not as dedicated as I am would have been completely baffled by Hamish waxing lyrical about this ‘first time ever mass start event’ while showing elementary footage of a sport consisting off nothing but Mass Starts. Hopefully noone is confused or disappointed tomorrow and will understand and love what is going on once it eventuates.

 

TODAY’S MEDAL EVENTS

FREESTYLE SKIING

  Women’s Ski Cross  
GOLD Kelsey Serwa Canada
SILVER Brittany Phelan Canada
BRONZE Fanny Smith Switzerland

FIGURE SKATING

  Women’s  
GOLD Alina Zagitova OAR
SILVER Evgenia Medvedeva OAR
BRONZE Kaetlyn Osmond Canada

BIATHLON

  Men’s 4×7.5km Relay
GOLD Sweden
SILVER Norway
BRONZE Germany

SPEED SKATING

  Men’s 1000m  
GOLD Kjeld Nuis The Netherlands
SILVER Havard Lorentzen Norway
BRONZE Kim Tae-Yun Korea Republic

 

MEDAL TALLY

No. Nation GOLD SILVER BRONZE TOTAL
1 Norway 13 14 10 37
2 Germany 13 7 6 26
3 Canada 10 8 9 27
4 United States 8 7 6 21
5 The Netherlands 8 6 4 18
6 Sweden 6 5 0 11
7 France 5 4 6 15
8 Austria 5 2 6 13
9 Korea Republic 4 4 4 12
10 Switzerland 3 6 4 13

 

The ‘Novelty’ of the Winter Olympics

In Australia, Channel 7 are the traditional hosts of the Olympics, but until Rio 2016 they had in fact lost the rights for a period of time. Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 were the heady days of multiple dedicated Foxtel channels, in London’s case shared unusually with Channel 9. Sochi 2014 took the right turn of Channel 10, before Rio re-established the normal order of the 90s and 2000s. Across such long intervals it is too difficult to compare directly how networks go (other than knowing that Foxtel’s dedication has been the obvious pinnacle). Channel 9 and 10 doing the Olympics is a novelty and Channel 7 certainly has a certain warmer air of familiarity to it. It feels ‘proper’ and so I never really want them not to. The problem is, as far as one can recall, and based on their other sports coverage, they’re just the overall worst. The fact we only have Rio and Pyeongchang to go on emphasizes how impressions are influenced by their coverage of other things like the Australian Open (which by and large they do well and shouldn’t be changed) and in my biased perception, their AFL-centricity, which I spoke about in an earlier editorial. All commercial TV is bad all the time now of course and Channel 7 on balance may the best for Olympics from familiarity. But the people are awful. They are the most overtly Australian obsessed. They are by far the worst with cross-promotion. They are by so very far it is embarrassing the worst at obsessing over saccharine sob stories which, from my limited knowledge of commercial TV, seems to be the biggest sin at play across the board on the soapy shlock-fest that is Channel 7.

Recently a friend of mine showed me an article concentrating in particular on Channel 7’s penchant for the patriotic. But it emphasized a more deep-seated common problem with the coverage of any channel, as well as the nature of all Australian media and the Australian psyche in general, in a way that extends far beyond the Olympics and even sport itself. This is the way we treat anything slightly different that what we’re used to as strange and weird and somehow worthy of only being viewed in that novelty context.

The principal point of the article is correct. The only real issue I take with the article is not one that surprises me though unfortunately. In simple harsh terms, it should not be a difficult thing to conceive that the hard work of these athletes is not here for our novelty. The writer has criticised Channel 7 rightly but for saying it has ‘removed the carefree nature’ of things, which is a ridiculously peculiar gripe to have. He simply appears salty that now he can’t just watch the Games in a minimum commitment and attention way as he no doubt always has, and just take the mickey completely. Apparently it is some monumental tragedy that the TV makes it harder for him to laugh at Olympic sports and athletes???

As goes without saying (to any normal sensible person), these sports are as valid and serious and important as anything. Just because someone doesn’t personally understand a sport because they don’t bother to pay attention doesn’t make them ‘quirky’ or satirical.

I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to these sports outside the Olympic period. I certainly cannot claim genuine expertise on many, if not all. I ensure I research beforehand and as I get hyped, watch lead-up events through Foxtel to get back into the swing and become re-informed. Things like this blog project and my elaborate spreadsheet schedule are exercises in immersion, and in the spreadsheet’s case, in further preparation to know I’m best informed in schedule terms. These combine with general catch-up research on the results and stories at play in this current Olympic cycle, resulting in a solid basis of knowledge on what is going on. This allows me to stay a step ahead of Channel 7, which is something you really need to be able to do because they are so bad.

These aren’t the sports I live for, I’m much more familiar with others. Because of that I neither follow as close nor know as much as I could. But if you’re a general mass-sports fan of every kind like I am it doesn’t take much to make an effort and show due respect to these great athletes.

Part of what has triggered this rant is the overwhelming sense of deja-vu I get every Winter Olympics, which draws on experiences in every walk of life. Though I must account for the obscurity of my tastes, particularly in entertainment terms, I still think Australia as a country is fundamentally disrespectful and fearful of anything to which it is unfamiliar, as bad as or worse than other western nations. In the kind of comparison only I could really make, at times during these games I’m reminded of  when Queen were booed off stage in their first Australian visit in 1974, so offended and unable to handle this ‘queer’ brand of what was supposed to be masculine hard-edged Rock ‘n’ Roll were Australian audiences. To keep the metaphors sporting, I see it all the time whenever Australian news coverage tries to talk about overseas sports, from the actually obscure to things like the NBA or Motor Racing which really shouldn’t be. If it isn’t the Cricket or ‘the Footies’ or few other ‘agreed’ Aussie things, it has just been decided by some culturally demarcating powers that be that we’re not supposed to care. What really makes it a pet peeve is how it is so very Australian to bitch smugly about America and how not-like-them we are when it comes to their noted racism and fear of the unknown, and attitude that they’re the centre of the world. But Australians should make no mistake that we are conservative, close-minded and unreceptive to the exotic. In Sporting terms, and in wider circles to a lesser extent, Australia will always be at the centre of its own universe with its head lodged firmly into its own nether regions, as deep as anyone.

In the example of this article, we see that toxic attitude coming out of both sides of the article’s contest (author vs Channel 7). They are on different sides and have different perspectives, but both are disrespectful of the Games and its athletes. I find it hard to really break down in a detailed sense but Channel 7’s whole coverage tone is disrespectful. It is easier to sink your teeth into the obvious stuff. There is no shortage of puff piece and Aussie obsession to provide infuriating evidence of how poor they are at their job. But it is much easier to overlook the wider problem of how much of a novelty they treat everything as. Even in the Summer Olympics, when it comes to any of the obscure sports to us, there is a certain institutionalised bemusement. It is not as bad there because they can just commit the common sin of ignoring and avoiding those sports and showing only ones Australians are prominent in which as a general rule will obviously be more palatable. But it is off the charts at the Winter Olympics, which all channels I’ve ever witnessed here in Australia, but Channel 7 the worst invariably, treat like two huge weeks of weird novelty events to feel strange about. It is completely fair enough for viewers to not be generally familiar with some sports, they are unusual ones which even I don’t follow most of the time. It is also fair enough to use existing data as to which events are popular and decide to show more of those instead of others in your coverage. That’s catering to audience demand. But as the provider of coverage, it should be a network’s job to put in the resources to educate themselves and have the right expertise, in order to help aid the understanding of viewers. If viewers are watching largely because something seems weird that is their prerogative (knowing Australia it is probably happening). But I at least have some faith that this is not the case by and large. Either way, surely it helps and benefits no-one to just send a whole bunch of uninformed AFL people to a foreign land to provide poor and subtly demeaning coverage of the sports of different cultures, and (in the case of Tom Williams features) take the piss out of an entire culture.

To try and provide some detail, Channel 7 constantly and arbitrarily (with obviously no clue what they’re talking about) spout vaguely non-specific stuff about ‘great feats’ and ‘courage’. They talk about how ‘brave’ and ‘crazy’ various people are to do the more extreme sports, in a tone of voice, style of language and with a look on the face that always leans more towards the ‘brave’ and ‘crazy’. This is vague but really watch and try and engage tonally with what’ going on and tell me I’m wrong.

At least once a day Hamish McLachlan talks about the sports he would ‘like to do the least’ at the Winter Olympics as if he just has some open choice and gets to make the call purely on what seems scariest. It may be news to Hamish, but he doesn’t get to choose. Ski Jumpers and Lugers are not notable because they’re ‘courageous’ to stand there or lie there and do high and fast things. They in fact, as is obvious but still needs to be acknowledge and explained, are extremely skilled and athletic practitioners of dangerous and brilliant arts. Ski Jumping and the Sliding sports in particular are sometimes not great as spectator sports because the skills and athleticism involved aren’t visually perceptible. Instead of trying to provide detail and context that makes us truly understand how awe-inspiring these athletes’ feats are, all Channel 7 can do is talk about scary they look and try and ply that avenue of awe. That’s going to happen when you only engage in the sport on the base perceptible level. When what’s going on is complicated and requiring of certain expertise, no random AFL bloke is going to be able to understand or explain it. There is of course always the token jibes about Curling where again, judging a book by its cover and sans any depth of knowledge, the hosts result to casting aspersions on an astonishingly difficult and nuanced sport and by extension, its athletes. Coverage of this nature is disrespectful to viewers, first assuming we all know nothing then assuming that rather than immersive detail, we all just want to embrace this unfamiliarity and engage with what’s happening in the same shallow ‘isn’t this weird lol?’ way they do. It is more obviously disrespectful to the athletes.

That’s what brings me back to that article, which is more infuriating because of how shameless it is. There is none of Channel 7’s pretence. This man simply has the chutzpah to say out loud in a published article, ‘booo this is sad, people are treating the Winter Olympics seriously now and not letting me have my fun laughing at everyone?’ I researched further and found earlier articles clearly stating this as ‘why he likes the Winter Olympics’ The sheer ignorance is remarkable. In the recent article, he appears to try to take the position that Channel 7’s Aussie obsession is ‘disrespectful’ of Channel 7 because it doesn’t feature all these others sports where amazing athletes are doing great feats and not getting attention. This is very true, yet in the SAME ARTICLE with seemingly no sense of irony, he reduces the entire games to this fetishistic ‘fun little thing’ where a bunch of weird crazy unfamiliar people do weird crazy unfamiliar things.

As I referenced in my coverage of Sochi 2014, Channel Ten on that occasion legitimately made thinly veiled gay jokes about Doubles Luge, showing that mainstream media is both fundamentally gross and homophobic (not news to anyone), and casts their eye over Winter Olympic events in those kinds of contexts, searching out for the most novel aspect possible.

That’s the news for Channel 7, ABC, and everyone. If you show the Skeleton briefly, cutting to a delayed single run of ‘that one guy who crashed’, you’re being disrespectful. More to the point, if you decide to show the Ski Jumping by having the (just awful) Hamish McLachlan make a quizzical face and introduce with some high quality analysis about how this is ‘really high’ and ‘really fast’, you’re being disrespectful.

These sports and athletes neither need this token attention nor deserve the disrespect. They are extremely hard-working well-respected athletes performing amazing feats for many appreciative people worldwide. I don’t know the demographic details. Perhaps we don’t care in Australia because we’re not familiar with these sports, which in part is fair enough but in part is so very typical of us as a nation. If so, don’t try and make us care, especially when it is obvious in how you go about it that you don’t care yourselves. If we do care, then we deserve serious proper coverage that treats the Winter Olympics with the respect it deserves.