By Rob ficiur
“What do you think of the Olympics so far?” I was asked that question twice on Saturday, Day 2 of the 2014 Sochi, Russia Winter Olympics. So far Canada has one gold among the four medals it has earned. That is more than our country earned the entire 1980 Lake Placid Games, and one less than in the 1988 Calgary games. Our worst showing in modern times was a single silver medal in the 1972 Sapporo Japan games.
My first thought about the 2014 Olympics was to think back to my memories of previous winter Olympics.
-1980 Lake Placid, New York – This is the first Olympic games I remember watching. I was working at Woolco Department store, and in the back staff room there was a TV. A rather ho-hum Olympic games caught everyone’s interest when the American hockey team defeated the Soviet Union. That was not the final Gold Medal game. Instead the Americans defeated Finland to win the gold. I vaguely remember other staff members slipping into the staff room during the games to check the scores.
-1984 Sarajevo, Yugoslavia – I don’t remember any of Canada’s four medals that year. Eight years after the Olympics, war broke out in the crumbling country of Yugoslavia. Citizens who owned lived a normal life with jobs, cars, bank accounts in 1984, struggled to survive war. The contrast is hard to imagine. While Canada still uses many of the sites from the 1988 Olympics, only one of the 1984 sites survived the four year civil war.
-1988 Calgary Games- Figure skater Brian Orser won silver in the much anticipated battle of the Brian’s; where American Brian Boitano won the gold. Elizabeth Manley won a silver medal in figure skating coming within a few points of Soviet Gold Medalist Katrina Wit. Manley was not considered a likely medalist before the games, but now her name goes down in history.
-1992 Alberville (France) and 1994 Lillehammer (Norway) have no memories for me. When Olympic events take place in time zones eight hours different than home, it did not always fit a schedule to watch. This was also before we had five (or more) sports only channels to cover the games over and over. The 1994 games were important, because starting that year, the Winter Olympics were in separate years from the summer games.
-1998 Nagano Japan– This was the first year that NHL players competed in the Olympics. In past many hockey fans rolled their eyes at the Olympic hockey tournament. The Soviets sent their best players (officially they were amateurs) and Canada (and USA) were represented by up and coming amateur, semi pro players. Canada lost in the semi final to the Czech Republic – actually they lost to one man – Czech goalie Dominic Hasek. The most second guessed move in hockey history was when Canadian coach Mark Crawford chose to not let Wayne Gretzky be one of the five shootout players. (The Czechs have only won one hockey medal (bronze) in the three Olympics since 1998).
-2002 Salt Lake City – These memories come back as if it were last month not a dozen years ago. Canada got a protested gold medal in figure skating pairs (2 gold medals for one event). Google “2002 Winter Olympics judging scandal” and there are clips from soap operas that blame the French judge for the challenges facing the couple. In Salt Lake, for once the International Olympic Committee overruled incompetent judging – and gave out two gold medals (and suspending the two vote trading officials).
The Canadian women won hockey gold defeating the Americans and the American referee (who called three times as many Canadian penalties as American). The Canadian men won gold, in a solid 5-2 win over the USA.
2006 Torino, Italy – Canada won more medals (24) than ever in Torino. Seven gold medals tied Salt Lake City for Canada’s best ever. However, when the Canadian men’s hockey team was not a winner at all, all other memories faded for me. How could our top NHL players be out of the medals? They knew the ice in Torino would be bigger, then bring a faster team. (Guess they tried to do that for 2014)
2010 – Vancouver – For the second straight winter Olympics, Canada got more medals (26) and more gold (14) than in any other games. Sidney Crosby’s overtime Gold Medal Winning goal was the drama that fans will talk about for decades. (Not so much if we had lost in overtime).
What do I think of the 2014 Sochi, Russia Olympics? They are memories waiting to be made. (Good memories…I hope.)