Yesterday I made a personal breakthrough of a kind. Being a television sports addict – and faced with a Saturday schedule including Liverpool v Arsenal at lunchtime, followed by two Six Nations matches fascinating in prospect – I had made a deliberate strategic decision to avoid all coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
My antipathy to winter sports goes back in time.
It begins, historically, with black and white coverage of the Cresta Run and Nash and Dixon’s two man bobsleigh gold medal in 1964 and then subsequently Franz Klammer, Torvill and Dean, John Curry, Robin Cousins, Eddie The Eagle and the Vancover Games (the curling final and Amy Williams on her tea-tray) just about constitute the sum of my appreciation.
Most recently, I was left seriously unmoved by the BBC’s preview promotions of the Sochi Olympics. Mock-epic black and white shots of mountains with deep-voiced voice-overs invoking cod-epic poetry just didn’t do it for me, especially when the BBC was using similar techniques for its build-up to the annual rugby Six Nations.
Plus, I was marginally set against Sochi on principle because the Russians – or should I say Putin – had spent £31 billion, more than all previous winter Games together if reports are accurate, in a naked attempt to use the Olympics to raise Russia’s profile and world prestige. In which context, I was kinda hoping, there’d be some mighty cock-ups and negative publicity – of which the much-publicised failure of a ‘snowflake’ to turn into the fifth Olympic ring during the Opening Ceremony seemed to be a welcome first example.
Anyway, back to yesterday.
I was sifting through the morning newspapers, minding my own business, with the BBC1’s Breakfast Time on the television in the background. The sports report came around for the umpteenth time, during which it was announced that the final of the men’s slopestyle snowboarding event was to begin in the next ten minutes, with two Brits (Jamie Nicholls and Billy Morgan) being amongst the twelve contenders.
Switching over to BBC2 on a whim, I then watched transfixed for an hour by the sheer brilliance and spectacle of the event.
Previously, to me, snowboarding had seemed to be the preserve of spotty, pot-smoking, teenagers with untidy, flapping clothes and attitude. Certainly, on my own rare skiing holidays, they were regarded as an annoying hazard, to be avoided on the ski slopes as well as everywhere else.
Yesterday I became engrossed. The scale of the course, the extraordinary acrobatics of the participants – in many cases, the mindset and balls it must have taken to even devise some of the moves, let alone attempt to execute them – and (I must admit) especially the over-the-top enthusiasm of the BBC commentators, whose names sadly escape me, gradually drew me in. The guys behind the mikes were whooping and a-hollering almost in disbelief at some of the snowboarders’ moves which – they openly testified – in many cases seemed to have been fuelled by this relatively-new sport having its day at the Olympics and ‘the boys’ wanting both to show off to the world and win the bloody thing. I even grew to love the snowboarding jargon that was coming thick and fast.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a convert to the Winter Olympics.
However, based upon yesterday morning’s revelations, I’m definitely a fan of slopestyle snowboarding.