Tag Archives: Olympics

Olympic Games of Chance

Two days to the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies, and the games of chance are still being played. The Zika virus, polluted water venues, 1964_Olympics_equestrian_stamp_Japan-wikicommons games of chanceand a bacterial risk to horses.

Glanders is a contagious fatal equine respiratory disease. Humans can contract it too. In the past few years, hundreds of Brazilian horses have been killed to stop its spread. Horse owners argued that the tests are too often inaccurate. Health officials did not want to endanger horses coming for the games. The risk of infection is still there, and riders decided to take it.

You’d expect a story like this would get a lot of coverage. It didn’t. There’s been too many other things going wrong in Brazil.

Rio_de_Janeiro_bid_banner_2016_Summer_Olympics-rodrigo-Soldon-wikicommonsOfficials of the IOC and host country will take any and all measures to ensure safety and smooth-sailing, so to speak, for the games. They can kill horses, can’t they, but they can’t kill problematic humans. They can move them however. Poor areas deemed unsightly or dangerous to visitors and tv cameras are relocated, with bulldozers usually.

National funds are used to build facilities always said to improve post-Olympics life for residents. Rarely do they. Rushed or shoddy construction, and Olympic-size facilities that are way more than what a city needs for sports and recreation. Velodromo_Municipal_do_Rio_2016a-Team-Erdgas-wikicommons

Tracks, playing fields and pools don’t keep themselves up. They require continued expenditure of money and time. Cities around the world are littered with unused remnants of their Olympic Games. No money. The buildings may crumble quickly, but the Olympic debt doesn’t.

Reuse: A Permanent Home

It’s way past time for a permanent Olympics home. Greece, for summer games, and Switzerland, winter games, would work. Greece has the history of the ancient Olympians. Switzerland has the Alps, clock makers and an aura of neutrality. It also has the IOC headquarters. Greece, analysts and athletes have made good arguments for these sites long before I thought of them. Maybe another couple of sites as well, so there is a fallback in case of natural or political turmoil.

Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympics, believed that moving the games around would foster global understanding by letting people get to know different countries, different peoples. Good point. But it is outweighed by the cost, corruption and conflict that accompany every Olympic games.

Sarajevo_1984-Olympic_Symbol-Hedwig-Klawuttke-1997-wikicommonsI hope the Rio Games go well. But I hope too that we remember the frightful games of chance – natural and socio-political – that occurred in the lead-up to them. It’s time to rethink the Olympics for the long term. Not just say whew, that went better than expected, and stumble along to the next ones.

Dressage Top Hat

dorothee schneider diva royal ger-dderosaphotoA requirement for safety helmets to be worn by riders in all equestrian shows is a good idea and, by and large, the helmets look ok.  But dressage needs something that is as elegant as the sport itself.  Something that looks like, well, the traditional top hat.

After watching the Olympics dressage, where some riders wore top hats and some wore crash helmets, I thought can’t technology come top hat helmet by l'Hiverup with a protective helmet with style?  I googled it and, yes, others have thought the same thing.

The helmet on the left looks good.  I’d like to see it on a human head to see its proportions and if it still looks good when on.  The dressage helmet below  does have the shape of a top hat and obviously the protective capabilities of a helmet. But its size, with that protection, makes it also makes it look kinda like The Cat in the Hat.

Megan Rust helmet top hatA serious head injury in 2010 by Olympics dressage rider Courtney King-Dye started the move for helmets for all riders in all disciplines.  Yes, it’s a good idea.  A horse cantering, no matter how elegantly in dressage, is still moving at a good speed and a fall can cause the rider a lot of damage.

But dressage, of all the equestrian sports, is also an art form.  Looks and beauty of movement on the part of horse and rider is an Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro 2012 Olympic dressageimportant element.  Riders wearing a standard shaped crash helmet may as well complete the look by wearing snowmobile pants.

In show jumping and eventing, the crash helmet somehow doesn’t look as bad.  These are more clearly “sport” even though there is artistry in what horse and rider are doing.  But in dressage, the athleticism involved is hidden from view so that the beauty of the movement can be seen.  Like in figure skating, circus performance and dance.  You know these are superb athletes but you don’t want to see the strain of muscles pumping.  You want to see the beauty and fluidity of motion.

If dressage riders are going to wear standard issue crash helmets, you might as well reiningdemand ballerinas wear knee and elbow pads.  Please, scientists, keep working on a helmet that preserves the elegance of dressage as well as the heads of riders. While you’re at it, a protective cowboy hat for reining would be good.  The look of that hat is important too.

Congratulations to Team GB for winning gold in team dressage and show jumping.  And thanks to all competitors for incredibly exciting and beautiful performances.

Olympic Eventing

Trying to watch the Olympics Equestrian Eventing of the past three days, I’ve performed dog coming down stairsin my own Eventing competition.  It includes the Stair Dash, Pet Hurdles and Speed Remote Handling.

It’s due to television reception, or lack of.  We now have satellite tv and I’m sure when the bugs get worked out, it will be fine.  But that hasn’t happened in time for Olympics watching.  A new box is on a truck on its way here from somewhere.  I don’t watch sports much; World Cup, Triple Crown races, show jumping, equestrian games and the Olympics.  But those events alone are reason to have a big screen high definition tv.

We have one in the living room, with its fancy box for transmitting the signal to the tv.  Upstairs is a smaller tv with a “standard” box.  The tv in upstairs denupstairs one has worked fine, but the living room one?  Sometimes it’s fine but it often cuts out or there’s no signal at all when you turn it on.  We were told weather affects satellite reception so at first thought there must be a storm somewhere.  No problem, see how it goes, there’s other things to do anyway.  But when it didn’t work more often than it did, I called the company.  “It’s the box,” the lady said after taking me through diagnostic unplugging and resetting, “we’ll send out another one – 3 to 5 days.”

But last Friday was the opening ceremony for the Olympics.  No life in the big screen box at all.  So I watched upstairs.  It was impressive but I knew how much more so it would be if I could only watch it downstairs on high def big tv.  Dogs’ dinner was late because the commercial breaks weren’t long enough to run downstairs and feed them.  Midway through Paul McCartney’s Hey Jude, a cat fight downstairs couldn’t be ignored, so I missed the end of the show.

It was during the Eventing that I perfected my own eventing.  Running up and down the stairs, leaping over animals, simultaneous coordination of remote and tv buttons.  I kept Olympic medal presentation on big screenfiddling with the big screen box, unplugging cords I hadn’t unplugged before.  Yesterday, it worked.  I watched swimming and it was glorious. I left the tv on and went out, came back and there was still a picture.  Settled in to watch the show jumping part of Eventing.  Even without high definition on OLN, it was fabulous.  You could see every detail of the horse and the jumps.  I could easily do other things during commercials. Maybe this box is fine, it must have been that last cable I reconnected.

tv with no signal messageZara Phillips and High Kingdom started their ride in the individual competition – and the signal went out.  Even surpassing the gold medal standard in simultaneous performance of my personal eventing elements, I didn’t get the upstairs tv on in time to see the end of their ride.

Dressage starts tomorrow.  The new box had better be here.

Hickstead

Canadian athletics and the world of show jumping lost a superstar last Sunday.  The great Hickstead died during competition in Verona, Italy November 6th at age 15.  His big heart just gave out it seems.

Hickstead 2006 Capital Classic-wikicommons-222fjbHe and rider Eric Lamaze became heroes of Canadian sport, even for those not interested in show jumping.  Especially after they won individual gold and team silver for Canada in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, everyone knew their names.

Both of them fought great odds and have the kind of rags to riches stories that we all love.  Hickstead was a small horse by show jumper standards, but he put every ounce of determination he had into every jump.  He was a joy to watch, back hooves stretched behind him as he cleared fences and water jumps.

To those too young to remember Ian Millar’s Big Ben, Hickstead is the epitome of show jumping beauty.  To those of us who watched Big Ben jump, even if we were only watching him on television, Hickstead became a worthy successor to that big beautiful horse.  And Eric Lamaze has joined Captain Canada himself, Ian Millar, as horsemen we admire and are proud to call our own.

Hickstead made me cry many times.  Watching him fly way over fences, seeing the Hickstead jumping at 2008 Olympicsexpanse of air between him and the obstacle.  Crying with happiness that he did it and crying in awe of his beauty.  Crying with relief when he’d complete a round safely and with no faults.  Crying at the pride on his face and on Eric’s when they’d finish, and the obvious connection between the two of them.  Then last Sunday, hearing the news of his death and crying for the loss of such a great horse.

He was getting up in years for what he was doing and Eric was aware of that, not over-pushing him and saving his strength.  He also wasn’t planning to retire him and I’m glad for that.  Hickstead clearly loved jumping.  He died doing what he loved.  We should all be so lucky.  Goodbye, Hickstead.  Watching you gave me great joy.