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Winter Games: It Goes Beyond Ice and Snow

The Difference

The Winter Games and Summer Games are incredibly different, and I love them both, but for very different reasons. The Summer Games are like attending a large university, with lots of variance in sport and country just like majors and the student population. They’re so large you cannot possibly take it all in, but nonetheless you get swept up in the never-ending opportunity to wave your country’s flag and celebrate your colors. It is the biggest party you have ever attended and almost nobody knows one another, yet you feel a bond with everyone through the love of everything the Games embody. The Winter Games are more like a smaller, “major specific” college where everyone is a tight community, bonded by their love of the elements and their sport. Let’s be honest, cold weather just brings people together … one glass of Glühwein (mulled hot wine) at a time. :) Winter sports just have a tighter knit group, and you often see the same people at many different events. It’s also usually held in a smaller area.

So there’s no way you’ll miss the Swiss fans and their GIANT Bells at the bottom of the ski hill, the Austrians and their flags both on their cheeks and in their hands, or the Norwegians running the cheer-show at the cross country venue and belting out their famous victory song. And after a day as part of the crowd, you’ll find yourself humming along, even if you don’t understand the words, with the melodies of the fan stuck in the head.

One of my husband's trophies, a cowbell about 1/10 the size of the bells the Swiss fans ring.

One of my husband’s trophies, a cowbell about 1/10 the size of the bells the Swiss fans ring.

Preparing for a Winter Games

You would think I’d be packing more for a Winter Games than I did for say London, but shockingly that is not the case. At a Winter Games, you often end up wearing your work gear big coat, hat, and gloves to almost everything, so I’m not going to over do it. Talk to me after the Games, and we’ll see how well this decision pans out. I will have my workout clothes and a few other shoe options, but for the most part, I am prepared to portray a true winter look … even if it feels like spring (Sochi is a “beach” resort town after all).  My rain boots from London are sitting on the bubble right now, but my latest intel says the rain has been fairly steady and mud abounds down by the coast, so it looks like I need to make some room in suitcase.

Sochi Packing pile

Sochi Packing pile

Living in Park City for the past 8 years, I have grown to love winter sports and the winter athletes. (I married one for heavens sake.) But unlike most of the summer sports, many of the winter ones are still quite foreign to me and most Americans, and yet that unknown is so very exciting. Many of the sports of the Winter Games are high stakes in every way … flying down a sheet of ice, whether on a track or on a hill, at 70-90 mph! Everything about them, except for the suits, is way out of my comfort zone but so thrilling at the same time. It is also amazing just how many of these sports are national pastimes in other countries, yet they’re not mainstream here in the U.S. But that doesn’t matter because it doesn’t take much to look like you’ve been watching them for years … just grab some warm clothes and a noisemaker, and have the guts to scream like you mean it.

Sochi 2014

These Games, more than ever before, have me a little rattled and I haven’t even placed the first piece of clothing in my bag. It’s all the news and worry over security. It’s not the first time I’ve been a bit scared about a Games, as many have had threats and issues. Athens probably had me most frightened, but my boss at the time set me at ease with his response when I asked him if I was crazy to go. His simply stated, “Summer, you live in one of the most dangerous cities in the world, NYC. You will be fine.” It was true. At the time I’d been living in New York for over 8 years. In a strange way, that was comforting. But even going all the way back to my first Games, Los Angeles in 1984, they kept saying there would be no parking, the traffic would be insane, and finding tickets would be impossible. But we went anyway, and it was an amazing week for my dad, my brother and an 11-year-old me. In Barcelona, the door of our room in the Athlete’s Village wouldn’t even shut. We could never lock it, and we weren’t worried … even after we were told the U.S. team had to take their own buses to the venues because of bomb threats. In 2012, we traveled everywhere in London via the tube … and we had the kids with us … but I didn’t feel worried.

But this one feels a little different because of the political climate and to be honest, because I’ve never been to Sochi and I’m not traveling with my family. I guess I just need to get over there, to live it and experience it. I’m sure it will be a spectacular Games. It will be a beautiful sporting event, as beautiful as the last 21 Winter Games, because the Olympic spirit will be celebrated and the fans will be cheering on the amazing athletes who have put so very much on line to fulfill their lifelong dreams.

Summer in Sochi

There are several things about both the Summer and Winter Games that are similar, but the one that seems to be the most pronounced is the feeling of unity. There is a strong sense of nationalism at the Olympics, for country and team, but there is also an overwhelming sense of community between the fans of every nation. I think it’s often because they share the love of sport and had the guts to show up.

I’m excited to be able to share the stories of the athletes and the wonderful people who will be there to support each awesome finish and amazing performance, and be a part of the Olympic Journey first hand.  I will focus on that and take with me, once again, the honor of being at an Olympic Games.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing is life is not conquering but fighting well.” — Pierre de Coubertin (founder of the modern Olympic Games)

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