Along with with millions of other global spectators, I’ve been fixating on the Winter Olympics, averaging one blink per day.
No wonder. Guy skaters wear Vegas outfits and Norwegian curlers sport pajama pants stolen from Grandma.
Competitors also careen on sleds at 90 miles per hour. How did insane sports like the bobsled, the skeleton and the luge ever come to be?
I discovered they all originated in the nineteenth-century spa town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, where, ironically, visitors hoped to improve their health. Caspar Badrutt, a hotel owner, pushed the new concept of winter resorts. However, complaints that young tourists were running down local fraus with sleds threatened the town’s reputation. A track built to keep them off the streets continues to serve Olympic hopefuls today.
That’s the official version. More likely, these sports were invented by snowed-in women whose men had been lying around the house. “Go sled to the store at 90 mph and pick up bread,” the wives ordered. “Better yet, do it face first.”
The husbands must have wanted to escape their women, too, because the idea caught on.
Perhaps cabin fever drove others to aerial skiing and snowboarding, when besieged parents told antsy offspring, “You need exercise. Go jump off a mountain.”
Even odder sports have been showcased during past Olympics. In the Paris Games of 1900, for example, champions took medals in firefighting, kite flying, delivery van racing, hot air ballooning and fencing with walking canes.
Club swinging, despite Neanderthal images that come to mind, often involved intricate choreography — and more trust of fellow club swingers than that required by ribbon-wielding rhythmic gymnasts today. Perhaps by 1932, when club swinging was eliminated, everyone had discovered new ways to get concussions.
Spectators need not fear that the Olympics will suffer from future lack of weirdness. The Summer Olympics include the equestrian sport of dressage. I assumed the horses wore clothes, a modesty trend not reflected throughout the Olympics. Authorities didn’t confirm this, but said the animals do perform moves “Dancing with the Stars” competitors would envy.
It’s not enough that perfect-bodied athletes flood my TV screen? No, a horse with two left feet outdoes me on the dance floor.
Worse yet, pole dancing, or “pole fitness” is now considered an Olympic sport — and no, I’m not making this up. Children will be told to turn off the TV and go jump off a mountain. Spouses will be sent on sleds at 90 mph to pick up bread.
Me? I cast my vote for more dressage.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Olympic sport keeps you glued to the TV?