Even the most identifiable sport at the winter games, alpine skiing, couldn’t resist the idea that more is better. It went from the traditional three races (downhill, slalom, and giant slalom) to five with the addition of the super G (whatever that is, I assume a GIANT giant slalom) and the combined (downhill and slalom). It means more TV exposure and more gold medals. Who’s going to complain?
The one sport that changed significantly for the better is ice hockey. In the last 20 years the National Hockey League (NHL) has taken a siesta in February and allowed its players to compete in the games. Now hockey fans can watch the world’s best and know most of the players. Women’s ice hockey has also been added to spice up the event.
The only down note is that the NHL may balk at taking a break in the future and not allow its players to participate. That would be a lose-lose proposition for both the NHL and the Olympics and reveal the short-sightedness of NHL owners. But that’s another story.
To understand what the Winter Olympics was once like, you should get a look at the classic movie, “Miracle.” It’s the seminal moment of the Winter Olympics (at least for us). In the 1980 games at Lake Placid, the U.S. men’s ice hockey team shocked the world and beat the Soviet Union 4-3 on their way to winning the gold medal. It was the greatest upset in the history of sports. Veteran broadcaster Jim McKay compared it to a bunch of Canadian college football players beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was in the midst of the Cold War and brought pride and joy to an entire nation, even to those that never followed hockey before. The 2004 film, starring Kurt Russell as Coach Herb Brooks, captures the spirit and intimacy of the Winter Olympics like no other. It essentially changed the popularity of the winter games in this country and made us a major player in practically every sport (except ski jumping and biathlon).