It’s time for the Olympics! I know that there are major problems with the Olympics. Countries spend millions of dollars to lobby to host the games, and then millions more to actually host them. All of this at the expense of the actual people living in the country, mostly the poor people. However, I have loved the Olympics since I was a little Briggsy. The drama, the spectacle, the shared moments, the personalities, the sports I’d never seen before. Summer, winter, no matter where they were…I loved them all throughout my childhood. Less so in my adulthood, but I’m reinvigorated for this winter’s games. Maybe it’s the promise of the big screen teevee.
Tonight is the Opening Ceremonies, from just a few hours north of here, in Vancouver. We’re having an Olympics party tonight (think Canadian and Olympiad inspired food and drink!), and the Olympic hoopla has gotten me traveling on a trip down memory lane (I love that street! ), thinking about the ghosts of Olympics past.
I think my great love for the Olympics started with the ’84 summer games in Los Angeles. Probably with this:
How great are the mustaches and the satin running suits? OK, enough with the detached hipster irony. Mary Lou’s vault and perfect ten is still goose bump inducing! She sticks the landing!
Everybody told me I had her haircut that summer. I mean, she was great at gymnastics and everything, but no. I wasn’t into gymnastics. I was more wanting to be like this California dude. Karch Kiraly! I lived in the midwest and never been to the beach, much less played volleyball. But in the summer of ’84, I was punching an old soccer ball over our backyard power lines. Karch was the man that summer. Look at this guy!
He looks like that dude who played the villain in every 80s movie.
Then there were the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. That winter was all about the speed skating. I remember Bonnie Blair. Bonnie was a badass. Or maybe it’s just the ninja spiderman outfits that speed skaters get to wear. And their starting poses. Love ’em!
Bonnie is still the most medal winning U.S. athlete in Winter Olympics history.
Those 1988 winter games also had the genuinely moving story of Dan Jansen. Heavily favored to win two golds, the guy’s sister died of leukemia literally hours before his first race.
He fell. Twice.
You can’t write this stuff. It’s surprising his story hasn’t been turned into a movie yet. Matt Damon?
Dan Jansen finally won a gold medal in 1994.
But probably the most lasting memory from the ’88 winter games for me is from the Closing Ceremonies. It was the first time 13 year old me saw k.d. lang. k.d. now is different than k.d then. Check out her performance in Calgary from that year. This video won’t imbed, but I highly recommend clicking on the link and watching it on youtube.
The boots, the hair, the Elvis-like swagger. The dress? 13 year old me was pretty intrigued with this ambiguously gendered (for the time) person singing kitschy country music in front of the world. This memory would be told over in over in the future by me, filed under, here’s when I first thought I might be a burgeoning lil’ queer.
And I just found out today, 22 years later, k.d. is going to be back celebrating Canadian Olympic pride (curling! luge!), tonight at the Opening Ceremonies.
She’s going to be singing Hallelujah.
It won’t be able to top 1988 to me. I was 13 after all.