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Making a game of it
February 11, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

The Olympics are nothing if not educational. “Look, Slovakia,” I overheard while watching the opening ceremony parade of athletes. “I know where that is from “Hostel.”

Other counties didn’t necessarily fare so well in the location identification department in that same crowd.

“Estonia? Where the heck is that?”

But ever-evolving geography aside, the Winter Olympics is a treasure trove of learning. And by learning I mean weird — at least as weird as it gets without Rocky and Ivan Drago making a surprise appearance in the middle of a curling match.

Bob Costas’ puffy infected eye. Shaun White daring to pull out of an event. All of the snowboarders trash talking the courses and halfpipe. The Russian police choir’s rendition of “Lucky.” Threats of toothpaste bombs. German’s crazy neon-colored uniforms. The pleas to adopt stray dogs getting more attention that the baby adoption ban for Americans. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reported mistress lighting the Olympic torch. Sure, she’s an athlete herself but it still seems a little tabloidy.

Speaking of Putin — or rather his homophobic leanings — how is it that Team Russia’s entrance during the opening ceremonies was to a 2002 tune (perhaps the only tune) of faux-Sapphic pop duo t.A.T.u. Today’s lesson: Do as I say and not what I listen to.

Another point. If at first you don’t succeed, digitally alter success. The opening ceremony was marred by one of the decorative rings failing to open so all many viewers saw broadcast was a small snowflake in place of the final ring. Russian TV would have none of that and doctored the shot.

We’ve also learned that journalists are a whiny bunch. First they want water — potable water, no less — and flushing toilets. Then they’re seeking heat, Internet and bathroom stall privacy.

Who do they think they are, American athletes deprived of their Chobani? Yes, the biggest Greek tragedy of the games is the Russian detainer of the product for something involving dairy standards. Obviously, this was orchestrated by Chobani itself. You can’t buy this kind of publicity.

U.S. bobsledder John Quinn taught that when trapped in a small confined space, use one’s head — and fists. When finding himself trapped in a bathroom, Quinn took the logical route. He punched his way out. The method was less useful days later when stuck in an elevator.

Despite the old adage to the contrary, sometimes there are stupid questions. A morning host who will remain nameless sat down with ice dancing gods Meryl Davis and Charlie White prior to their performances. Her question was something akin to are you guys hoping to win a medal?

Um, let me try to answer that. I’m going to go with yes.

Of course, the one thing I might never get is how ice skating is scored. The Russian couple bobbled. The Canadians were awesome. France had the best costumes. Guess which home team dominated. Please, broadcasters and judges, how about a side box on the screen explaining deductions or “twizzle” or even why the need for so many sequins.

At least in that sport, the clothes make the man — or, rather, coach. Davis and White share a coach with Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. The two teams’ close rankings meant coach Marina Zoueva required a quick costume change in the kiss and cry area. Perhaps a pair of glasses and she can pass herself off as the next Clark Kent, too.

Ah, Sochi. Never a dull moment. But the strangest thing I’ve learned? That in between all the hoopla and worries and social media buzz, the Olympics actually involves sports.

Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor:



Tags: russian, olympics, opening, coach, white,

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