Tuesday, February 14, 2006
The Art of Sport
There are two reasons why I like the Winter Olympics over the Summer ones: snow, and figure skating. The former because snow has a charm all on its own (don't get me wrong, the 95 Farenheit temperature here is fine and dandy too, whoop de doo and all that).
The latter because it's one of the few sports that has a real artistic element to it. The stereotype of sports (say, when you meet a quarterback or someone else in the "jock" category) is that it's all brawn and no brains - which is, like all stereotypes, flawed: the strategy, quick decisions, precision and teamwork all come into place as well. And winter sports like the luge, skiing, and skating races to me bring that out more than the javelin and speed walking.
But you can have strategy, teamwork and all that and still seem like a bunch of cavemen. That's where figure skating comes in - with charm. True, we have the gymnastics events with the ribbon and the ball, but in figure skating there's just this element of risk - the audience taking a collective breath right before finding out whether the triple axel ends in a beatiful landing or in an awful fall. When it's great, the audience feels a certain sense of being a part of something magical, and when it doesn't, there's a great amount of sympathy that you don't get when a football team loses a couple of points. Something like classical music, except we have a lot of symphonies and um, less sympathy.
I'm glad that this year's Olympic commentator's have finally put the music of the figure skaters in the limelight - because it's too often a wishy-washy affair matching what's close to classical music to skating. Apparently it's because the new judging criteria includes musical interpretation. It's been interesting also to note that many of the figure skating pairs chose music that's really indicative of a country other than their own: this year's Germans selecting bagpipes of Scotland, and the Americans the flamenco guitar more suggestive of Spain, while the Russians chose Mack the Knife.
Well, maybe music is universal after all... but for now, let's just skate on. And bravo to the silver medallists in the pairs, from China - for still going on, and scoring, after a huge fall which even the commentators thought would surely end their participation then and there.