DY: In Just a Few Words (#69)
Could I be the next Eddie the Eagle?
A little this-n-that on the Winter Olympic Games.
In case you’re not following their team, Belarus is again competing in the Winter Olympics and, in fact, has won medals in the last several Games. Bela-Who you ask? Most folks have never heard of Belarus until very recently. Fewer still can tell you where it is. So, here’s a Belarus primer.
Belarus is a former Soviet Republic and today maintains very close relations with its Russian benefactor. It borders three countries - Lithuania to its north, Russia to its east and a lot of Ukraine. It’s pretty darn close to Ground Zero for the current mess over the Ukraine and may get into the action if its Russian sponsor needs a friendly push over the top. I'm not sure I ever heard of Belarus until my wife and I were on a trip in 1998 to the British Virgin Islands of all places. There we found a kindred soul from New York, a serious fan of the Olympics who was cheering very loudly for any Belarus athlete in any sport. Every time anything about one of them was mentioned by the announcers, he let forth with a mighty scream BELARUS!!! I think he can rightly claim to be the only person in the Caribbean in 1998 to do that. He was glued to the TV and never piped down.
Very close to my favorite Olympic moment was the debut of the four-man bobsled team from Jamaica some years earlier. That ranks right up there with any Olympic moment from any Olympic year. The Jamaicans absolutely captured the world’s attention and deservedly so. Jamaica is known for producing great track athletes, but - let’s be honest here - the tropical Jamaican winter weather is not a prime training ground for bobsledders. That said, don’t underrate the Jamaican Women’s two-person bobsled team this year. My extensive research indicates they could be competitive.
Eddie the Eagle
Hot on the heels of my Jamaican heroes came a Brit known as Eddie the Eagle. He had a big idea and he actually pulled it off in 1988 when he became the first person from Great Britain to compete in the Olympic ski jump event in 60 years. Eddie the Eagle captured the world's attention and a movie was made some years later that celebrated his triumph - just to get up to the starting line.
We visited the site of the Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1976 and climbed to the starting line of the ski jump stadium. I am an eyewitness to how steep and dangerous and long that starting run is until you suddenly launch into the air - thus the name ski jumping. It's not for the faint-hearted and Eddie was not faint-hearted. In the buttoned-up corporate-like world of the Olympics, Eddie was a breath of fresh air.
My Suggestion to the IOC
I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest to the International Olympic Committee that it add a new event for the Winter Games in 2026 and that would be Seniors Zip-Lining - 10 miles start-to-finish at heights ranging from 25 feet to as much as 6,000 feet soaring over far-off valleys and villages way below. I know this is typically a tropical event, but - if the Jamaicans can field a bobsled team - I feel confident winter zip-lining can work.
The Olympics badly need another Eddie the Eagle or Jamaican Bobsled Team and my hand is up to be their man. Why not an octogenarian who has zip-lined exactly one time previously? Think of the inspiration I can provide to say nothing of the sponsorships I can score. It’s a winning idea even if I don’t win the event.
P.S. It pains me to say that last week’s blog contained a factual error. I asserted that the USA Men’s Hockey Team beat Russia for the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics. In fact - and this is a fact - we defeated Finland, which is a little known suburb Of Russia. Our 1980 Miracle on Ice win over the Soviet Union was the game BEFORE the gold medal game. This egregious error was brought to my attention by Ted Diadiun, columnist for the Plain Dealer and a longtime friend. I just hope this much admired journalist doesn’t go on some intense investigation to see what other sins I have committed along the way. I am packed and ready to leave town on a moment’s notice.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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