Department Of Olympic Reflections
I’m going through my every-two years (pandemic-influenced schedule changes notwithstanding), post-Olympic blues, where after dinner I sit down in one of our way-too-comfy chairs and expect instant access to televised, Holy ACL tear, how do they *do* that? feats of athleticism. Despite my enjoyment of the spectacle, my attention feels somewhat squirm-worthy…. Moiself doesn’t even try to justify my interest in The Games ® with my abhorrence of the host country’s abysmal human rights record.
The USA engaged in a “diplomatic boycott” of these Beijing-hosted games. Remember the lackluster response to that announcement?
Few if any sports fans tune in to watch the participating countries’ political envoys compete in the Ambassadorial Mixed Team Relay Luge, what’s the point? When it comes to action strategies, a diplomatic boycott reminds me of prayer – it’s a way of trying to provide the illusion that you’re doing something when in fact you’ve done nothing of consequence.
“We’re doing a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.”
“We’re praying for the victims of human rights violations.”
Can or should sports (or any human endeavor) be politics-free? And if the answer is yes, what kind of human rights violations and atrocities are allowed to eclipse those leave-politics-out-of-these-games declarations?
Other minds far keener than moiself’s frequently debate this issue, and come to contradictory conclusions (“The Olympics *are* political and the IOC is delusional” ; “Olympics ‘Are Not About Politics,’ Athletes Should Be Politically Neutral At Games”) and everything in between. I do remember reading a couple of op-ed pieces about the importance of viewers – and journalists – at the Olympics, as in, acting as witnesses to hold the China government accountable for the image they intended to portray vs. the reality of what they do. If no one’s watching, Chinese officials can say whatever they like about…anything.
When the USA boycotted the Russian-hosted 1980 Summer Olympic to protest Russia’s 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, 64 other countries joined the boycott. Sound like a lot? Think again – 80 countries did not, and sent representative athletes to the games. What was accomplished? Oh, that’s right; how quickly I forget. Shamed as bullies before the free world, Russia renounced its oppressive ways and turned into a beacon of liberty and civil rights for the downtrodden masses across the globe.
Back to the actual games. The big-liest story involved the 15-year-old Russian figure skater, Kamila Valieva. Valieva tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance but was still was allowed to compete (and then fell apart during a key performance). 
Moiself would wager that many teenaged Olympic athletes are “older” than their non-athletic team member peers in many ways, after years of single-minded devotion and adherence to a grueling practice schedule that would break most adults. There is a second part to my wager: at the same time, these teen athletes’ pursuit to excel at their sport makes them more naïve than other teens. Young Olympics-bound athletes often little experience of the maturation that comes from encountering “real life,” having been shielded from the day-by-day mundane decisions and activities – by both their coaches and parents – so that they can concentrate on mastering the backside quad cork 180˚ or whatever.
So, who’s responsible for Valieva’s doping? Was it the athlete, or her coach(es)? Given how coaches control influence their athlete’s lives, and the age of the skater in question, it’s not that difficult for me to imagine Valieva’s unquestioning compliance to a command recommendation.
“Here comrade, take pill/shot, and don’t worry, it’s …uh…
vitamin B-12! Da, that is what it is.”
Still, there is the argument that if she’s old enough to be on the Olympics team she’s old enough to take responsibility for following the Olympics’ rules. If a substance is banned, you don’t take it, and you don’t let anyone give it to you.
No matter who’s at fault, I hated to see/think of a 15 year old getting ripped a new one by her coaches…which is what happened. Whosever decision it was to dope – hers, or her “support” team’s – maybe it doesn’t matter in long run. And maybe someone should check on Valieva, after she’s returned to Russia and the hoopla dies down, to make sure she hasn’t been carted off to the All-Gulag Tour of Ice Dancing With The Russian Stars.
My interest in watching any of the figure skating dropped after the Valieva doping-but-excused revelation. It left a bad taste in my mouth, particularly when I compared the skater’s outcome with what happened to a Summer Olympics track star. Why wasn’t there a huge outcry about the difference in treatment – USA sprinter Sha’ Carri Richardson was kicked off the Summer Olympics team for failing *her* drug test. A few people commented, including, succinctly, Richardson herself:
“The only difference I see is I’m a black young lady.”
( “Double Standard, Racism? Sha’Carri Richardson Booted From Olympics For Cannabis, Russian Skater No Problem For Doping.” Benzinga 2-14-22)
Moiself does recall that someone else commented about the brouhaha, at the time when Richardson got the boot….
As the Tokyo (Summer) Olympics Games enter the final week, I’m realizing I will soon be going through the withdrawal I experience every two years, after watching two-plus weeks of (summer or winter) Olympics events. I’m not normally a frequent televised-sporting-events fan, but moiself does enjoy The Games ®….
In the second week, with track and field events predominating, moiself is thinking about a conversation I had with daughter Belle, several weeks back, about how the USA’s track star Sha’ Carri Richardson received a suspension for testing positive for marijuana, and thus would not be participating in the Olympics.
Belle was peeved that Richardson would not be able to compete, due to what Belle sees as an unfair and archaic drug testing system. I mentioned that Richardson’s competitors might also be disappointed in Richardson’s absence from the games. As I understand it, when you’re at the top level of your sport, you want to compete against the best. Also, whatever your accomplishments, you don’t want an asterisk next to them (as in, “* ___ won the gold medal, after the favorite ____ was disqualified for….”).
We agreed that athletes should be tested for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs; definitely-absolutely-go-for-it. But Belle and I had fun wondering back and forth about why athletes are tested for alcohol and marijuana…. it seems to moiself that weed and booze, with their relaxant and depressive properties, would diminish, not enhance, athletic performance. And really now: in what sports could marijuana be considered a performance *enhancing* drug? Competitive eating? Belle suggested.
You’d think athletes would *want* their rivals to get the munchies before competition: “Here comes Richardson, strolling across the finish line in last place, giving the other racers a, ‘What’s up with all the hurry?’ look as she heads for the pizza roll vendor….”
“I’d like to thank my coach, and my training partner, Maui Wowie.”
So, lobby to change the Olympics’ drug testing rules, if you think it would be worthwhile to do so. Until then, it would be unfair to other athletes to make exceptions for some and not others, in terms of how existing drug rules are applied. 
Also, the athletes know full well what they will be tested for. My advice  to them is, don’t act surprised and/or disappointed if you used a banned substance and then get caught. Take responsibility. Don’t play dumb when you’re not.
(Excerpts from 8-6-21 blog post, The Drug Test I’m Not Failing, full text here)
Once again, I digress. Time to finish with the Winter Olympics.
As always, moiself thrilled to watch the ariel snowboarding and skiing and ski jumping events, marveled at the WTF?!? stamina and skill required by the XC skiers and Biathlon-ers,  and yawned through (read: ignored) the curling/bobsled/luge/skeleton events.  Although it was great to see pioneering USA snowboarding champ Shaun White in Olympic action again/for the last time, it was also awe-inspiring to see the younger snowboarders – many if not most of whom were inspired by White – perform their gravity-defying new stunts…and then it was poignant to realize, as White seemed to do so graciously, that his time at that level of competition had passed. Most of all, it was great fun, for moiself at least, to see a smaller country, Norway (population 5 million, led the medal count with thirty-seven. Yes; 37), dominate the competition. 
But, my enjoyment was dampened by the skating scandal. And also, the host. Fucking People’s Republic of Human Rights Bullies China.
My gradually-souring mood was saved by son K, who steered me toward an old video clip of Shaun White as a bright-eyed 19 year old, being interviewed by CNN after his first Olympics. Refreshingly unjaded and enthusiastic, gushing as if amazed by his own success, White described how, during his plane flight back to the USA, the flight attendants  fawned over his Olympic medal. White’s charmingly disarming, duuuuude, totally rad persona, seemingly endemic to surfers and snowboarders, surfaced when the CNN interviewer interrupted White with an attempted “gotcha” moment. It reminded me why I’m gonna miss the red-haired dude and his ‘tude:
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Department Of Things I Sometimes Forget
Such as, sometimes I forget how much I like a simple veggie chili, which can be made rather quickly with Staples I Almost Always Have Handy ® . As for the simple part, you can complexify  it up, as much as you want, with different beans and pepper combos, and get jiggy with the toppings.
Lotta Beans Chili (makes ~ 6 servings)
– ½ T EVOO
– 8 large garlic cloves, chopped 
– 2 cans no salt added chopped tomatoes
-1 can each (~15 oz) of the following (no salt added) cooked beans, rinsed & drained:
Black, kidney, garbanzo, lima
– 1 c white frozen corn, thawed
– 3 T chili powder
– 1 T ground cumin seed (toasted first – optional, but delish)
– ½ t each kosher salt & freshly ground black peppercorns; cayenne pepper to taste
– 1 t (or more) red wine vinegar
– 3T rinsed pickled jalapeno slices (more or less to taste) 
– lime slices
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1m. Add beans through cumin seeds, mix well, and bring to simmer over med-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until flavors are blended, ~ 30m.
Season w/salt, pepper and cayenne, and jalapenos. Add vinegar to taste. Serve with lime slices to squeeze over.
Avocado chunks or slices or guacamole; chopped fresh cilantro; chopped scallions; plant-based or regular sour cream or plain yogurt; shredded veg or other cheeses; crushed tortilla chips; red or green chili salsa; a mother’s bitter tears….
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Punz For The Day
I got a miniature fresh habañero pepper at the farmer’s market. When I returned home
I put a tiny blanket on it, because it was a little chili.
We are thinking about making Five Alarm Bean and Cabbage Chili for Christmas Eve.
We’re starting a new tradition called, ‘Silent But Deadly Night.’
How do you make a good vegan chili?
Stick her in the freezer.
What do dead Norseman like in their chili?
You can see yourself out.
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May you never be subjected to an Olympic-sized double standard;
May you never engage in a diplomatic boycott (of anything);
May you join your loved ones in a rousing chorus of,
“I’m talkin’ ’bout Mountain Dews, baby!” 
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 As in, she fell, several times, during her last performance, where, favored to take first place in the Women’s Singles competition, she did not medal.
 Richardson claimed she used weed to cope with receiving the news of the unexpected death of her biological mother. If that’s the case, I’m wondering why she didn’t alert officials before she was tested, along the lines of, “BTW, I used this substance for this reason,” to try to explain or at least warn them that she wasn’t trying to sneak anything past them.
 Which they clamor for, night and day…it gets soooooo annoying.
 Only Norwegians could come up with such a body-punishing, seemingly disparate skills-requiring event as biathlon.
 The nuances of the sledding events evades me (“He tilted his body one degree to the right to steer the sled higher on the turn”…uh huh). No doubt fun to do yourself, but a snoozefest to watch someone else do it.
 Second place Germany, population 83 million , 27 medals…summer Olympics powerhouse USA (population 330 million) got 25 winter Olympic medals.
 Although he refers to them using the antediluvian term, “stewardesses.” DUDE ?!?!?
 My word. You’re welcome.
 I don’t need to specify peeled, right? Who chops fully clothed garlic cloves?
 Obviously more, if you like the taste.
 You have to watch the Shaun White video to get this one.