What If Sochi Will Be Greater Than Great? A Prelude of Hope to the XXII Winter Olympiad

February 7, 2014 Updated: February 7, 2014

Opening officially today, the competition considered the pinnacle of alpine sports begins in Sochi, Russia. The world has significant, and worthy heroes to be in awe of already, with more certain to emerge in the coming days.

Though the international press has utterly failed to note, the games of the XXII Winter Olympiad have brought forth noteworthy excellence in Norwegian snowboarder Torstein Horgmo, and the people of Russia. Now that I’ve shocked you to attention, here’s a recap and preview of the Russian Olympics you’ve read so much about, before they’ve even begun.

The Agony of Olympic (and other) Competition

Norway’s ski team’s slopestyle and big air daredevil, Torstein Horgmo, he’s already shown us the true spirit of Olympic excellence a sportsmanlike attitude after having had his Sochi dreams dashed when his collar bone was broken in training. The super snowboarding champ reassured fans and supporters earlier this week, he’d be back in top form pronto.

As for Russia and her people, not only has their President Vladimir Putin been mostly bulletproof, all the negativity that’s been heaped onto Russia as a people, my experience shows them all undaunted by what’s so obviously a smear campaign. Putin, for his part, has been accused of or associated with everything from clogged toilets at media accommodations, to slave labor driving, stray dog killing, corruption, gay and lesbian bashing, Nazism, and probably worst of all for him, incompetence. In my 58 years, I’ve never seen the like of this smear campaigning. To be honest, I’m amazed at the good nature I hear coming from Russians in Sochi every day.


Thankfully, even mercifully, after tomorrow’s opening ceremonies at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, a billion fans of sport and competition will focus on the real Sochi, and on the magnificent athletes who’ve come here to compete. Athletes like Torstein Horgmo will remind us why we so adore the Olympics, for their courage in the face of humbling catastrophe. Likewise unbelievably skilled, and as fortunate champions will thrill us, make us cheer, and the weep for those “national anthem” moments.

After tomorrow night, the world will settle back down to understanding what those ancient Greeks must have discovered. The Olympic ideal can best be described by quoting briefly from the Olympic Org “Olympism In Action” definition:

“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will, and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

The motto, or definition, goes on to talk about understanding, friendship, solidarity, and fair play. Now, in the prelude to these magnificent games, we’ve experienced together what legendary ABC Wide World of Sports sportscaster Jim McKay might have called “the agony of defeatism” leveled onto this contingent of winter sport. McKay, in his 37 years hosting Wide World, saw firsthand ski racing legends like Rosi Mittermaier, double gold medalist at the 1976 Innsbruck Games. Perhaps Sochi might see teenage American Mikaela Shiffrin become USA’s shining alpine star?



Maybe, Just Maybe There’s Greatness At Hand

Speaking of McKay, let us all pray instead of prophesying a new Munich 1972 in Sochi. Certainly no news man or woman back then projected onto the Olympics the horror of terrorism. As Jim put it at the beginning of a 14-hour stent broadcast then:

When I was a kid my father used to say “Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.” Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They have now said there were 11 hostages; two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone. — McKay, 1972

Maybe President Barack Obama will even make a surprise appearance at Sochi! Perhaps, also unlike London 2012, rumors of low ticket sales will prove untrue! It could even be that anti-missile system deployments seem more prudent now, since we learned of their use at London? And maybe, just maybe, Germany’s most celebrated Luge competitor, Felix Loch, record setting superiority will not be overshadowed like it was at Vancouver 2010, by the tragic death of Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili. If we pray hard enough, we stand a chance of seeing Loch and others achieve the pinnacle of human athletic endeavor, instead of some utter catastrophe conjured for us by the media.

After Friday’s opening ceremony, perhaps the $51 billion the people of Russia spent on transforming a remote resort into a high tech welcome mat for the world will be classified as a result of “inflation” compared to the $44 spent in China’s capital city. For the true Olympic enthusiast, won’t it be wonderful to see South Korea’s Yuna Kim try and become the next Katarina Witt or Sonja Henie? Maybe we will all remember unfair misinformation stains not just a Russian leader, but the people of a great nation too.

Thrill of Victory from the Jaws of a Media Defeat

Finally, if we are blessed AND lucky to witness men’s figure skating legend Evgeni Viktorovich Plushenko defeat all odds, overcome knee surgery and suspension, defeat father time and extraordinary competition to become the only male skater to win four medals… Won’t that be more awe inspiring than stray dogs in a city? Will we all cheer for excellence, Russian or American, Norwegian or Japanese?


As participants, fans, or even officials, wouldn’t it be Olympic to watch a 4 foot 11 Japanese school girl named Sarah Takanashi ascend a mountaintop ski jump there in Russia’s Krasnaya Polyana to achieve greatness and win gold? If she descends the hill at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, and becomes the next Olympic legend from Hokkaido (which is so interestingly near to Russia), then surely all Olympic Games are more about “maybe” or “what if”, than about sure fired guarantees. Maybe “if” is the greatest human concept of all, for all time? 

And what if Vladimir Putin’s Olympics (since he’s carrying the weight) are the most successful ever? I wonder how many ashamed and skulking reporters we’ll see then. As for me, I’m the world’s biggest fan of “what if?” Here’s to the games, and to our own innate potential and possibility, otherwise known as sport.



Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.