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March 08, 2010
A 2010 Olympic Diary in 8 Voices
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March 08, 2010

The Games

A 2010 Olympic Diary in 8 Voices

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At some point these Olympics turned into a northwestern version of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

Sliding past reporters during a training session the day before his snowboardcross event, American rider Nate Holland yelled, "You guys should ask the Canadians why they're wearing such tight pants." Since he mentioned it, the trousers of the host country's riders did seem more snug than the norm in this antiestablishment sport. Not emo tight, not Elvis tight, but more formfitting than anyone else's on Cypress Mountain.

The decision to tighten Team Canada's trou was in keeping with its thrust, if you will, to Own the Podium. "If you have any experience in wind tunnels," said Canadian rider Drew Neilson, "anything that flaps around, catching wind, slows you down." But in a sport known for valuing its "core" principles over other, more bourgeois concerns—like winning, for instance (see: Jacobellis, Lindsey)—tight pants turned heads.

Meanwhile at the curling venue, the scandalously strident argyle trousers of the Norwegian men's team (above) served as a symbol of the change overtaking this sleepy, etiquette-bound sport. Where curlers had been accustomed to sliding their stones in near silence, the crowds filling the Olympic Centre mortified purists by breaking into spontaneous song, clanging cowbells and doing "the wave." They were almost as loud as Norway's preposterous pantaloons — a look that worked for the Norwegians, who rocked those party pants all the way to the gold medal game against highly favored Canada.



The question has nagged at me through seven Olympics: What in the end are the Games for? The answer came from a woman hiding in plain sight, carrying the flag of the host country into the opening ceremonies, and she confided it to me two days later, after skating her first event of the Games, the 3,000 meters. The roar of the crowd in the Richmond Oval, Clara Hughes said, "made me want to dance on my blades."

So then: The point of the Games rests in how it connects people to people. The way fellow Canadians provided Hughes—who finished fifth—with that sonic fuel was but one example. As a teenager she had lurked in parking-garage stairwells in Winnipeg, getting wasted with friends, until in 1988 she watched Canada's Gaétan Boucher, an Olympic speedskater who seemed to be calling to her. Hughes learned to skate, then bike, eventually becoming the only Olympian to win multiple medals at both Winter and Summer Games. Realizing that others might follow her lead, she donated thousands of dollars to Right to Play, which uses sport to empower the poor.

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