Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympic Curlicues

Curling is my most favorite winter sport in the Olympics. I watch the sport in other years as well thanks to an accident. Both in Minneapolis and later in Detroit, we’ve had access to Canadian television, and Canada is the curling-Mecca of the world.

Now comes a story in the Wall Street Journal  titled “How Russia’s Plot for Mercenary Curlers Failed.” (Yes. Rather milking the WSJ for posts today, but it’s a special season.) Evidently, a while back, at the Vancouver games, Russia decided to achieve medal-status in curling at Sochi. Its powers-that-be decided to hire high-ranking players and coaches from Canada and to give the players Russian citizenship when the time came. Internal resistance in Russia foiled this attempt; the Russian curlers we shall see this year (if they managed to get into the run-offs) will have been born (rather than born-again) Russians.

This got me thinking. The first thought was that Russia shouldn’t have hired Canadians; instead it should’ve hired some modestly competent Chinese coach, and never mind the sport. The Chinese know exactly how to excel in any Olympic sport they target. They’ve got the largest possible population from which to choose potential talent, and Communism (of late jettisoned by Russia) still helps them persuade the talent to undergo the herculean labors required to succeed. This then led to the second thought. The most potent tool for achieving Olympic Victory is no doubt Communism—recall, as Brigitte suggested, the East Germans’ always stellar showings while they called their country the GDR. The “free market” model just doesn’t cut it—not in the minor sports. Something more muscular is needed, like Communism.

Today Norway leads with 11 medals and Russia has 7. One of Russia’s medals comes from a South Korean named Victor An, a born-again Rusky. We laughed: All these nation-states competing at Sochi. And one truly International Competitor: Russia. For all we know their best talent has been recruited from every country in the world.

HT to Brigitte for flagging this story for someone who rarely gets to the sports page even in Olympic times…

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