Redistributing the Olympics
There are 339 events in the Summer Olympics as of Tokyo 2020 (or 2021).
There are 109 events at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
In what might be the easiest mathematical statement this website has made in a long while, that’s a lot less than in the Summer Olympics.
The Winter Olympics started off as a spin-off of the Summer Games, siphoning off some of the sports along the way. For example, Figure Skating was a staple in the Summer Olympics at one point.
That got HPN to questioning whether the alignment is still right. Upon a quick glance there’s quite a few winter sports masquerading at the summer event. And shifting them to their rightful place might help everyone involved.
Let’s take football, generally played in winter in most of the world. Football is nearly the quintessential winter sport that is not played on snow or ice. Where it often blends into the background, it would take centre stage. Perhaps to satisfy the purists of the Winter Olympics, make them play on a snowfield. Futsal could also make a debut in this space.
The same goes for Rugby 7s, and perhaps its fully sized version as well.
Shooting already has a partial place at the Winter Olympics in the Biathlon, and moving the rest of it across makes too much sense. It’s got a log cabin feel already,
Arguments could also be made for the indoor team sports, such as Basketball, Handball and Volleyball. But beach volleyball probably wouldn’t work, for hypothermia related reasons.
The combat sports may also benefit from a move across, but there also might be another solution.
HPN have also long been proponents of the Spring and Autumn Olympics, harking back to the four Ancient Greek Games of old. The Spring Olympics would be the rich kids Olympics, a posh country club games, featuring sailing, golf, rowing, equestrian, croquet, and other genteel pursuits.
By contrast, the Autumn Olympics would be the experimental Olympics, the extreme games, one that pushes the boundaries and adds both more dangerous sports and newer ones. It would inherently be more diverse than the traditional Olympics, adding sports from outside the largely European and North American historical focus of the Summer Olympics.
By splitting the Olympics up and having more frequent events, it would deliver more sporting excitement for fans and allow for more countries to share the hosting load while likely lowering the cost of holding the Games.
It seems to just make too much sense.
The Medal Events
This is peak medal day in the relatively cosy scale of the Winter games, with ten on offer including the first Curling medal.
Freestyle skiing – Women’s big air (1345 AEDT)
One hit. Better make it big.
This is the all or nothing cousin to the slopestyle, where the run is only one jump long. The entry list is the same to the freeski slopestyle, with the results turned up to 10. Many of these athletes train in Australia and New Zealand during the Northern Summer, making quite a few faces familiar to local snow fans.
In the final skiers get three jumps, with the best two counting to their final score.
This is the first time that big air has been held in the Olympics for skiers, and the field is open to boot. Megan Oldham edged Tess Ledux in the qualifying round, but there wasn’t a whole lot separating the best jumps of the top 12. Consistency will matter, as will risk.
This is gonna be fun.
Watch rating: 4/5.
Alpine skiing – Men’s super-G (1400 AEDT)
The first day of the alpine skiing was chaotic, with some fast runs and big falls in the downhill. The super-G, or super giant slalom, is the second fastest of the alpine events after the downhill. Less technical than the slalom or giant slalom, care still needs to be paid to the tighter turns.
The downhill saw a surprise set of medalists, including 41 year old French silver medalist Johan Clarey, who won his first medal of any colour at an Olympic Games. Downhill gold medalist Beat Feuz will be one to watch as well.
Watch out for the Austrians in this event, with Vincent Kriechmayr the defending World Champion and Matthias Mayer (bronze medalist in the downhill) the reigning Olympic champion.
Watch rating: 4/5.
Snowboarding – Women’s parallel giant slalom (1836 AEDT)
The parallel slaloms were were the first snowboard events (alongside the half pipe) to hit the Olympics, and the first real challenge to the skiing hegemony on the snow events. In their first games, Nagano in 1998, snowboarding was an immediate hit and those two events have grown into five in 2022.
Unlike the other snowboard events, speed is all that matters here. Riders bind into their boards on a unconventional 45 degree angle, using boots that feel more like ski boots than snowboarding.
The event starts out with a qualification run, before the top 16 battles their way through a head to head bracket to the final.
Ester Ledecká created history in 2018, becoming the first athlete to win two gold medals with different equipment in the same Winter Olympics. She is the overwhelming favourite to defend her title in the snowboarding event in 2022.
Watch rating: 3/5.
Snowboarding – Men’s parallel giant slalom (1843 AEDT)
The men’s side looks more open. Russian Dmitrii Loginov may be slight favourite as current world champion, but German Stefan Baumeister and Korea’s Lee Sang-ho beat him in the world cup season. Lee Sang-ho won a silver medal in 2018 after his semi final win by 0.01 seconds was challenged on a photo finish that suggested he’d lost. The sensor result stood, but this just illustrates how fine the margins can be in a head to head knockout format final system.
Watch rating: 3/5.
Biathlon – Men’s individual (1930 AEDT)
This Olympic Games will see a lot of biathlon being biathloned. A lot of shooting, skiing and shooting. And more skiing. The individual event sees a one minute time penalty for every missed shot, with accuracy being a huge factor. Skiers have to alternative between the standing and prone positions when firing off their five rounds.
There’s three favourites in this combined shooting and cross country skiing event, two of them Norwegian and one French. Johannes Thingnes Bø won the medal in 2018 while 33-year old compatriot Tarjei Bø has hit some late career form, winning three consecutive world cup titles. The likely best chance of taking it away from the Norwegians is Quentin Fillon Maillet.
Speed skating – Men’s 1500m (2130 AEDT)
The 1500m is the middle ground between the sprint and the distance events on the long track, making for some memorable battles along the way. The Norwegians and the Dutch have historically dominated this event. Countries with multiple long track sheets have a huge advantage in the long track events, with more opportunities to develop talent.
Like all long track speed skating events, the goal is to balance rhythm with speed, similar to some of the track cycling events. The one thing that a skater doesn’t want to hear is the high pitch squeal of skates sliding across the ice without properly engaging.
Dutchman Kjeld Nuis comes in as the defending Olympic champion and world record holder, and the one to beat.
Watch rating: 3/5.
Cross-country skiing – Women’s sprint (2247 AEDT)
This is the pure fast slow skiing. The cross country sprints last a few minutes. The tracks are a mostly flat loop with some inclines. These tend to be won by the four big Arctic Circle countries. The whole program of qualifiers and finals runs in one day from about 7pm.
The women’s defending champion Stina Nilsson of Sweden switched to the Biathlon team and may get a run in the short distances there. Two other Swedes, Maja Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling, are the favourites but among the longer shot contenders will be the Norwegian veteran Maiken Caspersen Falla who, at age 31 is the most medalled athlete in the history of the World Championships and who won gold in 2014 and silver 2018. Can she grab one more medal?
Watch rating: 3/5
Cross-country skiing – Men’s sprint (2300 AEDT)
On the men’s side of the sprint event, devoted Norwegian vlogger Johannes Høsflot Klæbo will be nearly unbackable. He won three Olympic golds in 2018 including this one, and the same tally at the 2019 and 2021 World Championships.
Watch rating: 3/5
Curling – Mixed doubles (2305 AEDT gold, 1705 AEDT bronze)
The first curling medals of the games are set to be awarded, with the mixed doubles set for an action packed finish. We are Curling People Now, so there’s the recommendation/
The mixed doubles is the newest curling event on the program, with the event debuting in Pyeongchang. Communication is key in curling, with good teams talking clearly through the match. What at first glance may look to be a placid sport is in fact a balance of power, speed, agility and strategy.
Australian pair Tahli Gill and Dean Hewitt qualified for the Olympics in this event, becoming the second Australian team to curl at the Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong side of a lot of close results, and were knocked out in the round robin stage, but not before grabbing a memorable victory over powerhouse Canada.
Italy come in undefeated to the gold medal match, a somewhat surprising result for the first time Olympians. They match up against Norway, who beat the UK on the final stone of their semi final. Italy beat Norway 11-8 in the round robin match, but Norway were able to manage a big five point end early on. It shapes to be a worthy final match for the tournament.
Watch rating: 5/5
Luge – Women’s singles (0035 AEDT)
The luge track has shown some teeth so far at this games, with Julia Taubitz, leader after the first run and current World Champion, crashing on run two. Less experienced runners have also gotten into trouble in the early runs, with the set up of the luge critical to getting down the world’s longest track in one piece.
Two Germans (Natalie Geisenberger and Anna Bereiter) have taken an early lead after two runs on night one, which is pretty typical in an event where Germany has won the last six gold medals. Geisenberger is in the mix for a hat trick of gold medals after winning in Sochi and Pyeongchang.
Watch rating: 3/5
Alternative Medal Tally
Snow resorts pop up pretty much anywhere there’s a little money and a recreational interest in skiing and snowboarding. The more chances a country’s people have to ski, snowboard and generally do snowy things, the better they should be at the Winter Olympics. But who has been the most productive of Olympic medals relative to their number of resorts?
There are perhaps 17 countries which have won more medals than they have ski resorts, including flat lowlands Netherlands and Luxembourg which both sit entirely closer to sea level than Canberra, and reportedly have no ski resorts whatsoever.
Russia, Belarus and Liechtenstein have been some of the most efficient with their limited resort assets, while Australia is right on the cusp of having more medals than listed ski resorts. At the other end of the scale, Romania, Slovakia and Spain all contain ski destinations but don’t tend to figure in the medals in winter.