It’s not war, it’s the Olympics

#Middlebury #ASportingView #Olympics

You can learn a lot – and argue a lot, too – watching the Olympic Games. Really, the Olympic Games are the greatest things that the world does in concert. Some would argue the World’s Fair or World Cup, but taken in its entirety they cannot match the pageantry or the sheer spectacle the Games provide.

The World’s Fair (next hosted by Dubai in 2020) ceased to be relevant at about the same time the ice-cream cone was invented, and a city chosen as a World Cup venue doesn’t feel the impact either economically or psychologically that an Olympic host city experiences. The only time you see the world come together, all at once, holding the flag of their country and smiling is at the Olympic Games. The only other time the human race comes together en masse holding a flag, it’s a war – and they’re really there to shoot you.

And, unlike war, the cities aren’t pillaged. Most cities use the Olympics as a springboard to civic improvements. They attract businesses, they build parks and entertainment districts, and they also get a bevy of sports facilities that they’d otherwise never think of building, such as a bobsled track or a cross-country track with a shooting range attached.

That track, by the way, is used for the Biathlon, a competition that strikes many people in America as being a bit weird. Curling, we already knew, was weird but it at least reminds us of shuffleboard. For many, the Biathlon is just too foreign a concept. At least in some parts of the country or, as I learned on a radio show I hosted, college campuses.

“The Biathlon is the most ridiculous sport there is,” charged the liberal, tenured professor, aptly positioned to my left. “Skiing with guns. What’s next? Hand grenades and ice dancing?”

Having once dated a mountain girl, I reminded him that skiing and shooting were a perfect combination. I knew of hunters who cross-country skied while hunting grouse, for instance. There used to be a deer-hunting event in the Olympics, too. And there is little doubt that those in the biathlon are athletes.

“These are the best hunters in the world. If we lived near the ice cap, these are the guys you want to have with you – someone who can outlast their prey and take it down with one neatly placed bullet,” I observed, rather astutely. Plus, I argued, target shooting was very sporting, and hunting was a great recreational pursuit.

“Well, I’m vegetarian,” said the young student on the discussion panel. “Why would we need guns if we didn’t kill animals?”

Well, duh … to fight wars. Silly question.

Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.
(c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.


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