Tuesday, December 3, 2013

An unorthodox history of the winter Olympics

Some people claim that the Winter Olympics were invented solely to prevent wars from breaking out in northern Europe in the 20th century. They maintain that if people up in the northernmost outskirts of the western hemisphere weren’t preoccupied with gruelling and exhaustive training routines in the long, dark and cold winter months, they were apt to go stir crazy and do something really silly, like invading neighbouring countries. Other more sarcastic souls insist that the only reason why the Winter Olympics games came about was because people wanted to get a good laugh when listening to non-native English speakers, such as IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, completely bungle the pronunciation of the names of the various host cities. Many are probably unaware of the origins of the different winter sport disciplines and how these came to be included in the games, and with yet another Winter Olympics coming up next year, I figured it would be a good idea to shed some light on the rich history of the games. What follows is a true and honest presentation, where the facts have only been changed slightly in order to guarantee the integrity of this article.  

Cross country skiing
This was originally a method of punishment in 16th century Norway. People caught stealing were given the option of either going to jail for two years, or to endure a gruelling 5 kilometre cross country ski trip at the height of winter, in the nude. Needless to say, being fast was of the absolute essence for those who chose the latter option. In the 20th century this tradition was taken up by the Norwegian association of cultural masochists, albeit in a slightly different form. These patriotic self-flagellators, who loved nothing more than to torture themselves in the cruellest of manners, took to this form of torture like ducks to water. They also decided, rather wisely, to wear suitable clothing. Eventually cross country skiing ended up in the winter Olympics, where athletes today can be observed racing across misty white landscapes on some frozen tundra with drool hanging like miniature stalactites from their chins. Many of these self-flagellators collapse of exhaustion and have a look of absolute sheer terror on their faces after crossing the finishing line. But there is no need for concern, theses athletes are not scarred for life, nor have they caused irreparable damage to their bodies. They’ll quickly get back up on their feet, and repeat the masochistic routine the next day.

Downhill skiing
This too was originally a method of punishment in 15th century France. Criminals in the Alpine regions were routinely rounded up, blindfolded, had their arms tied behind their backs and skis strapped to their feet, before being pushed down a steep hill dotted with copses and sharp rocks by frustrated villagers who’d had enough of their criminal antics. Those who were lucky enough to get to the bottom of the hill in one piece were immediately enlisted into the French army by desperate army recruiters, who at the time were scouring the nation incessantly trying to find at least a handful of brave Frenchmen that could help the army ward off enemy forces lurking at the nation’s borders. This form of downhill skiing was at the time considered the absolute epitome of bravery, and those who survived it were treated with the utmost respect. It is believed that the expressions ‘going down hill fast’ and ‘break a leg’ derive from this rather unusual activity. Today it is widely accepted that there is something seriously wrong with those individuals who express a strong desire to partake in downhill skiing or activities like it, and that the poor deluded persons that do should be treated by trained physiatrists.

Ice hockey
This game was a very popular pastime in 17th century Sweden. This highly delightful and fun-filled activity involved rounding up a dozen or so unpopular women from various towns and villages in Northern Sweden, and position these in the middle of a frozen lake. A few rats were then let out of a hessian bag and the spectators who had showed up to watch the festivities could then behold the ensuing mass stampede for safer ‘shores’. It is probably worth noting that this tradition is widely believed to be the main reason for Swedish women’s ostensible hatred toward their male compatriots today. Swedish immigrants eventually brought this hilarious tradition with them to North America during the great European exodus, where it was soon picked up by Scottish immigrants, who used it to settle scores between rival clans. The rats were quickly replaced with a frozen piece of haggis, and the heavily bearded ginger partakers were given wooden sticks, which they used incessantly to bash the members of the opposing team, and of course also to push the haggis off the ice and secure a delicious meal. It’s also worth mentioning that the NHL franchise was initially established as the National Haggis League, and that even today one can behold these descendants of Scottish immigrants beat the living crap out of each other on the ice. The music played during stoppage time is also a direct remnant of the bagpipe music that was played at these early haggis battles.

Speed skating
This activity was originally invented by official ice thickness measurers in Finland in the 19th century, who were, to put it mildly quite desperate to come up with methods that would significantly reduce the amount of time they had to spend out on the ice in the early winter months. It is no exaggeration to say that the invention of ice skates came as a blessing from above. It was instrumental in trebling the survival rate for this high-risk profession. It’s also worth noting that Finnish ice thickness measurers are accredited with having involuntarily invented the extreme sport of ice bathing. For some peculiar reason ice skating quickly gained popularity in the Netherlands, where blades were fitted to the underside of the ridiculously oversized wooden clogs that the Dutch are still walking around in today, ensuring that the skater would stay afloat even if he/she went through the ice. Some claim that the reason why ice skating is so popular in the Netherlands is that it’s the only way for a Dutchman to win a medal in the Winter Olympics, but then again who knows if that’s true or not, after all we are talking about a country here that is known exclusively for its tulips, windmills, dikes, coffee shops and Van Gogh.

This activity came about as a direct result of an English aristocrat’s attempt to ski in a straight line down a gentle slope in St Moritz, Switzerland in the early 18th century. This ‘mission impossible’, which of course was doomed from the get go, ended in a complete and utter disaster. The hapless English chap zigzagged like a drunken sailor coming home from a wet night out in Ibiza, while swaying dangerously from side to side like an out of control  punching ball, much to the amusement of the local Swiz residents who decided that it actually looked rather fun. As expected the Englishman eventually took a tumble and managed to break both legs on a very flat section of the hill. The Swiz decided to adopt this amusing activity, and today it’s an Olympic discipline. The Swiz have also taken this technique one step further and invented “political slalom” which they use extensively to avoid getting into trouble with surrounding nations, and organizations looking into some of the country’s shall we say rather shady dealings in the past.

Figure Skating
This activity dates back to 16th century Germany and was initially intended to be humorous and light-hearted entertainments aimed at making the diligent, but rather dour Germans laugh and relax a little bit. The German Association of Mirthful Minstrels was commissioned by the German emperor to try and elicit some laughs from a conservative Prussian crowd in the Bavarian region of Germany. The minstrels managed to draw a respectable crowd in front of a frozen pond in the town square. They then started their comical act by gliding around on the ice in a very silly manner, doing stupid pirouettes, falling on their bums and tripping over while telling hilarious jokes in order to make the crowd laugh. But to their utter dismay they discovered that the audience did not burst out in laughing whenever they did something stupid, but chose instead to display placards with numbers from one to ten in order to denote how funny they thought the various acts were. This was also by the way, the last time that any official attempts were made at creating venues where Germans could gather to laugh and let loose. However the sport of figure skating gained a strong following in the country, and even today many Germans still believe that the placards held up by the official judges at figure skating events indicate how funny the judges find the various performances.

Ski jumping    
This activity first originated in Japan and was introduced as an alternative to the age old Japanese tradition of harakiri, or the act of committing honourable suicide. Austrian merchant sailors, who at the time kept a heavy presence on the seven seas, are believed to have been so fascinated with these impressive ski jumps that they decided to build similar structures in their own country, where they were quickly employed as defence mechanisms tasked with protecting hillside castles against marauding savages and drunk Germans. This was accomplished by releasing hundreds of massive round pieces of cheese from the top of these ski jumps, which then came crashing down on the aggressors like yellow rain, encasing them in sticky golden goo. This is also where the word fondue originated. It is rumoured that one of the Scottish mercenaries who was present on one of those occasions, excitedly proclaimed that “dat was hard werk, bud it was fun due” which translated into proper English reads, “That was hard work, but it was fun though”

This sport was established as a direct consequence of the unsuccessful attempts by a couple of clumsy Danish tourist at walking down a slippery hill from their hotel in northern Italy in the 18th century. The subsequent and highly spectacular crash, which saw the Danes torpedo into a group of German monks at the bottom of the hill, is believed to have led to the creation of modern day ten pin bowling. It is also widely accepted among linguistics that the enormous amounts of snow that was crammed into the mouths of these unlucky Danes on the way down the hill is to blame for that particular annoying Danish tradition of talking like you have a potato stuffed inside your mouth. It’s also worth adding that the lack of Danish competitors in the winter Olympics is solely due to the fact that Danish athletes are completely incapable of making their way up the slippery path that leads to the top of the luge course.

This is an activity that was invented by Norwegian youths who were constantly high on magic mushroom, and who failed to display normal intellectual capabilities in 18th century Norway. In a desperate attempt to turn these youths around and steer them onto a different path, it was decided that they should be put to build snow tunnels in the mountains during the winter months, in order to facilitate travels through these inhospitable regions. However due to the youths lack of self discipline and inability to lay off the magic mushrooms, the tunnels were initially built upside down, which was how the world’s first half pipe came to see the light of day. The act of sliding up and down the curved sides was nothing but a desperate attempt by the youths to avoid getting the crap beat out of them by the irate adults who had initially given them the assignments. When the youths were eventually caught, they were subjected to the gruesome and cruel punishment of snowboarding, which of course it the precursor to today’s controversial practice of water-boarding.

This activity originated in Sweden in the 19th century, when some bright soul saw the potential in turning the age old tradition of stallion hunting, in which disgruntled cuckolds chased after their wives lovers with rifles strapped to their backs into a spectator sport. It is believed that this tradition was one of the reasons why so many Swedish males left Sweden at the time and headed for the safer shores of North America. It is also widely accepted among historians that these armed and highly unstable husbands would have shot these virile Don Juan’s on site had they been able to hunt them down. Not surprisingly, biathlon became an extremely popular sport in the former DDR where it was deemed a patriotic duty by the country’s ruling elite, who believed that it was an excellent opportunity to disguise military exercises along the Western Germany border. They also believed that the country’s strong biathlete community could potentially one day be used to carry out a massive surprise attack on their western neighbour.

This was originally a method of torture invented by Genghis Khan to intimidate his Chinese counterparts. It involved pushing captured enemy soldiers down very steep and bumpy hills in the Himalayas. The concept was introduced in the west in the 19th century by progressive and very misguided physicians, who believed that the activity could be used to treat serious cases of whiplash. However they quickly established that it aggravated the condition rather than alleviate it. In the early 20th century some foolhardy Canadian cowboys decided that it would be an excellent idea to introduce this activity as an alternative to traditional rodeo in isolated villages situated deep inside the Canadian Rockies, where it became just as popular as the black plague. It’s also worth noting that being pushed down a steep mogul course while wearing skis, is an official form of punishment in Canada, hence the Canadians superficial cheerfulness and polite manners. Don’t be fooled, it is just a charade. On the inside these Canadian’s are nothing but raging maniacs who are carrying around tons of pent up anger, which they are only able to suppress due to the constant threat of “Dat dreadid Mougel” punishment.

More like a practical joke than a serious sport activity. It first saw the light of day when some cynical Swiz farmers managed to convince some of their less feebleminded villagers to push thousands of round pieces of cheeses across a big frozen lake in order to get these transported to the local marketplace. The act of sweeping the area in front of the curling stone with a broom dates back to the time when these villagers had to clear the snow on the ice in order to slide the cheese effortlessly to the other side. It is rumoured, that even today some of the participants of this sport actually believe that they are engaging in paid manual labour. The word curling was in the old days used to describe the method of having less bright villagers “curled around their little finger” i.e. “wrapped around their little finger”.

And there you have it; a detailed and comprehensive description of the various disciplines of the winter games. I hope it has been informative and helpful. And remember, don’t forget to watch the games in 2014 ;^)