Okay, I’m not really at the Olympics. (But I have been watching the Canadian broadcast on CBC, so I’ve got a much better idea of what’s going on out there than those of you forced to suffer through the NBC version.) Regardless, I see something happening in Utah that’s cool and applicable here: As you may have noticed yesterday, a U.S. snowboarding posse swept the medals in men’s halfpipe. (A day earlier, an American bagged the gold in the women’s event.) This was the first time our country had swept an event since 1956; then it was men’s figure skating. That’s a pretty long time between sweeps—and a lot of cultural distance between the events.
Think of figure skating as it existed in 1950s. You can’t? Neither can I, but I can’t imagine that this Olympic pillar of conservatism and propriety has really changed so much. Then or now, it’s a far cry from snowboarding and its upstart rebellion. Rock, both its fashion and the music itself, largely fuel the snowboarding image. From Social Distortion to Outkast to Cyndi Lauper, we heard it all the past two days, blaring over loudspeakers as mohawked and headphoned riders rocked the pipe in their baggy pants. That snowboarding has taken to the Olympics could be viewed as yet another case of a corporation (is there anything more corporate than the IOC?) co-opting cool, marketing the counterculture.
But I didn’t get that impression. No, the snowboarders did their thing without compromising the tone, peacefully coexisting with the rest of the Olympics. And the figure skaters maintained tradition, a Russian team winning the pairs competition due to a judging decision right out of the Cold War era. If anything, I saw the triumph of the stokified in Salt Lake as a poignant comment on how lucky we Americans are to live in these coolest of times.
Consider it yet another triumph of rock and roll, in the unlikeliest of venues.