Report from Salt Lake

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.

12 thoughts on “Report from Salt Lake”

  1. Although it is rumored in certain quarters that I am still annoyed that the men’s Canadian curling team didn’t make the finals at Nagano, this discussion of snowboarding brings to mind Canadian Ross Rebagliati, who, at Nagano, picked up the first Gold of the ’98 Winter Games in the giant slalom snowboarding event. As some of you may recall, he had his medal removed when he tested positive for marijuana, then got it back through an appeal. Interestingly, it seems that he tried to enter the U.S. earlier this month to attend the games in Salt Lake, he was turned back at the border because of his previous marijuana affiliation. (Perhaps he’d have been better off in ’98 if he’d simply said, “I didn’t inhale.”)

  2. Shit, if they’re keeping potheads from crossing the border into the U.S. now, I guess I better not head to Spago for dinner anymore.

  3. Someone should hook those god damn Canadian figure skaters on the wicked weed and chill them the fuck out. Snowboarding is where it’s at. Maybe next year they’ll have snowboarding pairs and we can just forget all about this figure skating monkey business.

  4. No kidding, Sab – totally screwed. I heard on the tele last night that the French judge may have been “influenced.” Go figure.I’ve really been enjoying the games this year – more than usual. Moseley’s Dinner Roll maneuver was sweet, even if it didn’t get him a medal, and the fact that CNBC is basically the All-Hockey-And-Curling channel makes me happy, too.Oh, and CBC kicks NBC’s ass – *hardcore* – when it comes to the olympics. I’m so glad we get that channel.

  5. CBC reported that the French judge was influenced. They threatened to make her subscribe to Sirius digital radio for $12.95/month. In other news, the cold war is officially back in style and we’re all going to die because of two fucking figure skaters and Scott Hamilton.

  6. “And it’s Ross Powers, not Russ.” Well, it’s a good thing CBS lost the Olympics this time then, huh? If they don’t even know the US Bronze medal winner’s name. Sheesh. (Granted, I didn’t know it either, and I don’t claim to care, but at least I’m not running an Olympics web site like CBS was. Shameful!)

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