Winter Olympics Countdown, Blizzards, Cocoa, and Neato Ski Pins!

I have always preferred the Winter Olympics over the Summer ones. I’m not sure if that’s because some of my earliest memories are of sledding and skiing under the lights in the backyard so long ago. We get some fantastic snow here in the Syracuse area, and it’s a lovely sight when millions of flakes are backlit by a spotlight at night. I’m pretty sure my Mom’s cocoa probably had something to do with my love of Winter, too. As we come up on the 2014 Winter Olympics, it feels a bit different than what I remember when I was a child. Those iconic moments, captured on grainy broadcasts and black and white TVs – Franz Klammer’s iconic run for Gold in front of his countrymen in 1976. The “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid in 1980. Eric Heiden. Dorothy Hamill. Today’s global warming, political upheaval, economic uncertainty, and terrorist threats thankfully weren’t on my radar at age four during the Blizzard of ’66.

Since the Olympics represent, theoretically, the purity of sport, competition, and international camaraderie, perhaps this upcoming edition will serve as a unifying force. There are new categories of sport, alongside the classics. I can’t wait to see the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat play out under the shadow of those 5 rings and that forever flame. I still rate Lillehammer’s and Barcelona’s Olympic torch lighting theatrics as my favorite Winter and Summer ones. What do you think?

Contemporary technology has completely transformed the experience of watching, or rather interacting, with the Olympics. How about Facebook?

Facebook page for Sochi 2014.

Or using smartphone app?

Winter Olympic apps...

Winter Olympic apps…

Or Twitter?

Twitter feeds abound...

Twitter feeds abound…

Results, news, and color commentary are now reported real time on the web, and social media, so the major network “monopoly” which is hosting the games can no longer force viewers to wait until primetime for “faux live” delayed, edited, and canned clips. This democratization of information means I can experience a level of spontaneity and interaction which would previously have been unheard of, and much of this interaction is directly human to human, from, say, someone at the Men’s downhill race live tweeting as a racer passes the part of the course where he’s standing. And it’s not just text. Photos and video are being posted in real time as well.  It’s a whole new world, and I like it!

A little known fact is that buying, selling and trading pins is something of a tradition at the Olympics, going way back. And a part of my sizable vintage ski pin collection has Olympic related themes. I love the fact many of the pins I have had a long history attached to the hats or clothing of the owner, as they skied, sledded, skated and enjoyed the delights of Winter fun. One particularly great eBay pin success I had was for a had that someone’s grandfather had worn. It was an old felt cap with a feather in it, and weighed about 5 pounds due to the 100+ pins stuck in it. I battled an eBay nemesis for that one, and walked away victorious. It took me about two hours just to remove the pins. What a delight!

Vintage ski pin collection

From my vintage ski pin collection…

Innsbruck pin from the 1930's, site of the 1976 Winter Olympics.

A very rare Innsbruck FIS pin from the 1933. Innsbruck was the site of the 1976 Winter Olympics, which boasted Franz Klammer’s legendary Gold medal run.

In the spirit of alpine skiing’s challenges, I’d like to offer up our Will Shuster painting from 1959, which depicts a snow bunny in the throes of falling, as an example of what not to do if you’re in search of a Gold medal and the attendant glory and national pride which follows. Let’s hope for a peaceful and spirited games that brings the world together. I can’t wait to sip some cocoa (though it is never as good as mom’s), sit back, and watch the skiers, skaters, snowboarders, and bobsledders swoop, arc, and glide their way to glory. It’s just that I don’t know yet if I’ll be watching my television, my computer screen, my tablet, or my smartphone!

Will Shuster's 1959 "Reflections of a Falling Ski Bunny"

Santa Fe legend Will Shuster’s 1959 “Reflections of a Falling Ski Bunny”

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