A Bionic Language Nerd watches les Oympiques d’hiver à Ϲочи

Having studied some Russian, I would have loved to attend the Olympics in Sochi.  Well, except for a few minor issues like the threat of terrorist attack and the ridiculous construction issues at the hotels.  Why go to Russia for that?  We have cyber attacks at Target, shootings at the mall, and construction road blockages along every commuter route.  We even have snow and ice with power outages, lack of heat and water, and a hole in the roof.  I’ll just stay home and watch on television.

Does anyone besides me love listening to the languages spoken during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics?  This year the Olympics are announced in three languages: English, French, and Russian.  Yes!  Woo hoo!  Except that broadcasters talk over them.

“Mesdames et messieurs…”  I strain to hear what they are announcing, but my auditory filter can’t block out the broadcaster’s comments about how cold it is.  Really?  The Idiot Alarm is dinging in my head, “You are in Russia and wearing a V-neck dress with no coat? Of course it’s cold! Wear layers!  Now let me listen to French!”

Mercifully, they do not talk over the introduction to the ceremony itself.  The countdown begins…пять, четыре, три, два, один.  Hey, I know those words..5,4,3,2,1!  And I know the alphabet, so I appreciated the alphabetical introduction to Russian culture.  It was a little weird that the word for each letter did not actually begin with the letter, but I don’t think you can start a Russian word with Ъ  or  й.

The Parade of Nations holds my interest for awhile because I like listening to and reading the names of the countries in English, French, and Russian.  Yes, I can read Russian.  I don’t know what I’m reading, but I can sound it out (kind of like my intermediate French students).  Tri-lingual reading keeps me awake for awhile, along with the neon green that several nations chose to wear, but, face it, the parade is boring and I zone out for a lot of it.

The next night my husband is forced to sit with me through the women’s figure skating short program and mogul skiing.  I am prepared to be entertained; he is prepared to be bored by gorgeous music and ladies leaping and twirling.  But holy cannoli, how do they get themselves in such contorted positions?  How do you do a split while standing up?  On skates?  And then spin like a whirling dervish?  And then, while still spinning, change to another extreme-yoga-like stance?  My hips want to pop out of their sockets just watching them.  The fifteen year old Russian skater is freakishly fabulous.  The announcers point out that her age gives her the advantage of flexibility.  Yeah, that just means that the former skate star announcers are feeling old looking at her, too.

And I can’t help wondering, because all that spinning would really get me off kilter, how do they manage to skate backward without hitting the wall?  They come sooooo close.  Just once, instead of seeing a skater fall doing a triple/quadruple/quintuple axel, I’d like to see them bang into the wall.

There is no irony that a television sponsor for the Olympics is an orthopedic practice.  In women’s moguls, two athletes blew out their knees in practice runs.  Well, no joke.  I tore my meniscus just taking a walk last month.  I can feel knees crunching just watching these young women pound around mounds of snow while also doing flips in the air.  I wonder whether my orthopedist is watching and if he winces in pain at the abuse to the knees or whether he sees dollar signs ka-changing.  (What do athletes and aging baby boomers have in common?   Orthopedic surgeons.)

This evening, I won’t be watching the Olympics.  I’ll be preparing for my own Olympic event…dodging snowflakes and traffic accidents and aiming for a full week of school.  Trois, deux, un…allons-y!

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