Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Olympic Opinion

The majority of Olympic spectators are not world-class athletes.  They are average people that like watching above-average athletes compete against other top athletes from around the world.  The average Olympic spectator can't explain the technicalities of most of the events or the details of the athletes' lives, but the average Olympic spectator surely has an opinion on his or her favorite (or least favorite) events.

Bowling Green State University senior Kara Canzonere shares her opinion about the Winter and Summer Olympics.  Listen to her humorous opinion about the best and worst of the Olympic Games.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You don't have to be an Olympian to curl

Sports like snowboard cross or hockey are fairly easy to comprehend.  In snowboarding, the fastest run, highest jump and wildest trick will win you a medal.  All anyone has to do in hockey is shoot a tiny puck into a net.

But how many non-curlers out there can thoroughly explain the rules of curling?  What do those rings at the end of the track represent?  Is it like darts, but on ice?  What are those brooms called, and why do teams use them?
If you're one of the more than 20,000 students here at Bowling Green State University, you don't need to look any further than the university ice rink ti find the answers to all of your curling questions.  What's more, you don't have to be an Olympian to participate.

The BGSU Ice Arena hosts open curling year-round for curlers with previous experience, or for those who hire and instructor.  But don't worry if you don't have any experience, or don't have the dough for an instructor.  The ice arena hosts educational group lessons, where anyone can grab a broom, grab a stone and get curling.  Participants don't even need their own equipment, as it's provided by the arena.

Graduate Kristi Rhoads has been curling at the ice arena twice, once with her Sociology class.  Her professor was once a competitive curler and decided to introduce the class to a sport they likely weren't that familiar with.

"I did it because I had the opportunity to learn a sport that I had really only seen on TV - during the Winter Olympics," Rhoads said.  "I thought it was enjoyable, much more so than watching it on TV would lead you to believe."

Some students take curling a bit more seriously, though.  Graduate student PJ Wolf began curling when he was a freshman at BGSU.  He started our in an intramural league but quickly became so interested in the sport that he helped create the BGSU Curling Club."

The intramural league supervisor for curling, Nik Geller, recognized Wolf's passion for the sport.

"He introduced me to a few other students that had a general interest in the sport and asked me if I would be willing to help him start a student organization for the game," Wolf said.  "And that is how the current BGSU Curling Club came to be."

Wolf served as the club president from 2007 to 2009 and is currently a board member.

The BGSU Curling Club is comprised of only BGSU students.  The club practices for two hours every Sunday throughout the season, and members pay dues each semester.  The club has been able to receive some Student Budget Committee funding, which cover the cost of rink time.

Curling is still and expensive sport, though.

"We would practice more often but ice time is very pricey so those wishing to practice more tend to do it on their own," Wolf said.  "Many members will also join the community club as well and participate in leagues but this group is often very limited due to the high cost of participation."

Wolf said these community dues hover around $300 per member per year.

The time and monetary investments have paid off for the team, however.  Every spring, the club hosts a tournament in which up to 24 teams from around the nation compete.  This past year, the BG team won first place in both divisions.  It has also take home bronze medals from another national tournament held in Chicago every March.

"We have done very well for ourselves the past few years and hope to continue the tradition for quite some time," Wolf said.

Wolf believes that each Winter Olympics brings more fame to the sport, as curling continues to grow in popularity throughout the nation.

If Wolf and the BGSU Curling Club have anything to do with the future of the sport, we can be sure that many more people will continue to grab a broom, grab a stone and get curling.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic Torch Relay is a fundamental part of Olympic history and an indispensable part of every Olympic game.  Many months before opening ceremonies, the torch is lit at the site of the first Olympic Games in Greece and then transported by land, water and air by individuals until it arrives just in time for the opening ceremonies.

The relay for these past Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver lasted over 106 days and covered over 28,000 miles, making it the longest relay within one country.  12,000 people carried the torch through more than 1,000 communities and, according to the Vancouver Olympics Web site, around 90 percent of Canadians were within a one-hour drive to the route.  Check out the official map:

When the torch finally made it to the opening ceremonies, though, the lighting of the cauldron didn't go too smoothly.  According to the plan for the events, four pillars were supposed to rise out of the floor and join at the top to form one cauldron.  Instead, only three pillars rose.  Hockey star Wayne Gretzky, skier Nancy Greene and basketball player Steve Nash were all able to light their pillars, but speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan was unable to.  Nonetheless, the torch relay for Vancouver's Games was impressive, as were the opening and closing ceremonies. 

Though the history of the Olympic Torch dates back thousands of years, the relay we know today of carrying the flame from Greece to whatever venue the games are to be held is fairly new.  It was introduced at the 1936 Summer Olympic games in Berlin, Germany.  In  1952, the flame was transported by air for the first time when it traveled to Helsinki.  In the 1956 games, torch bearers traveled on horseback to Stockholm, where all equestrian events were held instead of in Melbourne.  In 1976, the flame was transported via radio signal from Athens to Canada.  The signal triggered a laser beam that re-lit the flame in the new location.

The Ancient Greeks held their Olympic Games in honor of Zeus, from whom they believed fire was stolen by the god Prometheus.  Permanent fires burned at certain altars in Greece, and during the Olympics additional fires were lit at Zeus' temple.  The connotation of fire has a long, rich history.  Its meaning has traveled through time and across the globe to represent a tradition of athleticism and respect.  It will be interesting to see how future games top past relays!
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Friday, April 9, 2010

The Paralympics

The Summer and Winter Olympic Games receive overwhelming coverage and attention. The Paralympics, on the other hand, are perhaps a lesser-known event that also happens every four years, immediately following the Olympic Games. These games are sometimes confused with the Special Olympics World Games, but there is a distinct difference: the Paralympics are designated for athletes with mobility disabilities, whereas the Special Olympics are designated for athletes only with intellectual disabilities.

In the Paralympics, physical disabilities are categorized into six types, as stated on the Paralympics Movement Web site: amputation, Cerebral Palsy, visual impairment, spinal injury, intellectual disability and another group that includes all other disabled athletes.

Athletes compete in 20 sports in the Summer Paralympics, including such sports as archery, cycling, sailing, swimming, and wheelchair basketball, rugby, fencing and volleyball. There are five sports offered during the Winter Paralympics: alpine skiing, ice hockey, wheelchair curling, biathlon and cross country skiing.

The International Paralympic Committee currently organizes the Summer and Winter Games and was founded in 1989. The idea behind the Paralympic Games, though, began in England in 1948 when Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition for veterans of WWII that had spinal injuries. Athletes from the Netherlands got wind of the competition and joined the games in 1952. The first official Paralympic Games were held in 1960 in Rome, Italy. There were 400 athletes from 23 countries. The first Winter Paralympic Games were held 16 years later in 1976 in Sweden and hosted over 250 athletes from 17 countries.

Like the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games also have a torch relay leading up to the games. The relay started in Seoul, Korea, in 1988 and boasted 282 torchbearers (111 of which had a physical disability) on a route of 105 kilometers. At the most recent Paralympic Games in Beijing, China, there were 850 torchbearers, of which 170 had a disability. There were two different routes totaling 13,181km and the entire relay took nine days to complete.

Surely many people have heard of the Paralympic Games, but why do these games receive so little attention and media coverage relative to the Olympic Games?  At the Beijing Paralympics, nearly 4,000 athletes from 146 countries participated, proving its popularity and loyal support.  We get so caught up in our well-known Olypmic celebrity athletes that we forget to stay tuned for the upcoming Paralympics.  This doesn't make sense to me.  It is amazing to watch Lindsey Vonn, for example, race down a mountain on skis.  But it is even more incredible and inspiring to watch a physically disabled athlete do the same thing.  Vonn spent most of these past Winter Olympics complaining about her injured shin.  I wonder what a Paralympic downhill skier would complain about? 

Hopefully that rhetorical question does not come off as callous - that is not how I meant it.  I just want to emphasize how these Paralympic Games really put things in perspective.  We have so many incredible athletes that not only overcome the obstacles territorial to any sport, but also athletes that overcome significant physical disabilities to compete in their passion.  It is truly inspiring and deserving of some more attention from our global society.
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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

North American Host Cities

Twelve Olympic Games have been hosted in North America, eight of which have been held in the United States in six different cities (Los Angeles and Lake Placid have held two Olympic Games).  Check out this map to see where exactly the Olympics have traveled to in North America!

View Olympic Games in North America in a larger map