Curling up to watch the skeletons

2018-01-14 06:06

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It’s just less than four weeks until the start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and I have to say, I can’t wait.

Not because I am any sort of sports fan (ask my colleagues how much I know about soccer and they’ll start laughing) or because I am thrilled by skiers whizzing down snowy slopes at high speed.


It’s because I am fascinated by how bored people living in frozen climates had to have been for centuries to have thought up such strange (and sometimes downright weird) pastimes that can be done on snow and ice, and turned these activities into cutthroat competitions.

A quick google of the Winter Olympics’ schedule will reveal words foreign to our earmuff-free South African ears, such as curling (which has nothing to do with a GHD or a hot brush) and a halfpipe (which has nothing to do with nyaope).

Curling is a “sport”.

In place of balls, there are large, polished granite stones that look like saucepans.

There are also brooms. Yes, brooms.

The aim of curling, which is like bowls for cold people, is for members of one team to slide the stones across an ice court of sorts towards a target.

While one player slides the stone, their team-mates sweep the ice furiously to create friction to persuade the ice to allow the stone to get where they want it to go.

To me, curling looks more like a determined derby for housewives with all the sweeping and pot sliding going on.

But the northern hemisphere lot take it very seriously, with men and women’s teams, mixed doubles, round-robin qualifications, and exclamations of ja! and gå! – and other things people from Sweden and Norway shout when they’re excited.

If you’re suffering from insomnia between February 9 and 25, watch it.

You’ll have a good giggle and then you’ll get so bored, you’ll fall right back to sleep again.

One thing not to watch if you’re an insomniac, though, is the halfpipe.

This is skateboarding in the cold.

Participants strap their snowboards to their shoes and do aerial tricks for points on a half-moon-shaped cylinder of packed snow.

Oh, and there’s a deafening thrash-metal soundtrack that blasts across the venue.

Skateboarding is not an Olympic sport, but presumably the frozen residents of northern climes had run out of ideas for new ice-bound pursuits.

The halfpipe was included for the first time at the 1998 winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Of course, there are wonderful things to watch at the winter Olympics, such as the ice skating, ski jumping, speed skating, bobsleigh and the anxiety-producing skeleton (where people slide down ice tracks at high speed on a tiny sled).

But I’d give the biathlon (a snooze-inducing mix of cross-country skiing and shooting) a skip.

I want to watch all of it.

Do you think my boss will be persuaded to give me some leave?

Follow me on Twitter @nickigules

Read more on:    south korea  |  olympics

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