by | Feb 6, 1992 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

ALBERTVILLE, France — Whoosh!



Yes, sports fans, it’s time once again for the Winter Olympics, that spectacular event in which young athletes named Franz, Hans and Gunther try to kill themselves in 14 sports. This, by the way, is why the Winter Games are so popular. In the middle of another cold and dreary February, there is nothing more enjoyable than sitting at home, flicking on the TV set, and watching some poor fool ski off a mountain.

(“Oooh! That’s terrible!” I hear you say. Now, wait a minute. Tell me you don’t watch “Wide World of Sports” just to see that guy go sprawling off the ski jump. Come on. Come onnnnnnnn!)

Danger? Hey. Danger is the Winter Olympics’ middle name. Take a look at the venues. A mountain? An ice track? This isn’t “Romper Room.” And check out the equipment: sharp poles, pointy skis, guns, blades and sticks? It sounds like the prop list for a Brian DePalma movie.

I don’t want to scare anybody, but almost everything in the Winter Games goes against household safety rules. What did your mother tell you? Don’t sled on ice! And what do lugers do? Sled on ice. What did your mother tell you? Don’t jump on your skates! And we have figure skating. Don’t play rough! Hockey. Don’t play with guns! The biathlon.

Let’s face it. The safest moment in the Winter Olympics is the opening ceremony, and even there you could get poked with a flagpole or burned with a torch.

But OK. They may be dangerous, but these sports are lots of fun, and those of us who made the trip to Albertville can look forward to two weeks of peppy French expressions, such as “Regardez! Cette homme a crashez sur le mount!” (“Look! That guy just skied off the mountain!”)

Unfortunately, not everyone is familar with all these wonderful and exciting winter sports. Some of us are still trying to figure out bowling. For these folks, we provide the following handy guide to Winter Olympic competition, in frost- free English, along with the dangerous and safe ways of doing these events, should you ever be crazy enough to try one.

1. FIGURE SKATING: Believe it or not, this is one of the most highly rated TV sports in America. Women enjoy it because it mixes grace and skill with some of the loudest Hungarian music you’ve ever heard. Men like it because every now and then, they get to see a guy in sequins fall flat on his face.

Under normal circumstances, ice skating is relatively safe, as long as the water is above freezing. However, the way the Olympic skaters perform — leaping into the air and spinning 7,126 times, while pretending to be a character from “Cats” (this, by the way, is known in skating circles as the
“Triple Sal-Chow-Chow-Chow”) — well, you never know who’s going to survive.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Wear a pillow.

2. SPEED SKATING: A sport made up of former figure skaters who never learned to jump. Intead they just skate around in a circle about a half-million times, until one wins the medal and the others get dizzy and throw up.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Take a Maalox.

3. DOWNHILL SKIING: This exciting sport sends men and women flying down a mountain like cruise missiles. Of course, a cruise missile is not fast enough for downhill racers. They like to smear wax on the bottom of their skis, so they can achieve, to quote Mr. Sulu, “Warp Speed,” which, in English, means
“Intensive Care Ward.” The average person, naturally, would be terrified of such an event, but the experienced downhiller knows he is well-protected by a paper-thin nylon body suit, which should do wonders when he hits that tree.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Walk down. We’ll come back for you in 1994.

4. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: You may notice that there are an awful lot of cross-country ski events, such as the 10- kilometer, 30-kilometer, 50-kilometer, 149-kilometer, 834- kilometer and 2,304-kilometer races. That’s because nobody knows how to stop. They just wait until the skier runs out of steam, or crashes into a tree, and then the judges put a medal around his neck. It is a wonderful sport, since everyone gets to go home with a prize. Except for the people who never come to a stop. But we’ll catch up with them in the next Olympics.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Use glue instead of ski wax.

5. SKI JUMPING: An all-time safety favorite. Supposedly sane young men drop out of a chute, ski down a massive runway and go flying off into outer space. As soon as one is finished, the next one follows. This may remind you of a childhood game known as “Let’s Jump Off the Roof.” Remember when you were all on the ground, holding your knees and crying, and one cross-eyed kid went back up there to try it again?

He’s a ski-jumper now.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Go home and watch that “Wide World Of Sports” opening again.

6. LUGE: Wearing nothing but a helmet and a body suit, the luger gets on a sled, lies on his back, and drops down an ice track at speeds of nearly 60 miles an hour. He insists this is perfectly safe. His only worry is that, if he fails to negotiate a curve correctly, he will go flying off the track and land somewhere in Botswana.

But that rarely happens.

Maybe twice a week.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Install brakes.

7. BOBSLED: A sport made of former lugers who decided it is better to die in a group than all by yourself.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Get a bicycle. 8. BIATHLON: This is a fun one. Men named Franz, Hans, Dmitri, and Lars ski themselves to exhaustion through the frozen woods. Then, while they are trembling and shivering and gulping air, they pull out a gun and fire. I am not making this up! Then they ski some more.

What happens, you ask, if they accidentally shoot each other?

Good question. Nobody knows, since nobody ever watches this event.
* Dangerous way: Go for the gold.
* Safe way: Wear a bulletproof vest. And ski behind everybody else.


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