New Events for 2014: My Two Cents

Breaking news!

Today, the IOC confirmed the inclusion of six new events on the program of Sochi 2014; ski half-pipe (men and women), women’s ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, figure skating team event and luge team relay.

According to the IOC newsletter, the key factors considered in making this decision included “whether the changes would increase universality, gender equity and youth appeal, and, in general, add value to the Games. Other considerations included the cost of infrastructure, and the impact on the overall quota and the number of events.”

Also in the newsletter was the following:
“The inclusion of these events on the Olympic Winter Games programme is sure to be appreciated by athletes and sports fans alike,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge. “These are exciting, entertaining events that perfectly complement the existing events on the sports programme, bring added appeal and increase the number of women participating at the Games. I look forward to watching the athletes compete in these events in Sochi 2014.”

Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Rogge is right on just about all counts; none of these events require new courses or venues or anything, and should garner the interest of extreme sports fans (in the case of ski half-pipe, at least). I don’t think I even realized there hadn’t been women’s ski jumping in the past, so hooray for gender equity. And I am definitely interested in watching how some of these pan out – team figure skating? Ski half-pipe? Luge team relay? My interest is definitely piqued.

But something is still sitting a little weirdly with me. Baseball and softball are nixed from the summer program, but these slightly off-the-wall sports are added to winter? Can they honestly say that there are more team figure skaters around the world than there are baseball players? Really?

I’m not just saying this because I’m a baseball fan, I promise. I’m just feeling oddly nostalgic. Gone are the days of the more traditional sports and amateurism requirement. I understand that everything is money-driven nowadays – of course there’ll be better competition and, hence, more viewers if pros get to compete and the sports are more extreme. But on the same token, gone are the days of, say, the 1980 men’s hockey team. Now we have “Dream Teams” in every sport, where every player is a star in their own right. That’s great and all, but the writer in me is making sad faces at the lack of an exciting story. Okay, LeBron James won the gold medal in basketball. And? But that group of no-name college hockey players beat the Soviet Union! I get more excited about that, and it happened 11 years before I was even born!

Maybe there's a reason we've never had a moment like this since then.

I just feel like with all these new “extreme” sports, it seems like the Olympics are trying to almost emulate the X-Games. How many half-pipe sports do we really need? And ski- and snowboard-cross? Why does every sport now need to have this element of danger? And adding another luge event – umm, remember the guy that DIED last year? And we’re gonna have MORE of this lethal sport, with MORE people involved at one time?

The IOC is also considering five other events: ski slopestyle (men and women), snowboard slopestyle (men and women), and Alpine team parallel competition. These are subject to a further feasibility study, with a decision coming within the next few weeks.

Can someone tell me what “slopestyle” even means? Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t like having to rely on Wikipedia to tell me what an Olympic sport is. I just looked it up, and apparently it’s “a popular type of competition for most winter extreme sports. There are many sports that are considered to have this style of competition, of which skiing and snowboarding are two of the most common. The goal of snowboarders/skiers participating in a slopestyle event is to perform the most difficult tricks while getting the highest amplitude off the jumps. It is also important to perform different types of tricks instead of doing one great trick repeatedly. This style of competition evolved from traditional downhill skiing and aerial ski jumping. While Slopestyle is one of the most popular events at the Winter X Games, it has never been in the Winter Olympics.”

This begs the question; what’s the point? It sounds just like aerials, or moguls. Do we need another skiing competition that involves crazy jumps? Won’t it get a little repetitive?

In my mind, the Olympics shouldn’t be adopting sports from the X-Games. Unless, of course, these sports are a worldwide phenomenon. And, at this point, are they?

For now, I’ll try to keep an open mind and just see what happens. That is, until that “let’s get pole dancing into the Olympics!” campaign succeeds. THAT is when all bets are off!

Descriptions of the new events: