As I sit here in the office staring out the window at the pitiful, yet annoying amount of snow falling, my mind wanders to thinking about the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The build-up hasn’t really started yet as we’re all thinking about the next snow season but it’ll creep up on us quick enough and as I think about bobsleighs, alpine skiers and curling, I remember that this is the first time in Olympic history that we’ll have snowboarding halfpipe and slopestyle. That’s a pretty monumental thing for our sports but is the Olympics ready for a full hit of snowboarding?
The reason I’m posing the question of whether the world of the Olympics is ready, and on a lesser note the middle-classes that bow down to the traditional aspects of the Games, is because of the noise that’s been created recently and I’m referring to three main incidents.
First up is the story about Kazu Kokubo. Back in 2010, he was representing Japan at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver but neither the Ski Association of Japan or the general public were impressed with him turning up with dreadlocks and ‘low-slung’ trousers. He was forced to apologise, which he did… badly, then forced to apologise again for doing such a bad job the first time and was nearly sent home on the first plane back. Luckily someone sweet-talked the Ski Association of Japan and he stayed to compete.
Second point – Kevin Backstrom. Kevin was one of the well known snowboarders in the Swedish Team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but notice that I said was – he was kicked out of the Swedish Team for his apparent sexist views on women. If you have read about Kevin or followed his blog/Instagram/anything he posts online then you’ll know that he’s a man with a penchant for women and he loves posting up pictures of women. He was pretty well known for this behaviour but he pushed it just a little too far when he posted up an image that maybe shouldn’t have seen the light of day: it was “a cartoon of a blonde girl saying “what is the difference between me and a mosquito? The mosquito will stop sucking if you hit it,” according to a commenter on Whitelines. Pretty poor taste for anyone, let alone a snowboarder.
Third up is the British wonderkid, Jamie Nicholls. He recently posted up a tweet to his pal Billy Morgan with this:
On first reading we all found it pretty inoffensive banter between two mates. But Paddy Mortimer, performance director at BSS, wasn’t too pleased about it and weighed in with his opinion: “@jamienichollsuk funded athletes need to watch their language. Paddy pd BSS”. Read the full story here.
The reason I’ve picked out these three stories is purely for the fact that they are things that we all see in the snowboarding industry day in, day out (perhaps not the deleted picture from Kevin Backstrom) and I picked them for the fact that they’ve been publicly lambasted for their discrepancies. How many snowboarders do you see on the slopes or around a resort that have baggy clothing, dreadlocks or are generally not wearing the day to day clobber of a recently promoted accountant. When it comes to the case of Kevin Backstrom there’s not much of a leg to stand on but there are a lot of horny teenagers out there that like to ogle every pheromone producing female. I’m definitely not attempting to justify what he did though, that’s still open to debate. And as for Jamie Nicholls, that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! An attitude like this isn’t just kept in the world of snowboarding but from something that is clearly seen as banter, so to get told off like you’re a pre-pubescent school kid is just insane. Nicholls got a lot of support from everyone after he was told off and rightly so! If this is what will happen when the Olympics rolls around then it’ll be one shit storm after another… or will I get told off for saying shit?
Snowboarding, and let’s not forget freestyle skiing, is seen as more of a lifestyle than a sport to many people. And the fact that it’s more of a lifestyle is proven by the actions of the people above. You can be told you’re a role model but when your sport is as young as snowboarding then you need to admit that this lifestyle part will take over the seriousness of it. But then that’s the other point; it isn’t alpine skiing, it isn’t the luge, it’s essentially a hobby for ‘Dave next door’. I’m not belittling the sport I’m merely stating that it’s more accessible than the majority of other Olympic sports and it’s perhaps this fact that means it’s more of a lifestyle.
On the complete other side you may have to think that there will be next to no trouble at the Olympics if anything does happen. The I.O.C. are trying to appeal to a younger audience as they get more and more bored of curling and more and more interested in snowboarding. Does this mean that everyone will get a free pass to do whatever they want? Will Snowboarding be the annoying younger brother that your parents force you to include? I doubt it.
My point is this – snowboarding is a young sport and is only seen to be providing an outlet for anyone with the word teen in their age or anyone with dreads and a craving for weed. Yes it’s a sport that appeals to young people primarily and the majority of competitors are under 30 but what sport doesn’t have that? Young people famously make mistakes and attempt to do whatever they like no matter if it offends someone. If you’ve been in the snowboarding world at all then you’ll be aware that you can’t take life too seriously and we’re well versed in taking life as it comes and having fun while we do it. If you can’t have fun doing this sport then don’t do it at all. Sometimes it’ll be frowned upon but that’s fine. The problem that crops up is that the I.O.C. now need US to help them out but the people who reprimanded the three athletes above are of the old mindset of the old I.O.C..
Are they ready for it? Is the rest of the world ready for it? What do you reckon?