Something Missing from the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olypics have been very easy to miss if you live in Australia. Everything is on in the middle of the day when most people are at work and the sports themselves are at best worth watching for the crashes only or at worst are incomprehesibly foreign from anything Australians do (because Australians do things at the beach in summer). Clearly something is missing to entice Australians to watch and that thing is Rugby Union.

Not only are Australians not watching live Winter Olympics we're not watching the not very amusing (where are Roy and HG when you need them?) highlights package each night. And why would you? The nature of sport is that it should be watched live - watching replayed sport is like re-wearing underwear - you know that technically it will do the job but there's just something inherently wrong about it.

So it was while watching the men's team jumping from the big hill one evening while wearing day-old undies and wondering why they award points for style when surely it's whoever jumps furthest wins that the Rolling Maul realised that if Rugby is a winter sport why is it in the Summer Olympics?

Sure it's 'only' sevens but even sevens tournaments are played during the World's regular Rugby seasons and they are almost without exception not in Summer (though admittedly Rugby seasons are becoming increasingly longer and winter is getting possibly warmer due to the effects of climate change).

It makes sense that soccer is in the Summer Olympics as soccer is a summer sport, certainly it is in Australia while in much of the world it's pretty much played all year. At the Summer Olympics Rugby will have to compete with soccer for the attention of 'football' (as in all of the codes) enthusiasts. Meanwhile in the Winter Olympics of 84 gold medals awarded to date only five have been won by major Rugby playing nations (France - 2, Australia - 2, Great Britain - 1).

So if the IOC want to increase worldwide interest in the Winter Olympics by introducing new sports that have a more universal appeal (and they do - snowboarding and short track speed skating are very new to the Olympics) then Rugby is an obvious match.

Similarly if the IRB are looking to increase interest in Rugby worldwide by including it in the Olympics program then surely the Winter Olympics offer the 'clean air' that the Summer Olympics could never provide.

But what about the frozen Rugby grounds under two feet of snow you ask? Well Rugby is a reasonably popular sport in Canada with an impressive World Cup heritage. Surely the locals either play on grounds largely free of snow or they are playing in snow and if they are so what. The Rolling Maul has seen Rugby played under a foot of water (Sydney Uni vs Easts in 2007) so a foot of snow should be a breeze. Hypothermia could be a problem on particularly bad days but any player in risk of frostbite simply isn't working hard enough (a suitable punishment perhaps for a winger not willing to get involved and mess up his hair).

In any case for most of this Winter Olympics the problems on the mountains has been not enough snow while it hasn't snowed in Vancouver at all.

So as another ski jumper gets penalised for being too skinny (which is as ridiculous as penalising a basketballer for being too tall) it is abundantly clear that the Winter Olympics needs Rugby as much as Rugby needs the Winter Olympics.


Nursedude said…
Even here in the USA, NBC had only about half of the Olympic programming live. It's galling to have an announcer like Bob Costas try to string along American viewers into watching an edited, drawn out event that was actually decided hours earlier.