04 March 2006

Russian Olympics

The Torino Olympics have come and gone and although I didn’t see oodles of events, I was able to get my fill of skating. I had assumed, correctly, that the winter Olympics would not be broadcast on any Vietnamese channel or on ESPN, but continued to channel surf until I hit upon Orbita, the Russian satellite channel. It took me a few days, but I was finally able to pretty much figure out the broadcast times. (I did try to get the TV schedule on the internet, but unless you can Google in Ruskie, it is not to be found.)

I found myself glued to the commentary team, a man and a women in horribly tacky, red warm-up jackets, who showed excerpts from all the events and didn’t spoil it with too much talk.

Their coverage of the ice skating was far superior to any American broadcast, not that that is hard to do. I was able to watch skaters other than the top three, and enjoy their performances without all that babbling, interrupting the performances. When they did speak, they lacked the judgmental commentary that rules all US coverage. Or so it seemed to me.

I got to see the Russian athletes in their home towns and training venues. It is always enlightening to see what fantastic athletes have been produced from bare bones training facilities. The highlight, however, was the in-depth, hour-long story about Irina Slutskya, one of the world’s top women’s skaters.

First let me point out that we have all been mispronouncing her name all these years. The accent is on the first syllable, SLUTS-kee-a, not, sluts-SKY-ya. I have been watching her since she was about 15 so am well acquainted with her life story. I sat mesmerized as they interviewed her at home, interspersed with footage and re-enactments of her skating career. At times I actually thought I understood Russian, but it was really only that I knew what they were referring to. The re-enactment of the hospital scene needed no translation. Similarly for The World Championships and Olympics. But I did finally get to see her mom and husband, although I must say I really wanted to know what was said about him since I knew/know nothing. Irina has always come across as a lovely thing, and even more so in the interview. Why is it they don’t subtitle these sorts of programs and broadcast them around the world? I am sure many of us would love to get an insight into elite athletes from other countries.

I was sort of rooting for her in the finals even though I knew she was really too old to be in the Olympics. I checked all the internet sources I could, figured that Orbita would be broadcasting live, converted to Vietnam time, then set the clock for 5AM. I turned on the TV just in time to catch the awards ceremony and get the best news of the day that the Japanese woman had won. I always like it when a person that no one expects to take gold, wins.

The other big thrill was seeing the Israeli ice dancing team of Sergai and Galit. It is the opinion of those in the know, and not just mine, that Sergai is the best male ice dancer ever to have graced the rink. Usually, ones eyes focus on the gals, but not when he is performing. He is an utterly beautiful, dead-sexy skater, who I would pay big bucks to skate in my living room. Even more fortunate, I got to see a second, rebroadcast of one of their routines.

So, it wasn’t the entire Olympics, but I am fairly sure the coverage I saw was better than anything people saw in the US.

Off to dream about ice dancers.