Pyeongchang 2018: The Underrated Joys of the Winter Olympics

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[caption id="attachment_1889" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Edge-of-your-seat stuff: The British curling team during the Winter Olympics at Chamonix, France, 1924 (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)[/caption]  

It’s difficult not to conclude that a Briton’s ambivalence towards the Winter Olympics stems at least in part from the fact – or rather the suspicion – that the UK will never host the Games. We take it as an affront, almost. It’s cold here, we point out (“You should come and stay in Gloucestershire; absolutely freezing, I promise”) and some of our hills can take over an hour to climb. We occasionally have enough snow to prettify the landscape and there’s a perfectly good skating rink on Queensway. What more do these people want?

Just because we don’t have ‘mountains’. Just because we don't go in for vulgar displays of excessive snowfall. Just because we prefer the subtle undulations of the South Downs to the ooh-look-at-me, show-off peaks of the Alps. And so on.

And perhaps another source of resentment, another reason behind our deliberately not giving a hoot about those silly show-offs on their silly skis is that We Are Simply Not Much Good At It.

Certainly, St Moritz has yet to succumb to foreign ownership (or, for that matter, foreign pronunciation), but barring the Cresta Run’s world-class opportunities for giving the flower of Britain’s youth head injuries they don’t really need, snow isn’t really our métier, if one will pardon one’s French.

This needs to change.

Because, despite the vulgar doping scandals of the Russians, despite what our representative at the International Olympic Committee has called the ‘craven and spineless’ reaction of that body to the scandal, the Winter Olympics is capable of representing what is best in all of us - upbringing, nationality, geography and even opportunity be damned.

If Tonga, in the person of Pita Taufatofue, can field a cross-country skiing contender; if Kenya, in the person of Sabrina Simader, can enter a Super-G downhill specialist; if Ghana, in the person of Akwasi Frimpong, can send a skeleton bob racer; if Jamaica can field a bobsleigh team or two – then we’ve no excuse.

If the North and South Korean women can play on the same team despite the very real, very well-publicised fact that their respective countries are actually at war with one another, then it’s about time we pulled up ourselves up by our ice-skate straps.