Tlellagraph: Olympic pride, Olympic prejudice

Tlellagraph: Olympic pride, Olympic prejudice

By Janet Rigg

The Olympics are on! It’s like you get to live an alternative sports lifestyle for 17 days, casting aside the regular basketball and hockey, enjoying the biathlon like it’s nobody’s business. Luge, oh yes, bobsleigh, so exciting, and figure skating, yessssss…

Yes, figure skating. There is something about watching Olympic figure skating that stirs in me something pure as a young girl’s dreams in the 1980s. I get emotional, and hold my breath through every double axe. I came of age with Torvill and Dean’s perfect dance to Ravel’s “Bolero,” and and I lost my innocence 10 years later when Tonya Harding took aim at Nancy Kerrigan’s knees.

There’s nothing quite like the off-ice drama. As an aside, I hear the movie Tonya paints Ms. Harding in a kinder light. I’m ready to have the black-and-white narrative of my youth challenged. I’d go see the film, but there’s no movie theatre in Tlell, so I’ll have to wait.

I think part of the draw of the Olympics is the idea that anyone can obtain their dreams. If Eddie the Eagle can soar to greatness, and the Jamaican bobsleigh team finds a way, then maybe we all can.

My husband, he’s a wonderful fellow. He’s pretty “woke” as they say. He fully understands that, as a modern-day female in general, and his wife in particular, I can do anything I want. But sometimes he says funny things that aren’t woke at all.

Like his thought that if one wanted to compete in the Olympics they would probably have better luck if they were disabled. Like learning to be the best at a very difficult thing would somehow be easier if you were also missing a leg. Maybe he thought fewer disabled people want to be athletes, so it was a narrower playing field?

What it led me to realize is that we can still have a hard time seeing outside of our lens. We think we’ve come so far, and then we realize that Canadian judges can still be racist, and woman’s ski jumping is just enjoying its second Olympics.

Yes, woman ski jumpers at the 2018 Olympics can compete, but they can only jump the “normal hill” and not the “large hill” like the men do.

Why? Institutionalized sexism in the IOC. In 1896, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, stated: “No matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks.”

If that’s not shocking, how about this statement from 2005? “Don’t forget, it’s like jumping down from, let’s say, about two meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view” (International Ski Federation president Gian Franco Kasper).

Seems ski jumping could damage our reproductive organs which, we all know, is our sole value in society. Thank you, mankind, for looking out for us. Sorry Trudeau, I meant person-kind.

Woman are regularly only allowed to compete in lesser Olympic events — less height, less distance, less strain on our delicate dispositions. It is sexism that is so ingrained in the institution of the Olympics that we all barely notice it.

I’ve been watching the Olympics since I can remember, and I never noticed there were no female ski jumpers until I noticed there were some. Despite that, I will continue to watch Olympics from the comfort of my Tlellian home. I will always be an armchair figure skating champion, since at least that sport has gender equality (and allows men to have a nuanced “best” outside of the biggest, strongest and fastest).

However, I’ll continue to have these conversations with my daughter and son so they think about the implied truths behind these arbitrary Olympic rules. And then we’ll start our own Tlell Olympics. Racial and gender equality will be paramount. Everyone can compete in the Driftwood Dash and Sand Jumping — at any height at all. Email me your personal choices for Tlell Olympic events at I bet we can make a difference.