Point-Counterpoint: Pyeongchang brings the heat despite critiques


(Illustration by Liam Mcfadden | Staff Illustrator)

If you don’t know what’s been happening during this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, you’re sorely missing out.

That shirtless Tongan flag bearer you fell in love with during the Rio Games made an appearance, an Austrian snowboarder finished a race after literally breaking his neck and all-American sweetheart skier Lindsey Vonn is doing commercials for paper towels.

For some, though, the thrill of the Winter Olympics falters in comparison to the Summer Olympics. Popular claims are that the sports are elitist, unusual and, above all, boring.

[Read the point: The Winter Olympics don’t deliver]

It’s obvious from observation that many winter sports attract people who can afford to ski, snowboard and play ice hockey. Those athletes tend to be white and have had parents who could afford lift tickets every weekend of the winter growing up. Statistics show that, of the 9.4 million skiers in the United States, 72 percent of them are white, and a little over half make more than $100,000 per year.

Despite thus fair criticism, the games still feature compelling narratives.

This year, 17-year-old protege Chloe Kim won gold for the USA in the Ladies’ Half-pipe finals — besting athletes from around the world, many of whom are much older than her. Kim actually qualified for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but couldn’t compete. Why?

She was 13 years old, three years shy of the minimum age requirement.

As the daughter of two first-generation immigrants from South Korea, Kim has set a precedent for a lot of young women in America, especially those of color.

There are other stories of unlikely heroes at the Winter Games, too, like the Jamaican bobsled team that — though from the balmy beaches of the Caribbean — set venue records in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Olympic Games.

The team then went on a qualifying drought for the next two games, but made a surprise comeback at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and is participating in Pyeongchang.

It is understandable that the Summer Olympics feel more relatable to most American viewers beyond these uplifting and inspiring stories of snow-sport underdogs. Lots of kids grew up playing basketball, running track for their high school team or swimming at the community pool.

But why not become a expert on obscure athletics every four winters? Impress that girl at the bar with your extensive knowledge on the difference between slalom and giant slalom. Fall asleep at night to videos of ice dancing as you silently score the performances in your dreams.

But seriously, curling is not that bad to watch — it’s actually kind of interesting. Summer sports like basketball, boxing and golf already get enough coverage — I need to immerse myself in something fresh and exciting.

And sure, there are obscure summer sports — rhythmic gymnastics, tae kwon do, fencing — but do they involve sliding headfirst down a track of solid ice at 90 miles per hour? To answer your question, no — that would be luge, which is awesome and scary.

The summer sports also don’t include my personal favorite — figure skating — which should be on the top of everyone’s list.

Figure skating — and ice dancing, if we’re being generous — brings every facet of television together that I need in my life. There is drama — like the notoriously tragic tale of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan — and there is the sexual tension, like the will-they won’t-they situation between longtime partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

There are also dazzling, sparkling costumes — rife with more sequins, fringe and chiffon my little heart can take — though there have been a few unfortunate wardrobe malfunctions this Olympics alone.

No matter the case, the Winter Olympics are nothing to look down on. If you fancy fun in the sun more than that of subzero temperatures, go ahead — just leave room for the rest of us to enjoy it.