Are you guys watching the Olympics this weekend? I’m feeling…some kind of way about the whole thing.
Normally, I’m a big (huge) Olympics fan. I grew up competing in all kinds of sports, my Dad was a professional hockey player in his pre-kid years, and so Watching The Olympics was a big deal. A whole family affair.
In fact, one of the last good memories of my Dad — before he got so sick from the Lewy body dementia that eventually killed him — was of watching the Summer Olympics together. I had rented a house for the summer, and traveled back home to Michigan with Raines and baby Pax. Dad was still driving then, and he’d show up in the afternoon, turn on the Olympics, and settle on the couch with the boys. I’d hear him explaining the events to Raines, whooping when Canada competed, and then, eventually, falling asleep on the couch.
I remember that month with the entirety of my being: windows open, the smell of freshly cut grass, a lazy ceiling fan blowing a soft, warm breeze. The feel of Pax’s fat baby self on my hip. The cheering crowds and commentators a burr of background noise while Dad teased and wrestled Raines. It was a glimpse into another life. One where my Dad was not sick, where I lived close enough to my parents to have him drop by on the regular, helping with the kids. It’s one of my most treasured memories.
The next Summer Olympics, of course, looked very different. Dad was really sick by then, and I fled to Europe for a family vacation with Mike and the boys. We watched a few games from our hotel room in Normandy, and, as Canada competed in…can’t remember (curling, probably (ha)) I thought of Dad back home. Was he watching?
Dad was always so into competition for competition’s sake. It wasn’t — just — about winning. He loved the idea of personal bests, of pushing limits, the stories of sacrifice, of grit. “Focus!” he’d snap, if I wasn’t playing my best. “Shane, get your head in the goddam game.” Or sometimes just, “DIG DOWN DEEP.”
And the Olympics does embody that level of intensity and commitment my Dad so identified with — at least at the athlete level. There is no shortage of inspiring stories. But the Olympics has always had its problems, too. The original (modern) Olympics, held in in 1896, consisted of 241 athletes —unsurprisingly all white men — which hardly made it the ‘world’ competition it claimed to be.(1)
But the problems with today’s Olympic Games feel especially jarring.
Even if I look past the fact that we’re still in a global pandemic (with more and more COVID cases being reported in Tokyo’s Olympic Village), it’s concerning that polls show only 22% of Japanese people want the games to continue.(1) Additionally, in the weeks and months leading up to this year’s Olympics, the IOC (and/or other governing bodies) have made the most bizarre rulings, especially where women athletes are concerned. Here’s a quick sample:
- Larger swim caps, made specifically for Black hair, have been banned from competitions (2), including the Olympics. Which means that a black swimmer must choose between short hair or…not competing. How is this ruling anything but racist? (And as someone who swam competitively in high school, I can verify that larger swim caps would NOT give anyone an unfair advantage. Please.)
- Norway’s Beach Handball Team was fined because they had the audacity to play an Olympic qualifier in shorts, rather than bikini bottoms. (3) “Female athletes must wear bikini bottoms … with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg” read the regulations, to “remain coherent with the sportive and attractive image of the sport.”
- Christine Mboma and Beatrice Masilingi, two sprinters from Namibia, were removed from the 400m dash due to “naturally occurring high levels of testosterone”. (4) They were forced to undergo an assessment to prove they have two XX chromosomes (they do), but just happen to have higher testosterone levels than the “average woman”. I was horrified to read that in cases like this, these women must take medication to reduce their testosterone levels in order to compete. I struggle to understand why a slightly higher testosterone level is any different than, say, a height advantage in basketball, or even Michael Phelps’s hyperextended joints. Not only does he have double-jointed ankles (allowing his feet to bend 15% more than his rivals), but his chest also hyper-extends, giving him a huge advantage.(5)
And this list doesn’t even include Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension for legally smoking marijuana, an IOC ruling that is as predictable as is outdated.
What does one do about any of this? The Olympic committee is literally accountable only to itself. Its charter grants it “supreme authority” in all things Olympics, and, to quote the NYT, “it answers only to whim”.(1)
That NYT article goes on with a very telling quote from Jules Boykoff: “The International Olympic Committee is probably the most pervasive sport infrastructure in the world and arguably the least accountable, and that’s saying a lot when there’s a group called FIFA in the world.”
Ha! And also: yikes.
Frankly, I’m debating whether we watch it at all. I’m tempted to boycott the entire thing, despite the fact that it feels a little like screaming into the void.
But then I remember the hundreds of athletes, most of whom will never be famous, who will never have sponsorships, who have been training for years to get to the Olympics. So many untold stories, of dedication and commitment, of digging down deep and sacrifice and grit.
“When Michelle Moultrie takes to the diamond representing Team USA in softball at the 2021 Summer Olympics,” Adam Aziz of Mic writes, “it will be monumental on multiple fronts. Not only is Jacksonville, Florida’s Moultrie the lone black female on the team, but it’s the first time softball is back in the Olympics after a 12-year break. It’s moments like this that run the risk of being missed amid calls for the boycotting of the Tokyo games…”(6)
He’s right. Boycotting the games will likely have an adverse impact on the athletes who have worked so hard to get there. But is that enough of a reason to watch?
As I write this, I realize that Opening Ceremonies starts tonight. I’m currently in Vermont with Mike and our two boys. They are both much bigger now, and have been asking about the Olympics. Our windows are open, the smell of freshly cut grass is wafting in. There’s a lazy ceiling fan pushing the air around.
I wish I could ask my Dad.
(1) – Let the Games…Be Gone? (NYT)
(2) – Swimming caps for natural black hair ruled out of Olympic Games (The Guardian)
(3) – Norway’s beach handball team hit by fine after dropping bikinis for shorts (CBC.ca)
(4) – Namibia NOC “grossly disappointed” with World Athletics handling of Masilingi and Mboma cases (Inside The Games)
(5) – Why Michael Phelps Has the Perfect Body for Swimming (Biography.com)
(6) – The 2021 Olympics have their problems, but athletes still need our support (Mic)
Sale and/or gift card? Saks is not only having a pretty epic sale (well covered in this week’s Weekly Sales Report), but a purchase of some of their full-price merchandise can also earn you a gift card. So you if you’ve ever been tempted by my L’Agence denim jacket (soft as a cardigan, yet looks well-tailored), Saks has EVERY wash. And my most-worn piece ever, Cami NYC’s 100% silk cami, can also earn you a gift card. These pieces are pricey, but I’ve owned both for years, and they’re some of the smartest purchases I’ve ever made. Cost-per-wear is pennies at this point.
Gah, I got sucked in. Occupational hazard. But Saks’ plain ‘ol sale section is worth a look. Check out this ridiculous, yet fun, dress (100% cotton), these rag & bone Ninas (intrigued by the side-slit, maybe good for sneakers and/or booties?), and one of those Cami NYC camis on sale in ‘tawny‘. Oooo…with matching sweatpants. Basically my dream lounge outfit.
Where my Midwest girls at? A vintage-inspired Great Lakes tank.
Not nearly enough. There’s one piece in the NSale that hasn’t gotten nearly enough love. It’s this Barbour raincoat I snuck into my try-on post. I have the dark green (now sold out), but the baby blue is really pretty and fully stocked. This piece runs big, but fits over all kinds of oversized sweaters…while still looking cute and put-together. There’s also a short version, in black. Either would look really cute with those Ganni rainboots Jess has us all obsessed with.
Budget-friendly rain pants? On my recent post about waterproof (and breathable) hiking gear, Emily asked for some additional budget-friendly recommendations. I found a few decent options, but the reason these pants are more affordable is because they either won’t be as soft (on sale!), OR they won’t be as waterproof OR they won’t have all of the features (side-zips, easy on/off, etc). FWIW, my boys hiked Iceland in a version of those UA joggers and stayed surprisingly dry. For an affordable jacket, The North Face’s Resolve (always under $100) isn’t bad…or snag my exact jacket in an on-sale color. The parka version of my jacket is on sale in a really pretty burgundy, too.
Oh hey, Maureen texted me. Local boutique Social Threads is having a best-sellers sale. It includes pieces like this Clare V lookalike clutch, and this very Veronica Beard-esque top. Use code BEST30 to take 30% off.
Ugh, my never-ending quest. I STILL haven’t found white pants (jeans?) that I like. It’s been…5 YEARS. I’m tempted to try this pair that Julieta absolutely rocked the heck out of…but then came across this slouchy, budget-friendly pair at Social Threads and…?? They’re good, right?? (The BEST30 code will work, too.)
My boys are ages 10 and 13. I recently relocated our magna-tiles to our coffee table housed in this round wooden tray and…both boys have started playing with them again. Rainy day? They get out the magna-tiles. Bored? They start messing with magna-tiles. It was a genius move (one I borrowed from A). It worked so well that I might pull a page from our toddler days…and put them in this mirrored tray (on sale!). Magna-tiles + mirrors = TONS of fun.
DO IT: BADMINTON. Anyone else forget how much crazy-fun this game is??? We just bought this Badminton set and have been having nightly tourneys. Because the birdies just basically float over the net (kinda-sorta)…it’s a good equalizer for different ages & abilities.
Recipe ideas? I need some summer vegan crock-pot recipes. I rely on the crockpot so heavily in the winter that I’m lost once summer comes (and the last thing I want to make are hearty vegan winter stews). I’m considering this vegan summer lasagne recipe (sub in vegan cheese), or this jackfruit replacement for pulled-pork tacos. If you guys have any go-tos…PLEASE SHARE.
OK – we’re off to do a little hiking. Happily, it looks like I won’t need raingear today. Enjoy your weekend!