Saturday, October 19, 2013

Inside the Winter Olympic Games by Marc Jenner

Why I read it: The author sent me a review copy, which was serendipitous, as I've always been a huge fan of the Winter Games.

Summary: A short guidebook to the Winter Olympics, with breakdowns of the various sports and their changes over time, many of the traditions and how they began, and more.

My thoughts: I have ties.

Back in the late 1970s, my dad was a hockey coach. Apparently, he was a very good one (I would later come to see it in action, on the ice, as I skated with some of his teams). In 1979 he was given an opportunity to coach some young men from Massachusetts competing in a tournament in Colorado to determine who would represent the U.S. on the 1980 Olympic team. Yes, those guys.

Being a hockey fan, I was drawn to the Winter Olympics, watching the 1984 team in Sarajevo and the 1988 team in Calgary. I was such a fan of the games that I taped - on VHS - the entirety of the Calgary Olympics coverage, and did the same in 1992. Tomba, Witt, Mueller...for two weeks, those names were my life.

So, yes, I know my fair share of Winter Olympics history. But I apparently didn't know that much, as Jenner's book surprised me with several facts. For instance, how abot this irony (or, I suppose, oversight): when the Olympic motto was chosen, "Citius, Altius, Fortius," it was done so in Latin. But, as his history states, it was the Ancient Romans who killed the Ancient Olympics, citing the fact they were contested in homage to Zeus. Shouldn't the motto be in Greek?

One facet of the Ancient Olympics that has long fascinated me is that the four year periods between the games known as Olympiads are actually used in the study of technical chronology. Ancient  texts can refer to things like "On the third day before Easter in the second year of the fourteenth Olympiad..." and historians (or perhaps, their mathematician friends) can pinpoint not only the year, but the day.

Jenner's book is one to keep handy for reference when the next Winter Olympics roll around. I've fallen off track with them, but now that I have kids who are near the level of understanding them, perhaps I'll find the time again to tune in. Perhaps just for my dad's sake, as he rests in peace up there in amateur hockey heaven!


  1. This sounds like a really interesting book. Unfortunately, no kindle here, so it will have to wait.

    Very cool about your father and the hockey players. I grew up in MA so had an attachment to those guys. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to muster up that same level of excitement again. They were kids playing against a powerhouse. How exciting when they won! Now they are all professionals. Just not the same. Does Jenner talk about the change from amateurs to professionals?


    1. HI Sarah - I know, it's cool, isn't it? Honestly, Mark's book is very short, really a quick reference guide, but fun from that standpoint. And I'm with you on the games - the professionals have dragged it down entirely.

  2. Love the winter Olympics. I can hardly wait for February. I still love the ski jump. I wish Eddie the Eagle had been allowed to finish his career. He truly represented the spirit of the Olympics!

    1. Then check out February South Shore Living - I interviewed Eric Flaim.