Sunday, February 02, 2014

Great Grandpa and I go to the Olympics

Jacob David Epp and wife Justina ca. 1864

Chortitza Mennonite Church ca. 1850

My Great Grandfather could have taken a one-hour flight to Sochi, flying over the Sea of Azov, then down the coast of the Black Sea—about the distance from Saskatoon to Winnipeg. He probably wouldn't even have been served a lunch on such a short flight.
      Alternately, he could have traveled over land, taking the M18 from Chortitza down to Dzhankoi on the Crimean Peninsula, stopping there for lunch and switching to the M17 East to Kerch where he'd have to wait for the ferry to cross the Strait of Kerch between the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. From Ilyich, it's a pretty long but simple drive on the M25 down the east shore of the Black Sea to Sochi.
      He had only one functioning eye, but he could at least have watched half of the Olympics.
      Or he might, like me, have had very little interest in gatherings of “elite athletes” to see who can slide down a hill the fastest, and might have stayed in his home/hovel in Novovitebsk and written a sermon for the following Sunday, not bothering even to check in on the endless hours of Olympic hype on TV. 
     But he would still have been aware that just a hop over the Black Sea, the world is gathering to be thrilled by the spectacle of professional athletes hitting a rubber puck with sticks, apprehensive at the same time because just a few hours East is the city of Grozny in Chechnya, where rebels know how to make bombs, and suicide bombers are willing to deploy them.
      I'm a Luddite where both sports and independence movements are concerned. Regarding the former, I just don't understand the motivation behind all the time, effort and money that's required to earn the right to slide down an ice chute on a bobsled to arrive at the bottom—hopefully—one-one hundredth of a second faster than the next-fastest slider. And regarding the latter, why would you insist that a province that doesn't want to be a part of the nation anymore nevertheless be forced to remain? Kick them out already! Let's have some peace and quiet for a change!
      And then there's that “Own the Podium” thing that's an embarrassment to any thinking Canadian, or will be after the Americans, the Russians, even the Scandinavians deservedly kick our asses in pretty much every event as they're likely to do. “Own the Podium” indeed. What arrogance. What a waste of millions. What a set up for being shamed when the snow finally settles.
      Do we still call this sport?
      I'm pretty sure Jacob David Epp in his home/hovel in Novovitebsk would have shaken his head in amazement and expended a chuckle or two. Would that I could share the amusement with him!
     I, too, have only one properly-functioning eye. Thanks for that, Great Grandpa.

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