Monday, March 1, 2010

For The Oympics

As the 2010 Vancouver Olympics draw to a close (shame, really) I guess I'll take the time to talk about Poland's sporting culture.

By far and away the most popular sport in Poland is soccer (as it is in most countries in the world.) Poland prides itself on its soccer team, which has seen less victories than any sports team in Detroit (in recent years.) It makes it to the World Cup and the Euro Cup (being hosted here in two years), but it usually never does any better than that. Sure, some decades ago they broke the top three, but the Poles haven't dominated like other nations.
Two sports, in which Poland has excelled, are handball and volleyball. Not really the most prestigious, but still admirable. In 2007, Poland lost to Germany (yet again, and how painful it all was) to get silver in the Handball World Championships.

One cannot talk about Polish sports and not talk about Adam Małysz. He's been one of the most successful ski jumpers of all time and is a minor national hero in Poland. He sports a roguish mustache and an equally-roguish soul patch to balance it out. He's a household name and has down an enormous service to popularize ski-jumping in this mostly-flat nation.

Oh, and Canada winning the gold last night? Shit sucks. (By the way, the stream I watched was a Polish stream.)

Poland's single gold medal of the Games came from Justyna Kowalczyk's 30 km classical cross-country skiing win. For the first part she wasn't dominating, and at the finish was an exciting, heart-stopping battle between her and Norway's Marit Bjoergen.

The thing is, Poland doesn't really invest very much into its athletes. Sure, they have their soccer heros, but those will most likely be drafted by a more prestigious league at better pay. Their minor athletes aren't groomed for greatness as they are in other countries; instead, one must first make it big and obtain sponsorships to be able to keep competing.

On the non-sport side, I think there was a guy shooting up heroin in the stairwell a few days ago. When I passed him going down, he was sitting on some steps and had spilled some of his things, including a hypodermic needle. I came back two hours later (this is like, 5 PM) and he was lying vertically on the steps (that can't feel good on his back) passed out. As I passed him, he kind of awoke and started some grunting or something.

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