Saturday, January 27, 2018

Olympics Blurb 2018: Reasons to Watch

It can be hard for Americans to watch something that is happening half a world away. If it's not "local," it's not "relevant." Having a Winter Olympic Games taking place all the way in South Korea might not be appealing to the casual viewer. Events will be taking place while we're sleeping in the States! Why should we watch?

Well, if you're on an article called "Olympic Blurb" it's likely that I'll have sixty or seventy reasons to watch. Or 100. But for your sake, I'll trim them down to five or six:

Live Events...Really!

PyeongChang is fourteen hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States - and seventeen hours ahead of the West Coast! To put it in perspective, an event taking place at 3:00 p.m. Korean time would be streamed live back in Eastern time at 1:00 a.m. (If you're confused, just go back 2 hours and then change the p.m./a.m. around. That makes it pretty easy to follow.)

However, if you remember back 10 years ago, the Summer Olympic schedule was tweaked to allow swimming finals to take place in the morning in allow for NBC to air them live back in the United States in primetime. That meant we didn't have to endure tape-delay or Internet spoilers in order to enjoy Michael Phelps' eight gold medals.

This year it's happening again, and that's for our benefit! NBC always spends the most money out of all other countries to get Olympic coverage, so it's clear they have a bit of a pull when it comes to the schedule.

A clear draw for U.S. viewers is figure skating, and those events will almost all air live in America. Skiing and snowboarding will also have a primetime slot.

Even though we're a great distance away, it actually can work for our advantage! (As long as your brain can endure that you're watching Tuesday events on Monday...)

New Faces

Many athletes that we fell in love with back in 2010, when the Winter Olympics were nice and close by in Vancouver, have retired or failed to qualify for PyeongChang. Out of the 242 American athletes, there are only 10 gold medalists. Over half of the squad is new to the Olympics, including almost the entire men's hockey roster. (Since current NHL players are no longer competing in the Olympics, one former NHL player who played on the 2006 Olympic team will play and serve as captain - Brian Gionta.)

If you've followed me, you know that I get a bit sick of the NBC-hyped athletes by the time the Olympics actually begin. It's great for sponsorship, but it is a bit painful to watch the same commercials during every break of whatever you're watching.

Maybe I was just spurned early on in my Olympic viewing career. I had put all my chips on Michelle Kwan to win figure skating gold, and then she fell short in 1998 (to Tara Lipinski) and 2002 (to Sarah Hughes) and I just got irritated because I had seen her in so many commercials and basically was expecting her to win.

Nowadays I'm pulling for the underdogs, so it's always a lot of fun to see new athletes break out on the biggest stage.

Great Events

In the past 20 years the Olympics have added some great events that are really fun to watch and enticing to viewers. That starts with snowboarding, which now has five different events for men and women. It used to be a niche sport that targeted a younger Winter X Games audience, but now snowboarding is attractive to all ages.

Another set of mixed gender events are being introduced - a downhill slalom skiing team event featuring two men and two women, the biathlong single mixed relay, and mixed curling. This is added to the already-existing team figure skating event that was introduced in 2014, mixed luge relay, and the obvious pairs figure skating and ice dancing events.

I can't get enough mixed gender team events, and the more I can get, the better.

Not only are there mixed gender, but events like speedskating and cross-country skiing have events that stray from their normal template. Both have a mass start even this year (it's new for speedskating in 2018) which means that everyone starts at the same time. In long-track speedskating that's unheard of because the track is specifically designed for two lanes of competition. I got to see this during the U.S. Nationals this year and loved how insane it gets with so many speedskaters competing all at once!

As in its Summer counterpart, the Winter Games has something for everyone.

An Educational Opportunity

Some people might groan and complain that the Winter Olympics take place during the school year. This makes it harder for someone (like me) to watch because of all of my normal school responsibilities.

However, this is a great chance to teach my students about several important aspects of the Olympics. Geography is an obvious one, and I hope to really expand on that this year. In 2014 I did a lot more with maps than I think I needed to, and this year I'm going to focus on athletes and where they are from rather than being so large with my study.

Sportsmanship is another big aspect to teach. While it is perfectly okay for my students to cheer for the U.S. teams, it isn't okay to insult other countries. I can promote positivity and encouragement when we watch events, and also help them deal with defeat in a good way. It's okay to be disappointed - it's not okay to lash out at others because of it.

Finally, it's a way for students to build their world. Many of them haven't been outside of a 100-mile radius of their home, and the Olympics provide a channel to show them how big this world is, and how we can appreciate people from all countries and all races.

Break from the Monotony

Let's face it - February is pretty boring. If Valentine's Day isn't your thing, then there isn't that much to enjoy in the month. Depending on where you are, it's still cold and dreary, and the next big vacation time is still weeks (if not months) away.

Every four years, though, February becomes a monotony breaker. Instead of following the same-old routine, fans take the time to tune in online or on TV to watch the Olympics so they know what to talk about with their classmates or coworkers the next day. Honestly, it's rare for any sporting event (besides the NFL) to get so many people talking.

We all need a break, and this couldn't come at a better time.

I hope you're going to take the time to enjoy a day or two (or seventeen) of Olympic coverage, and I hope you'll come to the Olympic Blurb every day to let me share my observations with you! I'm still teaching during those seventeen days, but I'll do my best to be as thorough in my coverage as possible. I am getting more and more excited as we get closer and closer to February 8!

My name is Claire Nat! You can follow me on Twitter @CeePipes for lots of Olympic comments, or follow me on Facebook at Check out my blog for other articles!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Olympic Blurb 2018: Prep Yourself

With less than three weeks to go, it is time for the casual fans to finally realize that the next Olympics is quickly approaching. NBC has gone all out, reminding viewers at literally every commercial break that the Winter Olympics start in February.

Fans might get a bit sick of the repetitive commercials and promotional packaging at the grocery store, but there are lots of other ways to gear up for the Games that are far less obnoxious and incredibly enjoyable!

Prep with a Podcast

I enjoy listening to podcasts, and most of them deal with Star Wars. Understandably, I was a little worn out of Star Wars talk a few weeks after The Last Jedi was released, and I was looking to decompress with something different. That's when I discovered Olympic Fever, a new podcast hosted by Jill Jaracz and Alison Brown. They have been podcasting since September and are getting people ready for PyeongChang with podcasts dedicated to specific sports of the Winter Olympics. 

Not only do they talk about sports like snowboarding, hockey, biathlon, and luge, they also interview athletes, coaches, and officiants who have been at (or are going to) the Olympics! I love these interviews because these women and men aren't high profile superstars - they're just regular people who are having a conversation about what they love to do. 

I think my favorite episodes are the ones about traditions of the Olympics. Their first episode was all about mascots, and they've also had episodes on the torch relay, pin collecting, and past and future host cities for the Olympics. 

I'm eager to continue on with the podcast even after the Winter Olympics are over!

Find Olympic Fever on iTunes and other feeds!

Find Olympic Social Media Accounts

If you're spending time watching qualifying events and Olympic trials, it is a good idea to see if those athletes you're watching have active accounts on social media.

For example, during the US Figure Skating Championships a few weeks ago, I checked on a few accounts on Twitter. The Shibutani siblings from ice dancing have three separate accounts - Alex has one, Maia has one, and then they both have a ShibSibs account - on Twitter. I also started following Mirai Nagasu, who posts quite a lot.

The key is finding athletes that post regularly, and finding athletes that don't just post sponsored materials! I love finding athletes that post their workouts or travels.

Sometimes athletes go on a complete blackout during competition, so there's a chance that they will be active until February and then disappear. Hopefully they can post a little bit!

Other great social media accounts for the Olympics are the PyeongChang account, NBC Olympics, and Team USA!

Watch the Olympic Channel

After the Rio games a brand-new channel was started called The Olympic Channel. It has a broad spectrum of coverage, even though it doesn't seem like it would. It shows replays of Olympic events of the past, profiles old and new Olympic athletes, and then covers competitions that are connected to the Olympics.

There is a transition of sports coverage in the fall of 2017 to go from summer events to the winter events, and now they are full-on Winter Olympics prep. They do everything from World Cup events to European Championships to US national competitions. I like all the variety of events!

Check your local listings to find the Olympic Channel, or check the Olympic Channel online!

Prepare Your Party!

Whether it's watching the Opening Ceremony or just a random day/night of Olympic viewing with friends or family, parties are a great way to celebrate! 

I hosted a party in 2016, but I had just moved about a month earlier and was still working on unpacking and getting ready for my new job. This time around, I have lots of time to prepare! 

I went onto Oriental Trading Company and ordered a flags-of-the-world centerpiece, tablecloth, plates, and cups! They actually have a whole section dedicated to decorations for the "International Winter Games," if you're interested. 

I love making cream of mushroom meatballs and pigs in a blanket, but I also am making special cookie dough truffles! My friends are bringing something to contribute to the party, so it means I have fewer things to make, but I still want to make sure I have plenty of food made myself! 

My party starts at 6 while the NBC coverage of the Opening Ceremony starts at 8, so I'm hoping the stream is online that we can watch! (If not, at least I'll have events from February 8 to show on my TV!)

Read Up

Don't forget to look at the magazine and newspaper previews, whether they're online or in print form! A lot of sports magazines have special Winter Olympics editions, and if you're lucky newspapers will have a section dedicated to Olympic coverage each day of the event. 

If you're also unfamiliar with some of the events - or just the rules, for that matter - it is a good idea to look it up before the Games begin, because once they start, there won't be any time!

So how are you getting prepared for the Winter Olympics? What event are you most excited to see? Which athlete will you root for the most? Prepare yourself, and you'll enjoy these Games even more than usual!

My name is Claire Nat! You can follow me on Twitter @CeePipes for lots of Olympic comments, or follow me on Facebook at Check out my blog for other articles!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Olympic Blurb 2018: Get Excited!

We're ba-!


Hold on. 

Lemme grab something...

(Click below)

We're back! If you've shut off your Olympic brain for the past 500 days, it's time to turn it back on. Get ready for shocking finishes, stunning upsets, tears of victory and defeat, and the same commercials over and over and over again. 

If you're new to the Olympic Blurb, welcome! I'm Claire Nat and I love writing about the Olympics. While I'm not writing about the Olympics I'm writing about my travels and about Star Wars. But when it's Olympics time, I devote seventeen days to sharing my Olympic experiences with you. (Here are samples of my blogs from 2012, 2014, and 2016, if you're curious.) 

I have been following the Olympics since they were held in Atlanta in 1996. I might be the only one
who thought that Izzy was a pretty cool mascot, though I think he was marketed for my age range. (So the marketing clearly worked.) I remember not realizing how important the torch being lit on Muhammad Ali was, though everyone else seemed to think it was very momentous. I remember waking up to the news of the bombing in Centennial Olympic Park. And I remember Amy Van Dyken and Michael Johnson, who absolutely dominated in swimming and track.

Isn't he cute?!
I continued to love the Olympics and watch them when I could. In 2002 I was in high school and had a roommate who also loved the Olympics - and Alexei Yagudin, Russian figure skater, in particular. Although our dormitory wouldn't allow VCRs, (that was the way we recorded stuff before DVRs, kiddos) we smuggled one in and recorded a bunch of stuff. We were such rule breakers.

I went to China in 2008...right after the Beijing Olympics. I was enthralled by their Opening Ceremony (still the best one IMO) and couldn't get enough Michael Phelps. When I was in China there was a lot of leftover merchandise from the games for cheap, so I bought as much as I could. (I still enjoy my little panda fuwa mascot magnet!)

Once 2010's Olympics in Vancouver arrived, I was teaching full-time and roped my students into experiencing parts of the Olympics with me. It wasn't hard - we could talk physical education, math, and geography! I really got into snowboarding events, and found that after school NBC showed either cross-country skiing and biathlon, so as I got the classroom ready for the next day I was watching those sports. 

2012 was THE year. It was also the year that NBC did a lot more online streaming, so I was watching basically everything. I was watching things that I'd never given a passing thought - shooting, canoeing, golf, rhythmic gymnastics, and open water swimming. Why? Because I could, that's why! And in 2014 and 2016, I couldn't get enough. 

Through those three Olympics, I really started to get into daily blogging. I would write a main article about something that struck my fancy that day, and then launch into mini blurbs - things that wouldn't be long enough for an article but I still wanted to discuss. I knew that my obsession had become huge when I would sit in front of three screens playing three different events and have my paper and pen in hand while taking notes. It was early mornings and late nights (or, in Sochi's case, middle-of-the-night-gold-medal-wake-up calls) and I loved it

This year will be a challenge. I currently live in the Eastern time zone of the United States, and that is a whopping fourteen hours behind Pyeongchang. Most of the primetime events taking place there will be happening just as I'm waking up or heading to school, and all of the daytime medals will be spoiled for me because I slept through them. There's not much of a chance that I'll be staying up all night and then teaching all day. (I tried that four years ago - I got sick as a result.) 

Because of this conundrum, I need to let go of my Type-A desire to watch everything live. I have to enjoy the process of how athletes won or lost medals instead of when they win it. I will use my little-used DVR to its maximum potential, recording everything so I can fast-forward as much as possible through NBC's thinkpieces and interviews about unimportant things. 

I think my most important goal this year is transferring my love of sports, history, and travel to my students. When we are able to watch things together, we can really get something out of it. If anything, I want to encourage supporting all the countries that are competing in events. It's perfectly fine to be patriotic and root for the home country, but that love and appreciation can cross countries. The spirit of the Olympics is all about brotherhood and competition, and that can sometimes be ignored in favor of dominance and doping. If my kids hate sports but at least can learn to appreciate how amazing people are from around the world, then the Olympics did its job. 

So hopefully you'll join me on my Olympic journey. Leading up to February 8 I'll be doing a few blurbs here and there, but once the Winter Games unofficially begin I will hit the ground running! 

Get excited - the Winter Olympic Games are almost here!

(To get excited for the Olympics, you should tune into the Olympic Fever podcast - I listened to all their podcasts episodes within the course of a week and I can't wait for the next one! Listen wherever you listen to podcasts or on their website. I will cover their podcast more in another pre-Olympic blurb!)

My name is Claire Nat! You can follow me on Twitter @CeePipes, or follow me on Facebook at Check out my blog for other articles!