The 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are approaching. That’s right, it’s the Carnival of global sporting competitions. New events this year include Synchronized Samba, 400 Meter Drag Queen and Golf. Actually, I made up two of those. Unfortunately the ones that aren’t Golf.
So there’s a lot to learn about Rio 2016 besides how to vaccinate Zika. I’d like to offer a quick overview of some of the more obscure events, because you can’t go into this simply knowing China is a favorite in Table Tennis.
First, Kitesurfing (or Kiteboarding) is a new event this year, replacing Windsurfing – both popular activities in hair-loss commercials, both mainly perpetrated by guys named Braxton. In Kitesurfing, your two most important elements are wind and, wait for it, a kite. Remember flying kites? Too much fun! How exhilarating it was, your dad shouting, “Run! Run! Higher! Higher!” as that rainbow-colored, piece-of-shit, tissue papered-diamond rose three feet…four feet…five...over the meadow until your little legs gave out, sending you tumbling into the tick-infested brush, beginning your battle with Lyme Disease. Well now our world’s greatest athletes are taking that experience to the next level. On WATER! Look out for this event and dazzle friends with your prediction that someone from a “beachy” country will bring home gold. But not France. They consider Kitesurfing to be (blows smoke from cigarette), “Infantile.”
Another overlooked sport in this year’s Olympics is Badminton, Tennis’s goofy little step-brother. You might know Badminton if you’ve ever attended a backyard barbecue in 1981. It’s what you did after the tetherball rope snapped or Uncle Pete impaled the dog with a lawn dart. Players wield bulimic tennis rackets, smashing what’s called a shuttlecock back and forth over a raised net at hair-bending speeds of up to eight miles per hour. Landing the shuttlecock on the other’s court gets you one point. Winner is the first to 900, or at least it feels that way. A shuttlecock is difficult to describe, mainly because as you describe it, you’re snickering at the word “shuttlecock.” Badminton was introduced to the Games in 1992, marking the year Earth became the laughing stock of the universe.
Finally, I’d like to talk about an event that was introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics – a sport that really could only come out of LA – Rhythmic Gymnastics. It’s that thing where spritely elfin nymphs sporting sequin and man-buns prance around a rubber mat taunting you with ribbons and hula-hoops. “Look at me! Look at my cascading ribbon! I move like a goddam swan! You’re NOBODY!” Really though, it feels like you’re watching the D-squad of Cirque Du Soleil. Not to say Rhythmic Gymnastics aren’t impressive. These girls are lifelong gymnasts who decided one day they’d dip into the prop closet and shake things up a bit. In addition to ribbons and hoops, the gals also brandish plastic balls, clubs and rope. It’s kind of like a game of Clue if Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum were wearing unitards. But don’t let all the tchotchkes distract you from the pure elegance of this event. Rhythmic Gymnastics are a direct descendent of classical dance and ballet – these are professional athletes at work. Though it makes you wonder if one day other events might start tossing doodads into the mix: “From now on, all pole vaulters will be awarded extra points for their use of this rubber chicken.” You never know.
As a bonus, here’s a list of some pithy Olympic event summations that can serve as a quick reference in case someone in the room needs schooling:
Fencing – Bee Keeping with Swords
Rugby Sevens – Somewhere between Rugby Sixes and Rugby Eights
Artistic Gymnastics – Self-Aggrandizing Gymnastics
Equestrian – ????????
Taekwondo ¬ – Opposite of Taekwondon’t
Trampoline Gymnastics – Gymnastics BOING! Gymnastics BOING!
Marathon Swimming – A Marathon Where People Aren’t Handing Out Cups of Water
Synchronized Swimming – The Rockettes in Chlorine
Table Tennis – Actual Tennis on a Table
Triathlon – 3 Athlons
Beach Volleyball – Spring Break
You’re now officially ready for this year’s Olympic Games. Enjoy Rio 2016 and remember, don’t try any of the events at home. Except maybe Archery.