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Westhem: A heartfelt farewell to the Olympics

Bring on the tissues and chocolate, because I’m definitely feeling the waterworks and withdrawals fast approaching now that the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have come to a close. All in all, Russia managed to pull it off.

I’m not going to go so far as to say that it was a Winter Olympics location to be revisited anytime soon in future considerations of the International Olympic Committee, but considering this was the first time Russia hosted the Olympics since the Cold War days, it probably exceeded most people’s low expectations – including mine.

I wrote a column back in July about how Russia’s initial approach to the treatment of gay spectators and athletes during the Olympics was disruptive to the spirit of the Games because Russia used the Games as an opportunity to get on its political soapbox and make an international statement. The whole point of the Games is to unify the world, transcend borders and put social, economic and political differences aside for two and a half weeks.

Thankfully, the backlash Russia received was enough for Putin to change his tone and make the Olympics a more amiable experience for all. Unfortunately, the start of the Olympics was not amenable for most, especially for the media. Light fixtures and curtains fell just inches from people’s beds; doorknobs came off while being turned; water, and more importantly, clean water – as opposed to the gin that was plentiful – was scarce; power outages were rampant and toilets were not properly installed. Meanwhile, people were horrified upon hearing Russia’s solution to the stray-dog situation. Not cool, Putin.

Oh, and let’s not forget that U.S. bobsledder Johnny Quinn had to punch his way out of a hotel bathroom in Sochi’s Olympic Village.

The ice was another issue as well. Sochi, typically a resort town known for its mild climate, did not provide the weather necessary to maintain a Winter Olympics. The temperature crept up while the snow became slushy, then icy – frankly, just not ideal. It was made evident during the final runs of the men’s slalom that something was wrong with the course and it wasn’t just technical errors of the athletes when 30 athletes wiped out and were unable to finish. This made the people think twice about the complaints regarding the half pipe – perhaps those complaints weren’t unfounded.

Despite the conditions and the unfortunate absence of Bob Costas to pink eye for a few days, NBC’s coverage of the Games prevailed and brought unforgettable moments for the U.S. into the homes of millions of viewers during these Winter Olympics. Although Russia won the final medal count, the United States had its own shining moments.

After skating together for 17 years and falling just short of the gold medal in Vancouver, Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the United States’ first gold medal in ice dancing with a captivating program that melted hearts.

Mikaela Shiffrin shined in the women’s slalom as she became the youngest female Olympian to win gold in the event. Ted Ligety also prevailed in alpine skiing by winning gold in the giant slalom.

Noelle Pikus-Pace won silver in skeleton (sliding down razor-sharp ice on your stomach) after overcoming serious physical and mental hurdles. Men’s bobsled athletes also performed impressively and were driven to bronze by Steven Holcomb despite his strained calf, which he said he would just bite down and bear.

The Americans became the first to win the Olympics’ new event of slopestyle snowboarding, as Sage Kotsenburg gave a mind-blowing gold-medal run for the men’s event, while Jamie Anderson won gold on the women’s end.

In what was most likely his last Olympics for the super-giant slalom, Bode Miller won bronze in his signature risky, throw-caution-to-the-wind style.

I’ll be counting down the years, then months and days until the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, when I can celebrate my favorite time of year again. Until then, the high caliber of Stanford athletics will have to do.

Ashley Westhem is currently in the process of petitioning the International Olympic Committee for a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics at Stanford’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. Give her tips at awesthem ‘at’ stanford.edu and Tweet at her @ashwest16.

About Ashley Westhem

Ashley Westhem is the voice of Stanford women’s basketball for KZSU as well as The Daily’s beat writer for the team and aids in KZSU’s coverage of football. She has been a desk editor for three volumes and now serves as Managing Editor of Sports. She is an American Studies major from Lake Tahoe, Calif., and aspires to work in sports administration, to positively affect the lives of student-athletes and the relationship between the athletic and academic spheres of universities.
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