Saturday, December 19, 2009
Tom Ross' column appears Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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I’m anything but a serious stamp collector. I’m no philatelist. But I rediscovered a glimpse of Winter Olympic history this week when I picked up my childhood stamp album and stumbled on a set of five Hungarian commemoratives.
The gorgeous stamps celebrate the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. They depict cross-country skiing, hockey, ski jumping, speed skating and Alpine skiing as the sports were pursued 50 years ago. My friend Sven Wiik, of Steamboat Springs, was the U.S. cross-country skiing coach at the 1960 games.
The athletic forms of the cross-country skier and ski jumper featured on their respective Hungarian stamps are decidedly quaint — the cross-country skier is bent over oddly at the waist with one arm thrust out straight as an arrow. And the ski jumper is keeping his skis perfectly parallel, contrary to the modern “V” style.
And yes, they are postage stamps issued half a century ago by the nation of Hungary to celebrate its participation in a Winter Olympics contested in California.
The stamps remind me of a different era in Olympic sports, when there was less emphasis on keeping score among nations and more emphasis on bringing young men and women from different nations together to share a universal love of sport.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m still rooting for Steamboat’s Olympians to kick some butt up in Vancouver, British Columbia, in a couple of months. I’m already getting excited at the prospect.
As someone who was fortunate to hang around Park City, Utah, during the 2002 Winter Olympics, I urge you to attend the Nordic combined and freestyle skiing Olympic Trials here Wednesday and Thursday. I know, we all have busy social schedules on those days, but you’ll regret it forever, or at least for the next four years, if you miss the opportunity next week to tap into some Olympic excitement.
Watch for a special U.S. Olympic Trials pullout section that will publish in Tuesday’s Steamboat Today. It will tell you everything you need to know about the action. It includes the Nordic combined skiing and moguls competition Wednesday followed by freestyle aerials Thursday.
This is your opportunity to form an emotional connection with some of the best skiers in America and enrich your television viewing experience in February. Don’t pass it up.
So, I found myself wondering Friday morning: “Does Hungary still field a Winter Olympic team?”
Of course it does. It’s just that you and I will never know the names of the 21 athletes who represented Hungary in Turin, Italy, in 2006 (their top finish was a fourth posted by short track speed skater Erika Huszar).
Nor are we likely to read or view any press coverage of the fortunes of Hungarian athletes in Vancouver in February.
That’s one of the benefits of attending the Winter Olympics in person — you can appreciate the accomplishments of athletes from countries big and small.
My old album confirms that the Olympics are a big deal, even in countries that have scant hope of bringing home the gold. It contains postage stamps celebrating the Olympic movement that were issued by nations including Formosa (Taiwan), Colombia, Somalia, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Panama, San Marino and even Ifni.
Ifni? That was the little Mediterranean country once known as Spanish West Africa.
Don’t even ask me if Ifni will field a Nordic combined team in Vancouver.
Tom Ross is a longtime Steamboat resident. His column is published Tuesdays and Saturdays in Steamboat Today.