The Summer Olympics may have the edge when it comes to sheer numbers, but the Winter Olympics are awesome in their own right. Here are nine reasons they’re better than their warm-weather counterparts.
1. They’re entirely unpredictable
Most Olympians at the Summer Games are concerned with pulling muscles or spraining a wrist. The injuries at the Winter Games will make you squeamish, though. This year we’ve seen concussions, a broken nose, a broken spine and broken ribs, just to name a few of the Game’s casualties.
Olympians know the risks and compete anyway, on a surface that is incredibly unforgiving of mistakes and where being off on your landing by the smallest degree can take you from a place on the podium to a place on a stretcher.
2. U.S. ice hockey rivalries
When it comes to hockey, the U.S. is one of the best in the world. But to be the best, you have to beat the best, and that’s where Canada comes in. The two countries have long been rivals on the rink, constantly fighting for the top place. All told, the U.S. has won 25 medals to Canada’s 24, but Canada has won 11 golds (the U.S. has won three).
Add to that mix Russia, which medaled in ice hockey in every Olympics from 1956 to 1988, most of the time taking gold. Long fueled by political differences, the U.S.-Russia rivalry peaked in 1980, when the U.S. upset Russia in the semifinals and went on to win gold in the “Miracle on Ice.” Russia came back in the 1984 Games to win gold again, while the U.S. placed seventh.
3. They make obscure sports mainstream (for a couple weeks)
How often do most people watch curling outside of the Olympics? What about the biathlon, or even figure skating? It’s not that we don’t want to watch winter sports. They can just be difficult to find on TV. The Olympics give us a chance to watch sports we might not normally pay much attention to.
They also give talented athletes a shot in the spotlight normally reserved for more mainstream sports, such as basketball and football.
4. It’s not a given that the U.S. will come out on top
The Winter Olympics are all about the drama. The U.S. often finds itself as the underdog rather than the odds-on favorite.
It might not seem that way if you look at the overall medal count: The U.S is second all-time with 253 medals (87 gold), behind only Norway’s 303 medals (107 gold). But that’s compared to the absolute dominance by the U.S. in the Summer Games. The country is first in the overall summer medal count with 2,400 medals (976 gold). Russia is next with 1,010 medals (395 gold).
5. Freestyle is just so fun to watch
Much of the Winter Olympics take place in the air. Ski jumping, slopestyle, aerials, figure skating jumps. The aerial acrobatics are among the best parts of any Olympic Games.
6. They give us a break from the dreariness of winter
By February, winter has started to drag on, even in Las Vegas. We’re ready for shorts weather, the switch to iced coffee and for the sun to still be up when we leave work at night. The Winter Olympics give us a reason to like February — or at least a way to stay distracted through it.
7. The mixture of grace and danger
The two seem like oil and water, but it’s an intriguing, entertaining mix. For the most part, the athletes manage to remain remarkably graceful as they’re landing jumps or flying down an ice chute at 80 mph.
8. They brought us “Cool Runnings”
Who doesn’t love the story of the Jamaican bobsled team, whose debut at the 1988 Winter Olympics inspired a Disney movie that became a cult classic?
The team quickly became a fan favorite during the 1988 Calgary Olympics because they were the ultimate underdogs: They were from a tropical country, they had very little experience on the bobsled track and they had to borrow sleds from other countries. Although they didn’t officially finish after crashing their sled during one of their runs, they remain one of the most memorable parts of the games.
9. How about winter fashion?
Everyone looks good in a beanie and puffy jacket, right? Especially once you accessorize with a medal or two. Even Olympic earmuffs have style people want to copy. The red, white and blue and big ‘ol “USA” emblazoned on the products gives people the chance to get away with choices they can only dream about the rest of the year.
Graydon Johns contributed to this story.