The original Olympic athletes of Ancient Greece largely performed their feats of strength and skill in the nude, which just goes to show that the modern winter games are an entirely made up event.
And so there’s no doubt the very first recorded Olympic champion, dating back to 776 BC or so, a chap by the name of Koroibos of Elis, would have been a bit chilled in Sochi.
Even so, these Russian games are notable for warm temperatures. “Forget the parkas and stocking hats. Sunscreen and shades are the must-have items at the Sochi ‘Winter’ Games,” Fox News noted earlier this week. “The temperature soared to 63 degrees [Fahrenheit] on Wednesday, prompting Olympic visitors to grab a nap on a bench outside a venue or hit the nearby beach for some impromptu sunbathing and even a dip in the Black Sea.”
The original Olympics began as a religious festival, honouring the Greek god Zeus (he also got a lot of dead oxen out of it, sacrificed midway through). But it’s notable that Zeus never seems to be honoured in wintertime. At least, not in literature. Consider The Lightning Thief, book one of the Percy Jackson And The Olympians series (by Rick Riordan, 2005 and filed in Young Adult). It’s set in the United States during the summer break, as 12-year-old Percy Jackson is expelled from yet another school.
He’s barely able to pass his classes and is, to put it politely, a handful. But as everyone who hates school knows, there’s a way forward, you just have to find it. Percy discovers that he’s a half-blood, the son of a human mother and a Greek god. A hero, in other words, along the lines of Hercules.
The Lightning Thief (a fast-moving and very readable novel that’s also been made into a Hollywood movie) follows Percy as he discovers who is, becomes comfortable in his own skin, and goes on a cross-USA quest to save the world. And that quest is warm! With, of course, the occasional bit of rain and thunder, as Zeus is the god of the heavens.
When you think about it, Sochi’s weather, mixed with the joy of winter sports, might well make for the perfect holiday. But if you can’t make it to the Black Sea, here’s the next best thing: Eyewitness Books are big, gorgeous hardcovers filled with colour photographs and short write-ups. The newest arrival is Seashore (2004).
The cover features a crab, its eyes on stalks, claws in relaxed pose. Inside are dogfish embryos, dog whelk, and rock sea lavender. The world is two-thirds water, and next to that H2O are coastlines, of sand, rock, lava — building up, and then eroding. And it’s all teeming with life.
The Eyewitness Books have their own shelving in the green dots; the flowered anemones alone offer a delightful warm holiday, regardless of age.
Still with the green dot books, there’s How To Be A World Explorer: Your All-Terrain Training Manual (by Joel Levy, 2012, a new arrival). This is published by the folks at Lonely Planet, who make great travel guides.
This one is a full-o-fun collection of survival tips and travelogue for the young Indy Jones. (And grownups, by the way, are not allowed within its pages – thankfully, this reviewer is still a child at heart. And, er, doesn’t care much for rules…)
Herewith, how to escape from quicksand, how to ride an elephant, how to land a plane. To wrassle a croc to a standstill, you distract it, jump on its back, grab its hind legs with your own, then use your arms to pin its mouth shut. Voila! (You never know when this might come in handy.)
There’s lots of gross stuff that kids will love, too. Like how to remove the burrowing bot fly larvae that’s nesting inside you.
These days, though, our Olympians have much less exposed skin. Especially in winter.
– Eleanor Brown, January 14, 2014