Thursday, 18 February 2010

And the Gold Goes to........

So, I am just a little bit curious as to how the world is viewing the Winter Olympics here in Beautiful British Columbia. I only ask, because I seem to hear a lot of whinging and whining, complaints and negative press here in Vancouver. The hydraulics not working during the opening ceremonies, the lack of snow at Cypress Mountain, the bad weather, the delays, the malfunctioning of the Olympia ice machine (they have bought in a replacement Zamboni from Calgary – I can imagine it driving along Highway 1, leaving a beautiful, smooth and shiny surface on the pass through the Rocky Mountains, cars and trucks spinning out of control, flying off the road behind it), the demonstrations and disruptions by anti Olympic protestors, the barrier preventing people approaching the Olympic flame, incompetent security.......I could go on, but I won’t. Let’s face it, the only really serious issue was the death of the Georgian luge competitor, Nodar Kumaritashvili. While this was indeed tragic, nobody could ever argue that a sport where you hurtle down a track at 90 mph on a tea tray can ever be 100% safe. As for the weather, well, that is hardly anyone’s fault, is it, although you could argue that holding events at Cypress Mountain, which is only 1000m above sea level, was rather foolish. We often gets years when the mountain is shut down due to lack of snow and too much rain. Now, being British, I should be used to lots of complaining and finding fault in everything, but I have to say that Canada is giving Britain a run for its money on the whinging front, and could even win the gold this year. Besides, the British really should be careful with its criticisms, since they are holding the Summer Olympics next, and there are a whole lot more things that can go wrong in a Summer Olympics.

Having said all that, today the sun is shining and the world is seeing Vancouver in all its glory. When you see the city surrounded by shiny, bright white mountain peaks and the deep blue-green ocean, the sun sparkling off the rippling water, reflecting off the glass towers, highlighting the sails of Canada Place, you will all want to come and live here (but please don’t, house prices are already far too high). So quit your whinging and your whining and enjoy the Games!

Since I am trying to encompass the Olympic spirit, I thought that I would see if I could find any animal winter Olympians. Here are my choices for medal winners:

And the bronze goes to Japan, with its snow monkeys of Honshū. Also known as the Japanese macaque, these are the most northern living and most polar living non-human primate. These guys are not stupid and they know a good thing when they see one. While the outside temperature can drop below -15oC, the temperature of these hot water springs remains toasty warm all year long. Out of the water, the macaques are kept warm by their incredibly thick fur. Between bouts of looking for food and messing about in the snow, rolling, but not throwing, snowballs, they head back to their hot tub to relax and chill out. All this one needs to complete his bliss is a nice cold glass of Sapporo.

And the silver goes to the U.S.A, represented by the red fox, Vulpes vulpes. This fox is the most abundant and widespread of all foxes, living across a diverse range of habitats in North America and all across Eurasia. It can be found in coastal marshes, deserts, forests and open grasslands all the way to the tundra of Northern Europe and Canada. The fox is known for its amazing adaptiveness and is quite at home in towns and cities. In this Winter Olympics, it has won its silver medal for its fantastic senses and ability to locate food beneath two feet of snow. Just look at those ears, look at that intense concentration as the fox pinpoints its unfortunate prey beneath the snow. And then the pounce. The grace, the style and that oh-so-bushy tail. OK, so the finish is not exactly dignified, but he did get his lunch and I am guessing that he put a smile on your face, didn’t he?

And the gold goes to...........

CANADA! O Canada! Our home and native land!
The winning competitor is the wood frog, Rana sylvatica. OK, so it is not all cute and fluffy and it does not exhibit any particularly amazing athletic feats. But it does do something that neither you, nor I can do. In fact it does something that very few other animals can do. Believe it or not, this little guy can actually freeze solid. Yep, that is how it survives the harsh winters of this cold and frigid land. It doesn’t just slow its heart rate or lower its metabolism, it stops them completely. You could say that this is in fact a dead frog. It is deceased, pushing up the daisies, its metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-FROG!! But wait, once the Spring has sprung and the temperatures creep up above freezing, a miracle occurs. Our little ex-frog slowly thaws. His heart starts to pump again. He is alive! Most animals cannot do this, since ice crystals form in their cells and disrupt their integrity. The wood frog avoids this by flooding its cells with high concentrations of urea and glucose, both natural antifreezes. These cryoprotectants prevent ice crystals from forming, so prevent cell damage when the frog freezes solid.

Now, come on, you have to admit that that is truly amazing and a feat worthy of the gold medal. Go, Canada, go!

If you know of any other animals that are deserving of a place on my Winter Olympic podium, please let me know.


Moon said...

Well, I guess they could be bitching about the Games over here, and I wouldn't understand.

Apart from the sad death, I guess there are a few reasons behind that, everything I have seen has been very good. I watch the coverage on Eurosport as thats in English, and I haven't heard anything negatives on there.... so it gets the thumbs up from me !

Moon said...

How cool is that fox !!!!
I also love the polar bear doing similar things to get to the seals !

Sistertex said...

You just floor me! :)

I will say that one must be extremely hungry to take a header like the fox did just for a little morsel. If I did that you could locate me by the legs still extended from the snowbank in the spring.

And the frog...major sugar rush come spring... perhaps you could throw me a candy bar and I'd be ok once the snowbank melted and I could stand upright again.

Fascinating stuff! Really!

I am watching the Olympics and yes...I now want to visit Vancouver. Don't plan on moving there, I think living in Minnesota is close enough. ;)

Great post!! (As always!)

Suldog said...

From what I've seen, Canada is doing a wonderful job with the Olympics. The opening ceremonies were tremendous, despite the malfunctioning torch. The poem, by Shane Koyczan, was amazingly good. I'm an American, but it brought tears to my eyes and made me proud to have your country as a neighbor.

Moon said...

Can I come visit again ?? There was more snow on Cypress when I was there ...

jay said...

I didn't know Cypress mountain had a problem with low snowfall some years - that was a bit daft, wasn't it?

Love the fox vid. I've seen it before, but it's priceless, and did indeed put a smile on my face. The little frog sounds amazing. I'm glad you told me how he does it. I can't see the vid right now, it won't load, but I'll come back later and try again, because I want to see it!

Kate said...

I loved your animal Olympics! I think Chamydomonas nivalis - aka 'Watermelon Snow' should a bronze? for growing in snow. We mustn't forget the lower life forms!

Cortes said...

Very cool post. I think this may actually become a bit of a contest: trying to find unusual animals to compete in the Winter Olympics. I found a little guy named Aye-Aye who I think you might like. Check him out on my blog. He might the podium.

Don't Bug Me! said...

Moon: You are welcome anytime, you know that. Whispers to Mr. DBM "When we move, don't give Moon our new address."

Sistertex: Yep, I would still be there with my legs kicking in the wind. let me know if you ever make it to Beautiful British Columbia.

Suldog: Why thank you! Us maple sucking iceholes aren't all bad then, are we?

Jay: Yes, it was daft, but apparently Vancouver was told that some of the outdoor stuff had to be held close to Vancouver and not everything could go to Whistler.

Katherine: Chlamydomonas was on my list, but it was pipped at the post by the monkeys - well, they are just cuter, aren't they?

Cortes: I am now on the lookout for weirder and more peculiar creatures.

Baino said...

Haha . . Yeh go the frog but don't Wetters do the same? We haven't had too much complaining in terms of the games but the channel which has won the coverage is absolutely woeful. All we get are Australians (and the whole team only numbers 40!) and the medallists. I'd love to see some competition! So it's been hard to get into it frankly. Olympics, summer or winter always have their doubters. "The Best Games Ever" (held in Sydney in 2000 just in case you missed it!) were indeed that. The atmosphere was amazing, I rented my house to a family from Washington State and the world was simply wonderful for 3 weeks. I loved it. Now we're left with a beautiful park and sporting facilities, a massive arena and venues for concerts etc. It's taken a while to recoup the cost but well worth it I think. (I have a fox that regularly crosses the back paddock . .every day! Looking pretty fluffy and healthy too!)

Don't Bug Me! said...

Baino: Apparently, according to the IOC, Vancouver rates right up there with Sydney! And for once, I am not complaining about bias TV coverage. Because the games are here, there is no time delay and there is continuous coverage on 4 channels. This makes it hard to just show the Canadian athletes, which is what we normally get. This time, we have been able to see everything.