The Winter Olympics Biathlon Civilized?

I came across this sentence today, in regards to the Winter Olympic sport called the Biathlon:  “Biathlon is very civilized (other than the shooting bit)…”Now you know that’s a statement  that I just can’t ignore. That last part that says that the biathlon sport is very civilized, “other than the shooting bit.”  That’s an interesting comment, something to think about.

I admit, and apologize for my tender feelings, but upon reading that  comment my hackles went up, and I immediately thought I have to speak up here, defend this olympic sport, and the idea that target shooting is indeed, civilized. That’s the thing isn’t it? It’s not about the shooting part of the biathlon particularly, it’s about the mindset that shooting, all shooting,  is not “civilized”. 

This post is not about that individual comment or their  opinion about shooting, insomuch as it is his/her opinion which I respect and appreciate. But it is about  popular culture that leads people to believe that anything involving shooting on the whole, is not civilized, but still permits us to listen to rapp music with lyrics about shootings and gangbangers and sex and think they sound great.

The same type of culture that  encourages our young folks through expensive commercial advertising that the only way to have any real fun on the weekend involves a downtown bar and lots of alcoholic beverages, or running ripshod over our woodlands with four wheelers without much thought for the effects we are having on nature in the process.  

In winter olympics the biathlon combines two sports, precision rifle shooting and cross country skiing. It’s been around for a long time, in one form or another, but as far as history goes, the first organized biathlon competition was in 1767 between Sweden and Norway although regular competitions were not held until the early twentieth century.

For those of us unfamiliar with what the biathlon is all about,  I found the easiest to understand definition of the sport at this Hubpages page where the writer said:

“By definition, as an Olympic winter sport, the individual biathlon is a timed competitive sport which combines free-technique cross-country skiing and small-bore rifle marksmanship whereby the time and accuracy in marksmanship determine final placement. During these competitions, the clock is running continuously, whether the athlete is skiing, shooting or loading their rifle and will only stop once the athlete has crossed the finish line.”

That definition of the winter biathlon doesn’t mention anything about the participants needing to wear a lot of protective padding, mouth guards, helmets, shoulder pads, kidney protectors, etc.  That’s because their opponents are not going to “check” them into the sideboards, try to physically tackle them and pull them to the ground, jump on them and grab the ball, wrestle them to submission, or repeatedly punch them in the head and upper body until they are senseless, as happens in some other present day sports, like hockey, football, wrestling and boxing to name a few.  


I searched, but I cannot find where any biathlon participants suffered a potentially career ending concussion because an opponent  knocked them down. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any violence or lack of civility attached to the biathlon, unless of course you are the metal target.  

Nor do there appear to be any riots following the end of a biathlon match, of the type that often occur following a soccer game. From a feminist perspective, I don’t think that the Winter Olympics biathlon has any scantily clad young female cheerleaders jumping around in the snow either…..

What the biathlon does require is an individual participant  to train for long hours, to develop an extremely high level of physical fitness for cross country skiing. On top of that, the participants need to develop skills such as  concentration, muscle control and breath control  to be able to shoot a small finely tuned .22 caliber rifle with amazing precision, all the while under the pressure of a time clock.

Having owned a .22 caliber rifle at one time, I belonged to a local rifle club. I have some idea of how difficult it is to accurately shoot a rifle consistently,  and that’s without having done some areobic exercise like cross country skiing immediately before shooting, trust me, it’s not easy.

I was going to write a long passionate diatribe about the pros of competitive shooting. When I first read the comment, my mind went into high gear, facts and arguments started buzzing around like bees around the hive,  but in hindsight, I really cannot be….well I guess to be honest, I really can’t be bothered. I admit, I’ve given up. Perhaps it’s my advancing age, perhaps I am just lazy, or don’t have the passion I had in my youth.  

I’m sure there are many, many, much more qualified people who are able to argue both the pros and the cons of sports involving shooting,  including whether or not shooting sports are civilized. Let’s face it, collective wisdom these days says that it is not good to talk pro-shooting and who am I to argue with collective wisdom?

I reconsidered my post because I know that there is really nothing to be gained by me arguing for the shooting sports, or whether I think the shooting portion of the biathlon is civilized or not. I know  the arguments for shooting sports, and those against it know all the arguments from their perspective.  It’s like arguing a religion, or for that matter politics. I am not going to change your mind, and you are not going to change mine. Non-gun owners don’t understand  gun-owners anymore than gun owners understand non-gun owners.

What I will ask is that we all consider the fine line, the difference between shooting and violence. Violence,  is rampant in today’s world, as it has been throughout history. A gun is not the cause of that violence, but it can be a very effective  tool that facilitates it,  the same way that a knife, an arrow, a vehicle, an airplane, a baseball bat, a dinner fork, box cutters, or even fists can be a violent tool when used in that way. Violence is not civilized, whether it involves a gun or not.  We can call for the destruction of all firearms, gather them all up, crush them and dump them in the landfill, but it’s not going to end violence, just change the tools used.

Unfortunately, because guns are used in a lot of violent situations, we tend to confuse the issue. After a shooting there is an immediate call to take guns away from the people, because obviously they kill people. But as demonstrated in Toronto recently, and unfortunately, so do snowplows.

So is the shooting portion of the biathlon civilized?  I think so. I certainly don’t think the shooting part of the biathlon encourages a lack of civility. Perhaps it would be more civilized to have the athletes cross country ski until they are out of breath, then have them pour a cup of aromatic green tea into delicate fine china cups but I doubt it would last long as a winter olympic if that happened.

The more I think about it, the more I realize I am completely uninterested in having this conversation today, anymore than I am interested,  prepared or knowledgable enough to want to write about the pros and cons of whether the pro-Mubarak supporters are right or wrong or whether global climate change is real etc…etc…..So I apologize for even bringing it up, I’m sorry I did, my bad, as the kids say……It’s the weekend, I think I’ll go get drunk and watch the Superbowl and I don’t even like football…..

Happy Saturday everyone…..

First Photo: Wilkipedia Creative Commons from U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres Spc. Jeremy Teela enters the stadium at Soldier Hollow after completing his first trip around the course during the men’s 10K sprint biathlon race at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 13, 2002.
Second Photo: Wilkipedia Creative Commons Jean-Philippe Le Guellec competing for Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
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Oh Canada !! On an unrelated note….did you get your boat operator’s card yet?
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4 thoughts on “The Winter Olympics Biathlon Civilized?”

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  2. Well…Canada is the country that spent in excess of $2 billion dollars on a brain-dead gun registry, in the belief that taking grandpa’s long guns away would make us all safer. The attitude you speak of is typical of the latte-loving urban “sophisticates” who get upset when their 15 year old son comes home because he is all excited about the air gun he fired at the local army cadet squadron rifle range…Canadians need to just hang on to their country and their value set. Don’t let the whack-jobs take it all away…and for goodness sake, speak up when the need is there, just like Robert does. Thanks Robert!

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