So the games have, in more ways than one, begun. In the Paralympic opening ceremony Ukraine’s athletes refused to march, instead sending out just their flag-carrier in an eloquent gesture. Senior representatives of many countries, including ours, are boycotting Sochi. Even while I’m enjoying the sport, I’m aware that the political side of things could still go horribly wrong. Strictly speaking, we should not be supporting the new Ukrainian regime at all, since they have overthrown a democratically elected government, albeit one which was prepared to fire on its own citizens. There seems no solution to the issue of the Crimea, where the interest of the three separate sets of people appear to be almost entirely incompatible. And no-one wants another Syria. What, as they say, is a woolly liberal to do?
Nevertheless, the sport is there to be enjoyed. We have our first medal, Jade Etherington in the downhill skiing; once again the laydeez are taking the lead, most appropriate on International Women’s Day. I have been doing some research and can report that there is indeed a Paralympic biathlon. I had assumed that this would mean one athlete skiing and one shooting, but no. There are some amazing pictures of Paralympic biathletes. One showed an athlete with no arms skiing; I thought this was a mistake until I saw the next picture in which he was aiming his gun with his mouth. With his mouth! Unsighted athletes can take part in the biathlon, using laser sights and sound to aim. I can’t wait to watch this. I’m unsure why I love the biathlon so much unless it is, to plagiarise Ms Rachel Vernelle, because it involves husky men in tight lycra skiing themselves into a lather and then striving to control their panting breath the better to accurately aim a large weapon. Oohh, matron!
Sadly, there is no Paralympic skeleton bob yet, although a Yorkshire company called Bromley is attempting to build a sled for PyeongChang 2018. If they succeed, the world will owe them a vote of thanks; honestly, an athlete strapping themselves to a skeleton bob sled and turning themselves into a virtual human bullet – what’s not to like? And while we are on the topic, the choice of location of the 2018 Winter Olympics is a thing of genius, PyeongChang! being very much the sound that many Winter Olympians make as they ricochet off various parts of the venue.