Last week we learned siblings Sadie and Erik Bjornsen of Mazama have been named to the U.S. Nordic Team that will compete next month at the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, along with Mazama native Brian Gregg.
Can there be any community in the country that has more Olympians per capita than the Methow Valley? What a testament to the valley’s competitive skiing programs. Of course we’ll all be following them with immense interest and pride — and probably a smidgeon of care. The possibility of terrorist violence hangs over the games, even as Russian officials insist that security will be more than adequate.
In a recent Seattle Times article, the Bjornsens said they will go to Sochi but encouraged their parents not to. According to the article, Sadie “said she is somewhat concerned about safety but believes the venues will be safe. She laments the fact that even if the Games come off without incident, security fears likely will keep many spectators away.”
The stories out of Sochi are troubling, not just because of security questions, human rights issues and political nose-holding while the Vladimir Putin-friendly government in Ukraine bloodies its populace, but also because of the stupendous cost overruns (attributable in large part to graft on a mind-boggling scale even for Russia) and the lack of meaningful benefits for all but a relative handful or Russians who are associated with the games.
It seems like the summer and winter versions of the Olympics come with more baggage every time around. As usual, it will be up to the world’s best athletes — and the Methow can brag about providing more than its share — to show us all what the highest level of competition looks like, and how unifying that can be.
The intrusion of gun-related violence into all of our lives continues to escalate, even when the horrific events are far away.
Last weekend’s shooting at a mall in Columbia, Md., in which three people died, raised an immediate concern for those of us who have friends or relatives living in that area. These days one can’t help but get a little rattled when another violent outburst bolts into instantaneous news coverage.
The tragedy in Maryland touched the Methow Valley in a strange way. Two of the people killed were employees of Zumiez, the skateboard gear and clothing retailer whose founder and chairman, Tom Campion, has a home in the Methow. The company issued a brief statement through its CEO, Rich Brooks, emphasizing that even with more than 400 stores, Zumiez is a “tight-knit community.” Indeed, the annual managerial training event the company holds in the Methow Valley is all about building teamwork around core strategies in a collegial environment. It’s difficult to imagine the grief such an unfathomable incident causes for co-workers as well the families of the victims.
As if we needed another reminder, the Maryland event illustrates once again that the ugliness of public violence by disturbed people is not someone else’s problem. In a heartbeat, it can become agonizingly personal for any of us.
— Don Nelson