The (in)Complete Idiot's Guide to Watching the 2006 Olympic Winter Games 

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Although television has done a remarkable job lately in letting us see sports through the eyes of an athlete, it still helps to know what you’re looking at.

When it comes to the XX Olympic Winter Games – Feb. 10-26 in Torino, Italy – some of the sports are so completely foreign to a lot of people that most spectators really have no idea what’s happening until the athletes get to the finish line or the judges post their scores.

Take snowboarding. I’ve been riding for a decade, and have been covering competitions for more than seven years, but I’ll probably never know what it feels like to launch a frontside 1080 five metres out of a halfpipe, or completely understand why one complex trick is so much harder than another complex trick. There are so many different spins, inverted moves and grabs in the books, and the athletes are moving so fast, that I still have to ask the athletes to explain what it was I just saw.

Most judges are former athletes and know exactly what’s going on, while most spectators view Olympic sports like that horrible art cliché – they don’t know how to define it, but they know what they like.

I have no idea why one bobsled team gets to the bottom of the course faster than another team. I have no idea why one slalom skier dominates, how wax and starting positions win cross-country races, or what mogul skiers do to earn maximum points. What’s that inside hand doing when speed skaters turn a corner? And is it true figure skaters can lose points for not smiling?

CBC and, to a lesser extent, TSN will be broadcasting about 1,000 hours of Olympic coverage this year, including live events and rebroadcasts to compensate for the time differences between Italy and North America.

To help you get more out of the Games this year, we’ve put together a short guide on how to watch some of the sports you might not know that much about. And if you don’t get it this time, at least you’ll have a head start for 2010.

There are a lot of sports in the Winter Games – 15 main sports, most of which have several different sub-categories, so this guide focuses on the sports in which Whistler athletes are participating, or Whistler is hosting in 2010.

Snowboarding

When it comes to the Games, snowboarding is the new kid on the block. Its inclusion for the first time in 1998 spurred a major controversy and boycott among riders who were concerned that rigid Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) rules would stifle creativity in the sport.

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