Announcing the 483rd ½ Wizolympics: Sochi 2014

Dear readers! It is with great pleasure that I announce the beginning of The Daily Prophet’s coverage of the 483rd ½ Wizolympics in Sochi, Russia!

I am Barnabas Cuffe, Editor-in-Chief these past twenty-four years at the Prophet – but I am sure you already knew that, didn’t you? I am glad to report that since the fall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named we have seen an upswing in not only our readership, but in, quite frankly, the quality of our content. Recent acquisitions to our editorial staff, such as the famed chaser of the Holyhead Harpies, Ginevra Weasley, have served exceptionally to this end.

But enough about our exemplary newspaper! On to the Wizolympics! Before we land our Portkey in Sochi, however, just a league away from where the Muggles frantically gather, allow me this brief aside. Let me sketch the history of these games for you, for their origination is something quite spectacular – and parallels the history of our Muggle brethren.

Take the time-turner in your mind’s eye and come along with me to ancient Greece. To Olympia! Believe it or not, our cultures were more mixed in those days – Magic and Muggle. There was no statute of secrecy, for witches and wizards could pass as regular, albeit ingenious humans. They were the greatest sages, philosophers and military leaders ever seen. This was all made possible because in those times, the spiritual dimension of magic and myth was simply more a part of everyday life.

It was around 776 BC that the first Olympic games took place, and our story begins. Feats of courage and valor were performed by magic and non-magic competitors, alike. However, those with magic running through their veins were soon in for a shock – for they found themselves at a distinct disadvantage. Our ancestors – my dear Prophet subscribers – whose lives were made lavish by the convenience of magic were, in fact, physically weaker than their non-magic fellows.

To put it bluntly, our people were trounced. Our Muggle brothers and sisters, though lacking in magic, seemed now like gods in that ancient coliseum. And all, it seemed, because they lived without wands.

Fueled by an idea, one wizard-competitor named Alastor (who had ranked last place in an early version of what historians believe was the shot-put) decided to take matters into his own hands. He and his two friends Arguron and Agamede journeyed out into the cold, neighboring mountains, far away from civilization and attempted to live for two weeks without the help of magic.

Legend goes that the three of them barely survived the hellish trial. Faced with the challenges of building a shelter, starting a fire and preparing food for themselves, which would have proven commonplace activities for their non-magic contemporaries, they were barely prepared for the meanest of natural elements that Monther Nature would have in store. Nonetheless, when the trio returned to the city, dirty, broken and weather-beaten – yet alive, the magical community gave pause. All averred these three had accomplished something wonderful.

And so, Alastor, Arguron and Agamede became the rightful forebears of the Wizolympics – a timely but altogether separate event from the Muggle Olympics, designed exclusively for magical competitors that they might test the limits of their physical prowess and repeat the challenge set forth by the original founders.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Prophet readership, if I may be so bold, I believe there is a lesson in this tale for us all. We are living in an age when wizarding-kind across the the world (and I count myself equally guilty) have taken to using magic for everything in our lives. When was the last time you walked to the refrigerator and grabbed the sandwich you wanted to eat, instead of merely summoning it instantly to the table with a flick of your wrist? On top of that (and Ginevra will have my head for this one, I am sure) but consider the game of Quidditch. In the most celebrated game in our world players sit a broom for the entirety of the match! Muggle children could lose more calories in a standard footrace!

I submit to you, ladies and gentlemen, that we are no better than the ancient Greeks. We have overdeveloped the power brought forth from our wands and have taken the natural power in our four limbs completely for granted.

But enough of the ramblings of an old man.

As I write, dear readers, I sit in the media headquarters of the Wizolympics inside a giant stadium placed in a remote location just outside of Sochi, and the teams have just begun to land by Portkey!

First appears to be… Germany! Yes, indeed, it is Germany, and they seem to have chosen a frankfurter for their Portkey. A traditional German sausage, how tasteful… and now Japan! Is that a Panda bear?

Almost as soon as Japan arrived, another team landed directly on top of them. Canada, I presumed, for the team had chosen a giant maple leaf for their Portkey.

Unfortunately for them, the Panda bear was outraged. It mauled two of the Canadian competitors as they fell to the ground, and their screams were barely audible above the applause and fanfare.

Next, a single Belgian waffle topped with chocolate sauce and what this reporter is sure was homemade whipped cream appeared several feet away from the chaotic scene, but with no team attached. And so the nation of Belgium was ruled disqualified from the Wizolympics (as per section C8 of the rulebook) as bits of the scrumptious confection were disseminated among the competing teams and the Panda was apprehended by Russian security.

In time the remaining 87 teams arrived and by the end of the Portkey-parade the entire stadium was on its feet. Oh – dear reader, how can I relate the sheer exhilaration? There must have been 10,000 of us. To witness these teams in their glowing national colours (with the exception of Belgium of course) and the spirit of competition flowing all around – as if Alastar, Arguron, and Agamede were watching from the heavens above with shining approval – it was marvelous…

Then moments later, the field was cleared to make way for the opening ceremony. As the teams moved out, a legion of shadowy creatures moved in. The foot-tall critters had large heads that resembled rocks and wobbled darkly into the stadium until they lined the perimeter.

It was when a sense of utter dread and depression settled over the audience that I realized these were the fabled Pogrebin, little demons native to the Russian motherland that famously tail their human victims until they are sick with despair, then attempt to eat them. A voice over the loudspeaker told us the Pogrebin was the official mascot of the 483rd ½ Wizolympics and that a population of the creatures would be living among us in the event-space. We were assured they were trained and we were perfectly safe.

At this the crowd made a large sound of rebuff, but immediately our eyes were drawn to the center of the field, where a platform could be seen to be suddenly rising out of the ground. The sight was heart-warming – the platform had a children’s chorus atop it!

And the children’s voices rose upwards so that every level of the stadium could hear. They sang an old Russian hymn of some ancient sort and the Pogrebin, who had now clasped each other’s little hands, swayed menacingly to their rhythm. It was a beautiful and terrible sight. And I had nearly gotten over the looming presence of the Pogrebin, when suddenly the image of a giant hag erupted out of the ground behind the children, and their angelic voices steadily faltered.

This, of course, was a representation of Babayaga, a witch out of Slavic folklore. According to legend, she was an old, horrible looking woman who lived in a hut deep in the forest, from whence she was known to lure children and eat them.

Indeed it seemed the Russians had revived Babayaga in all her glory, (as well as re-imagined her about fifty times the size.) With an unearthly screech the demon-woman dived her gargantuan head down to the platform and quickly collected the children into her unholy maw.

For a time, the entire pitch was silent. Dear readers, you could drop a needle and hear it drop it was so quiet in that stadium. But then there was a single clap. Then another. Soon the entire crowd had given itself over to applause – and then they roared. The excitement was incredible. Such magic the Russians had done! Brava! What a show!

I quickly reached passersby for comment.

“I am excited for zee gamez too zstart,” said one Victor Krum. “I believe my team will be victorious in the ice fishing. It iz a Muggle sport, of courz, but I think my team iz zstrong enough.”

“Someone really ought to look after those Pogrebin,” added a young miss calling herself Luna Scamander.

“Are you perhaps related to the legendary Newt Scamander?” I inquired, though she didn’t have the right hair.

“My Rolf is his grandson,” she claimed, pointing to the man on her right. “But really I’m worried about those Pogrebin. I wonder how well they will fair in this climate and with all the bright lights. . .”

While she continued speaking with her dream-like quality, my eyes returned to the field and took note of the ceremonial walking of the Salamander and Firecrab. They were about to light the Wizolympic torch!

In a matter of moments the Salamander was placed in the torch bowl and the Firecrab about-faced, then promptly spit flames out of its rectum on the Salamander, which lit and became the torch! The crowd went wild.

“That’s my favorite part…” said one man with flaming red hair of his own, who was presently stuffing his face with pirogi he must have grabbed off the food-stand.

“Welcome everyone to the 483rd ½ Wizolympics in Sochi!” said a man with his wand at his neck, clearly amplifying his voice with the sonorus charm. This, of course, was the commissioner of the Wizolympics, Alex Benepe. “How are we all doing, tonight? Are you excited to witness the most epic sports competition to take place in WIZARDING HISTORY?” The crowd loudly echoed a joyful response.

“That’s what I thought..” he continued, clearly owning the stage and spinning the cane in his hand all the while. “We would now like to reveal our flag for the event. This year, we used wands as our inspiration – specifically the many wand woods – for as the wood binds a wand together and holds the core, so too our sturdy moral values keep us whole as individuals, and tie us even tighter as brothers and sisters in arms. Represented in the artwork you will find wands of Hornbeam, for passion, English Oak, for strength and valor, Chestnut, for magical dexterity, and finally Applewood, to represent diplomacy. We believe all of these attributes shall come to the fore in these Wizolympic games!”

As Benepe took off his top hat and gestured to the top of the stadium, large flags depicting the logo unraveled on every side.

“17 DAYS. 18 EVENTS. LET THE 483rd ½ WIZOLYMPICS COMMENCE!”

At this, the crowd cheered their loudest yet. Shorty following the applause, however, everyone seemed to make a great haste to exit the stadium simultaneously (likely because of the Pogrebin). In the meantime, I ran into a woman I instantly recognized as an acclaimed writer, but couldn’t place her name. Even so, I had the distinct impression that she already knew mine.

“Mr. Cuffe,” she said. It wasn’t a question. She knew who I was.

“What..” I stammered. “What’s this all about? What are we doing here?”

She didn’t answer, but merely walked away, smirking. I don’t know how I know it, but she could have killed me with a thought if she willed it, that woman. With a ghost of a thought…

In any case, there ends our coverage of the Opening Ceremony! The Prophet will be covering the entirety of this event with the help of a team of seasoned writers, and there is much more to come! As always, letters or vibes to the Editor are highly encouraged and should be sent only by owl post (and with a clear mind) to us at The Daily Prophet, thank you.