By George Brown, editor
Mathematically, Canada has BlOwn the Podium at the Winter Olympics.
The CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee earned a gold medal for understatement Monday when he conceded Canada will not achieve its goal of accumulating the most medals at the Vancouver Games. If we’re lucky — and our athletes haven’t had much luck in the first 10 days — we might be able to catch Norway for third, but certainly not the Germans nor the surprising Americans. We’ll be lucky to match our total of 17 medals from 2002. How much of that bold estimate of 30 or more medals was BS, pure and simple? No doubt there will be much discussion about how the level of tax support our Olympic program should receive. And the international sporting community will be rubbing our noses in it until 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Canada assembled its strongest corps of winter Olympians ever but as any athlete or armchair quarterback will tell you, this is why they play the game.
I’m more embarrassed by the fence around the eternal flame in downtown Vancouver than I am of our athletes’ performances. I haven’t heard the official reason for the forbidden zone around the Olympic cauldron. I understand there are a few anti-Olympic groups out there but really, a chain link fence? Why not punish the shoplifting Mountie by assigning her to security detail at the cauldron? At least they have replaced some of the fence with Plexiglass. So who are the games for if Ordinary People can’t take unobstructed photos of the ancient flame?
Like most Canadians, I’m disappointed that our best chances for medals weren’t realized. It’s a truly Canadian thing to say, but if our athletes recorded a personal best in their sport at these Olympics and were defeated by another country’s athlete whose best was better, we don’t have much to complain about. Unless it’s in men’s speed skating where the brothers Hamelin were too timid and finished last and second last. Or in alpine skiing where the team folded under the pressure. Or in men’s ski cross where they coasted. Or in the sliding events where they bounced off the walls like pinballs.
We have much to be proud of to this point in the games and there will be more medals won before the closing ceremonies this weekend. Canadian champion figure skater Joannie Rochette was scheduled to compete just days after her mother died of a heart attack. On Monday night, Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in ice dancing. They’re the first North Americans to win that medal.
This column is being written before Tuesday’s men’s hockey game against Germany. Hopefully we have advanced to play the Russians or I may never hear the end of it from my son who’s attending school in der Fatherland.
I’m a huge Martin Brodeur fan but I was calling for the hook in the game against the Swiss. He hasn’t played that well for the Devils in the last month and it seems it’s time, at these Olympics where symbolism is key, for him to pass the torch. This tournament is now Roberto Luongo’s to win. On his home ice.
Canadian fans may be spending too much time in whatever they are calling the Brier Patch at the Olympics. It’s a little disrespectful to try to rattle the opposing skip while she’s in the hack. Danish skip Madeleine Dupont can handle the attention of millions of eyes on her nude pin up on the Internet but she can’t handle a little noise from the crowd? There’s no crying in curling.
Maybe the Canadian Olympic Committee was overly optimistic with its prediction of 30-odd medals and a first-place finish. We were sick and tired of pasting on smiles after another top 8 finish. Regardless, it did give us all glowing hearts for a few years as we nurtured our athletes. We realized after the Olympics in Australia that if we were ever to assert ourselves on the podium, we would need the financial support of government and big business to provide the medical support, equipment and venues to properly train our athletes.
After hosting the Olympics in Montreal and Calgary without winning a single gold medal, Canadians needed to hear that our Olympic program was pulling out the stops in an effort to Own the Podium. Nothing less than first place overall on home slush would be good enough. We shared the flame with the world in 1988. In 2010 it was: “Get off our damned podium that looks like it was carved by a beaver wearing braces.”
Our investment in our Olympic athletes must be a sustained, long-term program. This is just a start.
Go Canada Go. Again.