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February 23, 2010

Running up the white flag

So "Own the Podium," the largest international Canadian effort since Guy Lombardo first played Auld Lange Syne in Times Square is just as dead as the musician.

After pumping $117 million into athlete training (nothing wrong with that) and promising to bring home -- wait they ARE home -- 27 medals, the residents of the Great White North are throwing in the great white towel.

"Woe Canada," was the headline in the Vancouver Sun.

For all their money and boasting, Canada has five gold medals -- 10 overall -- putting in the same ballpark as the mighty winter power South Korea.

The U.S. has 25 medals, seven of them gold. The salt-in-the-wound moment was U.S. men beating Canada's best in hockey. U.S. women are playing for the gold on Thursday against Canada.

"We'd be living in a fool's paradise if we said we're going to catch the Americans and win," said Chris Rudge, chief executive of the Canadian Olympic Committee.

Their house has become our house, and you know what Ray Lewis says about protecting that.

The last time the United States took home the most medals was at home in the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics. The team's highest take was 34 medals, again at home in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City (Germany earned 46).

And the last time the U.S. team truly stunk? Why in Calgary in 1988, when the team earned just six medals.

So why the carnage?

The Olympic Committee says maybe their athletes were too pumped. Or maybe the partisan crowd was too partisan. Check out this quote in The Province newspaper:

"We've never seen anything like that and maybe we were ill prepared to how we would react to Canadian fans really showing their colors," said Nathalie Lambert, chef de mission of the Canadian Olympic team. "We've never seen this before."

The pressure to perform extended to luge -- LUGE -- when a businessman here promised to give the Canadian team $1 million for a gold medal. The athletes responded with a collective gag.

Canadian athletes are frazzled, some of them bursting into tears at their failure and apologizing for letting down their nation.

But maybe there's hope.

Whistler Village, scene of nightly outdoor parties last week, has all the zip of a retirement home these days. Bars are not packed. You don't have to wait two hours to get a $38 cheeseburger. It won't be long before the nightly head-banger concert is dialed down and headlined by Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.

Just maybe with the volume turned down and the hype machine unplugged, the Canadians can get their bearings and end these games on a high note.

And just to be good guests, we should tiptoe out of town with our Olympic bling and save our chest-thumping theatrics until we're south of the border.

Posted by Candus Thomson at 10:24 AM | | Comments (3)


Ha ha, don't worry America, this is one time we won't be sore if you thump your chests in our face. it's been a blast so far, win or lose. Anyway, the rains are coming so the party mood is destined to tone down regardless. Those in town, enjoy, and come back one summer - we fill the streets on hot summer nights just for the hell of it, no sport required.
(On the other, if we lose to Germany in hockey today we'll cancel the Olympics and the whole bloody lot of you can go home.)

Don't you think this blog was a tad premature?

Certainly there have been a lot of Canadian nervous nellies bemoaning the lack of medals, but that happens every Olympics in Canada..

The "Own the Podium" program might have been better named, but what's wrong with aiming at 27 medals? As a veteran of 5 Olympics, you will undoubtedly know that Canada won 24 at Torino (one less incidentally than by the mighty USA team, and five less than leading Germany). Surely aiming at 3 more was not a wildly unrealistic objective.

And since you wrote this sneering blog, Canada has raised its medal count to 17 with 8 gold (the same as the US and Germany). Two more silver or gold are guaranteed, with the potential for several more (including men's hockey). Matching the output at Torino is still not out of sight.

Full marks to the USA team for it's magnificent performance this year--who would have thought that they would dominate alpine skiing and nordic combined to the extent that they have done?

But Canadians have nothing to apologize about their goal to win--perhaps you just don't like to see others than Americans with that attitude.

Actually, Michael, I thought it was premature for the Canadian Olympic team to summon the press to a news conference when it did to publicly proclaim that Own the Podium didn't achieve the intended results. What kind of message is that to athletes still to compete?
I didn't say the program would have to be "eviscerated."
I didn't grovel to the Americans.
There's is nothing wrong with putting more money into athlete training. I said that in my blog, a point you seem to conveniently overlook.
But just do it. Don't brag. That's American. And stupid.

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About this blog
Winter Olympics: Olympic Mettle There’s nothing like the Olympics, at once an amazing pageant of supreme athletic sacrifice and accomplishment and bureaucratic pettiness and paranoia. Like Certs, the candy mint and breath mint, the Olympics is a sprint and marathon. Breathtaking speed on the field of play and molasses-in-January mechanics behind the curtain. Baltimore Sun reporter Candus Thomson is at her fifth Olympics, four of them of the winter variety. From the Christmas-like anticipation of the lighting of the cauldron on Feb. 12 to the abrupt conclusion on Feb. 28, when the flame is extinguished, she’ll be watching it all from inside the beast. E-mail Candus.


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