John Lennon almost certainly wasn’t thinking of Canada’s performance at the 2008 Summer Olympics when he sang that “nothing is real” in Strawberry Fields Forever. But you’d be hard-pressed to find many folks who would’ve mapped out what’s been a zany week for Canada at the Summer Olympic Games.
The first seven days result in precisely zero medals for Canada. Not one. The headlines screamed, “We Suck,” as potential medalists fell by the wayside. Most notable may have been swimmer Brent Hayden’s failure in the pool.
Then came a magical weekend, when virtual unknown Carol Huynh, whose parents were Vietnamese refugees and who hails from a small mill town in northern British Columbia, grabbed Canada’s first gold with a stunning wrestling win. By the time Sunday turned to Monday, a Canadian team that was shut out for seven days suddenly had seven baubles in two days.
Included was, admittedly, one strongly predicted win by the Canadian men’s eight rowing team. Emilie Heymans, who has often come up short in individual events and who has a reputation for emotional fragility, stood up to the mighty Chinese in the women’s 10 meter platform event and won a silver, getting nudged off the top of the podium only after a young Chinese diver nailed one of the best dives seen in a stunning competition.
Then comes a real switcheroo; potential gold medalist Adam Van Koeverden, the Canadian flag bearer and the representative of the new, “we got attitude” Canadian Olympian the COC keeps talking about, tanks in the men’s K1-1000 race. He was expected to battle for gold but came next to last. And it wasn’t close, as he ran out of steam by the 700 meter mark and fell back at an astonishing rate. A few minutes later, Thomas Hall of Montreal, who was expected to battle for a medal but hardly was a favourite, was behind with a couple hundred meters to go but put on a big push and won bronze in a race that was the exact opposite of Van Koeverden’s.
It’s weird, but a day like Friday is precisely why sports is so enjoyable. Anything can happen. You might even say Tomorrow Never Knows.
It was pretty unusual. The folks who are organizing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics normally talk in code, as do a lot of folks in the hyper-political Olympic movement. But when they held a press conference here Friday, there was organizing chief John Furlong talking about how the Chinese left the door open for improvements. He went on to cite the empty seats, unused tickets, lack of atmosphere for athletes at some venues and too-big stadiums. In IOC speak, he was a 6.3 on the Richter scale. Not enough to kill, but enough to seriously shake up some folks.
Reporter Jeff Lee, who covers the Vancouver committee for the Vancouver Sun, noted this had to make an impact on the Chinese, who place such importance on saving face. Interesting.
The subway system here has large TV’s that show live action. A crowd the other day was standing in a packed subway car watching a Chinese team battle for a beach volleyball medal. Why can’t the TTC do this?
As painful as it was for the Americans to drop their softball gold medal game to Japan, it can do nothing but improve the sports’ image as a competitive one that deserves to be brought back to the Olympics in 2016. The IOC voted it out, as well as baseball, back in 2005 and neither sport will be on the agenda for London in 2012. But there’s a vote slated for October of 2009 and softball has been lobbying hard to get back onto the program. The Japanese win can only help that.
And, yes, that was International Softball chief Don Porter sporting a grin as big as all outdoors as he strolled through the Main Press Centre earlier today.
Vancouver organizing chief John Furlong, who’s of Irish descent and occasionally slips into a very Irish lilt, was chatting with the Star on Friday about his ability to communicate in French. It’s rather limited, and he freely admits it.
Furlong tells the story of the time he appeared at a function in Halifax to talk about Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics. “I thought, ‘I know, I’ll do the first part of the speech in Gaelic.’ So I sweated over it and did the first three paragraphs of my speech in Gaelic, and then the last three.
"When I finished, a guy in the audience came up and said, ‘Nice speech. But your French is terrible.’”