|CHRIS SO/TORONTO STAR|
|Dave Wood wants home-field advantage in 2010.|
So this is how home field advantage is going to play out for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics:
Tim Gayda, vice-president of sport for the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) , said whenever they are unsure if something is an unfair advantage for Canada – he termed it falling into the “gray zone” – they call the corresponding international federation to see if it’s okay.
Well, if that’s the case, you can kiss a good portion of home field advantage good-bye.
For one thing, almost all the international federations are Eurocentric.
So just imagine when the query comes in from VANOC about whether it’s okay to allow the Canadians a certain thing – say a couple of extra accreditations for ski technicians – what do you think the response from the International Ski Federation is going to be?
You can understand the dismay of Canadian cross-country team leader Dave Wood and veteran Sara Renner, who explained their frustrations in a story in today's Star. They’ve seen this play out at other Olympics and how the host country has taken every possible advantage they can get.
Yet what all they seem to be running into is more and more bureaucracy from VANOC at every turn as they seek to benefit from being the host country.
There’s all this talk about Canada trying to Own The Podium, attempting to be the No. 1 medal winning nation at the Games. Every medal is going to count.
The Canadian cross-country team is not a powerhouse – the maximum they could probably hope for two medals; it’s not inconceivable they can be shut out.
So it’s paramount they receive all the help they can get from being the host nation at a Games.
Is it so un-Canadian to expect that?
Gayda himself said in this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer last year that: "There is always going to be a home-field advantage in every sport."
There are some who would beg to differ right now.
(The original story filed on this issue had to be shortened considerably for today's newspaper because of space considerations – something about the U.S. Open, maybe? Here’s part of the story that didn’t make it into print.)
Tim Gayda, vice president of sport for VANOC, said they are just trying to ensure fair conditions for everyone.
He said it wasn’t feasible to have their ski grinding equipment on site nor would it be fair to only let the Canadians be the only team with a grinder there.
Gayda said the Callaghan Backcountry Lodge was considered off limits originally for security reasons, but the RCMP concluded 10 days ago it was not a security risk. He said it was a “fluke” that the Italians were meeting with people from the private facility the next day. He said the Canadian team could negotiate to use the site, too.
On accreditation, Gayda said that the Canadian Olympic Committee is being provided with extra accreditations and would be deciding how to allocate them.
Gayda said that space is very tight at the competition site and that they have to abide by the rules of the federation in terms of assigning wax cabins, but he was confident in the end they could find extra space for the Canadian team.
He said the cross-country venue is still considered a construction site as they are putting up seating scaffolding, broadcast compounds and wax cabins, but the Olympic trials could be held there if the event wasn’t open to the public.
Gayda said it was critical they provide “an even and fair field of play for everyone.” He said that any request they get from a Canadian team that falls into the “gray zone,” they check with the corresponding international federation to see if it is permitted.
“The last thing we want is a Canadian to win a gold medal and the silver medallist points the finger at VANOC and says we gave an unfair advantage to the Canadians,” he said.
But Renner said traditionally host countries have gone out of their way to help their own teams.
“It’s really frustrating because I know what happens in countries that host Olympic Games and World Cups and the advantage the teams are given without even question,” she said. “It’s just ‘We’re proud of our nordic team. We’re going to give them the very best.’
“So to have it not happen in Canada is disappointing. But at the same time, it’s not a performance deterrent. We’re bigger than that. We’re stronger than that. But it is unfortunate. It’s not the nicest message.”
An error was made in the original blog post today. It said that Tim Gayda of VANOC said the Canadians "could not" negotiate to use the Callaghan Backcountry Lodge, too. Gayda actually said they could also negotiate with the private facility to get space there, too. That was my mistake in adding the "not." My apologies for the error.