Canada acting like ugly Americans, some say...Vancouver's Olympic shine
VANCOUVER - I was floored.
Canada’s Alex Bilodeau had just won the Olympic first gold medal by a Canadian on our home turf. Naturally, Canadians were a little pumped.I saw an American-based reporter I know as I walked through the media centre – a guy who was born and raised in Canada – and said something like, “great result, eh?”
His response almost knocked me to the ground.
What on earth are you talking about, or words to that effect, I asked.
“It’s disgraceful,” he said. “It’s sickening.”
“Those Own the Podium people are a disgrace,” he said, the blood rising in his face and his speech quickening. “They’re arrogant and they’re a disgrace.”
I asked what’s wrong with trying to win, but all I got was that Canadians are supposed to be nice and all.
Wow. It’s only one guy, but I was taken aback – and still am 12 hours later – by the sheer, red-hot intensity of his comments.
“But you here go acting like bloody Americans. If that’s what you want, to beat your chests and chant ‘Canada, Canada, Canada’ like Americans chant ‘USA, USA, USA,’ be my guest. But it’s a disgrace to the country I grew up in and the country I love.”
It’s weird. He grew up in Canada and lives in the U.S. and hates Own the Podium as if it’s some sort of sacrilegious cult. I grew up in the U.S. and have lived in Canada for nearly 30 years and think it’s just fine.
What’s wrong with trying to win? Isn’t that why we play sports?It’s nice to get personal bests. And there’s no shame in falling short of your goals. Most of us do it a thousand times a day. But deep down we all want to win.Own the Podium is giving Canadian athletes a chance to win. But that’s not to say it’s telling them to act like jerks and stomp on opponents.
Indeed, when Bilodeau won his gold did he dump all over former Canadian Dale Begg-Smith? No. Bilodeau was lovely in his calm, measured responses to questions.
When she finished second by a nose in women’s moguls, did Jenn Heil bitch and complain? No, she was gracious despite a reporters’ unwarranted hostile tones and even went out of her way to thank course preparation workers. Great kid.Canadian Olympic Committee chief Chris Rudge wandered past my desk in the Canadian Press office at the media centre this morning and we chatted about the issue.
“What I said the other day when we had our Own the Podium press conference was that we want to win but we want to win the way we’ve always won, with grace and humility. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.”
Neither do I. But it still made me wonder what folks down south think. I’ve read a few negative comments on Own the Podium. But I was also interested today to read what NBC TV announcer Bob Costas had to say.
I got a comment posted on this blog earlier today from a reader with the tag Uptown. Here's what they had to say:
"Canadians are among the friendliest, most welcoming people on earth. I don’t see anything incompatible with saying, “Welcome, but now we want to kick your butt.”
"I dunno, I think we're acting like ugly Canadians in a dark corner or two. Frankly, I've always thought "Own the Podium" was a poorly named, poorly phrased expression of a bad attitude, too. Sorry, but it's just... gauche. And the criticisms here and there of us fighting for stupid advantages - like using tighter-than-convention clothing for snowboarders, or the training time issue on the luge track, well, it only heightens the snark factor. The only reason I'm excited about the Games is because we're hosting them, not because I want us to "own" them. This isn't the Berlin Olympics, it's an international event we should be proudly internationalizing further. Frankly, even the fact that the media posts national medal counts seems to me to be a betrayal of the whole spirit the Games were created to foster. 'Be worthy of the podium' would have been a better ideal to have striven for."
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE
Also in Whistler, Canadian Sam Edney came seventh in men’s luge. That’s also the best finish ever by a Canadian.
With Bilodeau winning his gold, some of the real effects of Own the Podium’s money injection into Canadian sport got lost. Up in Whistler, Jean Philippe Le Guellec finished sixth in the biathlon 10 km sprint, marking the best-ever finish by a Canadian man in biathlon.
Speedskating is something we’ve been good at it for a long time. Ditto men’s moguls, thanks mostly to a strong Quebec contingent that Steve Milton of the Hamilton Spectator points out carried Canada through some pretty lean years at the Winter Games.But moving up in men’s biathlon and men’s luge is a real sign of increased depth.
“Everyone’s punching above their weight,” the COC’s Rudge told me.
It's hard to believe some folks didn’t think quiet Vancouverites would embrace the Olympics. They’ve been, in a word, rabid. There were something like 100,000 folks out on Robson Square after Bilodeau’s win. And even several hours later there were still Canadians wrapped in red-and-white maple leaf flags wandering about downtown, hooting and hollering.
I saw a couple young Asian-Canadians dressed in Canadian gear walking down Alberni St. about 10: 30 p.m.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
“Why are we singing so loud,” one of them asked the other.
“Because we’re CANADIAN!!” her friend shouted.
Here we go again; more complaints about a lack of French in the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Games.
There wasn't as much as there could've been. But let it go and don't rain on Canada's parade, folks.
French isn't spoken much out west, in case you didn't realize it. And if you've ever heard VANOC chief John Furlong mangle a simple "bonjour," you don't EVER want to have him speak French in public.
They had a well-known Quebec singer at the end of the Opening Ceremony. Apparently they tried to get Celine Dion but she couldn't make it. So maybe folks should blame her.
IOC president Jacques Rogge speak French, although he could've used more. But there was French spoken and French and English on the video screen and in the announcements on the p.a. system.
At the press conferences that VANOC holds each day, spokeswoman Renee Smith-Valade answers questions en francais whenever asked. The IOC's two languages are French and English. There's plenty of French language service available at the Games, but the natural language out here is English. So get used to it, people. And stop whining.
TRANSPORTATIONThe weather they can’t control. But if there’s a specific weakness shown so far by Vancouver organizers, it’s transport.
Buses carrying Olympic athletes up to Cypress Mountain last week got stalled. Another bus carrying native Canadian chiefs and the Premier of British Columbia to the opening ceremony was delayed.
Spectators say waits have been as long as five hours to get to their destination and others have said they have missed events because of transportation problems.
“There are thousands of buses, there are hundreds of drivers. There are nine transportation hubs. It's a big beast to manage,” said Renee Smith-Valade, vice president of communications for VANOC.
“We're having some teething issues, there's no question. But we're working on them every day.”