Vancouver/Whistler Games- get ready for the proclamation...Curling cross?
VANCOUVER - When he was president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch used to stand up at the closing ceremony of each Olympics and proclaim them the "best ever."
Not always, but most of the time. Trouble was, it became something of an automatic response and lost its meaning.
Current IOC president Jacques Rogge, who looks somewhat robotic but has a nice, dry sense of humour, has ceased this practice. Instead, he searches his thesaurus every night before going to bed on the eve of the closing ceremony and finds the right word. "Stirring," "wonderful," "exciting," etc...I'd love to someday hear the words "barely tolerable" or "excrement," but I"m not holding my breath.
Rogge held a breakfast on Thursday for a couple dozen international journalists, including several Canadians. Among them was Jeff Lee of the Vancouver Sun, Stephanie Leyritz of Canadian Press and myself. I don't say this out of some great sense of pride, although I admit it's kinda nice to be on the short list after covering Olympic issues off-and-on since 1989 and covering three Olympic bids; the two Toronto efforts (as I recall, we lost both) and Vancouver's winning campaign. There was nobody at the beakfast from Canada's national newspaper, the one that spent all that money to be the official paper of the Olympics. I do find it kind of odd, as they have some very good reporters. But none of them have spent much time covering IOC sessions over the years, and you gotta give these guys face time if you want to get to a breakfast with the big honcho.
Anyway, the real point is that Rogge laid out some fairly impressive props for Vancouver/Whistler. So I'd expect to hear some pretty nice words on Sunday during the closing ceremony.
"VANOC (the organizing committee) did a great job and the athletes had great games," Rogge said over breakfast.
The Belgian surgeon said there were concerns about VANOC early on.
"Much of this has been exaggerated," Rogge said. "There was fair criticism of a number of issues but they’ve been exaggerated criticism, definitely in the beginning."
Rogge said he's been struck by Vancouver's spirit; a spirit some suggested this laid-back city would never exhibit.
"What will stand out is a kind of communion between the citrizens of the city and the games, the way they participated in this event on the streets of the city and the unique atmosphere we have experienced," Rogge said. "I would say that having spoken to many athletes, they are very happy. They are happy with the village itself, they are happy with the general organization, they are happy with the competition, they are very happy about the warm, supportive crowds. They’re not chauvinist, cheering for Canada only.
"Everyone is excited also by the fantastic atmosphere here in the city and the public, the people of Vancouver partying, having fun, coming together in the city," he said. "This is something really unique that I’ve only seen to Sydney to a certain extent in 2000. Really this is something that adds a lot to the quality of these Games.”
As I said, Rogge does have a sense of humour. He was asked by an American reporter about adding new winter sports. A few things have been considered, he said.
Knowing the IOC has been adding things like ski cross and snowboard half pipe and other, "X-Games" style events. I looked over at Rogge when he was finished and said, "I've got an idea. Curling cross."
He laughed pretty hard, actually, and said, "Hey, that's pretty good."
Details, of course, aren't being revealed for Sunday's closing ceremony. But VANOC chief John Furlong has promised a "real Canadian goodbye" and said "we might even poke fun at ourselves a little."
I"m still holding out for a Stephen Colbert performance, or at least a nod in his direction. And I'd LOVE to see Neil Young or Joni Mitchell or Diana Krall. Maybe an appearance by the famous, stalling Olympia ice machine? Nah, probably not.