Sunday 28 February 2010

Own the podium?

About mid way through the Olympic games, I was afraid for the Vancouver Olympic games. I was afraid that it would parallel the opening ceremonies: splashes of brilliance here and there, but plagued with rain, technical glitches and below-par performances; and ending with a painful anti-climactic finish involving a grimacing hockey player. It started on day one, and continued throughout the first week: speed skaters not living up to expectations, sliders and skiers crashing and burning, and zambonies breaking down and spilling hot water all over the speed skating oval. Zambonies, fer Christsakes. Good grief.

Thankfully the Olympics are two weeks long, and, aside from Rod Black's worsening commentary (Game On! You've been served!!. Uh, Rod .. this is figure skating), week two was much better than week one. The zambonies worked, the speedskaters found their groove, and the medals began rolling in. A terrific last week, punctuated by a glorious win for hockey gold!

There was been much criticism and debate over the "Own the Podium" program: It didn't work, the money could be better spent elsewhere, the name is un-Canadian, yadda yadda yadda ... Look, those who expected Canada to get more medals than the U.S. were nuts. You're not going to do that ... they have 10 times the population and 10 times the money, and on top of that they have had a freakishly fortunate run in Vancouver. But sometimes you set the bar extra high to push yourself, and I think the results have been great. We have won more medals than ever before, more gold medals than any other nation in the winter Olympics -- ever, and twice as many as we won in Turin.

Should we continue the program? Absolutely. It has only been in place for five years, and has produced results. Corporate support might diminish, given that the next winter Olympics are on the other side of the planet, and the hype and exposure will be much smaller. But the governments should stay on board: the Olympics are a time when the country comes together, and national pride explodes. Having a successful Olympic showing as a country does more to crush separatist spirits in Quebec than any sponsorship program or fudged tendering processes for government contracts ever will. From a raw $ cost/benefit perspective it probably works out too in the long run. Kids get inspired to skate, snowboard and get active, leading to a healthier generation and lower medical costs. I have no proof, of course, but I don't doubt that it's true.

Though we had a good showing this time around, we have to keep pushing. Those damned Korean speed skaters aren't going to slow down, and worse: the Chinese are coming! Just like with their genetically modified "16 year old" divers and gymnasts in the summer games, the Chinese are going to breed a whole new batch of ice dancers and speed skaters. They're ruthless: the trainer goes straight to the delivery room, pushes the doctor aside, snatches the baby from the womb of the host, err .. mother, and heads straight for the lab where they spend millions of dollars turning it into a phenomenal androgynous athletic freak-star. The 2006 batch should be just about ready for Sochi in 2014, so we have to ready!!


also: Check out James' step-through of the closing ceremonies.


Freedom Manitoba said...

I enjoyed watching the games,a nd I wasn't aware of the 'Own the Podium" program until about halfway through.

It is a collosal waste of public money. Winning gold medals amounts to nothing more than bragging rights, and is that worth millions of dollars considering the shape that some aspects of this country is in? The prize money being given to athletes is from private donations, great, I support that.

cherenkov said...

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. Joannie's gold alone saved us millions in bribes to keep Quebec happy.

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