By Jacqueline Nelson - Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 2 Comments
How companies are finding new success marketing a suddenly hot Canadian brand abroad
Doughnuts, hockey, Mounties and self-deprecating gags are effective at branding Canada to Canadians. But globally, these stereotypes just don’t translate. Some of the strongest national brands and companies, like BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, aren’t largely known to be Canadian outside our borders, and there was only so long the country’s space reputation could rest on the shoulder of the Canadarm. Just a quarter of Canadian business people surveyed by Maclean’s and Canadian Business as part of the Business without Borders initiative last year felt there was a distinct brand surrounding Canadian companies and products abroad.
Over the past few years, though, Canada’s image has matured, and some sectors are developing new strategies to communicate the country’s strengths. That doesn’t mean beating a patriotic drum. Many companies that have found success abroad did so by adopting the country’s “post-nationalist” attributes, and blending in with the places they do business.
The Great Recession has proven a big factor helping forge Canada’s brand. While the country was hit by the economic collapse, it wasn’t hit as hard as the U.S. or Europe. As our banks required no bailouts and our dollar strengthened, other countries looked to Canada’s economic policies for answers. And the more foreigners ask why Canada is different, the more it gives businesses a chance to explain and define Canada as a country and a brand.
By macleans.ca - Monday, February 7, 2011 at 1:35 PM - 11 Comments
Olympic officials identified risk of dangerous speeds a year before fatal crash
Almost one year ago today, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, died on a training run just hours before the Vancouver Games’ opening ceremonies. Today, documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show that VANOC chief John Furlong expressed concern that an athlete could get “badly injured or worse” on the controversial sliding track in Whistler almost a year before the Games began. In March 2009, Furlong received a copy of a letter sent to the luge track’s designer from the president of the International Luge Federation, Josef Fendt. Fendt expressed worry about the track’s speeds and the potentially unreasonable demand on the athletes. Following this, Furlong wrote to VANOC officials that echoed Fendt’s concern. “Imbedded in this note [cryptic as it may be] is a warning that the track is, in their view, too fast and someone could get badly hurt. An athlete gets badly injured or worse, and I think the case could be made that we were warned and did nothing. That said, I’m not sure where the way out is on this. Our legal guys should review at least.” The response from Tim Gayda, vice-president for sport, was: “I don’t believe there is anything to do.”
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
He’s perfected the quad, is injury free, and has a new attitude. Next up: world domination
A furious Patrick Chan is hard to imagine. Downcast, maybe. Buffeted enough by a bad performance, or the vagaries of figure skating judging, to temporarily lose that wide grin. But the 20-year-old throwing a foot-stomping tantrum, complete with screams and curses, is a mental image about as difficult to reconcile as a fuzzy bunny with a machine gun. It simply doesn’t compute.
Still, the affable four-time Canadian figure skating champion (once as a junior, and for the past three years running, the senior men’s winner) swears it happened, out of public view, at the Vancouver Games, last Feb. 16. On the biggest stage of his career, in front of a hyped-up home crowd and an expectant nation, Chan had bombed in the short program. He bobbled the landing on his opening triple axel, stumbled during a step sequence—usually his bread-and-butter—and even received a penalty for finishing his routine after the music, a mistake he had never before made in competition. The score of 81.12 was good enough for seventh place, but a death blow to his Olympic medal hopes. So Chan smiled, waved, threw some kisses to the fans and cameras, then slipped behind the curtains and erupted. “My coaches had never seen me so mad,” he says. “I just said to myself, that’s not the way it was supposed to turn out.” Thirteen years of skating, building toward one ultimate dream, only to see it dashed in just under three minutes. You’d drop a couple of f-bombs, too.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 17, 2010 at 5:21 PM - 48 Comments
VANOC claims it slashed hundreds of millions in expenses to break even
If last year’s Winter Games had you worried about a looming Olympic-sized bill to pay, rest assured that won’t be the case. VANOC CEO John Furlong confirmed on Friday the Vancouver Games had broken even in spite of the financial difficulties that came with hosting them during a dicey economic climate. ”We chopped hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the project,” Furlong said, noting corporate sponsorships dried up as the economy stalled. “It was very hard on morale for the team, but we did what we had to.” In the end, the provincial and federal governments ended up contributing about $187 million to the $1.9 billion operating budget, not including the cost of building the venues, the Olympic Village, transportation projects and security, which they also covered. Government studies show the Games created 45,000 jobs and generated about $2 billion in real gross domestic product.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 12:23 PM - 6 Comments
Feds pick up nearly three-quarters of the tab
The security bill for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver totalled $854 million. Of that amount, $647.5 million (or 72 per cent) was paid by the federal government with the province picking up the rest. The sum is only slightly larger than the $676 million Ottawa spent on security for the three-day G8 and G20 summits in Ontario this past June, but is much higher than the initial estimate of $175 million from when the Games were awarded.
By Ken MacQueen - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 4 Comments
On the highs and lows of the Vancouver Winter Olympics
THE CEO of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee is one of a rare few Olympic administrators to go the distance in a job that, for most Games in recent memory, has ended in burnout, dismissal or disgrace. Furlong has spent the past few months dismantling the organization he led, and reflecting on the experience. His book (with journalist Gary Mason), Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics That Changed a Country, is set for release on Feb. 12, the first anniversary of the Games.
Q: Cast your mind back to Canada’s first gold medal. Where were you when Alexandre Bilodeau made his run?
A: I was in BC Place stadium. It was the same night that [mogul racer] Jennifer Heil had her silver medal hung around her neck. We’d had a tough weekend. We hadn’t yet put Nodar Kumaritashvili on a plane home for Georgia [after he was killed during a training run on the luge track]. We hadn’t yet had our little [memorial] service. It was a very painful weekend, but I know Jennifer, and I wanted to go cheer for her. At almost the precise moment of walking into that theatre, I could hear the anticipation building in a space to my left, a lounge area with televisions. He was just literally about to come out of the gate and come down the mountain. Everybody was buzzing and noisy and suddenly it went chillingly silent. When he went into the air it was almost as if someone had turned the sound down. When he hit the ground, there was this almighty outburst of, “He’s nailed it!” To me it was a little bit like the laws of natural justice were taking over. We needed something. For that young fellow to be the first [to win Olympic gold at home], with his family and his background, just everything about him was so becoming.
By Charlie Gillis and Ken MacQueen - Monday, December 6, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 42 Comments
He had a country on its feet
René Fasel is a small, brusque man whose greatest virtue—candour—is also his greatest flaw. The head of the International Ice Hockey Federation has more than once gotten himself into trouble by blurting out unwelcome thoughts on, say, ﬁghting in hockey, or the parsimony of National Hockey League owners. But seldom has Fasel risked his own well-being so recklessly as he did after the second period of the gold medal hockey game between Canada and the United States at the Vancouver Olympics, when, with Canada leading 2-1, he turned to the man sitting next him.
“All we need now,” said Fasel gleefully, “is another American goal.” The man was John Furlong, and he was not so much offended as thunderstruck. As the Games’ chief organizer, Furlong knew better than anyone the gravity of the moment for the 22 million Canadians tuned in to the game. His country stood on the cusp of the greatest moment in its sporting history, he recalls in a forthcoming book Patriot Hearts: Inside the Olympics that Changed a Country—a gold medal win, on home soil, in the sport it gave the world. Yet here was Fasel, a sports bureaucrat from Switzerland, thinking about—what?—the impact of overtime on international television ratings?
By Kate Fillion - Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
On pain, nerves, the future, and how their relationship almost fell apart before the Olympics
2010 Olympic gold medallists and world champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have skated together since she was eight years old and he was 10. In early October, Virtue had surgery on her legs to reduce the pain and pressure associated with chronic exertional compartment syndrome, so the pair will not compete in Skate Canada. However, their book Tessa and Scott: Our Journey from Childhood Dream to Gold comes out next week.
Q: Tessa, you’re still on crutches. How are you feeling?
Tessa Virtue: Relieved, more than anything, because finally there’s an answer to the pain I’ve been experiencing. For years it was, “Oh, skate through it,” or, “Work on your breathing to get more oxygen to your shins.” We were actually planning on skating this season, and it’s funny because mentally I was really blocking out the pain, not admitting it to myself. It wasn’t until I met the new team doctor at our national team skating camp and she suggested I do some follow-up testing in Edmonton that we realized surgery was even an option. We considered, briefly, postponing it until after the season, but whenever we take the ice we always want to be at our best, and I think the last two years, training in that pain, I haven’t felt that.
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Zimbabwe’s femme fatale, the Mel Gibson non-comeback, and one man’s war against rent that’s too damn high
A perfect wedding for one
Chen Wei-yih, a 30-year-old living in Taipei, waited for the right man. But he never came along, so in a triumphant gesture aimed in part at upending clichés about unmarried women, she rented a hall, bought a wedding dress and will marry herself on Nov. 6. The Facebook page for “Only&Only’s Wedding” has won her loads of new friends. And yes, there is a honeymoon: Chen will travel with her new, better half to Australia.
Still Wayne’s world
It would have been the biggest English divorce since Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Shaken Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told a press conference that his star attacker, Wayne Rooney, intended to move to a new professional soccer club instead of renewing his contract. Rooney had quarrelled with his boss over an ankle injury, and told Sky Sports he had concerns over “the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.” The fight raised the possibility of Rooney defecting to a Man U rival—perhaps the most despised of all, Manchester City. But after two days of uncertainty, Rooney relented and signed a deal that will keep him in the famous red kit until June 2015.
He said it once. He’ll say it again.
He has no chance of becoming the next governor of New York, but this gubernatorial candidate’s stump speeches have won him Internet fame, a parody on Saturday Night Live and even a toy action figure based on his likeness. Jimmy McMillan heads a political party called The Rent is Too Damn High Party, and in appearances he hammers away at his party’s one and only platform plank: the rent is too damn high. “Our children can’t afford to live anywhere. There’s nowhere to go,” he said during one televised debate. “Once again, why? You said it, the rent is too damned high.” He even won over front-runner Andrew Cuomo, who during the debate admitted: “I’m with Jimmy: the rent is too damn high.”
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The former sprinter looks to his past lives to explain his present one
Ben Johnson knows exactly when his troubles started. Not, as one might expect, on that day in Seoul in September 1988, when his “A” sample tested positive, setting off a chain reaction that saw him stripped of his 100-m Olympic gold, and transformed from World’s Fastest Man to global poster boy for cheating. Nor was it the time, seven years earlier, when his coach Charlie Francis first took his bone-rack 19-year-old protege aside to explain the concept of making a better living through chemistry. No, Johnson confides as he sits in the suburban Toronto office of his new spiritual adviser, his downfall began far earlier than that—7,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt, to be precise.
“I know I’ve always really, really loved the Egyptian monuments and drawings. I’m fascinated by them,” says the 48-year-old, but still buff, former sprinter. “So when he told me certain things, I said that makes sense.”
Sprawled on a leather couch, enormous, bare feet poking out from his dress pants, Bryan Farnum takes up the story. “My gift allows me to go within the matrix to other galaxies, other universes. We’re just part of this huge pathway of experiences. And the actual shape of the matrix, believe it or not, is the shape of the pyramids, and this is Ben’s connection.”
“Don’t say too much,” Johnson warns, and then laughs. “When you read the book, you’ll understand the link, and everything.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
And why her son doesn’t like the game
Hayley Wickenheiser, captain of Canada’s gold-medal-winning women’s hockey team, is the game’s most decorated female player, with more goals, assists, penalty minutes and medals in international play (including three Olympic golds and a silver) than any other woman. Her new memoir, Gold Medal Diary, recounts her experience of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the gruelling six-month lead-up to the Games, and juggling life with her 10-year-old son, Noah.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 6:27 PM - 14 Comments
The text of the Queen’s remarks to the crowd on Parliament Hill this afternoon.
Prime Minister, Minister, distinguished guests, fellow Canadians.
Aujourd’hui, partout au pays, des Canadiens se réunissent pour célébrer l’histoire du Canada, son identité et ses réalisations. À mon avis, il n’y a pas meilleure raison de célébrer. Thank you for inviting Prince Philip and me to join you all on this special day.
During my lifetime, I have been a witness to this country for more than half its history since Confederation. I have watched with enormous admiration how Canada has grown and matured while remaining true to its history, its distinctive character and its values.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:08 PM - 107 Comments
The subject, for a second day, was the apparent cost of securing this summer’s meetings of world leaders in cottage country Ontario and downtown Toronto respectively. The sum is now said to be a few nickels short of a billion dollars. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is apparently thinking about checking the government’s math, and the Liberals and NDP have asked the auditor general to investigate.
In the meantime, and in the absence of such accountings, there are only laments—”It borders on indecency,” the NDP’s Olivia Chow cried this afternoon—and accusatory questions, most wondering if somehow government mismanagement might perchance explain the tab. Continue…
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 1 Comment
With a lift from its Olympic deal, Molson sees sales jump
After four stagnant years, Canadian is back. The beer, brewed by Denver- and Montreal-based Molson Coors, posted a surprising five per cent jump in sales in its first quarter over the same period last year, and its overall market share is on the rise. “Over the last few years we’ve wandered away from the roots of the brand,” says Dave Perkins, president and CEO of Molson Coors Canada. Now, he says, “we’ve rediscovered our roots.”
A big part of that is a return to the patriotic brand of ad it made famous 10 years ago with its “I am Canadian” rant. The new campaign, called “Made from Canada,” proclaims that Canada has “more square feet of awesomeness per person then any other nation on earth,” and features sweeping shots of mountains cut with scenes of shinny players and cheering, snow-covered crowds.
By macleans.ca - Monday, April 19, 2010 at 1:41 PM - 8 Comments
Georgian luger lost control at 145 km/hr
His death cast a shadow over the Vancouver 2010 Games. Now, a new report reveals exactly what happened in the seconds before Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died. According to the International Luge Federation, Kumaritashvili made a late exit from the 15th corner of the luge track. He then entered the next turn late and low. Kumaritashvili likely lost control of his sled at around 145 km/hr. And while he tried to keep low around the 16th corner – putting his right hand down on the ice – the “radical steering
motion” threw his sled against the wall at an “exceptional” angle, launching both sled and driver into the air. The report notably dubs the luger’s death “unforeseeable,” and primarily blames driver error for his accident. Olympic officials in Vancouver have been criticized for designing a track that was too fast.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 29, 2010 at 5:54 PM - 16 Comments
Asked about the matter in Question Period this afternoon, Diane Finley explains her office’s commitment to transparency and clarity in all things.
Mr. Speaker, the reporter was provided with the information that he requested once the campaign was complete and all the costs were in and accurate. We do strive always to be open and transparent, and we certainly are doing our processes to ensure that Canadians do receive the information they ask for in a timely way and that that information is both accurate and complete. We will be taking a look at this example and taking it into consideration to see how we can improve our processes in the future.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 29, 2010 at 1:37 PM - 7 Comments
Ministerial aide Ryan Sparrow helpfully suggests a new slogan for the next Conservative re-election campaign.
Bureaucrats calculated the value of the advertising campaign and prepared an answer the same day. Before making it public, however, they consulted Mr. Sparrow and other political officials on the proposed response. “The ad appeared on national networks, aboriginal and ethnic networks. The total TV media buy was approx $4,536,000. The Olympics package had a net cost of $1,849,829.00,” the chief of media relations, Patricia Valladao, said in an e-mail to Mr. Sparrow and two other ministerial aides, Michelle Bakos and Ana Curic.
Mr. Sparrow answered by telling the bureaucrats to “amend the response,” to simply say: “One 30-second TV ad was created in support of Canada’s Economic Action Plan. The ad started running the week of January 18th and will end with the Olympics. The ad highlights key government programs available to Canadians who have been affected by the economic downturn: extended EI benefits, retraining opportunities, apprenticeship grants and self employed EI benefits.”
By Paul Henderson - Monday, March 29, 2010 at 11:55 AM - 18 Comments
Everything is right in the country again
I wasn’t watching the game when Sidney Crosby scored to win the gold medal for Canada. My wife and I speak at marriage conferences and we were doing one in Victoria, B.C., at the time. We had given a speech all through the first period, but had a break over lunch, so I watched the second and third periods, or what I thought was going to be the end of the game.
When the U.S. tied it up, I had 120 couples waiting for me to talk. I told them before we started that if anyone’s got a radio or an iPod, to not say a word if the U.S. scores. But if Canada scores, please yell it out.
About 15 minutes into the talk, a lady yelled out, “Crosby’s just scored for Canada!” We went nuts and cheered. It was the first time in my life I ever led a singalong when we spontaneously started singing ‘O Canada.’
By Jason Kirby - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
Jasey-Jay Anderson put retirement on hold for one last shot at Olympic glory. When the big day came, he was ready.
Jasey-Jay Anderson likes adversity. The highly decorated snowboarder from Mont-Tremblant, Que., thrives on it. So he couldn’t have picked a better day to hurl himself down Cypress Mountain for the parallel giant slalom. The venue that VANOC officials have referred to as their “special child” started throwing a tantrum the day before, during the women’s event, and it was still raging by the time the men showed up for their turn Saturday. Icy rain came from all directions, while a thick blanket of fog descended on the 530-m long course. Most athletes had brought several jackets and pairs of goggles with them to change into, but it didn’t seem to matter. As American snowboarder Chris Klug quipped, “I feel like I’m going salmon fishing more than snowboarding out here.” This wasn’t just a competition between 30 snowboarders from North America, Europe and Japan, but a battle between the boarders and Mother Nature herself.
Whomever and whatever the adversary, Anderson emerged the clear winner. After taking part in three previous Olympic Games without reaching the podium, he rode the mountain to a gold before a diehard crowd of cheering supporters on home snow—make that slush. It was a sweet victory after a tough day of racing. “I love being in that situation where I have to rise above the challenge, dig as deep as I can and see what’s there,” he said after his race, his snowboard wrapped in a Canadian flag. “There’s no better feeling than challenges like today. You’re swimming all day, you can’t see anything, you just gotta rise above all that and do the best you can.”
Anderson definitely had to dig deep. He’d started the day on shaky ground. After his first qualifying run he was way down in 20th place. But he quickly recovered and earned a place among the 16 athletes who advanced through to the main competition. So too did fellow Canadians Michael Lambert and Matthew Morison. Canada’s whole snowboard team was expected to do well. But when Lambert and Morison were knocked out in the early heats, suddenly all of Canada’s hopes came down to Anderson, a 34-year-old father of two and blueberry farmer who goes by the nickname Old Man.
By Chris Sorensen, Jason Kirby and Ken Macqueen - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
After a disappointing start, our short-track speed skaters used strategy, power and focus to win ﬁve medals
It probably wasn’t the way Charles Hamelin envisioned redeeming himself at the Olympics—not exactly, anyway—but as he and his teammates know all too well, there is no such thing as a predictable outcome in short-track speed skating. Sure, Hamelin was ranked first in the world in the 500-m. And, yes, he was expected to get on the podium after disappointing performances in the 1,500-m and the 1,000-m races. But nobody could have guessed how the final few seconds of his first golden performance at the Games would transpire.
Two wipeouts on the final stretch of the last lap left Hamelin staggering across the finish line in first place—a moment he would later describe as “the greatest day of my life.” But it wasn’t immediately apparent to the boisterous crowd at the Pacific Coliseum what, exactly, had just happened. That confusion was written all over the face of Hamelin’s girlfriend and fellow Olympic short-track medal winner, Marianne St-Gelais, who was watching the race from the stands. She was jumping up and down one moment, dumbfounded the next, and then screaming with excitement as she climbed over the railing to embrace Hamelin after he was declared the gold-medal winner. Such is the sport of short-track skating, where disqualifications, crashes and come-from-behind wins are the norm as skaters whip around a rink on a blade’s edge.
Until that moment, St-Gelais, a rising star, had done much of the heavy lifting for Canada’s short-track team. She won a silver medal in the women’s 500-m race. Then she, along with Tania Vicent, Jessica Gregg and Kalyna Roberge, won a silver in the women’s 3,000-m relay.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
For 17 days, the Olympics were all about the competition. And for 17 crazy nights, they were all about the parties.
You know you’re in the middle of a wild and crazy national party when female models are lining up to have the Canadian flag painted on their naked bodies in public, their modesty (or what’s left of it) preserved by strategically placed red stripes. That was the scene, or a tiny part of it, last Saturday night inside the private Budweiser-Lululemon-sponsored bash at Club Bud, in the Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street. Just getting close to the place, past the cheering revellers, was an Olympian challenge.
Inside, past the red carpet, where Australian half-pipe gold medallist Torah Bright posed for photographers, the mood was equally buoyant. The 18,000-foot space was transformed into a pulsating three-level ice palace where DJs spun, go-go girls (and boys) gyrated in scant Lululemon-wear, a fluorescent Chinese dragon snaked its way through the room, and Budweiser (the only brew on tap, natch) flowed. Anheuser-Busch, which owns the Labatt and Budweiser brands, had set up versions of Club Bud at the Torino and Beijing Olympics, to huge success. In Vancouver, the parties went on until 4 a.m., and drew Michael Bublé, American figure skater Johnny Weir, U.S. long-track skater Shani Davis, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. Saturday night’s guest list included a who’s who of Canadian medallists including Cheryl Bernard, Charles and François Hamelin, Alexandre Bilodeau, Scott Moir, Tessa Virtue, and Brian Orser, plus a smattering of CSI stars.
Leave it to the beer guys to know how to throw an Olympic party. There was branding, for sure, but no speeches, no goody bags filled with promotional swag, no waiters delivering trays of the ubiquitous 2010 Olympics cocktail munchie: medium-rare roast beef in a Yorkshire pudding crust.
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 2 Comments
Victory in women’s bobsleigh required mending some complicated relationships
On television, it was the medal race a lot of people missed: all across the nation, channels were tuned to Team Canada’s rout of the Russians. But up at the Whistler Sliding Centre, one of our women’s bobsled pilots was contending for gold, while another was about to prove that on this controversial sliding track, with its sharp twists and treacherous slopes, anything can happen.
The race’s outcome—Canada 1 pilot Kaillie Humphries, backed by brakeman Heather Moyse, broke the track record in three of four heats to win gold; Canada 2’s Helen Upperton, with Shelley-Ann Brown, secured silver—lent the Canadian podium spots the weight of parable, a story of the fragility of friendship and its occasionally remarkable strength. In the case of 24-year-old Humphries, the gold proved too that you can break just about every bone in your body, go on to have your heart broken by sport, and then come back to reverse it all.
That story starts with the difficult relationship Olympic bobsled pilots, in particular on the women’s side, frequently have with the athletes who back them. The women get just a single shot at the podium (men have both a two- and four-man option) and each pilot gets two brakemen: a main and an alternate. Only one is selected to compete (coaches choose in consultation with the driver)—a circumstance that leads to crushed hopes and frequently shattered friendships.
Thanks to that dynamic, the four women who stepped onto that Olympic podium were all linked; more, the bonds between them were in various states of health and disrepair. Canada 1 pilot Humphries had once been fellow driver Upperton’s brakeman, but had been dropped prior to the Turin Games in 2006 in favour of Moyse. “Yes, Helen and I have a history. And yes, we are competitors,” Humphries told a reporter in December. “But we’re on the same team and we do respect each other.”
By Michael Friscolanti - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 1 Comment
Cheryl Bernard and her Canadian women’s curling team had the gold medal halfway around their necks. Then, in a few seconds, it slipped away.
Cheryl Bernard has been curling for a very long time. Since she was a little girl, in fact. But not until her final match as a 2010 Olympian did she understand the true meaning of a steal.
The gold medal was hers. Everyone in the building sure thought so, clanging their cowbells and chanting her name. In the tenth end, when she was still up by two, Bernard was caught flashing that unmistakable smile, the one athletes get when they know they’re about to win, but are trying not to gloat.
And then she lost.
It didn’t happen in a blink of an eye. It actually took quite a few minutes for her gold to melt into silver, right there in front of 5,600 screaming witnesses. But even Anette Norberg, the Swedish skip who ended up with Bernard’s medal, had trouble putting into words exactly what she saw. “It just happened,” she said. “I don’t know how.”
By Steven Galloway - Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
The Games didn’t change Vancouver and Canada—rather, they reﬂected a change that had already occurred in us
First, this admission: I was wrong.
Let’s back up. In 2003, there was a referendum in the city of Vancouver asking, “Do you support or do you oppose the City of Vancouver’s participation in hosting the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games?” Approximately half of the city turned out to vote, and 64 per cent of Vancouverites were in favour. I was one of the people who voted yes. I hoped it would result in an improvement in the transit system, and that it would force the various levels of government to do something lasting and productive in the Downtown Eastside, Canada’s poorest and most addicted neighbourhood. Plus, the idea of a hockey gold on home soil was irresistible.
In the intervening seven years, I slowly became less and less enthusiastic. A magnificent SkyTrain line did get built from the airport to downtown, and a few other much-needed improvements were made, but absolutely nothing was done in the Downtown Eastside, and the cadre responsible for the Games’ organization, VANOC, behaved in a seemingly inept and callous way toward those who disagreed with them, and the citizens of the city in general.
Perhaps the most representative incident was VANOC’s use of a clip from Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl’s film Olympia in its torch-relay promotional video. In the original film, the torch triumphantly enters into a stadium to a crowd of “Heil Hitler” salutes. In VANOC’s version, the salutes have been obscured, as though that solves the problem. It’s hard not to feel deceived when someone’s literally using Nazi propaganda on you.