By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
Mike De Souza finds that the Conservatives purchased carbon offsets to account for emissions related to the Vancouver Olympics.
The Harper government paid $226,450 to conserve trees in a British Columbia forest to prevent its activities at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics from contributing to global warming, say newly released internal memos obtained by Postmedia News. The three memos, prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent, said the money was used to buy certified credits to compensate for about 16,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions generated from federal employee travel, security, the torch relay and other government activities at the Vancouver Olympics, which were hailed as the first carbon neutral games in history…
The total would be equivalent to paying a carbon tax worth about $13.55 per tonne of emissions. It does not include other credits that were donated and purchased by suppliers and sponsors to make the Vancouver event entirely carbon neutral.
But it gets worse. Not only did the Harper government pay for its emissions, it apparently did so with an official pronouncement of pride in having done so.
Today, Canada’s Environment Minister, the Honourable Jim Prentice, announced the Government of Canada’s commitment to offset federal greenhouse gas emissions for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
“Canada is proud to be the first host country in history to help offset the greenhouse gas emissions of its Olympic Games,” said Minister Prentice. “This commitment is one of many ways our Government is contributing to sustainable Games and meeting our global climate change responsibilities.”
Of course, the Olympics occurred in 2010, a year before the Conservatives started criticizing Liberal and NDP plans for cap-and-trade and two years before the Conservatives decided that to put a price on carbon was to wish great suffering upon Canadian families.
That said, the Prime Minister, presumably unaware until now of this price paid, will no doubt now wish to reconsider his generally fond assessment of the Vancouver Olympics. And it is probably a good thing that Jim Prentice quit in November 2010 for he would surely have to resign if he was in cabinet this morning.
By Ken MacQueen - Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 3:26 PM - 0 Comments
Boris Johnson, the curiously coiffed and floridly worded Mayor of London, is hanging around…
Boris Johnson, the curiously coiffed and floridly worded Mayor of London, is hanging around everywhere during these 2012 Summer Olympic Games. And, of course, I do mean that literally: at events, on Twitter and, famously, high above Victoria Park.
The British papers continue to make a meal of Johnson, stranded and dangling from that zip line, flapping two Union Jacks in a failed effort to take flight. Thanks to Photoshop, he’ll live forever as a pair of swingy earrings, a marionette, and an automobile air freshener among other novelties.
“If any other politician anywhere in the world got stuck on a zip wire it would be a disaster,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. “For Boris, it’s a triumph. He defies all forms of gravity.”
By Nancy Macdonald - Tuesday, March 1, 2011 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
The X Games’ high-octane mix of risk and thrill may be headed for the Olympics—and Sarah Burke is ready for it
Sarah Burke died on January 19 of the injuries she suffered in a training accident. Below is the profile of Burke Maclean’s published last spring.
Sarah Burke is among the planet’s best skiers. She has chops enough to also have been named one of the most influential of the past 35 years by Powder magazine—and sex appeal enough to have made Teen Vogue and the men’s magazine FHM, where she appeared au naturel, with just a pair of crossed skis for cover. But in Canada, the Midland, Ont., native is an unknown. Burke, dubbed the “female Shaun White” after the snowboarding god, was nowhere to be seen at the Olympics. Her sport, halfpipe skiing, is a bit much for the International Olympic Committee—she hits the pipe the same way snowboarders do, spinning and flipping above its 22-foot walls, but on skis—and for much of her career, the 28-year-old has not only been shut out of the Olympics, she’s had few women’s events to compete in at all.
In Aspen, Colo., late last month, however, she was in her element. There was huge buzz about Canada’s queen of the slopes at the Winter X Games, the one weekend a year the posh resort town gets mobbed by gravity junkies and party-hearty snowboarders—the kind of people who think nothing of jumping 300-foot gaps on snowmobiles, or triple-flipping face-first off the lip of an icy halfpipe. This is where the sport’s counterculture gets the major league treatment, and its heroes their 15 minutes of fame. “It’s the biggest event of the year,” says Burke. “The most people and energy and the biggest party.”
In 15 years, the X Games, the brainchild of an ESPN exec looking to create an outlet for skateboarding and snowboarding, has become the world’s pre-eminent action-sports festival. Like the Olympics, it boasts summer and winter versions, and stirs up its share of nationalist tub-thumping, Aussie face paint and inflatable Boxing Roos. These alternative games, however, target a younger, faster crowd—the Olympics, but with a hip-hop soundtrack and jaw-dropping aerial moves.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 9:07 AM - 1 Comment
What Canadians across the country are telling pollsters
Atlantic provinces: Turns out those on Canada’s East Coast are the most prudish, at least when it comes to public displays of affection. According to a recent survey, only 63 per cent of residents there say they feel comfortable with couples kissing in public—the national average is 77 per cent. And Ontario topped Quebec as the nation’s most immodest province. Eighty-three per cent of Ontarians have no qualms with kissing in front of an audience. Only 77 per cent in Quebec said the same. Uniting Canadians was a common belief (held by 97 per cent) that fresh breath is essential for a great kiss. Of course, that wasn’t an issue for the 10 per cent who declared that they never kiss their partner.
Ontario: Ontarians are the most stressed about jobs. Twenty-three per cent say that they or someone in their family are anxious about losing their job. That’s slightly higher than the national average (20 per cent) and eight percentage points more than those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta: A majority (62 per cent) of residents find the idea of federal funding for professional sports facilities irksome. That’s a bit higher than the national average (55 per cent) who oppose the federal government digging into public coffers to build arenas and stadiums for professional sports teams. Meanwhile, 53 per cent of Quebecers support spending public money on such ventures.
British Columbia: An overwhelming majority of British Columbians still holds fond memories of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games, but a smaller share feel that hosting the Olympics was a good idea. About a year since the opening ceremony, 81 per cent of residents say that the Olympics were a success—a level of enthusiasm that has held steady since the end of the Games. But 28 per cent feel that picking up the tab for the Games wasn’t worth it.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 10:29 AM - 11 Comments
The B.C. premier on right and wrong politics, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his worst day in office
Later this month, three-term B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell—a three-term Vancouver mayor before that—will retire from public life. In 2010, he introduced the widely despised Harmonized Sales Tax. In November, after months of vicious public debate over the new tax, Canada’s longest-serving premier announced that he was stepping down.
Q: When you were first elected premier back in 2001, your peers included Mike Harris in Ontario and Bernard Landry in Quebec. Those seem like names from a bygone era. Does it feel like a long time to you?
A: Things change a lot less in 10 years than you’d think. It seems like a long time ago when I think about the things that were taking place. We came in with a major personal income tax cut, then we were confronted with a tech meltdown; 9/11; Afghanistan in October; SARS in November; there was a war in Iraq the next year; floods. All that stuff really grabs you right at the time you’re trying to work through a whole bunch of other things—we’d said we were going to balance our budget by 2003. So, it’s a very intense experience. But does it seem like a long time ago? Not really.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 4:20 PM - 1 Comment
Canada’s terrorism insurance industry dates back to 2001
Canada has one of the lowest risks of terrorism in the Western world, according to the recently published 2010 Terrorism Risk Index. Yet this year was also one of the busiest on record for those offering insurance against terrorism, according to Marsh Canada, the country’s largest insurance broker offering terror coverage.
Canada’s terrorism insurance industry dates back to 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center cost insurers $40 billion. After that, most insurance companies in the Western world excluded acts of terrorism from their coverage. The U.S. and the U.K. responded by promising to back companies that continued to offer terrorism coverage as part of their regular policies. Canada (with the exception of a temporary reprieve for the airline industry) did not follow their lead. That meant worried companies had to find their own stand-alone insurance. Following Sept. 11, just over a quarter of Marsh’s clients bought the insurance.
By Rachel Mendleson - Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 1:24 PM - 0 Comments
Tory MPs and senators bought 211 Olympic tickets
During the Vancouver Olympics, Canadians basked in the collective glory of patriotism; even party politics gave way to communal revelry. But now questions have emerged about whether government officials, many of whom enjoyed free tickets or priority access to Olympic tickets, deserved VIP status at the party.
In Ottawa, Conservative senators and MPs bought 211 tickets (including 76 for hockey—and four for the men’s gold medal final) from the block reserved by Canadian Heritage, while opposition representatives steered clear of the benefit, arguing that politicians shouldn’t get to jump the line. The Tories have since accused the Liberals, who were in power when the multi-party agreement regarding tickets to the Vancouver Games was struck, of being hypocritical for not purchasing from the block. Joyce Murray, Liberal critic for the Olympics, dismissed the charge as “petty politics.”
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, a report indicates that the city spent $36,155 on tickets for city councillors and park board trustees—over $10,000 more than it spent on seats for local athletes and Olympians. Ellen Woodsworth, one of three city councillors who declined free tickets, has ripped the program as a waste of resources. But Nelson Wiseman, a Canadian politics expert at the University of Toronto, says “it’s not wholly unreasonable” for local politicians to receive free tickets because they are heavily invested in the event. And he doesn’t have a problem with MPs getting priority access either. “They are VIPs,” he says. “As long as they paid for their tickets, it’s kosher.”
An Olympic presence has long been important to government—whether or not Canada plays host. Sheila Copps, the heritage minister under Jean Chrétien, says that at the time, the Liberals offered free Olympic tickets to a delegation that included the minister of state for sport, opposition critics and parliamentary assistants. “What better way to build support for sport investment,” she says, “than to have parliamentarians see how the investment is spent?”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 4, 2010 at 1:27 PM - 8 Comments
As noted by the Crawford Report, one of the dilemmas in funding elite sport is demonstrating that it has some impact on the activity and health of the general public. Keith Martin, who just sits around most days thinking up ideas, actually came up with a way to address this last November.
An elite athlete health ambassador program (EAHAP), created and funded by the federal and provincial governments, could be that legacy. This program would employ our Canadian athletes to adopt a series of schools that they could visit on an ongoing basis. The athletes would teach children how to live healthy, active lives; give workshops on making healthy food choices; improve literacy by encouraging reading; speak about the destructive impact of smoking, illegal drugs and alcohol abuse. As they are young role models, their message would be a powerful one for the students to hear. This program would provide children with the knowledge and encouragement they need to lead active, healthy lives.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 5:48 PM - 88 Comments
CTV notes Michael Ignatieff’s failure to demonstrate his interest in Sunday’s hockey game within view of CTV cameras.
And taking advantage over the euphoria surrounding Canada’s record-setting gold medal count in Vancouver, Ignatieff told reporters that he wants Harper to extend funding for the “Own the Podium” initiative for Canadian athletes.
The Liberal leader may be trying to make up for his lack of presence during the broadcast of Canada’s thrilling 3-2 win over the United States in men’s hockey Sunday. While both Harper and NDP leader Jack Layton, attending the game in person and being seen at Toronto sports bar Gretzky’s, respectively, were featured often on CTV’s broadcast, Ignatieff was nowhere to be seen on Sunday.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 4:40 PM - 24 Comments
Jack Layton’s press secretary, fielding perhaps the most redeeming call of his career in communications, says the NDP leader was merely trying to see the television.
“The TV screen was up there, he moved her arm to be able to see,” Karl Bélanger told The Globe. “She was clearly not upset or anything like that. She is a friend of a former NDP candidate who happened to sit besides them for the game. They shared a great Canadian moment and enjoyed a few beers together.”
By Anne Kingston - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 3:23 PM - 1 Comment
I’m standing in swag epicentre of the 2010 Olympics, or, as it’s also known—the…
I’m standing in swag epicentre of the 2010 Olympics, or, as it’s also known—the Bay’s “gift” suite located in the penthouse of the Loden, a luxe boutique hotel discretely off the downtown beaten track. The room is bright and airy, filled with neatly ordered racks of the Bay’s official 2010 Olympic branded gear. The scarce red mittens that have become a cult item are piled in a wicker basket. A PR person politely asks if I’d like a pair. “No, thanks,” I tell him. It’s a rule (often broken) that journalists never accept gifts.
Since the Games began, a steady stream of famous folks have visited the space to stock up on freebies—the Gretzky family, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Jon Hamm. The day before the big Canada-US men’s hockey final, CNN is filming Canadian actress Emmanuelle Vaugier, best known for her recurring role on Two and a Half Men and Canadian actor Byron Lawson, of Snakes on a Plane fame.
The pair are being styled for the camera in a series of outfits by Tu Ly, part of the Bay’s Olympic design team. Ly should have his own TV show: he’s a sound-bite machine. In his hands, the Olympic gear looks like it’s ready for Milan fashion week. An upturned collar here, a scarf thrown there, a hat slouched just so—Ly knows what he’s doing. “Wear the Canada logo at the back of your head,” he instructs Lawson. “I want all of this,” the actor tells the camera.
Vaugier is trying on a series of jackets. The gear is hot, she says: “I have so many friends in LA saying you have to bring some of [the Bay clothing] back.” Ly puts a black Canada jacket and black-and-red checked toque on her head. “A pair of black leggings, Louboutins and you’re good,” Ly tells her. “Everybody wants a piece of the Olympics,” Ly says. On cue, NBC correspondent Kevin Tibbles arrives to pick up a bulging yellow Bay bag. Ly hands Vaugier one of those Cowichan-inspired knit sweaters that caused a ruckus when it was discovered Cowichan tribe knitters had not made them. She looks a little leery. “Try it on. It’s going to be a huge part of the closing ceremonies. But that’s all I can tell you.”
Swag greases the celebrity-branding complex. It’s a paradox of celebrity that once you’re rich enough to afford to buy anything you want, everyone gives it to you for free. The gift bags given Oscar presenters are estimated to be worth upwards $70,000 retail. Getting your stuff associated with influential celebrities is known as “seeding” in the trade. People see style-setters like Rachel Bilson in a Bay blanket coat in US magazine, and, bingo, everybody wants it.
The system works like this: the Bay extends invitations to celebrities expected to be visiting the Olympics through agents and publicists. They arrive, they’re styled, and they select what they want—as much as they can tote out themselves. Some are more discrete than others, a Bay PR rep in the suite says, refusing to name names. An unwritten rule is that they wear the stuff out.
Everyone is handing swag out at the Olympics. But, given Canada mania it didn’t take long for the Bay’s gift suite to be the place to be (among the few no-shows: Michael Buble and Shania Twain). The line, launched to mixed reviews, has taken off with the Olympic fever. Context is everything: the graphics look sharp on Vancouver streets; the mittens have become a sort of public Masonic handshake saying you’re part of the team. (The line has been so successful in fact that the Bay is talking about making it a permanent part of its inventory.)
I’m with Maclean’s photographer Brian Howell, a veteran of the Torino Olympics. There were no long line-ups at the Torino Olympic souvenir stores like there are at the Superstore that the Bay set up for these Games, he says. In fact, there were none at all. Maybe there’s been more excitement about these Games. Or maybe North American’s are more comfortable with logos on their clothing. Or maybe photos of Wayne Gretzky in a Cowichan sweater has made the stuff cooler.
Outside, I open the door to the wrong SUV. Inside sits a man who’s gracious about the mix-up. Before I shut the door, I notice a huge long-lens camera on his passenger seat. Oh yeah, there’s one final cog in the swag machine: Remember those paparazzi photos of Wayne Gretzky and his family in Olympic Bay gear that were splashed all over? In the background is the front door of the Loden hotel.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 2:25 PM - 27 Comments
Michael Ignatieff opts for the op-ed.
The Games taught us that we need to focus on what we do best and then be unsparingly disciplined about continuing to be the best. Investing in our best people is not elitist – it encourages the rest of us to improve what we do. A national sports program has to build participation in every rink and on every ski hill in the country, but it can only succeed if the children in those arenas and on those ski hills dream of being gold medalists one day. In short, the Olympics taught us to invest in excellence and invest for the long term. That way, all of our children will do better.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 1, 2010 at 12:54 PM - 27 Comments
Dan Gardner considers the public policy and politics of Olympic sport.
Stand back and look at Olympic funding around the world and it’s obvious that nations are locked in an arms race. Each seeks to beat the other by boosting funding but they find it is harder and harder to pull ahead by spending more. Worse, “it costs more and more money even to stay in the same place in the medal tables,” notes Peter Donnelly.
Now, does any of this sound like a fair athletic contest? Not really. It’s a funding competition. The “winners” are those countries most willing to take money from health care and jobs and other national priorities and spend it on the Olympics. Canada could win this competition, if that’s what Canadians want. We’re a rich country. We could outspend the Chinese. For a while. But would that be something to be proud of? No. It would be foolish. And shameful.
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:14 PM - 58 Comments
Shortly after Sidney Crosby put that rubber disk into the net, the Heritage Minister officially relegated Paul Henderson, Donovan Bailey, Nancy Greene and various other victors.
Best sports moment in Canadian history –>end of debate
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 9:56 PM - 36 Comments
The Prime Minister may have scored dozens of flattering photos during these Olympics, but he was clearly out-maneouvered this afternoon by Jack Layton, who managed, by parking himself in front of a television camera at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, to receive just slightly less airtime than Pierre McGuire.
This video, courtesy of the good folks at Torontoist, purports to show the NDP leader removing another spectator’s celebratory arm from the nation’s view of his face, but having watched it several times now, I’m not entirely convinced he’s not just awkwardly attempting to hug said spectator. Or something.
Jack Layton is possibly the most astute politician in our nation’s history.
By Anne Kingston - Saturday, February 27, 2010 at 1:05 PM - 1 Comment
Vancouver’s poet laureate nails it
Brad Cran, the poet laureate of Vancouver, chose to boycott the 2010 Games after what he calls a “muzzle clause” was inserted into the contract of artists taking part in Olympics-related events requiring them to “at all times refrain from making any negative or derogatory remarks respecting VANOC, the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Olympic movement generally and sponsors associated with VANOC.” In an essay, Notes on a World Class City, that outlines his stance, Cran said the one poem he has written on equality involving the Olympics was about the female ski jumpers being denied the right to participate in the Games. Now, on his web site, he’s weighing in on the controversy surrounding the gold-winning women’s hockey team’s on-ice celebrations. He makes an excellent point.
By Anne Kingston - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 10:09 AM - 1 Comment
(But they did, for a few terrifying hours, run out)
The email from a colleague arrived around 6. He had heard, via the Olympic grapevine, that Saxony House is so popular they’d run out of beer. What? A German pavilion without beer? So as Maclean’s intrepid party/Pilsner reporter, I hoofed it over to Stanley Park’s Vancouver Rowing Club—which has turned the space over for the Olympics—to investigate. My interrogation began with two staff in the main party room, where a band played Omp-pah-pah and Dire Straights covers and patrons were downing plenty of liquid barley. The line of questioning seemed to amuse them. “Are you a spy?” one of them asked. “She’s a spy!” the other declared.
Undeterred, I worked my way into the VIP lounge for the lowdown—and some fabulous sausage smeared in Saxony mustard (like Dijon, only more mellow). As it turns out, the rumour is true. Last Friday night, they exhausted the 270 kegs of Wernesgruner pilsner they’d imported, forcing beer-drinkers (i.e., everybody) to switch to Kostritzer, a dark beer for a few hours, Antje Rennack, assistant to the managing director, revealed. But the next day, another shipment arrived.
Mystery solved. But by this time I was enjoying myself nobbing among the Saxony VIPs, finding out more about the German state, and taking in the lovely views of English Bay. Since they can’t legally import sausage, a father-and-son team from Saxony (part of the VIP contingent) make it daily at a local German butcher using imported spices. They expect to go through two tons by the Games’ end.
Saxony House’s managing director Hans-Jürgen Goller arrived to field more questions. He’s been planning for the Olympics for three and a half years, he said. His first choice for a headquarters was the Roundhouse in Yaletown, now home to Casa Italia, but he wasn’t sure he could fill it nightly. Then there was a wrangle with the IOC over the fact that Saxony is not an IOC member.
But he seems happy where he is. The crowd is 90 per cent Canadian, 30 per cent of them of German origin, and 10 per cent German tourists. Usually there are line-ups. It’s far quieter on nights when Canada’s men’s hockey team plays, he says. “Canadian fans tend to stay in the city core. They want to be alone.”
He says one of the reasons Saxony set up at the Games is to stir awareness. Apparently it’s not yet on tourists’ radar. That’s a shame. If Saxony House is any indication, the actual place must be a blast.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 7:00 AM - 228 Comments
Mark Steyn on the opening ceremonies: Where was the genuinely bizarro cavalcade?
Judging by emails from readers in America, Britain, India, Australia, Europe, Africa and beyond, Vancouver’s Olympic ceremony was a gold medal snoozeroo of politically correct braggadocio impressive even by Canadian standards. A Florida correspondent suggested that Beijing’s decision in 2008 to downplay discreetly its official state ideology might have been usefully emulated by Canadian organizers unable to go a minute and a half without reflexive invocations of their own state ideology of “diversity.” A reader in Sydney said he had no idea until the ceremony that the majority of Canada’s population were Aboriginal. Actually, if they were, you’d be hearing a lot less talk about “diversity,” for reasons we’ll come to later.
But don’t take the word of doubtless untypical Steyn readers. Out on the Internet, the Tweeting Twitterers pronounced it a bust, and even in the Toronto Star Richard Ouzounian declared that “the eyes of the world were upon us and we put them to sleep.” On the other hand, the Vancouver Sun’s reporter cooed that this was “the Canada we want the world to see, magical and beautiful, and talented.” This just after she’d written: “Maple leaves fell from the sky. And then, the divine poetess Joni Mitchell and her haunting Clouds fills the air while a young boy floats and soars above the audience, undulating fields of wheat below.” I was pleasantly relieved to discover that a story about “the world’s most lethal cocktail” concerned some enterprising dealers who’ve been lacing heroin with anthrax, and not whichever malevolent genius came up with the idea of having airborne ballet dancers doing interpretative choreography over the Prairies to a mélange of Both Sides Now and W. O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen The Wind. As is traditional, most of the creativity went into the audience estimates: apparently, this tribute to the only G7 nation comprised solely of high priests of the Great Tree Spirit, armies of Inuit sculptors, and Cape Breton chorus lines of federal grant worshippers was watched by three billion people “worldwide.” As if the Royal Canadian Mint could afford to commission that many commemorative authentic pewter maple-encrusted manacles.
Canada’s message to the world: every cliché you’ve heard about our plonkingly insecure self-flattering PC earnestness has been triumphantly confirmed. You need pay us no further heed until the 2068 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Half the countries, twice as long!
By Nicholas Kohler with Aaron Wherry and Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 3:55 PM - 7 Comments
How efforts to be inclusive led to tragedy for one luger
Gregory Carigiet, a 22-year-old psychiatric nursing student from the Swiss canton of Grison, is an awfully good luger. Ranked 19th in the world this season, he was well ahead of 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian ranked 44th whose gruesome death during an Olympic training run last Friday focused so much attention on a sport—luge—that remains relatively obscure in North America. Yet the fact that Kumaritashvili made it to the Olympics, where he would have raced on the fastest and therefore arguably the most dangerous track in the world, while Carigiet did not, worries many in the sport. It suggests a deadly flaw in the way athletes are selected to compete on high-performance tracks.
“Georgia was—the irony is—lucky to qualify for the Games,” Wolfgang Staudinger, Canada’s luge coach, told Maclean’s. Thanks to an esoteric wrinkle in Switzerland’s Olympic qualifying process, Carigiet did not make his country’s cut for the men’s event, meant to gather the top 40 international sliders for competition at the Whistler Sliding Centre, which hits racers hard with a vertical drop of 152 m and can catapult them to record speeds of 153 km/h. “They left him at home,” says Staudinger. “That opened a spot in the top-40 field, and whoever was next—41st, 42nd and so on—basically, they moved up.”
Kumaritashvili benefited from a number of such top-40 omissions, permitting him a place in an elite group many believe he had no business competing in. And so, two hours before he was scheduled to board the bus for the opening ceremonies in Vancouver, he was on a training run at speeds exceeding 140 km/h when he made an error exiting turn 15. Slammed by the curve’s massive G-force, he attempted to compensate but flipped over, ricocheted off the track wall, and flew headfirst into a support pillar. It was the first fatal crash in luge competition in 35 years and the first Olympic death since 1992, when Swiss skier Nicolas Bochatay died on a training run in Albertville, France.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 2:39 PM - 19 Comments
The Heritage Minister clarifies.
Heritage Minister James Moore attended an International Media Centre celebratory event in Vancouver Tuesday with the new ice-dance champions and said the name of the Own the Podium program should not be taken literally. ”It’s not, ‘First place or bust,’ ” said Moore. ”It’s … ‘Go for gold and go for broke and do yourself proud and perform at the best of your ability.’”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 11:49 AM - 11 Comments
Gary Lunn continues to suggest the federal government won’t make up the funding shortfall for Own the Podium after the Vancouver Olympics. Here is how Roger Jackson, CEO of Own the Podium, has explained the likely result of such a shortfall.
“We would lose about 60% of our funding, we would lose about 120 coaching and sports science positions,” says Jackson, who had already been forced to lay off 37 sports scientists. “The number of disciplines that we’re currently funding right now are about 16; the number we could support in the future would be half that, probably seven or eight. The Top Secret program, all of the new technologies that we’ve been working with, the people we’ve trained, will disappear.”
By Ken MacQueen - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 8:52 PM - 16 Comments
With the support of his big brother, Alexandre Bilodeau makes Olympic history
Often over the past four years, during the hard times and during the quiet moments after training, Alexandre Bilodeau would ask his “big sister” Jennifer Heil what a gold medal feels like. And the woman who won Canada’s first Olympic gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics would say this to her friend and training partner: “Alex, you’ll know. There are no words for that.” And she was right, as 22-year-old Bilodeau, from the leafy Montreal suburb of Rosemère, now knows. In either official language there are no words appropriate for those rapturous early hours, just a jumble of feelings tinged with a sense of unreality, he would later reflect.
The answer came to him, appropriately enough for a revelation, from a mountaintop on the second night of competition. It came after he scorched down the Cypress Mountain moguls course in 23.17 seconds, bumping to second place Dale Begg-Smith, another Canadian, if an indifferent one, who races for his adopted country of Australia. It came after waiting to see if one last competitor, the formidable Frenchman Guilbaut Colas, could take his gold away.
When Colas’s marks were announced and the run fell short, Bilodeau leapt to his ski boots, pumped his fists and picked up a Canadian flag. He saluted the screaming crowd, their emotions jacked by patriotism, cans of Canadian beer and the realization they’d witnessed history: the first Olympic gold medal won by a Canadian on home soil. Almost literally home soil, for the surrounding weather-battered ski hills were pockmarked with patches of dirt and studded with exposed rocks. Michael Chambers, outgoing president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, would later liken it to Paul Henderson’s goal that sealed Canada’s victory at the 1972 hockey summit with Russia. “Where were you when Alex Bilodeau won the first gold medal on Canadian soil?” Chambers said.
By Scott Feschuk - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 8:42 PM - 10 Comments
Nearly a quarter of the nations competing only have one representative
As a young boy in the far north of Pakistan, Muhammad Abbas would find pieces of scrap wood at the nearby air force facility and, with a little help, fashion them into rudimentary skis. He attached them to his feet with rubber bands. It was cold, he remembers, and there wasn’t much else to do in winter.
Pastime became hobby, hobby became obsession—and 15 years later, Abbas is in Whistler to ski the giant slalom. No more rubber bands: at 24, he is Pakistan’s flag-bearer, its sole representative and the first athlete in his country’s history to qualify for the Winter Olympics. “This boy,” says Zahid Farooq, a now-retired member of the air force who nurtured Abbas as a young skier and remains his coach today, “This boy, a nine-year-old, on his little skis—he could do anything the adults could do, and more. We said, ‘Here is someone to be groomed. Here is our future.’ ”
When these Games began, Abbas walked into B.C. Place as part of a curious fraternity: almost one quarter of the 82 countries at the Vancouver Games are, like Pakistan, represented by a single athlete. Some of these competitors are using what cynics describe as “flags of convenience”—a back door into the Olympics after one fails to make the cut in his homeland.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 4:43 PM - 17 Comments
Gary Lunn brings us full circle and back to our time-honoured approach to Canadian athletics.
Lunn says Canada’s medal total does not fully reflect the progress made by Canadian athletes. ”Just in these Olympics, I think in top ten finishes, 51 top ten finishes as of today. So, you know, instead of saying, ‘You didn’t win this medal’ or ‘You didn’t win that medal,’ focus on our successes and also salute the Americans.”