By Scott Feschuk - Saturday, February 20, 2010 - 18 Comments
Let’s be honest: a lot of the Olympic sports being contested up at Whistler are not exactly spectator friendly. People in Vancouver get big-time hockey and a close-up view of skiers performing approximately 28 body rotations off the freestyle ramp. We get to watch various international specks fly off distant ski jumps, and glimpse cross-country skiers for whole seconds at a time before they disappear into the woods.
And then there are the sliding sports, which are all high-speed flash on TV but in person are like buying a ticket to watch a sneeze.
Which got the scientist in me to wondering: Would drinking six beers make the skeleton more interesting to watch in person? (FYI, the scientist in me is an alcoholic.)
In the name of advancing human knowledge, I conducted my selfless experiment.
Purpose: To see if drinking six beers would make the skeleton interesting.
Method: Drink six beers. Watch the Olympic men’s skeleton live at the Whistler Sliding Centre.
Materials: Media pass to enter Sliding Centre. Six 355 ml beers purchased over 109 minutes at the official Olympic concession stand (Brand: Molson Canadian. Total cost: $39). One Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Saturday, February 20, 2010 at 12:10 PM - 5 Comments
To build excitement, to get the ol’ juices flowing, the official TV feed in the Olympic media centres conducts a countdown at the beginning of each broadcast day – just as the morning’s first event is about to start.
I saw it just now. It’s kind of thrilling, actually: “30… 29… 28… etc. etc. 3… 2… 1…” – and having whipped us all into a frenzy of anticipation, the Olympic Broadcasting System cut Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Friday, February 19, 2010 at 4:44 PM - 15 Comments
Because for the first time I’m actually at the Olympics, capturing the attention of world-famous skier Lindsay Vonn, who as you’ll see in the photograph below was looking directly at me, mesmerized by me, unable to peel her eyes away even as the world’s media awaited word on her fall in the ladies’ super combined…
Where was I? Right. Grim, dismaying reality.
Because for the first time I’m actually at the Olympics, I am not getting to see many of the commercials that are airing during Winter Games programming. I assume most of them are Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:45 PM - 13 Comments
Canada. Hockey. Switzerland. Overtime. Shootout. Whaa???
Meanwhile, figure skating: Patrick Chan is warming up, dressed as the world’s sparkliest Keg waiter.
Question: By what percentage does the very existence of an area colloquially referred to as the Kiss ‘n Cry reduce the number of young males willing to consider taking up the sport? 90%? 130%?
This is going to sound terrible, but you know what I enjoy most about figure skating? The falling down. I’m like a person who watches auto races for the crashes or follows Hollywood for the Lindsay Lohan. And already tonight, as the men slap-fight for the gold, there’s been some quality falling down, including a nice slip by a Japanese fellow who Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:36 AM - 17 Comments
Welcome to the first Mailbag from the Winter Olympics, where every time a cowbell rings, an angel gets a migraine. (And cowbells ring a lot here – sorry, heaven.)
The following queries were actually submitted by actual readers. Remember – there are no stupid questions, unless you’re asking whether Mother Nature hates Canadians.
I feel that I am not showing my “Spirit” nearly enough to suit these Olympic games. Do you have any tips, or possibly incomprehensible drunken phrases I may shout to better show this “Spirit?” – redzimmer
Relax – there is no “right” way to show your spirit, unless you’re the hot girl sitting across from me right now at the Whistler Starbucks, in which case: toplessness.
[Waiting... waiting... and... nope, guess not.]
Anyway, redzimmer, there are a variety of techniques you can use to communicate your national spirit:
1. Wear a patriotic outfit. Dress in red. Throw on a T-shirt with Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 5:39 PM - 3 Comments
You can read elsewhere about what happened at the cross-country races out at Whistler Olympic Park, and who won and who lost and whatnot. I was concerned with answering a more important question: How many people witnessing the cross-country races at Whistler Olympic Park would take off their shirts.
The answer: three. Three people took off their shirts. Tragically, all three were male.
Pertinent details: At race time, it was sunny with a temperature around five degrees. Winds were light. (Full disclosure: Could other people among the thousands at Olympic Park also have been shirtless? Yes, I suppose so. But I looked pretty hard and have a good eye for pale.)
This is Mike Nykreim. He’s a contractor from Seattle, but the economy sucks so he came to the Olympics instead of trying to drum up business. He brought some shirts with him. He even wore one to Olympic Park. But not for long.
Not for long.
“It’s the freaking Olympics,” Mike said, spilling a bit of his beer on account of the fact Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 10:38 AM - 18 Comments
An American child touches the Canadian Buddha. Quick: We need a Canadian kid to go touch the American Jesus!
So far as I can tell, this man spends his entire day walking around Whistler and having his photo taken with various passersby. Often he is swigging beer from a plastic cup. Santa Claus, I beg of you: reach out to Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 7:52 AM - 112 Comments
British journalists are not the only ones raising awkward questions about the multitudinous stumbles that have characterized the beginning of the Winter Olympics. They merely attract the most attention, for reasons that have nothing much to do with the truth or falsehood of their criticisms. These reasons include:
1. Cultural cringe: the inherent Canadian awareness of inferiority, and suspicion of condescension, provoked by anything British-accented. No beast is feebler than the Canadian journalist who wraps himself in the flag and rushes tearfully to his typewriter or microphone upon the first hint of perceived sneering at the colonials. Don’t get me wrong: it’s good copy. I saw the technique, used cynically, work like a charm at the ’01 Athletics Worlds here in Edmonton when a couple of old Fleet Street soaks spoke unlacquered truth about the city’s broad streak of Soviet shabbiness. But to engage on that level is to perpetuate the cringe, and besides, there’s reason 2:
2. Criticisms naturally hit harder when they’re written with great force. British writers are vigorous, direct, unflinching, entertainment-minded, and, in general, better at their trade than ours. (Rest assured—they’ll be, if anything, much harder on their own 2012 Summer Games.) Their newspapers are more fun than ours, pay good writers much more, and are doing better as businesses. They are also rank with ethical failings and obnoxious practices, to be sure, but almost all of those arise from trying too hard to get the story, intruding too far into private matters, competing too viciously, overreacting to perceived injustice. The failings of Canada’s press are all, as a rule, on the other side—the side of compromise, laziness, and political correctness. For instance, look no further than reason 3:
3. Canadian journalists covering the Games have, virtually to a man, accepted the premise that the Games provide an accurate moral, artistic, and technical reflection on Canada as a whole. I don’t remember signing that contract, and if I were going to sign one with a city and its business and volunteer communities, I wouldn’t have chosen Vancouver. Are you kidding? Place is screwy! As it happens, Alberta already staked its international reputation on a Winter Olympics, thanks, and did fine. The rest of you are quite welcome to let yourselves be judged on the basis of this fiasco, but as far as I can see, you haven’t been asked.
I hasten to add that the relative success of the 1988 Games—painfully emphasized by the Great Calgary Zamboni Airlift—is not entirely to Alberta’s credit. After all, Beijing put on a heck of an Olympics, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It put on an outstanding show partly for the reasons I wouldn’t want to live there: crushing social homogeneity, one-party government, lack of civil liberties, central economic planning. If the Games needed a row of shacks in Beijing knocked down, they got knocked down, without a lot of paperwork or argument. If industrial pollution was a problem, mills and factories could be shut down arbitrarily for as long as needed to render the air breathable by gweilo weaklings. Protesters delaying VIP access to the Opening Ceremonies? In China? Forget about it. (Literally: forget about it or you’ll be sent to the laogai for re-education.)
I don’t mean to equate Calgary to Beijing, but the factors that allowed Calgary to succeed as an Olympic host probably did include weak political opposition on the municipal and provincial levels; a small, dominant social-financial elite; a certain degree of cultural homogeneity; and a borderline-inappropriate degree of coziness between legislators, regulators, and judges. What you want in an ideal Olympic city is that it be quite rich, very conformist, and a teensy bit crooked. Calgary wouldn’t be as good a host in 2010 as it was in 1988; it’s a more interesting place now.
And Vancouver may have bitten off slightly more than it can chew, precisely because it’s about the most interesting place in the country, in good respects and bad. It’s not a well-oiled machine, it’s a self-sufficient permanent riot. I have always understood its disorder to be part of its glory. I would have put an Olympics on the moon before I’d have put one there.
By Nancy Macdonald - Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 6:41 AM - 5 Comments
Glorious gold-medal final promised, Thursday
Patrick Chan, Canada’s great hope in the men’s figure skating field, stumbled early in front of a loud and adoring crowd in Vancouver last night; it was the first of three costly errors that pushed the 19-year-old into seventh place—and out of medal contention ahead of Thursday’s free skate (Chan also stumbled in a step sequence, and took a one-point deduction for finishing behind his music in the 2 1/2-minute program).
“I don’t have an answer for it,” Chan said when asked about the early mistake. “I don’t know what happened,” he added—valiantly flashing that trademark, wide-eyed smile. “I’ve been playing it over in my mind.”
All, however, is not lost. Chan, the 2009 world silver medalist, will be a more mature 23 at Sochi. And hey—we’ve got us a great race for gold, come Thursday. The top three—Turin gold-medallist Russian Evgeni Plushenko, U.S. reigning world champ, Evan Lysacek, and Japan’s Daisuke Takahashit—are so close, they’re virtually tied.
Already, some have begun hyping the event as the most riveting figure skating final since the “Battle of the Brians,” at Calgary ’88.
Plushenko, who came out of a three-year retirement at the behest of his new wife rocketed to the top spot early with a 90.85 score (and a stunning, trademark quad). Lysacek, dressed in a raven-inspired (I think), skin-tight black unitard finished just .55 points behind him. Neither he, nor Takahashit—who came just .05 points behind him—attempted a quad.
“Without quadruples, I don’t know, sorry, but it’s not men. It’s not men’s figure skating,” Plushenko has said, taunting his competitors.
Retirement, clearly, has neither dulled Plushenko’s edge, nor his pizazz. He flirted shamelessly with the adoring crowd, the cameras, even some of the judges. Before leaving the ice, the blond, 27-year-old kissed his gloved knuckles then mimed brandishing a sword high in the air, sheathing it at his left.
Once untouchable, however, he’s facing tough competition for gold tomorrow.
Lysacek—the U.S.’s best hope for a gold since Brian Boitano took it from Canada’s Brian Orser at Calgary—was uncharacteristically emotional following his dazzling short program, pumping his fists, dropping to his knees and burying his head in his hands; as his scores appeared, he fought back tears. He later admitted that he’d been feeling pressure as the reigning world champion, and that he’d had a “little bit of a monkey” on his back, thinking back to his last Olympics, where he “blew” his short program, and had the “worst night” of his life.
The trio will have a day to prepare for the free skate; Plushenko, known as the “Quad King,” will try to become the first man to win repeat gold medals since 1952 with a jump-heavy program tomorrow.
“It’s the Olympic Games, so I will be nervous,” Plushenko said. “But I have a gold Olympic medal and I have a silver Olympic medal. I don’t care about the result.”
By Scott Feschuk - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 12:55 PM - 79 Comments
The story so far: The luge track was too fast and dangerous. Now the luge track is too slow and boring. Olympic organizers denied foreign skiers sufficient opportunity to train on the downhill course. The downhill course is too bumpy. The cross-country skiing course has too many turns and too many hills. The ice at the speedskating oval is terrible. There wasn’t enough French in the Opening Ceremonies. The Germans are cheating at skeleton by Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 9:14 AM - 9 Comments
UPDATE: And the winner, by a narrow margin over Sean, is Mike T. Congrats, Mike: Now please email me your address at email@example.com so I can send you your Olympics-themed prize. And do it quickly: despite the air holes, Juan Antonio Samaranch seems a little uncomfortable in his cardboard box.
Because I’m caught up in the spirit of the Olympics (translation: way hungover), I’m placing seven entries into the finals — with a nice, even split between saucy entries with sexual connotations and other entries I barely care about because of the lack of sexual connotations.
Vote for your favourite in the poll area below. The finalist leading in the vote as of 8 o’clock ET Wednesday morning will receive by mail a Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, February 16, 2010 at 2:42 AM - 74 Comments
Sorry, but the more I think about this the more exasperated I get. Did we have a better choice for lighting the Olympic flame than Wayne Gretzky? Well, what if there was a guy who:
a) had a record of winning amateur AND professional championships in hockey that puts Gretzky’s to shame;
b) wore Canadian colours in the Olympics, twice, at a huge, precisely quantifiable personal cost, for no better reason than that he believed in what were then regarded as “Olympic ideals”;
and d) obtained a medical degree before having a successful sports career at the highest professional level—an accomplishment that those of us who witnessed the often-thorny details must still be tempted to describe as impossible?
The horrible truth is, there can’t possibly be any argument about this, can there? Without any question, we just plain got it wrong—even from the mercenary standpoint of TV storytelling. And to what end did we coax a bored Gretzky into the back of that ridiculous truck? Does it bother us to imagine him going to bed at night having let one honour elude him? Who do you really want your children to be like—Gretzky, or Dr. Gregg? Who do we have more, ourselves, to learn from? Who’s the superior patriot? Hell, having seen Randy Gregg skate, I’m not even sure of the answer to “Which of the two extracted the most from his innate talent?”
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, February 15, 2010 at 11:23 PM - 8 Comments
The Aussies are mad at us for winning gold in men’s moguls. They say the judges gave unfairly high marks to Alexandre Bilodeau. Skiers are mad at us about the cross-country course. They say it has too many turns and hills and whatever. And everyone is mad at us for the Muppet movie unfolding down at the speedskating oval, where competition has been marred by resurfacing delays and inconsistencies.
At the Whistler Media Centre, there are high-def TVs providing live feeds from all the competition venues here and in Vancouver. There’s no sound – just the images. I sat down to watch a little bit of the men’s 500-metre sprint, and instead I got a weird silent movie entitled Let Us Now Point at the Ice and Shake Our Heads in Dismay.
4:45 p.m. PT A coach from the Netherlands is gesturing at the ice. He looks angry. He theatrically musses his long floppy hair. His hair looks even angrier.
4:46 Closeup on the ice. It looks as smooth as Ray Liotta’s face.
4:47 Someone pulls out a walkie-talkie. This is getting serious.
4:49 Uh oh. Up until now it’s been team officials and Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Monday, February 15, 2010 at 4:37 PM - 0 Comments
Olympic athletes invest so much time into such fleeting moments. They trust that years of practice, training and discipline will save them a few hundredths of a second when they need them most.
Spectators and supporters of these athletes make smaller investments of their own. They use up vacation days, spring for airfare and accommodations. They leave their hotels early, take a bus to a shuttle to a security checkpoint, and ultimately to their seats. And they await that same fleeting moment.
When Manuel Osborne-Paradis left the gate for his run in the men’s downhill, it felt as though a Continue…
By Scott Feschuk - Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 11:49 PM - 96 Comments
One silver medalist wearing a well-earned smile of satisfaction. One prime minister wearing mittens. Come up with a funny-type caption for this picture. The winner, to be decided Tuesday by popular vote, gets a genuine piece of overpriced Olympics merchandise direct from Whistler! (Translation: My new Quatchi thong doesn’t fit.)
By Scott Feschuk - Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 9:45 AM - 1 Comment
At Bear Foot Bistro, one of the village’s most exclusive and pricey restaurants, dozens of enraged protesters gathered last night with placards demanding a vertical tasting of Chateau Le Pin. Not far away at Hy’s Steakhouse, one patron’s tenderloin was ordered medium-rare – but served medium. There were no survivors.
The news was better at the Rim Rock Cafe, where the police strategy of passive resistance seemed to be defusing tensions. Security forces equipped with pepper mills and truffle oil roamed the upscale eatery. But in the heart of the village, the famed Whistler Stroll was temporarily rendered impassible by scores of fiftysomething millionaires chanting: “Hey hey, ho ho, you’ve got the nerve to call this a merlot?”
Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, said the IOC supports the right of Whistler-based individuals to engage in civil protest so long as it does not turn gauche.
By Scott Feschuk - Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 8:08 AM - 16 Comments
1. Donald Sutherland was in British Columbia for the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. We all saw him there on Friday night. He was one of the white-suited folks who brought in the Olympic flag.
2. Donald Sutherland was in the Kate Bush video for Cloudbusting. We all saw him there in 1985. He played the inventor of a machine capable of altering the weather and making it rain.
3. It has been raining non-stop in Vancouver and Whistler. It’s been raining so much and so hard that Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, February 12, 2010 at 6:13 PM - 6 Comments
The death of Nodar Kumaritashvili is a shocking moment, not just at this year’s Olympics, but in Olympic history. Death in competition (or, in this case, in training) has thankfully been rare, even though the athletes do a lot of things that would be dangerous for you or me.
There were only two Winter Olympics where this happened before. The first was the 1964 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Both Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki, a luger (like Kumaritashvili) and Ross Milne, a skier, were both killed in training. Then as now, there were complaints that the runs were not safe: Kay-Skrzypecki, a Polish luger who became a British citizen, was killed when his toboggan “shot off the lipless chute,” according to the Associated Press report of January 27, 1964. A few days before that, the Australian Milne had gone flying off the downhill skiing track and crashed into a tree. The 1964 Olympics were already operating in the shadow of tragedy: the death of the entire U.S. figure skating team in a plane crash in 1961 had completely shaken up the world of winter sports. In response to the Innsbruck accidents, the AP reported, new lips were “added to the dangerous curves of the toboggan run, two extra compulsory gates were installed along the men’s downhill, [and] the women’s downhill received three extra gates.” Most importantly, the Olympic committee responded to the Milne tragedy by covering all the nearby tree trunks with straw.
The only other death at the Winter Olympics before this one was the death of Swiss skier Nicholas Bochatay in 1992 in La Lechere, France. A day before the closing ceremonies, Bochatay was training when he crashed head-on into the machine that was smoothing out the snow.
There have only been two previous deaths that occured during actual competition, and in both cases, the athletes may have been done in by their attempts to enhance their performance. At the 1912 Summer Games in Stockholm, runner Francisco Lázaro covered himself with wax to ward off sunburns, which was supposed to improve his endurance in the grueling marathon. But the wax also blocked the pores in his skin and prevented him from perspiring, and he collapsed and died of dehydration. In 1960 in Rome, Danish cyclist Knut Jensen collapsed in the middle of a race and died soon after. The president of the Danish Road Racing Federation confirmed that Jensen had been given drugs by his trainer—which later turned out to include amphetamines—but insisted that this did not constitute “doping.”
By Scott Feschuk - Wednesday, February 3, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 38 Comments
Welcome to the Tuesday Mailbag on Wednesday, where we’re still not sure what the hell happened last night on Lost (two Jacks? are we sure the space-time continuum can survive that much eye moisture?) but we are sure of one thing: it’s hard to imagine anything as funny as the Lost clip show that traditionally proceeds the season premiere. Believe me – I know a little bit about funny, in that a) I get paid to write a “humour” column, and b) I’ve seen Stephen Harper in a T-shirt. And nothing – with the possible exception of Stephen Harper in a T-shirt – is as hilarious as trying to picture a Lost virgin sitting down and thinking to himself, “Okay, I’m going to invest an hour in this thing and then I’ll be completely up to speed for the final season.”
Plane crash. Island. Polar bear. Flirting. Smoke monster. Crazy French chick. Mysterious billionaire. Mysterious energy pocket. Mysterious code that apparently saves the world, unless it doesn’t. Shipwreck. Mercenaries. Explosions. Big stone foot. Death. More death. DEATH. Mascara Eyeliner Guy. Time travel. Nosebleeds. Hippies. Book club. Hydrogen Bomb. Boom. Go.
The queries below were submitted by readers. Remember – there are no stupid questions, except for the question of whether that Toyota hurtling toward you in your rear view mirror is going to stop in time.
Wherry’s writing about American Idol, and presumably has to watch it to do so. Did he tell Coyne he didn’t like proportional representation or something? What gives? – WDM
This is kind of awkward, so come on over here out of earshot. I don’t want Wherry to hear.
[Whispering.] Okay, listen. Here’s the thing. Late last year, Aaron was getting pretty upset about rumours of prorogation. The thought of having to go three whole months without a daily forum in which to describe John Baird as an arrogant gas-sack – frankly, it gave him the shakes. It affected him mentally, if you catch my drift. He kept coming up to Wells, looking for reassurance.
Aaron: Tell us about the Parliament, Paul.
Paul: Aww, Aaron, come Continue…