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Olympic Monday

I had some Olympic related thoughts on this Monday, in the midst of a snowstorm here in SW Ontario.

First, I hope the Canadian Olympic Committee figures out in the aftermath of the Vancouver Games that setting unreasonably high expectations for what we were going to get vis-a-vis medal counts at these games was a bad idea. They should have done our traditional Canadian low-key approach to this (“we hope to meet the medal count of 24 we got at Turin” wouldn’t have been unreasonable to say), rather then issue bravado to the world about “owning the podium” and leading the medal count.  The cockiness should have come from the COC after the Games with good results, not before, when all it did was put extra pressure on our athletes.  At this rate, we’ll be fortunate not to be below our medal count at Turin in 2006. In fact, it might be hard to get to 20 medals at this point. We’ll find out soon enough.

I support the aims of the “Own The Podium” program; it’s a good thing in my mind that we’re funding Canadian amateur athletes and trying to develop good results at the Olympics. I just think we shouldn’t have been so “unCanadian” about it (as the NY Times calls it, and other foreign sources also have said) by trumpeting it to the world. You shouldn’t get cocky unless you have the results to back it up.

I’ve remarked elsewhere half-jokingly that I wonder how many of these COC officials are Conservative appointees or supporters (beyond Nancy Greene, as noted in my prior blogpost), because their attitude they’ve been projecting leading up to these Games that everyone else is getting put off by (or getting motivated by it – the Norwegian gold medal winner in the downhill specifically referenced the COC people refusing to let him train at Whistler earlier this year –  even though the athletes and Alpine Canada were okay with it – getting him very up for doing well at Whistler to stick it to the COC) seems to be remarkably similar to the type of hyper-nationalism Harper and company are trying to promote/create the last several years since they’ve been in power.

As for Harper and the Conservative government proroguing and hoping the Olympics would give them a popularity boost; I’m not sure that’s exactly working out for them.  In particular, if Canada doesn’t win the Gold Medal in hockey (or horrors, doesn’t medal), I’m afraid Vancouver might get burned down.

UPDATE: Here’s someone that Christie Blatchford of the Globe notes in her column on the Olympics (which I surprisingly don’t necessarily disagree with a lot of what she had to write on the topic) that is probably thinking along the same lines as I am:

“I believe ‘Own the Podium’ is a good program with an absolutely idiotic name. In business as you well know, ‘Under-promise and over-deliver’ is always better than the reverse. Same in sport.”

(Same in politics too, I might add).

UPDATE 2 @ 1:25 pm: I also agree with Randy Starkman’s column in the Star today: if you want results at future events, we’re going to need to keep our funding of our amateur athletes up at good levels, and not do a drastic cutback after the Olympics end:

The big shame in all of this is that a lot of the gains made will be lost when VANOC folds up its tent after the Games and the feds roll back their support to pre-home Olympic standards. If you want to be successful in this game – or Games – you have to be in it for the long haul, not for a five-year ride. Developing an identity as a winner at a high-stakes event like the Olympics is a long term investment. No, Canada is not owning the podium. Not even close.

But imagine how much worse it will feel if when we give up trying the first time it didn’t work out.

UPDATE 3 on Feb 23, 2010 @ 9:50 am: Warren says more or less the same thing I do; the COC and the rest of us need to regain  humility

15 comments to Olympic Monday

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  • marie

    Frank, if CBC is so bad, why are you and the CBC haters the first ones to post a comment on their blogs. obviously you don’t find them that bad or you wouldn’t bother checking out their site. CTV belongs to this government hence all the advertising we keep seeing there and my question is, who is paying for all that advertising considering the government is broke? Political partisan media station and what about the cars that are Olympic carriers, GM and Chrysler, government bailed out companies using the same braking system as Toyota purchased at the same factories that Toyota uses? Have you ever considered that maybe there are a lot more cars out there with the same problems. It could very well be your own cars. Off topic but food for thought. Good night, I still use CBC for my news sources and CTV sucks in comparison IMO!!!

    • Frank

      @marie,

      From someone who vehemently gets all their news and views from the CBC:

      “CTV belongs to this government hence all the advertising we keep seeing there and my question is, who is paying for all that advertising considering the government is broke?”

      Your Honour, I rest my case.

      🙂

      • Jon Pertwee

        @Frank, yeah but you come off as a person who gets all their news and views from your Conbot talking points.

        Hypocritical as always Frank. Your glass house must be mostly holes by now.

  • Cathie from Canada

    Great post — absolutely correct. And Canada will regret denying other countries the opportunity to practice at our facilities — national athletic organizations in Russia and wherever the 2016 games are will prove to have long memories for this type of poor sportsmanship.

  • Personally, I blame President’s Choice blue menu. You can’t take credit, and then avoid blame 😉

  • E A M

    OTP is over the top.

  • slg

    Hey, look at it this way. We do own the podium and we do have to good grace to let those who win no matter what country to use that podium to receive their deserved prizes and applause.

  • Frunger

    I agree with you that setting high expectations is opening up the possibility of dissapointment, but I see the program as having longer term goals.

    Striving for greatness shouldn’t be frowned upon as much of the media is doing. Nobody goes after other countries for trying to be the best. They’re just not used to us doing it, which is getting their back up.

    To John: Canadians have been apologizing for not winning medals in every Olympics since I can remember. This one is no different. The program is attempting the change the Canadian athletic culture of placing the Lady Bing award at equal footing as a gold medal.

    We should not be ashamed of our success. As arrogant as he can be, Canada needs more people like Don Cherry, who thinks Canada is the greatest country in the world, will scream it until his voice goes hoarse and didn’t give a crap how many people roll their eyes at him.

  • John

    I’ve long cringed at the program. First, the name of the program itself is arrogant and off-putting, and it irritated me the way it was plastered all over and repeated as if saying it over and over would somehow make it so. It also seemed so Bush-like that I can’t help but feel the conservatives thought they saw how the wind was blowing in the last Olympics and decided to get in front of the momentum. So they created this program so they could claim their “approach” led to our Olympic success. I felt that before the Games even began, and the new Duffy / Greene tape unfortunately seems to reinforce the idea . . . imagine how that tape would sound if the Canadians were indeed on track to win the most medals instead of facing a string of disappointments that may lead to less medals than in Turin. I know many people would dismiss that opinion outright. But as someone who grew up and watched the unfolding of that type of politics in the US, I can’t shake the feeling when I see signs of it here.

    Secondly, it breaks my heart to see these young, proud Canadian athletes practically – and in some cases actually – sobbing in public as they issue these heart-wrenching apologies for not winning a medal. What they hell have we done to them? No longer are Canadians happy to compete on the world stage . . . now they feel they have to dominate it or they’ve let down their nation? I remember Cindy Klassen being ecstatic in Turin, tickled to learn from a reporter that she’d won more medals in a single Olympics than any Canadian before her . . . she was genuinely surprised. Now I get the feeling they have been constantly bombarded with the weight of the expectations before them.

    Something is wrong with that.

    The best physical sign I saw last night here in Vancouver after the hockey lost was a woman parading through the streets with several youth. Her sign read “At least we have healthcare!” ;). The best metaphorical sign I saw was that the hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the streets continued their joyous, happy, and welcoming revelry despite the recent disappointments. Canadians love success and they celebrate it . . . just look at the joyous outbursts when a Canadian wins a medal. But they also recognize and celebrate strengths around the world. They understand diversity in all its forms.

    The sooner Canada finds its way back to that path and approach, the sooner they’ll rediscover the roots that have led this great nation to success in the past.

    Support the athletes . . . support the people across the land. Give them the tools and let them blossom. But don’t drown them in expectations or demands to fit a political agenda.

    • sassy

      @John, Well said John!!

      • marie

        I agree John,win or lose, I support Canada’s athletes and they didn’t need the extra pressure of own the podium put on them. Competing with the best in the world is hard enough without the pressure put on them by the media and the CTV interviewers that can’t just step back a little and stop pressuring them with stupid questions and not accepting the answers they get. They have done a shoddy job of being the station to host the Olympics and I miss the CBC coverage. CTV and its people are nothing but a joke and total failures IMO.

        • Frank

          @marie,

          I miss the CBC coverage. CTV and its people are nothing but a joke and total failures IMO.

          Let’s see now, the CBC needs a BILLION DOLLARS a year to stay afloat because everything it touches ends up second rate, its ratings are dead last in every category, and no one watches it except its own employees and their friends and families … and the CTV is a failure? While I agree that the CTV coverage is poor, at least they earned the right to provide us with that crappy coverage whereas the out-of-touch, job-for-life, stodgy stuffed-shirts and preening old hens at the CBC did not … thankfully.

  • Rob

    I can’t figure out what they thought would be the advantage of raising the expectation on the athletes.

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