The Olympic dream
I woke up this morning in a desperate, cold sweat and shaking like Ben Johnson trying to renew his Canadian passport. I’ve long suffered from vivid sporting dreams from a lifetime of falling asleep in front of a variety of established sports networks and at various stages of my sleeping/napping career have thrown game-winning TDs, pitched World Series no-hitters a la Don Larsen, triumphed at Augusta and on one strange Saturday in March – won the Brier while eating a dozen crullers! Hey, it’s my dream, back off. But this… this was different. I was trapped in the CBC London Olympic studio, surrounded by flashing big screens of Lord Sebastian Coe trying to explain the intricacies of Danny Boyle’s confusing Opening Ceremony, while Brian Williams was spinning one-armed on a gymnastics high-bar in the corner screaming at his minions, “Get me some Canadian content Gosh Darn It (it is Brian Williams after all) and not another story about Emilie Heymans… we’ve been talking about her since Sydney… when do the prelims start for moguls?” It took a couple of Timmy’s double doubles to wash away the vision that for some reason, our vaunted Olympics anchor extraordinaire might have been wearing only a leotard and a tie. Is Dr. Phil in the house, paging Dr. Phil…
On a lighter note…I did find it mildly amusing that after Day 2, Canadian networks were quick to point out that the Bronze of Heymans and Jennifer Abel in Synchronized Diving has us placing 15th on the overall medal tally… of course, they were kind enough to place us in a tie for 7th after Day 1 with nada, zero, none… Network math is about as confusing as judo scoring which orchestrates an incredible amount of stop/start penalty rulings to end every match 1-0 and generally leaves me with an empty feeling, best vocalized as “Please pass the remote, I think there might be dressage on over on CTV.” Yup, the availability of sports 24/7 for the fortnight duration of the Olympics is balanced out by the realization that often, one is watching Copycat Cannon-balling, Bathrobe Tug-N-Roll and Equine Jazz Ballet. Somehow, Baseball and Softball got the heave-ho but the seat-filler that is Sailing gets to spend a lovely English summer day in the Channel. Well, if we needed another reason to ask the IOC to give its collective head a shake… Hold on a second, before I get carried away – do we have a Medal hope in Sailing?
It is often difficult to watch the Summer Olympics as a Canadian. Every other 4 years we watch our athletes regularly take to the podium and as in Vancouver in 2010, the strains of “O Canada” played at snowsuit-clad Medal ceremonies rouses our national fervour and speaks volumes about how we view ourselves as a nation. However, and it is a big ‘however’ – there seems to be a general malaise that falls over the Canadian viewing public when the Summer version rolls around and perhaps this is largely due to our inability to significantly improve our Medal haul over the years. In Montreal in 1976, as the Host Nation, we managed a meager 5 Silver and 6 Bronze – highlighted by Greg Joy’s High Jump 2nd place ahead of Dwight Stones – and somehow, 32 years later in Beijing in 2008 we managed a mere 18 total Medals (3G, 9S, 6B). OK, I know they have a lot better year-round weather than us, but with a population 11 Million to the south of ours, the Australians somehow managed to haul in 46 Medals (14G, 15S, 17B) in ’08. That just reeks of a National Commitment, which despite all the chatter in the halls of Sport Canada, is severely lacking under the Maple Leaf banner when it comes to the Games of the Summer Olympiad. While, historically we have made some ‘memorable’ appearances on the Track and in the Pool and we are considered perennial Medal contenders at the Rowing Centre, it has become increasingly irritating to watch our National Networks continue to employ the services of Mantracker just to spot our lost athletes in the middle of the pack.
The great thing about Canadian Content is that it can take many forms and while re-runs of Family Ties, 24 and Will & Grace are shelved this summer to make way for Weightlifting and Taekwondo, the first 2 days of coverage from London have reminded Canadian Sports Fans that somehow, some way, those Darlings of Dual Nationality always seem to relish mentioning Canada in their acceptance speeches. This year’s incarnation is Missy Franklin of the USA who at 17 is set to become the new star of the American Swim Team as the Phelps Legend implodes. Thankfully, her infectious smile and openness with the Canadian press have allowed us to all but forget that with 2 Canadian parents she could have been a Maple Leaf Medal Goldmine and we are required by our very Canadianism to cheer second-handedly for her in a way that we never could for say… Brett Hull. And then there were those other 2… remember Lennox Lewis and Greg Rusedski, who somehow, in the time it took British Airways to fly from Montreal to London developed Cockney accents and a love of vinegar. Now that took commitment…
In closing today, here’s some names for your Podium Watch. Keep a close eye on Adam van Koeverden in Kayaking – he’s a 3-time Medallist and the reigning World Champion at K-1 1000M. In Track and Field, shot putter Dylan Armstrong is a definite contender and in the Pool, there may very well be some flag waving for Victoria native Ryan Cochrane in 1,500M freestyle. Whatever your viewing preferences Kelowna, enjoy every moment of the Olympics if you can, they just don’t come around that often.
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