I have to admit to a more-than-mild attack of Schadenfreude at the so-far spectacular failure of Canada’s 5 year $120 million “Own the Podium” program that was supposed to produce enough medals by Canadian athletes at the Vancouver Olympics to win the competition for overall medals. It just ain’t happening.
There was something distasteful about it from the beginning, and not just because it offered nothing at all to the fitness and health of Vancouver’s 23,000 homeless people. It’s more to do with the “Triumph of the Reich” motif it barely concealed, and the open ruthlessness of its organizers, as typified by the near-sequestering of training facilities during the run-up to competition, or the recently-revealed “Top Secret” sub-program that had our signature competitors training on ultra-high tech equipment not available to other countries. One of the devices, a high-speed treadmill parked at the Calgary Speed-skating Oval allowed our strapped-in speed skaters to improve their form with a series of mirrors and cameras. That one worked splendidly, I note.
It stopped short, as far as we know, of Stephen Harper personally distributing steroids and copies of Ayn Rand’s novels around the Canadian athletes’ compound, but you get the distinct impression that this sort of crap wasn’t that far beyond the realm of possibility. What we are seeing at the Vancouver Winter Olympics is the Stephen Harper vision of Canadian excellence, with fuzzy mascots designed in Los Angeles and manufactured by Chinese factory workers, and if the aftermath is a poor medal haul, vast cost-overruns and a herd of white elephants dotting the landscape of B.C.’s lower mainland, I’m okay with that as an object lesson.
I’d prefer to live in a country where we didn’t chronically blow smoke up our own asses, and where political leaders who get caught out doing the same are punished for wielding the smoke machines, however high-tech and gleaming. Let’s hope that’s where we’re headed. Screw the Olympic podium.
326 words, February 22, 2010