Own the podium and other Olympic musings

I must admit, I am not always the greatest fan of the Olympics. While the ideal is great, the execution leaves something to be desired.

Firstly there is the IOC, which is as big a gang of crooks, hangers- on and general free-loaders as can be seen anywhere outside the European Parliament or  the UN.

Then there is the Opening Ceremonies, which other than the entrance of the athletes tends to be a cringe-worthy production put on by a politically correct “artistic director” whose script was a leftover from a childrens book. Vancouver’s opening ceremony was no different, lots of bessings from Indian Tribes, who while an important part of the Canadian Mosaic, certainly are no more important than any other group.

Then there is the sheer cost of the spectacle. I can think of many things that we should be spending money on, rather than developing venues for sports such as ski jumping or bobsled, which are not sports that are ever going to be widely practiced and so, in my mind, don’t really provide any value as a “lasting legacy”. The sheer cost of providing security for the athletes in our current world of terrorism and suicide bombers is staggering.

Ok – those are the negatives, and after I have got over numb bum from watching the Opening Snore, it changes. It then becomes a contest of will, drive and talent in a variety of sporting competitions that for the most part have me completely rivetted. I watch the cross country skiers and can only think, how can they do that without having a heart attack from the exertion. I watch the aerialists and am truly amazed that a person can do those sorts of acrobatics and manage to land on their feet.

I read the stories of the triumphs, and yes the tragedies, and realize that whatever the cost of the games it is worth it if it inspires the youth of the world to get up off the couch, drag their ass to the nearest skating rink, or ski hill and begin the long and painful process of being amongst the best in the world. In this Xbox world where schools aren’t allowed to fail students because it might damage their delicate psyche and governments seem to be actively punishing  people who wish to get ahead so they can support those who don’t, it is great to have a celebration of achievement and the struggle it entails.

So, yes – some of the sports are a bit strange. Sliding down an ice gulley on a carbon fibre tea tray doesn’t exactly strike me as a sport for the sane, attempting to judge the unjudgeable such as figure skating is always a fun time and watching the potential carnage which is team short track speed skating reminds me of Rollerball. Nevertheless, each and every one of those athletes have pursued their goal to be the best in the world, and I think that celebrating this every four years isn’t such a bad thing.

VANOC came up with this plan to “own the podium”. This was a concentrated drive to get Canadian athletes to excel with the games on their home turf. It funnelled 186 million dollars into trying to give Canadian athletes a boost and has been widely lampooned, as it looks like the USA actually owns the podium for the most part. Well so be it.  At least we have some decent results, which is more than can be said for the Calgary Games. Incidentally I watched the Games in Calgary and thought they were fabulous, but the home results were a bit disappointing and I do not believe that with the results from Vancouver, so money well spent. Shame we couldn’t have spent another $2 to get a decent catch phrase.

Finally, the Press – well we have the article in Pravda by Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey that I’m guessing was read out in the dressing room prior to the Canada/Russia game. That one worked out well didn’t it? We also have the British media who seem to be making a name for themselves as inveterate whiners, complainers and general kill-joys. Sure, there have been mistakes at this Olympics, no one will deny that. The death of the Georgian luger was a total tragedy and the fall of the cross country skier into a culvert was incompetence by the course workers of the highest order. No one should excuse these, and they do mar the Games, but a lot has gone right too!

I wonder if the British Press will be applying the same standards to the London Games? Having an aging rocker perform from a London bus was a great start methinks. What delights will the opening ceremonies in London bring? Will there be complaining about the delights of British Cuisine in the athletes village or is Gordon Ramsey going to be hired to whip them into shape? Considering it is pretty difficult to travel around London even at the best of times, how in hell are the organizers going to deal with the traffic tie-ups the Olympis will bring? Will “sorry the train didn’t run on time” be the epitaph for London? Seriously though, I hope London goes off flawlessly – it better considering the way the Brits have commented on Vancouver.

Too fat to fly

Kevin Smith says he’s “way fat,” but that shouldn’t stop him from flying.

The director and actor says a pilot ejected him from a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Burbank, Calif., saying he didn’t fit properly in a single seat.

Ok – lets get the full story before the PC brigade jumps on it too far. Kevin is a somewhat large gentleman, and does not fit between the arms of a standard seat on a plane. He normally books two seats, but in this particular instance was attempting to fly standby to get to his destination earlier. When he got on the plane as standby, there weren’t two seats together, so the incident happened.

Firstly – I don’t blame the airline  – Southwest have had a policy for 20 or so years that says if you are too fat to fit into a single seat you need to buy two. Fair enough – those are the rules they set down and you fly based upon those rules. If you don’t like it – book another airline. If this is losing them passengers – then that is a business decision they have made.

Secondly – lets not think about this from Kevin Smiths perspective, lets think about it from the perspective of the poor sod who was being asked to sit next to him. There is limited room in a plane (ok – that is a discussion for another time about sardines in a can and travelling). Given that, as a passenger, I paid for a specific amount of space and expect to have that. I’m over 6 feet 2 inches tall and fitting that into the very restricted space on a plane isn’t easy, without having the very small space “intruded upon” by the extra chubbly bits of the passenger next to me.

I’ve had it happen to me – I’ve got on a plane and found the passenger next to me has pulled up the armrest so they can fit in and I’m left with at most half a seat, and not only that I have the sheer joy of being squeezed like some mouse being eyed by a python, and in the case that I’m talking about a somewhat sweaty and malodorous python too.

Passengers have rights to what they have paid for, and in this case I’m on Southwest’s side. They made the correct decision in the first place, and then went and messed it up when the publicity got hot. They should have simply said – sorry – we felt for the comfort of our other passengers we needed to stick by our rules and left it at that.

Snow bunnies

There is a minor uproar in the politically correct press about two US athletes – Hannah Teter and Lindsey Vonn.

Both of them have dared to appear in bikinis in the latest issue of Sports Illustated, and now there is bleating from the PC sheep. Oh the shame of it!

Lets look at this from another perspective shall we? First, these are two world class athletes, that have literally worked their buns off to get where they are. They train every day and work out like fiends to be the best that they can be in their respective sports. These are exactly the sort of physical role models that we should be showing to out teenagers. They didn’t get their bodies through purging and starving, they did it the healthy way by working out and exercise.

Ok – so they happen to be girls and happen to be easy on the eyes, what is wrong with that?

Climb off the PC bandwagon for a few minutes and instead of the kneejerk feminist and PC reaction, realize that these are positive images for our youth and showcase what can happen if you are active rather than a couch potato who’s only idea of exercise is moving the buttons on an xbox.

Chinese futures

In a trip to China and South Korea in December, Prime Minister Stephen Harper extolled the benefits of businesses looking beyond the U.S.-Canada corridor, saying the future lies in Asia.

Mr. Harper, please look to the US example and maybe rethink that a little. What the early investors in China have found is that the Chinese aren’t interested in foreign investors, and are making it difficult or in some cases impossible for foreign investors to flourish through putting legal roadblocks and applying rules very unevely between native Chinese companies and those that are foreign owned. The other soncern that needs to be addressed is theft or seizure of intellectual property.

China is a country with an appalling human rights record that does not play nice with the rest of the world, and the sooner we all turn away  from the elusive dream of expanding our markets there, and realize the long term Chinese goal is control rather than working together the better.