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Olympic post-mortem

2010 March 1
by Skip Sauer

Personally, less viewing was more fun. It was a shame though, to see “home-cooking” in the Men’s 500m short-track race, where a Canadian judge made a marginal call to disqualify my countryman and elevate his onto the podium. If that’s what “own the podium” means, the podium’s not worth owning. So I’ll join England’s temporarily pro-American Simon Barnes in sending a somewhat sardonic “Well done, Canada” to our neighbors up North. But why wasn’t there an English judge available?

Here at TSE in the past few weeks, we’ve been riffing on the psychological impact of athletic competition. At the Montreal Gazette, Randy Boswell applys this thinking to his country in “Historic Olympics a nation-building milestone for Canada: experts.” Wow. I thought Canada already had a formidable nation? On second thought, perhaps that short track judge has a day job with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. More seriously, Boswell’s story does have plenty of quotes from people who are either measuring or somehow attuned to Canadian psychology at the moment. My money though, is on Montreal historian Jack Jedwab who says “if you ask most Canadians today what they remember about Calgary [ed: site of the 1988 Winter Games], I don’t know that they’ll be able to tell you a lot.”

Back stateside, the impeccably named Casey Curlin focuses on the Olympics’ impact “beyond Vancouver:” everything from a boom in orthodontics in Korea to the fallout in Russia from a disappointing haul of medals. “The headlines in Russia were brutal, ‘Red Machine Crashes into Maple Tree,’ ‘Nightmare in Vancouver’,” states Curlin. What strikes me as interesting in this case is that perceived Olympic failure is tied directly to Russia’s Sports Minister, with the political opposition calling for President Medvedev to take action. In contrast, the U.S. went into these games with an Olympic organization that was universally disliked and apparently dysfunctional, yet somehow American athletes won more medals than ever. Hooray for decentralization!! I’m glad that the U.S. doesn’t have a Sports Minister. But I doubt that Medvedev would consider abolishing the Russian office, even for a moment.

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