Yes, it’s that time of the bi-year again. It’s time for another Olympic Games. After months of hype, it’s time to light the torch. And it couldn’t come a moment too soon. After all, the sooner the torch is lit, the sooner we can get the real show on the road. The Road to Vancouver (as the broadcasters have called it) haven’t really whetted my appetite. I just want to get this thing started. With all the World Championships, X Games and various international events, the Olympics seem to have lost some of their uniqueness. After all, I consider a snowboarding gold in the X Games more prestigious than an Olympic gold. However, when national pride comes into play, that changes all the rules.
This diatribe is brought to you by RBC and Coca-Cola who remind you that they are going to use every opportunity afforded to them by the IOC and VANOC to shove themselves down your throat. I didn’t go to the relay but I heard from a reliable source that the torch bearer is preceded and followed by vehicles adorned with RBC and Coke colours and logos. And I wonder why my interest rates are so low at the bank. It’s not because I don’t have any money in there. Though I’m sure that’s a contributing factor.) It’s because they’re spending all of our money on sponsoring a sporting event that will do nothing to sway people to switch banks. Really, the only time you switch banks is because they won’t give you a loan. It would be like a bank sponsoring a NASCAR team. And another reason to hate the torch relay is because the torch relay and the Olympic flame weren’t original Greek Olympic tradition. It was in fact a creation of Adolf Hitler to drum up a special gimmick for the Berlin Games of 1936. Well a gimmick that didn’t involve the promotion of the greatness of his Arian race. How’d that work out for him in the end?
And the big winner at this year’s Vancouver Olympic Games is the warm weather. VANOC has been shipping in snow from outside the Vancouver area to cover the slopes in time for some of the skiing and snowboarding events. I guess this is more of a win for Greenpeace because those tree-hugging hippie bastards can claim that global warming is to blame. They’re right, you know. The earth has been slowly warming up since the ice age. It’s got to be a cyclical thing. After all, dinosaurs wouldn’t have been in Alberta (and near Edmonton to boot) if it wasn’t tropically warm at some point. So clearly, the world was very warm at one point and is going from freezing cold to greenhouse warm and likely cycle like that until the world ends. Anyway, getting back on track, everyone should have expected some winter weather maladies in Vancouver. After all, it’s best known in Canada for a moderately successful NHL team and having torrential downpours during winter. Anyone from Canada should have seen that the Vancouver area should have expected that the weather wouldn’t have cooperated. Of course, the most obvious obstacle is the last one VANOC and the COC must have considered when bidding for the 2010 Olympics.
Own The Podium
How desperate are we as a nation that we aren’t embarrassed on home soil? The government and VANOC (who I can assume are getting most of their money from the government) are spending hundreds of millions of dollars for Canada to win at least one gold medal and top the medal count. The idea is that the Own The Podium would go to researching advanced technologies to build better equipment and advanced training techniques to build better athletes. In other words, Canada is trying to build their own army of Ivan Dragos to dominate the sporting world with. Unlike Ivan Drago, the Canadians aren’t killing folks or taking steroids… I hope. After all, we’re the country that gave the world Ben Johnson and the world’s first great steroid scandal. Of course, all is not well with how the equipment design of the Own The Podium equipment project is going. Skiing insiders think that the extra slippery skis that where developed using Own The Podium money have caused the rash of injuries among medal hopefuls in alpine skiing. Not that most Canadians care if the skiers own the podium…
We may be trying to own the podium but there’s only one medal that Canadians actually care about. If the men’s hockey team doesn’t win gold, then the majority of Canadians will consider the Olympics a catastrophic failure. Canada can win more medals and more gold medals than every other country represented in Vancouver but it will still be a failure if the hockey team doesn’t conquer the world. The Russians think that the IOC agreeing to use NHL-sized ice for the Vancouver Olympics increases the Canadian advantage. Apparently, the fact that both the Canadian and Russian players are used to playing on NHL-sized ice doesn’t change their belief that they’re being screwed. So let’s get this straight: They can use the KGB to upset all routines of the Summit Series Team Canada but if a legitimate organization gives Canada a small boost they wouldn’t otherwise had, then that’s horribly and unspeakably evil.
After today’s death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, this topic was bound to come up. If you haven’t heard already, Kumaritashvili lost control exiting a turn, flew over the lip of the track and hit a steel pole at about 144 km/h. He pretty well died on the spot near as I have been able to glean from the news reports. I’m going to go straight to the insensitive view right now so turn away if you’re afraid of controversial perspectives. The fact of the matter is that cancelling the luge would be a rash and ineffective solution to something that is a problem to people that make money off of sensationalizing tragedy. Obviously, no one wants to see this happen again but to say that the best solution is to cancel the event is evidence of rash and sensationalist decision making. That would be like saying that F1 should have cancelled the 1995 San Marino GP after Roland Ratzenberger’s fatal accident or NASCAR should have cancelled the races at Loudon after the deaths of Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty in 2000. The fact is that sports where there is inherent danger (and that’s all of them, by the way) find ways to adapt to make things safer for the competitors. Officials say that frosting the track will slow down the luges. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s a better way of solving the Richmond track’s speed problem than cancelling things all together.
Back to less depressing topics. It’s almost time for the start of the racing season. The green flag of the Daytona 500 marks the start of regular racing. While the worldwide schedule starts with the Rolex 24 (also at Daytona International Speedway), weekly action doesn’t really get going until the good ol’ boys of NASCAR get it going. After the two Duel qualifying races, it looks like NASCAR’s rules change to increase the speed of the car by increasing the size of the openings in the carburetor restrictor plates in the Sprint Cup cars has opened up the racing as well. Of course, the fact that NASCAR is fairly proactive at improving both safety and racing at the same time helps too. They’ve made the cars faster but have switched other rules so the drivers keep each other in line. That’s why the NHL was filled with enforcers 20 years ago and I’m sure the game was better then than now… Then again, having Gretzky and Lemieux in their primes didn’t hurt either. It’s kinda like NASCAR having Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart in their primes. With them on the track, you know you are likely to see something special. Of course, if Tony were to win the 500, that would be bigger than my next subject winning her race because racing fans actually like Smoke.
You want ridiculous hype? You’ve got your ridiculous hype. The most hyped racer in the world: Danica Patrick. She finished 6th in her stock car debut in the ARCA 200 at Daytona. What no one mentions is that she had the best equipment in that race. While most operations are small teams, her team was basically a subsidiary of Hendrick Motorsports. That Hendrick power, handling, and team powered her to that finish. Sure, she’s shown some proficiency in the draft at the Indy 500 (also in some of the better equipment in the field) but we can’t really say how good Danica is at driving stock cars until she starts running at tracks where the driver makes a real difference. I’m talking places like Bristol and Road America and Loudon where the driver has to be on top of his or her game to move to the point. At Daytona and Talladega, it’s more machine than (wo)man that makes the difference. Interestingly, Danica isn’t the only woman in the field. Chrissy Wallace will be in the field for the Nationwide race at Daytona with three of her relatives and that Danica girl. Not that you’ll hear about her but it’s good to know that there’s someone moving up the ranks based more on skill than FHM/SI shoots.