Texan Sports Writer likens Vancouer Olympics to Berlin Olympics of 1936 ... newspaper and writer apologize

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    Mar 07, 2010 6:16 PM GMT
    Fort Worth Star-Telegram

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — After a spirited torch relay ignited pride in every corner of the country, the Olympic Games began and quickly galvanized the nation.

    Flags were everywhere. The country’s national symbol hung from windows and was worn on nearly everyone’s clothing.

    Fervent crowds cheered every victory by the host nation.

    But enough about the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

    At the opening of these Olympic Winter Games more than two weeks ago, Vancouver organizers expressed the hope that they could show the world a truly "Canadian Games."

    That they succeeded in that, there is little doubt.

    For 17 days we were barraged with Canadian flags, rode buses and trains with people in sweatshirts and jerseys adorned with Canadian maple leafs, and were serenaded at venues by Canadian spectators, lustily cheering for Canadian athletes.

    The first Olympics I ever attended were also in Canada, the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. For a kid not long out of college, it was a profound experience, seeing Lasse Viren, Alberto Juantorena, Nadia Comaneci — the athletes of the world — on the sporting world’s grandest stage.

    One of the speakers at that Olympics used a phrase that lingers with me still: the family of man.

    There is no earthly event that reinforces that notion as well as an Olympic Games. For all of the latter-day Games’ inherent commercialism, that ideal persists. I truly believe that.

    It persists, despite the overwhelming chauvinism of the past two weeks.

    They showed us Canadian Games, all right. And in most cases, nothing but Canadian Games.

    I’m not talking about TV coverage. I have no idea what Bob Costas and NBC were televising back in the States.

    But from the opening ceremony to Sunday’s closing, from the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili to Sunday’s gold-medal hockey game, on the streets of Vancouver and at the Olympic venues, only a token nod was given to the rest of the world’s athletes.

    I was as surprised as I was disappointed.

    Had the classic Canadian inferiority complex finally decided to bite back? Or was this a dark consequence of the Own the Podium program?

    At the Games’ outset, Canada’s obsession with finally winning its first gold medal as a host nation was understandable — quaint, almost.

    But that story swiftly swept the luge tragedy off the front pages. There were no follow-up stories about investigations, memorials or retributions to the family.

    Kumaritashvili himself was blamed for the fatal accident. The luge competition went on. Some Canadian lugers even callously complained about the shortening of the track.

    And so the tone for these Games was set.

    It was Canada’s party, and no dead luger, no critical British tabloid and no visiting Americans were going to spoil it.

    That attitude is regrettable, because a good, if not especially memorable, Olympics followed.

    U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn won her cherished gold medal in the women’s downhill, validating all the product endorsements and cover shoots she will have between now and 2014.

    Evan Lysacek struck a blow for U.S. men’s figure skating, giving legendary coach Frank Carroll an Olympic champion for the first time.

    Texas-based Olympians fared well, winning five medals, which is as many as Finland, Japan and Italy.

    Speedskater Chad Hedrick of Spring earned silver and bronze medals, Denton’s Jordan Malone won a relay bronze in short track, and the Dallas Stars’ Brenden Morrow (gold) and Jere Lehtinen (bronze) are going home with hockey medals.

    But a lot happened that didn’t make the front pages of the Vancouver newspapers or find its way into the Canadian TV network’s opening montage.

    Norway’s Marit Bjoergen won three gold medals, a silver and a bronze in cross-country skiing to become the ninth athlete to win five medals at a single Winter Olympics.

    Skier Maria Riesch finished in the top 10 in all five Alpine events. Her native country, Germany, won at least one medal on every day of this Winter Olympics.

    American short track speedskater Apolo Ohno won three medals, giving him eight and making him the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian of all time. But that’s nothing — Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, at age 36, won two biathlon medals and now has 11.

    Canada’s rush to the victory stand over the Games’ final week resulted in a Winter Olympics record for a single nation, 14 total. The U.S. hockey team can take solace that its silver-medal finish Sunday was the Americans’ 37th medal, also a record for one nation.

    But for the most part, the most underappreciated soul at these Olympics was an American or a European on the medals stand.

    Yes, every host nation cheers lustily for its native Olympians. But never in my experience to the extent that we saw here, where the rest of the world’s athletes were little more than drink coasters at the party.

    South Korean Kim Yu-Na’s dazzling gold-medal performance in women’s figure skating, for example, was overwhelmed here by the attention given to Quebec’s Joannie Rochette, whose mother tragically died.

    Chief organizer of the Games, John Furlong, mentioned Kumaritashvili briefly in his Closing Ceremony remarks. But the hosts’ insensitivity had long ago been duly noted.

    At a news conference Saturday, for example, someone asked Ken Melamed, mayor of Whistler, where the luge run was located, if the village planned some sort of memorial to the luger from Georgia.

    Why, yes, the mayor said, "We have to find a way to acknowledge Nodar . . . and the Canadian athletes that have done well."

    See? They don’t get it.

    The Vancouver Games’ ticketing policy didn’t help the partisan scene at the venues. To order Olympic tickets through the Vancouver 2010 Web site, a buyer had to have a Canadian address.

    China sold 6.8 million tickets to its 2008 Summer Olympics. Vancouver only made 1.6 million available. The Canadians wanted to "Own the Podium," but organizers made sure that they owned the grandstands at each venue as well.

    I’m still mystified that Canada fans were able to grab what seemed to be 98 per cent of the tickets at the hockey venue. Olympic crowds have always been more inclusive.

    In his closing news conference Sunday, IOC president Jacques Rogge acknowledged that there were "teething pains" as the Vancouver Games began.

    "There was an extraordinary embrace by the city of Vancouver," he said. "Something I’ve never seen before."

    There was embracing, all right, but then Canadians have always had the reputation for drinking a lot of beer. The loose marijuana laws only added to the nightly revelry in the downtown streets — which, frankly, seemed to have little to do with the Olympics.

    Canada wanted to hold a party, and the Canadians did. The gold medals only seemed to fuel them.

    Team Canada hockey jerseys became the uniform of the streets. Maple leafs were either hanging or on clothing everywhere.

    One thing I never saw: a simple flag or shirt with the five Olympic rings. Not anywhere. After 15 Olympics, that was a first.

    I didn’t attend the ’36 Olympics, but I’ve seen the pictures. Swastikas everywhere.

    No political reference is meant, just an Olympic one. What on earth were the Canadians thinking?

    An Olympic host is supposed to welcome the world. This one was too busy being (their word) "patriotic."

    "Now you know us, eh?" chief organizer Furlong said.

    We thought we did two weeks ago. Now, I’m wondering if Canadians can even recognize themselves.

    Nice party. But so 1936.
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    Mar 07, 2010 6:23 PM GMT
    This mayor took the PM's encouragement to celebrate Canada too far and he missed the point of the question, I think

    At a news conference Saturday, for example, someone asked Ken Melamed, mayor of Whistler, where the luge run was located, if the village planned some sort of memorial to the luger from Georgia.

    Why, yes, the mayor said, "We have to find a way to acknowledge Nodar . . . and the Canadian athletes that have done well."

    Altho I wonder what was in the . . . ? How far separated where these two clauses in his statement?
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    Mar 07, 2010 7:32 PM GMT
    Here, hope this helps!


    Here's Friday's statement,

    "The grey skies began to drizzle just as the news was beamed around the world by the thousands of press in the resort. "Our thoughts are with (Georgian luge athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili's) family, teammates, colleagues and the people of the Republic of Georgia," said Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed.

    "On behalf of the community of Whistler, our visiting guests and all others gathered here I wish to extend our heartfelt condolences for this loss."

    "The past week has impressed upon me the incredible friendship, admiration and sense of community that is created through hosting the Olympic Winter Games. "It is in this spirit of collective friendship that we feel the pain of this tragedy.

    "The accident has deeply saddened all those gathered in our community to celebrate the passion, skill and excellence of Olympic athletes like Nodar."

    Read it on Global News: Olympic community mourns loss of luge athlete

    l http://news.globaltv.com/beyondthepodium/Texas+publisher+apologizes+insensitive+column+likening+Vancouver+Nazi+Games/2650251/story.html

    and this from http:[url]//www.amyboughner.ca/

    "One big question I have about the article is where he got this quote from the mayor of Whistler: “We have to find a way to acknowledge Nodar … and the Canadian athletes that have done well.” and what exactly goes where that ellipsis was placed, because according to the Vancouver Sun the mayor said this:

    “Over the weekend, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed promised that when the Celebration Plaza is converted from Olympic and Paralympic use, there will be a permanent memorial to Kumaritashvili and all of the athletes who competed in Whistler in the alpine, nordic and sliding events.”

    Not quite as insensitive as Mr. Lebreton would have us believe."



    lebreton VANCOUVER, British Columbia — I’m not Canadian though, like most Louisianians of French descent, I suspect my ancestors were.

    I am proud of that heritage. I can still remember the delight I felt — and the pictures I took — when, as a young journalist covering the 1976 Olympics, I discovered that Montreal had a Rue de LeBreton.

    I’m not that young pup anymore. These eyes have now seen 15 Olympic Games, seven of them Winter Olympics.

    When the time comes at the end of each Games to sum up the 17 days, I don’t take that task lightly. I try to use that seasoned viewpoint and write it from the heart.

    My intention in Monday morning’s wrap-up column wasn’t to offend Canada, the land of my ancestors, and my hosts of the past three weeks. On the contrary, I was trying to express my disappointment and surprise that, in my opinion, Canadians had failed to grasp the global mandate that being an Olympic host entails.

    In doing so, I reached for a comparison — and picked one in the 1936 Olympics that unintentionally may have offended the very people whose company I have enjoyed for these past days.

    I apologize for offending them.

    As I said in the wrap-up, I certainly implied no political analogies. But some comparisons are sensitive enough to be offensive just by their very mention.

    No one argues that instead of the Olympic rings, the predominant image throughout Vancouver and its venues for the past 17 days was Canada’s red maple leaf.

    As chief Vancouver Olympic organizer John Furlong said at Sunday’s Closing Ceremony, “That quiet, humble national pride we were sometimes reluctant to acknowledge seemed to take to the streets, as the most beautiful kind of patriotism broke out all across our country. So many new and dazzling applications for the maple leaf.”

    What passed for patriotism here in Canada, however, came across differently in the eyes of an international guest.

    Unlike soccer’s World Cup, where nationalism abounds, the Olympics are meant to be a celebration of the entire world.

    I was privileged to attend both previous Olympics held in Canada. In Montreal, the performances of Nadia Comaneci, Alberto Juantorena and Lasse Viren were cheered by everyone. At Calgary in 1988, the exploits of Alberto Tomba, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards and the Jamaican bobsled team framed the story of those Games.

    Sadly, I felt, in the rush to celebrate Canada’s new patriotism, some of those stories were missed here.

    That doesn’t excuse me from making an insensitive comparison. But in 14 previous Olympic Games, never were the cheers for the visiting countries’ athletes drowned out so ferociously.

    On the eve of the final day of these Games, I attended the team pursuit finals at the Richmond Olympic Oval. There were two medal ceremonies at the conclusion of the day’s events.

    In the first, the gold medal went to the Canadian men’s team, and the Canadians in attendance cheered heartily and sang along with O Canada.

    The women’s medal ceremony was next. But as the gold medals were being placed around the necks of the Germans, much of the crowd was busy filing out.

    That final scene prompted the column. The comparison I used prompts me to apologize to anyone who felt offended by it.

    I’ll leave Vancouver with indelible memories — many of them were of Canadians, wearing red maple leafs, having the time of their lives.

    The Olympics are all about memories. And meeting new people from around the world.

    Changing trains on the way to the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, I passed a gentleman that I had seen before at that station. He was a street musician and had an electric guitar, but he was dressed elegantly in a white bowtie and dinner jacket. His guitar case was open to collect tips.

    The gentleman was slowly strumming the Louis Armstrong classic What a Wonderful World.

    I gave him all the change I had."

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    Mar 07, 2010 7:38 PM GMT
    As well, the olympic committees greed over use of the five rings logo prevented displays of them. There were massive fines to anyone, including residents, displaying even a handcrafted version without permission and payment of royalties.

    So we had to stick our little red maple leaf.