Wednesday, March 03, 2010

On Notice! Olympics Edition!

Three days without the Games. Is anyone else going through withdrawal?

* The 'Own The Podium' campaign was like Lady Gaga --- a whole lot of unnecessary controversy that obscured a very simple truth. In Gaga's case, her weird outfits and style can be accounted for when you realize that she is just trying to distract you from looking at her giant unwieldy nose. There was a similarly simple answer to the Own The Podium campaign: the host country wanted to impress. End of story. I love the hand-wringers who were all worried that Canada wanting to win the medal race would make it seem like we weren't being "polite" or "un-Canadian." Um, it's the Olympics. Why wouldn't be make a big deal of wanting to win the most medals? Then, after the first week, people were calling it a travesty that the athletes weren't winning more medals, in spite of the fact that Canada was averaging at least one per day. Maybe people were just offended that it was a play on the Canadian military's slogan for seizing the drug fields of Afghanistan: Pwn the Opium.

* Ashleigh McIvor wins the Katarina Witt memorial 'best-looking woman of the Games' award. Runner-up is Gretchen Bleiler. The bronze goes to Tessa Vir....wait, let me check Wikipedia for her birthday...ok, she's 21 in May, she qualifies...Tessa Virtue. You can never be too careful with figure skaters. Honorable mention goes to Johnny Weir, who tries oh so hard to be a girl that I'll take pity on him. I almost wrote 'I'll throw him a bone,' but that could be misinterpreted.

* Apparently there was a hockey tournament of some sort played during these Olympics. Two quick hits about the hockey: first, I'm pretty sure my father was the only person in the country rooting AGAINST Team Canada, partially out of spite given that he was sick of them getting so much coverage for the last several months. I can't fully fault him since I feel basically the same way about the World Juniors, but c'mon, this is the Olympics. Thankfully, Dad came around by the end and was on the Canadian bandwagon against the USA, but boy was he ever gleeful when Canada almost lost that game to Switzerland. I think he came around because he lost all bragging rights when his beloved curlers only converted one out of the two gold medals. Cheryl Bernard, I owe you one. That massive choke may have cost you a gold medal, but at least it won me the upper hand against my pops. That's basically like a gold medal, right? Also hilarious was how, as much as my dad railed on hearing so much about the hockey team, he couldn't identify any of the players except Crosby, Iginla, Brodeur and the guys with London connections (Nash, Doughty, Thornton). Second....I missed the Canada/Russia game to go see a play. Yep. Got the tickets weeks ago and realized the date conflict as soon as Canada lost the prelim round game to the USA. In my defense "Wingfield: Lost and Found" was a good show. And on the list of Canadiana, watching a Canada-Russia game is only slightly higher than watching a Wingfield play, really. Intermission was particularly funny, as literally half of the theatre tore upstairs to catch the score on the lounge TV. Then there was the spectacle of everyone coming down and informing their seatmate of the score, leading to about 200 "it's 6-2 and it's only the second period?!" conversations.

* The best events of these Games can be summed by 'anything involving a cross.' Snowboard cross, ski cross, whatever. If it involved lining up four people and firing them down a difficult track in a veritable melee of arms, legs and poles, it was entertaining as hell.

* Coverage-wise, these Olympics were about as good as it got. CTV, Sportsnet, TSN, RDS, OLN had sports going non-stop for the full span of the Games and (best of all) virtually everything was shown live. If someone won a gold medal in the afternoon, you'd see a replay of it that evening in prime time during some break in other action, usually followed by an interview with said medallist. It was a little jarring to hear the voices I'm accustomed to hearing on Sportscentre and Blue Jays game suddenly calling, say, ski races, but by and large the announcers did a fine job. (Though Rod Black can tone down the patriotism by about three or four notches.) Now, I'm basing this solely on the actual athletic coverage, since I've heard some whispers that the morning show stuff headlined by the MTV Aftershow clowns and the Canada AM folks was somewhat gong show-esque. But hey, if I didn't see it, it didn't happen. Our coverage was even better compared to the nonstop firestorm of criticism that NBC went through over its shoddy job of handling the live events. Get this: events were tape-delayed even on the west coast! So some poor schmoe in Seattle who didn't have a CTV channel on his cable box still had to wait hours to see certain events, even though they were just three hours away from Vancouver. Smooth move, NBC.

* Chris Chase of Yahoo Sports sums up Bjoergen's story here. She won five medals! Good gravy! Chase bashes NBC for never telling her story during the Games, but in their defense, I didn't see much Bjoergen on CTV either. So, in a nod to her spectacular performance, she gets an entry here. That will surely make up for it. Hello pageviews from Norway!

* While I said the 'Own The Podium' stuff was a bit much, it was still pretty damn awesome to see Canada winning so many medals. Setting a new Winter Games record for gold medals won was a great way to erase the stink of that ugly 'only host nation to not win a gold' record that Canada had to drag through TWO Olympics. Sure, a few of our favoured athletes didn't win, but Canada also had its share of underdogs coming from nowhere to capture medals. If you had to pick an athlete who summed up these Games for the country, it was probably Charles Hamelin. He crapped out in his first two races, but then rebounded to win golds in the 500-metre individual and 5000-metre relay events in the final days of the Olympics. Also, he looks like Bret from 'Flight Of The Conchords' and... (at this point, Mark went off on some laboured analogy about how the New Zealand/Australia relationship parallels the Canada/USA rivalry and how FOTC therefore hold a special place in the hearts of Canadians, and on and on with a bunch of nonsense. We chose to delete it for your own safety, folks. Let's move on.)

* The closing ceremonies could've almost deserved their own post. Talk about swinging wildly between two extremes. On the one hand, you had the very funny opening gag about the malfunctioning column and William Shatner's amazing monologue. On the other hand, you had the endless string of terrible music acts that closed the show and Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox's not-so-amazing monologues. (I almost wrote that their monologues were 'shaky' before realizing that I was writing about Michael J. Fox.) In between was Michael Buble's sterotypariffic number which veered between lovably goofy and over-the-top. If nothing else, at least it drove home the point that 'The Maple Leaf Forever' is a wicked song. Shouldn't this song have a higher profile than it does in our country? It should be to us what God Bless America is to the USA --- sort of a secondary anthem that is arguably better than the actual anthem. It's like how 'Common People' is generally considered to be Pulp's best song, but there is a strong contingent that believe 'Disco 2000' is equally good. By the way, this will probably be the only time you'll see Common People compared to O Canada. I've got to get Pulp some dap here since there's not much chance they'll be invited to be in the opening or closing ceremonies for the London Olympics. Though, holy crap, can you imagine how badly England could smoke the Canadian musical choices? Bowie, McCartney, Coldplay, Radiohead, The Rolling Stones, the Cure, Clapton, Eurythmics, Gabriel, Elton John....and that's not even counting the semi-together old bands like Queen or the Who. If England brought its A-game and didn't rely on, like, Susan Boyle or boy bands, they would put Nickelback to shame.

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