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Monday, February 15, 2010

U.K. press slams Canada's hosting of Games

Nice. The British tabloid media, joined uncharacteristically by The Guardian, usually a bastion of responsible and non-sensationalistic journalism, are using the tragic death of Nodar Kumaritashvili to vilify Canada and our hosting of the Olympic Winter Games. Insisting that in pursuit of Olympic excellence Canadians have abandoned our penchant for politeness, they instead project an unmistakable arrogance that, thankfully, is one nasty characteristic we did not inherit from our colonial fathers.

At face value, getting worked into a lather by this scurrilous reporting is perhaps akin to getting choked at The National Enquirer for spreading inaccurate tales of tawdry celebrity activity. But this is much more serious stuff. A man died under terrible circumstances that by many accounts were preventable; whether due to human error or flaws in design, it matters little to his family who watched it live and the millions of us who are still haunted and brokenhearted by the images we saw. And yet, Canada, The Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, VANOC, and presumably all of us who support the Games are somehow held responsible for a truly awful moment in what is supposed to be - and, in reality, very much is - a wonderful experience.

This quote alone should provide the reader with the tone of the articles:

“Canada wanted to Own The Podium at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. This morning they can put their Maple Leaf stamp on something more instantly tangible: the nondescript little box carrying the lifeless body of Nodar Kumaritashvili back to his home in Bakuriani, Georgia,” wrote Martin Samuel of the Daily Mail. “Made in Canada, it should say. Made by the perversion of the Olympic movement for national gain; made by a culture of worthless aggrandizement and pride.”

Aggrandizement? Are they serious? Talk about aggrandizement. Evidently, they did not hear the cracking, emotion-wracked voices of John Furlong and Jacques Rogge when they altered their Opening Ceremony address to reflect on Nodar's death. They likewise ignored the ovation given to Nodar's teammates from Georgia as they entered BC Place Stadium, as well as the deafening and heartbreaking silence of the over 100,000 participants when they stood for a minute's reflection.

My wife and I are but 2 examples of the millions of Canadians (and Americans, Germans, Dutch, Czechs etc.) who are devastated by Nodar's death. I am certain I can speak on behalf of my fellow Canadians when I say this tragedy has affected us all immensely. No matter how many medals our athletes may win, no matter how successful our Own The Podium initiative, in truth a determined, for-once-in-our-history attempt to aim higher than ever before (is that a crime?), all events and outcomes will be viewed through the prism of Nodar's final run down the luge track. Yeah, us Canadians are a callous, shallow bunch.

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