SLAM!Sports
 


 SPORT INDEX
 

 Previous Olympics
 









COLUMNISTS

Mon, August 30, 2004

Hard to remove Greece stains here


ATHENS -- Goodbye Greece, hello hockey.

If Gretzky's guys get gold, Canada's ghastly Games in Greece will be forgotten fast.

As long as we're at the top of the world in the game which makes our blood boil, we'll put what happened here away and, like the shame of Sydney, won't visit it again for another four years.

There likely won't be months and months of flogging ourselves for what happened here.

Nothing will be fixed about a sports program which was proven to be broken four years ago and was confirmed as such here again this year.

'THE SYSTEM IS ARCHAIC'

As Murray Stephens, the head of U.S.A. swimmer Michael Phelps' swim club, so perfectly put it: "They turn contenders into participants. The system is archaic."

If you cared that Canada essentially repeated the excruciating experience of a three-gold, 14-medal Sydney 2000 with three gold, six silver and three bronze for a total medal count of 12 and 19th place in the world, it really is time to lean on the politicians to fund the feeling that inspires youth to pursue Olympic dreams.

Maybe it's even time to shoot the messengers, too. Every Olympics, the media shows up, after ignoring most of these athletes for four years, and complains how an uncomfortably high percentage of our athletes turn to mental mush instead of seizing the moment and winning enough medals to write home about.

We leave here after the better part of a month interviewing people with some of the greatest stories to tell and go home to hockey, football and baseball teams and those endless "next game is a big one" stories that occupy entire sports pages with two-paragraph reports about Canadian athletes internationally in Sports Digest, if reported at all.

Well, four years away from Vancouver 2010 are the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games. The next one is a big one.

Look at what China did here. Can you imagine what they'll do in 2008 in Beijing?

If Canada doesn't get its spit together right now, playing host to the Olympic Winter Games isn't going to be what it should be - not that it should matter when or where our athletes are competing at an Olympics.

Remember Montreal '76? The government poured the money in at the last minute. It meant Canada kicked ass at the '78 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. But it was too little, too late for the greatest show in sports.

It was difficult not to think of the Montreal Olympics just about every day when we were here. Greece is going to be paying the price for playing host for these Games for as long as Canada - Quebec in particular - ended up paying for the pleasure of playing host in 1976.

The difference is that at least Montreal had a wonderful 16 days of Olympic experience with those Games 28 years ago.

Greece hasn't had that. That's the biggest shame of these Games.

In the end, Athens 2004 gave the world great Games. The organization was excellent. The facilities were first-rate. They had no chance in comparison to the Sydney Olympics, but everything came together and we all stayed safe.

But next to nobody came. The Americans stayed home. Few people from Europe made their way here. It seemed just about everybody in Athens spent the Olympics on a Greek island.

Entire sections of stands stayed empty. And most Greeks spent the Games talking about all their athletes who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

LACKING SOME JOY

There was great joy in welcoming the world in Montreal, not so much here.

The facilities not being finished until the last minute and the serious security concerns kept the world away. Athens may have been a hell of a sports town in 1896, but it wasn't in 2004.

But it's off to Montreal for the World Cup of Hockey and the Canada-U.S. opener, where the nation will focus on our household names.

Lori-Ann Muenzer, Kyle Shewfelt, Adam van Koeverden and the rest of our Olympians will be out of sight and out of mind when they drop the puck in Montreal.

Maybe when the World Cup of Hockey ends and there is no hockey for an entire winter, we might take time to focus beyond what's wrong with the home team's power play and think about where we are in the world when it comes to the Olympics.

Or not.


Does Canada's low-medal haul in Athens bother you?
Yes, it depresses me
No, it's just sports
I'm disappointed, but not worried
We'll get 'em in Turin
Don't care

Results



CANOE home | We welcome your feedback.
Copyright © 2004, CANOE, a division of Canoe Inc. All rights reserved.