Games that fun forgot

By

VANCOUVER — These Olympic Games are not brought to you by Toyota: That way, there is no chance of a recall.

But if ever there was an event in need of a hurried do-over — or better yet, a chance to begin all over again — it is these wonky and troubled Games of Vancouver. Despite the smiles and assurances of the Vancouver Organizing Committee that all is well, all isn’t necessarily well.

And momentum is swinging in the wrong direction.

Every Olympic Games has its own feel, its own flavour, and then it builds from that energy — usually builds towards some kind of signature greatness. But the karma here — how’s that for a B.C. term? — just isn’t right. The feel is wrong. The start was wrong. The challenge now, for the organizers, for the athletes, for the happy volunteers, for the weather man, is to get this train back on track.

The challenge, at this stage, for so many levels, is ominous.

The death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was a horrendous and sickening way to begin the Games before they ever really began. Recovering from that alone, if you can recover, becomes difficult when the weather doesn’t co-operate, when there are transportation snafus, when downtown Vancouver seems like nothing more than an excuse for college kids to get drunk on the streets, when the luge course is altered immeasurably, when an event that usually oozes atmosphere is alive inside the venues and almost nowhere else, when the Own The Podium Canadians perform better without the big money behind them four years ago than they have started here.

Can we please start these Olympics over again?

On Saturday, the men’s downhill was cancelled. On Sunday, the women’s downhill training was cancelled. This is nothing new for Whistler, which has a history of cancelled World Cup races. Only it seems more important and more troublesome now with the world watching.

On Saturday night, the moguls event was run in the pouring rain. The truth is, moguls is a little like baseball. You shouldn’t play in the rain. Seven days in Vancouver now and it has rained six of them. It makes the grass green and that’s pretty. It doesn’t do much to help this look or feel like a Winter Games.

“Are you having any fun,” one veteran Olympic reporter asked another yesterday.

“No,” came the answer. “These are the Olympics without fun.”

They may look great on television. Television has a way of showing what it wants to show and ignoring the rest. And Canadians are watching in record numbers based on the CTV news releases that come out regularly. That’s great for people at home. But it doesn’t change what’s happening — and worse, what’s not happening — in Vancouver.

This is a fantastic city, one of the best, if not the best in Canada. But a Winter Olympic city? A place that can pull this off for the final two weeks? That is still to be determined and if there were concerns heading into these Games, there are more now. The VANOC people smile when asked about the problems but hardly acknowledge there are any: Oh, to be a fly on the wall at one of their high-level meetings.

Never mind that the cauldrons malfunctioned at the Opening Ceremony. In the big picture, that’s small. VANOC can fix some things, but it can’t dictate weather, atmosphere, or the feel within the city. I have been to seven Winter Olympic Games and left each with a lifetime of memories. I worry already about what will seem special, unique, about these Games?

The men’s hockey puck can’t drop soon enough for some people’s liking.

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


MORE FROM STEVE SIMMONS

POLL