Olympics' tarnished reputation

It will take a near miracle to change the culture of the Games

By JIM KERNAGHAN

The unremitting onslaught of everything Olympic in coming days will, through a dizzying array of new media platforms, be the most pervasive information bombardment in history.

One is afraid to turn on the faucet this morning, lest a skier come streaking out.

Or open a closet door for fear a chattering mass of TV talking heads emerge babbling in a hundred languages.

So, perhaps the time has come to ask the question again in what will be the most polarized Olympic Games ever, with the growing anti-Olympic forces arrayed against the Olympic faithful.

The question: Do we really NEED the Olympic Games?

No, a Tsunami of opposition will rumble. The billions of dollars spent putting on the Games in Vancouver -- nearly a billion of it devoted to security alone -- would be better spent feeding the world's starving and curing the world's sick.

It is a gigantic fraud, they shout, an elitist corporate fandango that long since overshot original Olympic goals celebrating athletic achievement.

The cynicism is understandable given the history of the International Olympic Committee.

Many members have been at the five-star trough while the people who ARE the show, the athletes, subsist on macaroni and rice and hope.

At one time you could always count on all these athletes for their purity. Not any longer.

Heck, 30 athletes destined for these Games were caught using banned substances and refused admission. Expect more to be nailed as the competitions progress.

How did it come to this? What happened to fair play? It is obvious things started going off the rails the richer the Olympics got.

This week the IOC announced it had reserves of $466 million. That's more than four times the amount it had nine years ago.

Then there's the death of a luge man, the interminable

3 1/2-month torch relay halted in downtown Vancouver yesterday by native protesters, the Germans accused of using illegal sleds in the skeleton ...

It hasn't even started but it's becoming as balmy as the weather.

BUT ...

Any reasonable devotee of athletic competition will agree the excesses of IOC windbags and cheaters that abound in the five-ring circus lend a noxious aroma to it all.

However, they'll tell you to peel that away and get to the basics and the Olympic Games represent the most important -- indeed the only -- event that melds the entire population of the world simultaneously.

As protracted as it was, the torch relay through Canada galvanized this nation as it worked its way toward the Vancouver cauldron.

Finally, last night, came the ignition of dreams.

The Olympic Games truly can be a celebration of youthful achievement.

Across time zones and hemispheres, from the tropics to the tundra, a commonality of man emerges that is played out before our eyes live, and via television, this time as deeply as never before.

Canadians will be part of it, more profoundly than ever. Besides the regular programming on the widest range of networks and stations in Canadian history, Canada's Olympic Broadcast Consortium will air 421 hours of multilingual coverage in 22 languages from Mohawk to Mandarin.

Nothing can match the Winter Games from a Canadian's standpoint.

They encompass sports we're excellent at. And who doesn't need a major diversion at this point of a long Canadian winter?

Of course, the billions devoted to staging these Olympics could be used in myriad ways to benefit mankind in a more direct manner. But, so could diverting financial support from other cultural areas such as libraries, museums and performing arts centres.

Instead, Canada, thump your chest for a change because you're going to get the chance.

We will probably feel a lot better about our country and ourselves by then.

POLL