VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The long national nightmare ended at precisely 6:18 p.m. PDT on a soothing Sunday when a scoreboard at the bottom of Cypress Mountain flashed the final standings. Canada exhaled. The man who brought such relief is preternaturally upbeat fellow named
There had been 249 previous gold medals awarded in the two Olympics staged in Canada -- the 1976 Games on Montreal and the 1988 winter Olympics in Calgary -- and not once had one gone to the host nation. Rest assured this was more bumbling than old-fashioned Canadian politesse in the days before Canada became a winter sports power but no matter the rationalization, the home goose egg was tough to swallow -- cooked or raw.
After winning seven golds in Turin, Canadian victories at home were, as moguls skier
The country might indeed be strong and free, as it claims in its anthem, but it also is restive and insecure. (Other than insecurity, what else explains the so-called "slam poet" at the opening ceremonies, who reminded Canadians how polite and special they are in an odd ramble that faintly echoed an old Molson "I am Canadian" beer ad?) When Heil didn't win, a columnist in the
The level of expectations for Canadian results had been ratcheted in the past five years by a $110 million program for athlete funding that carries the audacious, off-putting name of Own the Podium. The problem is when you attach a label like that to a program that essentially gives the sweaty ambassadors of a nation the kind of proper support that might pay off in global recognition, you take the risk that people might hold you to it literally.
Like the seasons, there is a natural rhythm to almost every country's Olympics. All anyone needs is a quick glance at the schedule to figure it out. Indeed other than the moguls, Vancouver 2010 is essentially back-loaded in the sports Canada is likely to dominate. Now, a smart Canadian Olympic Committee executive like
This is why Bilodeau's victory over
He is a worthy recipient of the notoriety that he has acquired. In some ways, like Heil, a training partner whom he describes as his big sister, he seems like a practically perfect Canadian. He is bilingual. He is gracious, an area in which he might consider lending his expertise to the expat, Begg-Smith, who, during the flower ceremony, looked like someone had slashed his tires. Yes, we know the
Any nation can buy medals, but it can't buy class.