Olympic Power


Fresh off  closing ceremonies at Sochi, still smiling from the exhilaration of Canadian men and women’s hockey taking gold, I find myself pondering another Olympic moment.

The courage of Tommie Smith and John Carlos exemplifies the civil rights movement. I’m not going to explain why – take 5 minutes out of your life to watch a snapshot in time, a moment in history when  Olympics’ sacred line was crossed, when damn the consequences ruled over “tow the line”. Smith and Carlos managed to define injustice without uttering a word.

I often write of protest; specifically my dismay at society’s screwed up priorities – our spoon fed, cult of celebrity, gun toting, fundamentalist, reality television, someone else’s problem world. For those too young to understand the optimism, hope and determination of people who believed they could make a difference, I wish I could roll back time. When coffee shops and campuses burst under the weight of collective purpose rather than suffocating taps of MacBook keyboards in an otherwise silent Starbucks.

This ponder isn’t about “world peace”, I’m talking about our back yards and dark alleys. Poverty, education, injustice taking place in front of our eyes – corporate greed, “stand your ground” nonsense, environmental atrocities, civil rights violations – reduced to a Tweet or cooked into poppycock by Fox News wingnuts.

This Olympic moment reminds me of a time when purpose out weighed lucrative endorsements, a time when we believed change was a matter of determination, a time when seizing  Olympic glory for peaceful exclamation of injustice was not only thinkable, it was possible.

Canada vs. Sweden – Believe Again

Canadians are low key – hardly known for hand over heart bellows of our national anthem, flags flapping in our yards or verbalizations of national pride. We tend to keep to ourselves, quietly minding our own business and speaking politely. We’re used to coming in second, watching from the sidelines and doing our best. There is however one thing we do extremely well – Canada kicks hockey ass.

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics can only be described as exhilarating – not simply because it is my home town – I sensed Canadian pride for the first time in my life.  I witnessed a transformation; a shift in our perspective, a collective ripple of identity swelling to waves of confidence. Those games changed us – never have I felt prouder to be Canadian. Like the little engine that could, Canadian media asked us to “believe”. I believe became the anthem of those games –  Canada embraced “believe”, a concept culminating in the Canada vs. USA men’s hockey final.

At game time the city was deserted; not a car, not a sound, not a thought to anything other than “believing” we could do it. Thousands gathered downtown, eyes searching for screens as silent anticipation took hold. Despite a tied game headed for overtime – we still believed.

I’ll never forget the roar, the eruption of sound when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal. Canada changed that day – we learned it was possible to “believe”.

In a few hours Canada faces Sweden in the gold medal hockey final. It doesn’t matter I have to work early in the morning – not to me, not to millions of Canadians who learned believing was possible. Canadians will politely set aside everything but their belief we can do it again.

Passionate Eye on Putin’s Games

Putin can wait a moment while I ponder Passionate Eye. As a Canadian growing up in the bossom of CBC television and radio, my countrymen and I came to expect honest investigative reporting and “facts” rather than conjecture or speculation. When CNN and Fox News forever changed news programming and format; Canadians couldn’t be fooled for long – we like our news in plain brown wrap, securely tied with a sturdy string – we value the content, not glossy paper or glittering bows.

This is why CBC’s (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) voice is where I turn for stories like the one that aired on Passionate Eye. No prime time hype, snippets of glossy sensationalism interrupting regular programming; simply a quiet little documentary, packing a big story. A story shattering the integrity of the International Olympic Committee; one that has me pondering why we would expose innocent athletes to political games.

I have a hard time deciding how to even put this gong show into words; from a “Passionate Eye” perspective, I’ll start at the very beginning. Russia is a vast country, one you would have to search long and hard to find a place without any snow in winter. A tiny little sliver  is considered “sub-tropical”, a resort destination, complete with sandy beaches and palm trees – Sochi – a place that never dips below 10 degrees Celsius in winter. Sochi’s mayor heads the local organization for “beach sports”, the area is surrounded by nature preserves catering to summer activities. Olympic village is 50 Kms from Sochi, and Krasnaya Polyana where alpine events are supposed to take place – another 50 Kms from the village.

Not insurmountable obstacles for an earnest country without many options, or perhaps some infrastructure in place. Putin cares little for such things – he liked the area, thought it was “comfortable and friendly”, liked skiing at Krasnaya and said money be damned. However hair-brained or bat shit crazy it seemed, his mind was set; he would have his Olympics at Sochi.

I couldn’t start to explain all the allegations from this point – only by watching the link below could anyone begin to grasp the farce of this black comedy. From Putin wining and dining each and every Olympic committee member before announcing his bid, flying ice to Guatemala for a “gala” prior to the Olympic committee announcing  the bid winner, involving wealthy Russian businessmen as “partners” in attempts to soothe citizens dismay at the 50 billion dollar and climbing price tag, building facilities like the ski jump and luge venues on land best described as “quicksand” prone to landslides, or allegations of contractor bribes and pay-offs.


For an abbreviated over view….


I just had a lengthy discussion with someone who reminded me of the controversy swirling about prior to the 2010 games in Vancouver. It all came rushing back – concerns over destroying the habitat of a rare frog by widening the highway to Whistler, pushing low income residents out of affordable housing, and messing with our already messy commute times. Sorry – not even close to Sochi shenanigans; nothing worthy of a documentary crew producing a film deemed scandalous enough by a government, as to offer 600,000 Euros not to show it.

I can’t say Passionate Eye has all the facts, or isn’t putting a particular “slant” on the story. I can say that I believe the Sochi situation stinks. Ponder the documentary, terrorist attacks in Russia, Russian military on “high alert”, and America’s announcement it has planes ready to evacuate athletes should Sochi hit the fan. Ponder Putin’s logic – or lack of – in an Olympics that simply doesn’t make sense. Ponder the IOC, sitting in an ivory tower or perched untouchable atop Mount Olympus.

I take media – even Canadian media – with a grain of salt. That said, CBC has more integrity in its little finger than all American networks combined. I can’t shake the feeling we’re being sold swampland in Florida. In my opinion – Sochi smells like week old fish.

Sochi – image from naharmet.com