Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Olympic Wrap Up 2008

They have extinguished the torch for another couple of years, until they climb the mountains in British Columbia for the Winter Games in 2010.

Undeniably, the Beijing Games were most successful. The Chinese government wanted to show the rest of the world that the country has finally “come of age”, and they spent forty billion dollars to make the point. Granted, there was some controversy about human rights, and certain freedoms that we expect in the West. For the most part, our eyes were opened to a new China. We had better be prepared to compete. Athletically, she let the rest of the world know that she was more than ready to show her stuff; on the fields, in the pool, on the ranges---anywhere there was competition, they were ready.

Never in previous Games have the Chinese excelled the way they did in Beijing. Good for them.

I am certain there are great sighs of relief from the Chinese now that the rest of the world has returned home. The potential for catastrophe was always there during the past two weeks. The Olympic Games have always been very visible, and have been used by terrorists, by radical nationalists, and by almost every other group to get a message out to the world. There is no doubt that a fair amount of the $ 40 billion was spent on security, keeping a lid on potential disaster.

Two athletes captured the attention of the world like no other: Jamaica’s Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps from the United States. Phelps won eight gold medals in the pool, more than any other in the history of the Olympics. Most were individual, some with relay teams.

Bolt earned the title as “The World’s Fastest Person” by winning the hundred and two hundred metre races, in record time. He also anchored his team to a gold medal in the relay. He is the first to win the 100 metre gold medal wearing the Jamaican colours, although a few others, including Canada’s Donovan Bailey, have won gold for their adoptive lands.

The Canadian contingent returned home with eighteen medals, surpassing the expected total of twelve. For those of us in the Quinte area, we had our proudest moment when Brian Price, an Ameliasburgh resident, coxed the Canadian eight team to gold on the water.

I received a note from Brian this morning. “We had a great race for Canada and really got that medal count kick started…it was a great Olympics as a whole and I was proud to be part of it!”

Ron McLean hosted the Games for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Beijing. He was refreshingly brilliant. He has a relaxed, yet inquisitive candour. He reported that the entire congregation at the Salvation Army Citadel in Belleville rose in unison to cheer when it was announced that Price, a member of the congregation, had finally won Gold at the Olympics.

Price was thwarted in his efforts to win gold at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. His team finished a disappointing fifth, even though they were touted to win the gold. They went to the Chinese Games expecting nothing less than the championship. They succeeded triumphantly, with Price displaying his exuberance metres before the finish line. He is the first Olympian from the Quinte area to win a medal of any colour at the Games.

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge from France was elated with the games. “These were truly exceptional games. Through these games, the world learned more about China, and China learned more about the world. The games were a grand celebration of sport, of peace, and friendship”.

And now the ball has been placed in London’s court, for the 2012 games will be held in Great Britain. The Chinese event will be a tough act to follow.

For the sake of argument, I have a few suggestions to improve the games. There are far too many events, some unnecessary, others totally bizarre.

BMX bike racing does not belong. All judged events should be eliminated. Get rid of equestrian events. Most team sports have their own world championships: leave it at that. Out with soccer, tennis, baseball, basketball, (truly a joke), most others.

No flag raising, no anthems, no team medal count. Games for athletes to show who can demonstrate strength, speed, athletic ability.

The Games will be shorter, less expensive, much quieter. But they will be competitive, without political interference.

And the possibility of that? Right up there with refrigerator sales on Baffin Island!

And now it is time to refocus our sports eyes on the Blue Jays, the Canadian Football League, the National Football League, and yes, hockey is just around the corner.

They are already filling the seats at the Duke Dome. Lots of exhibition play-regular season only a couple of weeks away.

Keep your stick on the ice.

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