Opinion: Blur of bronze medals leaves Canadians feeling robbed
Wrapping up the heroes, zeroes, sourpusses and gong-show announcers of the 2012 Olympic games
IOC president Jacques Rogge should be awarded a gold medal for being a sourpuss after declaring that Usain Bolt’s Olympic performances don’t make him a legend.
Photograph by: Cameron Spencer, Getty Images
So we tuck this gaudy fortnight away in the chamber of memories, bleary-eyed after two weeks’ worth of Iranian weightlifters, Malaysian badminton stars and a bronzed Canadian Olympics that will go down in history for causing the home folks heartburn, if nothing else.
Wuz we robbed? Of course “we” wuz. What happened to our women’s soccer team should never happen to any team competing on the grand stage of the Olympic Games. Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen — incompetent, corrupt, intimidated, or some combination of all three — handed the bully-girl Americans a victory they did not deserve after the Canadian women played a match for the ages.
Throw in a bizarre disqualification at the equestrian team jumping event and a foot that stepped on the line and cost Canada what should have been a brilliant bronze medal in the men’s 4x100 relay and it was Chowderhead Officials 3, Canada 0.
Ironically, this women’s soccer team is more celebrated than it would have been had it defeated the U.S. and lost the gold-medal match to Japan. After defeating France in a game Canada probably did not deserve to win (after being outshot 25-4 and relying on goaltender Erin McLeod to carry the burden), the towering Olympic performance of Christine Sinclair & Co. are being celebrated from coast to coast and Sinclair is an Olympic star to match Clara Hughes.
We’ll never know for sure, but there’s a good argument that the grave injustice done by Pedersen did more to make this team a legend than anything else. (Pedersen, I think, was not corrupt but heavily intimidated by the IOC, FIFA, NBC and Abby Wambach running up to count seconds in her ear as McLeod held the ball, a singular act of bad sportsmanship for which Wambach should have received a yellow card.)
Canadian coach John Herdman was understandably livid with Pedersen — but Herdman has to go down as the coach of the Games after turning this team around from its World Cup disaster to Olympic triumph.
There is little doubt that the women’s soccer team, like the men’s hockey team in Vancouver, provided the enduring image of the London Olympics for Canadians.
Pity it took an inept referee to bring this team the attention it deserved.
Watching the Games: There is good news for all of you who want to puncture your eardrums after listening to the Jay Onrait-Dan O’Toole gong show, or hearing Barney Williams out at rowing showing the world that there is no such thing as a race so long that you can’t talk through every instant from start to finish.
The Canadian broadcast rights for the Olympic Games will be back where they belong for Sochi in 2014 and Rio in 2016, with the significantly more competent CBC.
Onrait and O’Toole will have to confine their high-school yuks to the nightly hockey roundup, their presence on TSN the best of all possible reasons to watch Sportsnet.
You knew there would be some dumbing down of the coverage from London, with CTV taking over after the CBC broadcast the Beijing Olympics. It started about 10 seconds into the coverage of the opening ceremony, when James Duthie quoted the famously eloquent 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli on the subject of London — then informed us that Disraeli was “bang on.”
The most grating performances from London, however, came from the former athletes called upon to provide live analysis of the events. The problem for Barney Williams, Blythe Hartley, Michael Smith and virtually all the rest was the same: they talked too much. They couldn’t leave one instant of dead air alone. For that, blame the producers. These athletes are (presumably) not completely stupid. They aren’t professional broadcasters, so they need to get some guidance from allegedly professional producers — guidance that was plainly missing.
CTV and TSN had the most difficulty when it became necessary to cover an actual story during the Olympics, as opposed to merely asking vapid questions of bronze-medal athletes. TSN, for instance, was caught with the egregiously awful Sheri Forde covering the soccer controversy.
It will be different next time — partly because the CBC actually pays attention to amateur sport between Olympic years and is thus more ready to cover the event itself, partly because the way we see these events is changing at light speed.
My own Olympic experience changed considerably after reader Martin Wolgemuth mentioned that he had a CTV app that made it possible to watch cycling with just the noise of the crowd and without the incessant babble of the broadcast crew. I don’t have an iPad, but I was able to watch live events and event replays on the TSN website, which made it possible to see events the broadcasters wouldn’t normally carry for a Canadian audience.
With media platforms multiplying by the day, the viewing experience from Sochi and Rio should change radically. At the very least, we’ll be spared Onrait and O’Toole — which means that my HDTV just might survive to 2016 and beyond.
And the Olympic gold for sourpussing goes to: Jacques Rogge. For the life of us, we can’t imagine what madness impelled Rogge to declare that Usain Bolt’s Olympic performances don’t make him a legend because he has to do it in three Olympic Games, not two.
This may come as a shock to Rogge, but billions of people tune in the Olympics not for Rogge’s sour glower, but because they want to see the greatest of athletes — especially the joyous Bolt. Bolt has furnished the last two summer Games with two of the most exalting performances in Olympic history. Rogge should be grateful: Without Bolt, the IOC would have been stuck with Yohan Blake’s silly beast act and drug cheat Justin Gatlin starring in the signature event of the Games.
The people of the world have already made Usain Bolt a legend. Even Jacques Rogge (with a foot-in-mouth assist from Carl Lewis) can’t take that away.
Heroes: Christine Sinclair, Melissa Tancredi, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt, Jonelle Filigno, Erin McLeod, John Herdman, Adam van Koeverden, Tonya Verbeek, Jessica Zelinka, Richard Weinberger, Clara Hughes, Alexandre Despatie, Simon Whitfield, Carol Huynh, Mark Oldershaw, Derek Drouin, David Rudisha, Mo Farah, Oscar Pistorius, the men’s 4x400 relay team from the Bahamas and last but not least, the immortal Usain Bolt.
Zeros: Christiana Pedersen, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Heather O’Reilly, FIFA, NBC, Lolo Jones, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Serena Williams, Jay Onrait, Dan O’Toole, Sheri Forde, Barney Williams, David Samson, Jeffrey Loria, Tim Thomas, Chad Johnson, Tiger Woods, Carl Lewis and last but not least, that old sourpuss Jacques Rogge, who can’t leave the Olympic stage soon enough.
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