Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't sneer at OTP slogan, it served us well

Have you noticed that Canada might walk away with most golds?

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VANCOUVER -- No doubt some blowhard Member of Parliament will call for an Own the Podium Royal Commission, if and when those guys ever get back to work.

That will then lead to months and months of studies as to why our Winter Olympic medal haul was down. It will lead to millions of dollars wasted and, ultimately, a two-ton document most in this country won't give a rat's butt about whatsoever.

 

Shoot, already before these Games are over some provincial governments -- including Manitoba, which forked over $750,000 -- are now hinting they might not re-up with their funding again. New Brunswick, for the record, didn't even get involved this time around for an Olympics on home soil.

So before all the politicos get any more involved, a question to roll around and debate today:

Anybody else noticed which country has a legit shot to exit these Games with the most gold medals?

That's right... the True North Strong and Free, people.

And has anybody else noticed that our athletes have already set a record for most gold medals won at a Winter Olympics and tied the record for most gold medals by a host nation?

So go ahead today and snicker, all you naysayers, and fire off those shots about 'Blown The Podium', 'Disown The Podium' and 'Bemoan the Podium.' Those kind of digs have been printed everywhere in newspapers all over the globe during the Games.

Go ahead and whine about wasting the $117 million spent on our athletes in the five years leading up to Vancouver.

There will be none of that in this space.

Examined

Look, we're not here to profess that everything about Own the Podium is/was perfect. If the program is to be judged solely on whether Canada won more medals than any other nation then, yes, it fell short and everything about it should be examined.

But good organizations/teams/corporations also do that all the time, win or lose.

And to the many in this country who found it un-Canadian for our sporting leaders to be making such a bold proclamation at all and dumping those kind of lofty expectations on our competitors -- we're not boastful types, so the theory goes -- we say:

Phoeey.

Hey, there will be many positive byproducts from Vancouver/Whistler playing host to the Olympics, not the least of which is the facility legacy that will be left behind and the 17-day spike in nationalistic pride that, frankly, we need to enjoy more than once every generation.

But from our perch the biggest plus has been the attitude it has created among our athletes and the expectation that aiming for the top spot on the podium, let alone any spot, isn't wrong.

And that comes directly from Own The Podium.

So for every sour-puss like speedskater Denny Morrison -- he blamed the program out of pure frustration after finishing ninth in his specialty and later claimed it wasn't about the funding but the fact officials wouldn't let him train with American Shani Davis -- we counter with Jon Montgomery.

It was Montgomery, our gold-medal skeleton winner and the pride of Russell who went out of his way after finishing atop the podium to praise the program as being instrumental in getting him there.

Some, it would seem, don't crumble under the weight of expectations but embrace them and work them to their advantage.

Finally, then, a humble suggestion: Instead of bailing, it says here we should not only write the cheque again, but make it even fatter to help our people prepare for Sochi, Russia in 2014.

 

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

THE GOLD STANDARD

 

Most gold medals at an Olympic Winter Games

 

13 -- Soviet Union (1976)

13 -- Norway (2002)

12 -- Germany (1998)

11 -- Soviet Union (1964)

11 -- Soviet Union (1988)

11 -- Russia (1994)

11 -- Germany (2006)

 

Most gold medals by host nation at an Olympic Winter Games

 

10 -- Norway (1994)

10 -- U.S. (2002)

10 -- Canada (2010)

7 -- Norway (1952)

 

Most gold medals by Canada at an Olympic Winter Games

 

10 -- Canada (2010)

7 -- Canada (2002)

7 -- Canada (2006)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2010 D4

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