Questions about the Olympics

First, if we’re supposed to feel all warm and patriotic when Canadian athletes win medals at the Olympics, are we supposed to feel inadequate and useless when they come 11th. Or 43rd?

Second, how should we read this message on the CBC website:

Due to International Olympic Committee (IOC) restrictions regarding the online transmission of Olympic Games coverage, is prohibited from streaming any live or on-demand audio/video files that may include protected Olympic material.

Doesn’t this say, in effect, “all that superfluous local content that we play most of the time is less important than allowing the sporty people to watch divers trying to hit the water at the same time?”

I don’t mean to suggest that the CBC shouldn’t broadcast the Olympics — certainly they are of interest. But these “restrictions” about “protected Olympic material” mean that the thousands of people who use CBC’s streaming audio on the web are left in silence.

The CBC, I think, has a made a deal with the devil.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on August 17, 2004 - 15:58 Permalink

For being all about bringing humanity together, the Olympics sure do seem to have a lot to do with media licensing.

If you watch the CTV news, you’ll notice that the visuals accompanying their Olympic coverage consists only of a montange of still photos — since they are presumably not allowed to show video of the games (CBC owns them in Canada).

Johnny's picture
Johnny on August 17, 2004 - 16:01 Permalink

I don’t understand why I can’t watch any part of a stream of “Canada Now” simply because there might be a 5 minute piece with some footage from the olympics. Can’t they simply post everything but the olympic stories? Is it really that difficult?

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 17, 2004 - 19:36 Permalink

Ironically, Canadians wildly celebrate with gusto a Bronze medal, while the USA athlete who wins Gold has been told to stifle any celebrations at all. As Canadians, we have been led to believe that we should accept and celebrate a second-rate performance, which helps the media hype what little success our athletes can achieve. At the world-class level, Canada has made the right choice. Only send athletes who deserve to compete at this level. Save the “It is not whether you win or lose” stuff for regional events and the Canada Games.

Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on August 17, 2004 - 20:12 Permalink

I dunno … Orange County in California has roughly the same population as Canada. I’d be interested to see how many medals athletes from that specific county win, compared to ours.

If we measure our athletes’ performance against the most populous and strongest countries in the world, we’re not always going to end up on top. Do we then decide we’ll not compete? I was always taught that there was no shame in showing up … only in giving up.

Personally, I’m not in the top ten in the world at anything I do. Let’s hear from somebody who IS in the top ten in the world at what they do about how hard it is to get there — and to perform at the one critical moment when your very best is needed, regardless of the distractions around you and within you.

Third isn’t first, granted. But a third place finish — or even a tenth place finish — is the product of endless hours of work and dedication and determination that few of us could imagine, and none of us will ever come closer than dreaming of achieving.

Blink your eyes twice. There’s the margin of difference between the top three finishers in the 100 metres. Blink them three times. There’s the difference between gold and eighth place in the men’s fours in bobsled, where they make TWO runs.

I say celebrate superior performance, courage, grace, and sportsmanship. And if there are those who feel shamed that they haven’t got bragging rights … well, maybe they should stop thinking of bragging as something good, and see it for what it is.

Lisa Howard's picture
Lisa Howard on August 17, 2004 - 21:02 Permalink

A bronze medalist is often a gold medalist who was unlucky that day.

oliver's picture
oliver on August 17, 2004 - 22:12 Permalink

For the record, the population of Orange County, Calif, is only about one tenth of Canada’s population. California as a whole, though, is about equal in pop to Canada. See e.g.…

Rob MacD's picture
Rob MacD on August 17, 2004 - 23:58 Permalink

I think Canadian media does a great job of highlighting the achievement of Canadian, and other country’s, athletes. I disagree with (or perhaps don’t fully understand) Wayne’s comment about celebrating second-rate performances. Second-rate to what? To the elite athletes in the world? Second-rate to themselves?
The American (and therefore, the world) media demand ridiculous things from their athletes. Setting up an athlete as having the potential to win 8 gold medals is unfair to him. So far he’s won a gold and two bronze and he’s seen as a failure.
Canadian media (and I mean the CBC) tends to have better regard for individual accomplishment, and seem genuinely as interested in the swimmer who is ecstactic about achieving a Personal Best. I think they’re doing a great job at tamping our desires for our athletes to be the best.
Simply, as a whole, they aren’t the world’s best. They can compete with the best. Sometimes they do become the best. Most times they don’t. To imply that they fail when they don’t stand on the top platform at the end of the day is simplistic and misguided.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 18, 2004 - 02:40 Permalink

3rd is better then last.
Striving to be first gets us to the moon, new drugs, less filling beer…no, tastes great. Whatever. Being happy with 3rd gets more 3rds.

I am not for discrediting a performance for achieving 3rd place. But,I believe the media and advertising hype idolizing 3rd place to fool the country into believing we should be happy is wrong. i.e.Silken Laumen. That year (92)Mark MaCloy won gold, but got little attention. It is like we only WANT to 3rd. That 3rd is somehow winning. 1st place is winning. And that is what is needed to justify all the hype about how well Canada does in the Olympics. Call a spade a spade. It really is not hard to understand.

It is called Complacency.

oliver's picture
oliver on August 18, 2004 - 02:57 Permalink

If you “medal” at all, then to an even greater extent than if you simply qualified for the final, you’ve given the best competitors and hence the best nations in the world a run for their money. That’s saying something. Not only that, it’s get your country’s flag waving on TV for the medal ceremony. Seems like perfectly good fodder for national pride to me.

oliver's picture
oliver on August 18, 2004 - 03:10 Permalink

Who’s going to invest effort to reaching the moon if they don’t let themselves feel good about just getting into orbit?

oliver's picture
oliver on August 18, 2004 - 03:14 Permalink

Not to mention, if winning is everything, than to compete and not win is to lose everything. Better to stay home and watch others compete. Hurray Canada.

Robert  Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on August 18, 2004 - 12:31 Permalink

Another point about the CBC

I am hating the CBC coverage which seems to avoid showing the action of the Olympics and focus instead on interviewing inanely. “Tell me how to you feel now that you came in 5th in the really when we had all hoped you would make bronze?” Then expressing outrage when the last man told us all that he was pissed off with his team’s performance.

These interviews take place seconds after an event and then are rehashed all day. I would rather see more of the Olympics. Reality is that Canada cannot hope to be in the medals a lot — so let’s see more of the entire show and not put so much unrealistic pressure on our people

jeff's picture
jeff on August 18, 2004 - 13:28 Permalink

Stephen Brunt has a good column on this subject in the Globe&Mail today…

Marcus's picture
Marcus on August 18, 2004 - 14:14 Permalink

Australia has 2/3 Canada’s population and is #3 or so in medals so far… I say CBC has the most informative sportcast out of many broadcasters there, if somewhat a little biased to the home country. Certainly better than NBC’s pathetic attempts. IIRC the last olympics CBC did not have Olympics rights was Calgary ‘88 when CTV covered them.

So CBC makes a deal with IOC which bans streaming audio for 12 or 15 days every 2 years. Some Canadians complain every April-May when the cup finals come around and dominate CBCTV every night and shove Peter Mansbridge around too.

Wayner's picture
Wayner on August 18, 2004 - 15:37 Permalink

Faster, Higher, Stronger not Forth, fifth or sixth

Every four years, the same old, same old. Why do our athletes underachieve, and the hope we did not offend anyone at the games. I don’t know how all you people who were thrilled over Canada’s bronze medal sleep at night. Don’t you realize that Canada bumped someone else outta the bronze into forth place?

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 18, 2004 - 15:41 Permalink

When I travelled alot, one thing I liked was the opportunity to get reacquainted with sports other then Ice Hockey.(Thanks for the counsel…do not send a bill…I won’t pay). In Canada, the government cuts funding to sports that involve hula-hoops and sticks, or guns and running shoes. Nobody blinks, as long as Ice Hockey is front and center. But, we continue to send hundreds of athletes to the Olympics with dreams of success, fueled by a media that supports the government wool-over-our-eyes with all the hype it can muster-for ratings, advertising dollars and government approval. Olympic dreams turn to predictable nightmares, and the country asks “why?”.

What I would like to see is fewer athletes competing at this level. Eventually, the country and the world would spurn on government action thru funding as an answer to the invariable question “Whatever happened to Canada’s proud athletic programs?” I hope the answer to that question is never “They were afraid to offend other athletes at the Games”…which seems to be the banner of this generation of over-mothered underachievers.

Pardon me for the quick post…I gotta get to the golf course, where I hope that the thought of my taking coin from my friends at the 19th hole will inspire me to great things on the previous 18!

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 18, 2004 - 16:04 Permalink

Right now…Canada vs USA Womens Softball. USA 4-Canada 0. Canada at bat.Cute canadian blonde on second. Swing and miss, strike 3 on Canadian batter. Canadian announcer…”Nice swing!”


Nils Ling's picture
Nils Ling on August 18, 2004 - 17:31 Permalink

Good luck on the golf course, Wayner .. hope every swing is perfect and you score like Vijay Singh … because of course, if you don’t you’re an abject failure and the shame of our country …

Matt McQuaid's picture
Matt McQuaid on August 18, 2004 - 17:44 Permalink

But,I believe the media and advertising hype idolizing 3rd place to fool the country into believing we should be happy is wrong. i.e.Silken Laumen. That year (92)Mark MaCloy won gold, but got little attention.

Don’t be afraid to cite your sources, Wayne! ;-)

Ken's picture
Ken on August 18, 2004 - 20:01 Permalink

Being in the US, I went to CBC site to get that good national pride feeling…instead got that message saying all web broadcasts down. Immediately thought Reinvented would have something to say about it and here I am.

I’ve decided this post is copyright protected: CBC can kiss my ASCII !

Maybe by 2008 TV broadcasts will be turned off, only web streaming will be licensed. Gotta keep that lightning in the bottle!

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 18, 2004 - 22:11 Permalink

I was representing myself today, and tax dollars did not pay for my green fees or endless lessons by professionals like Ron Giggey (a great teacher) et al, so no flag waving in the clubhouse. And, I’m never happy with 4th place, because in my game, that is last.

Being a failure and disgrace to the country is a long way from making heros out of athletes who manage to just make it to the semi’s. It just fuels the philosophy that we can never succeed, so why should we consider success important. Get it?

I refuse to comment on todays golf game. Even if it had have been a personal best or tried my best, this should not alone qualify me or anybody else to compete on the world stage, or deserve to be anybodys hero.

Thanks for the link. I am quite old fashioned, I like paper in hand far more then on my pc. So, without paper in hand, (Garbage day yesterday) I could not quote it directly. I remember agreeing with the point as I read it Monday. However, I feel I only presented the facts from that article which are in the public domain. I am sure the point is far better written by G&M staffer, and I hope everybody reads the link.Lauman is a hero for third, McCloy finishes first and is forgotten. Regardless, they got it right.

It proves a point that the plan has worked. The Canadian Olympic experience is becoming a celebration of mediocrity.
We have managed to avoid offending anybody, while continuing to fund athletes with political friends that rob the funding that should go to real medal contenders. This point was made by the head of Australias Swimming program, who was fired as our head coach by Canada’s
Abbey Hoffman because he stood in the way of the practice of funding for daughters and friends of politicans and favourites of the coaches. Note Australia success in the pool since he took over.(Quotes and exact text unavailable, as interview was done without me able to grab pen and paper fast enough-CBC may have it on-line, but I doubt it)

The Canadian government-Canadian media seem to conspire to lower the Canadian population’s expectations for Canadian athletic performance and it has worked. Thus, more tax dollars for the CBC, and fewer tax dollars for deserving Canadian athletes. And our once-proud athetic program have finally learned to be happy with losing, because it makes other countries happy! And, Canadians avoid offending the athlete by asking for something better then last place. Plus, more Canadian content in our tv programming (Mr. Dressup reruns), and just a wimper or two once every 4 years about our medal performance, that is quickly ignored and forgotten come September, because we are now certain in our belief that coming a close forth is a real victory for everybody.

Not me!

Wayne's picture
Wayne on August 19, 2004 - 00:38 Permalink

My apologies and shame for my spelling failures…it should read above (many times) “fourth”, not “forth”…and “Wayne” not “Wayner”.

Lisa Howard's picture
Lisa Howard on August 19, 2004 - 08:05 Permalink

There are at least two things that bother me about Wayne’s comments. The first is that Wayne doesn’t actually believe in excellence (at least not for himself) so there’s something hypocritical about what he has to say. He wants us to listen to him complain about mediocrity, but he can’t be bothered to spell his own name right. Secondly, it isn’t possible (nor is it desirable) for everyone whose two cents actually gets used to support a talented athlete to get an actual say in training coaching etc. It’s not desirable because, to use the analogy of taxes and roads, we’d have everyone who has an opinion about how roads get paved telling real experts how to do it right at every moment even if these taxpayers don’t have a particularly cogent argument and/or are just mouthing platitudes. On the other hand, I liked Stephen Brunt’s column. So this is a moment where the mainstream press is doing relatively well. If you want to get competitive, I’d say the score is mainstream: 1 blogs: 0 on this topic.

Ritchie Simpson's picture
Ritchie Simpson on August 19, 2004 - 11:15 Permalink

hey, all this indignant self indulgence about how CBC has handled its choices in content delivery and how mediocrity is Canadian and success at your endevour is not?
Does anyone care what our competitors think, isn’t it their personal experience after all, don’t they exists outside of whatever CRT you happen be watching, are they only athletic avatars? Eli Mac was just on CBC and was unecquivocal He wants to win. Do we actually believe our Olympic athletes are satisfied with personal bests? Yes the same way you were happy with a sweater when you wanted slot car track at Xmas. Why go to the Olympics if not to be best?
Too much of this thread is “Tall Poppy” talk and it is a curse our little country suffers from. Even hockey, something we invented, a game that defines as Canadians, a topic that every world travelling Canadian can legitmately claim expertise in, something we should be proud of for our success is routinely reviled by many, most of whom don’t even bother to watch and know no more than its correct in some circles to show disgust with Don Cherry.
We need to learn to be proud of each other, and not dispareging of success.

Rusty's picture
Rusty on August 19, 2004 - 14:04 Permalink

There are really 2 issues:

1. Poor television coverage by CBC;
2. Performances of Canadian Athletes.

For years, the CBC coverage of the Olympics has been terrible: long boring pre-produced features of the nobody Canadian athletes that we are supposed to care about every four years; whimsical travelogues of the host countrye; lengthy interviews with Canadians who had just competed. This time, they’ve added the nightly agony session with Mark Tewkesbury, slamming the Canadian swim team. One almost gets the impression that CBC is gunning for the swim team coach or, at the very least, is fuelling a controversy. At any rate, there is far too much talk and glitz and not nearly enough of the sports themselves. I have no problem with a focus on Canadian athletes but, for god’s sake, show them competing, not yakking with Brian Williams.

On the matter of the Canadian athletes achievements, I would sum it up this way: Jack of all trades, master of none. After hockey, there are simply too many sports for the Canadian government to fund at an elite level and not enough infrastructure (in terms of coaching, officiating and facilities) to support elite athletes in a multitude of sports. Why the brouhaha about poor swimming performances? We’re not excelling in weightlifting, gymnatics, basketball, volleyball, fencing, shotput, javelin, kayaking, tennis, archery, cycling, steeplejack or equestrian events to name a few. We shouldn’t have expectations of competing with large countries like USA, China and Russia who devote large resources to Olympic sports and we shouldn’t pressure our athletes for jingoistic purposes. If excelling at the Olympics is something Canadian want, we should pick a few sports and devote our energies in those, like the Aussies did with swimming or like the Czechs do with hockey, soccer and tennis. Until then, let us merely enjoy the spirit of competition.

P.S. The concept of achieving a “personal best” is actually a useful training tool for elite athletes who are at the top of their sport and breaking records left and right. If you are faster than everyone else, you have to race against yourself to improve. It helps the athlete focus on their goals.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on August 19, 2004 - 14:32 Permalink

Maybe those complaining about mediocrity can read this CSM piece for inspiration:

The point of the olympics is sport, period. Enjoy the games. There are some amazing athletes out there and these sports are a heck of a lot more interesting than the run-of-the-mill professional nonsense that passes for weekend evening entertainment here in Canada or the U.S. for that matter.

I don’t agree with having professionals like the Dream Team there, or ex-MLB’ers on the baseball teams etc. but that’s another debate.

CBC does a decent job covering the majority of competition. True, I can live without their commentary — I’d prefer to just have the competitions run straight without commentary or commercial breaks, just a brief intro and let it go — like they showed NHL games during that CBC technician strike a few years ago.

And some of you are so bent on mixing nationalism with sports, move to East Germany… oh, wait… forgot about 1989 and all that.

Good luck to Tara next week!

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on August 19, 2004 - 20:00 Permalink

My own thoughts…

All of our atheletes at this year’s games were chosen because they were ranked top 12 in their sport. I think anything better than 12 then is an improvement and when you see a guy like Rick Say swim the race of his life against the field of the century and finish sixth, you HAVE to cheer that on. Why? Because he never finished better and therefore he delivered an excellent performance. A perect performance. It was just not as fast as Ian Thorpe and four other men. What more could he do?

And then there are the heartbreaks, where athelets come ranked high and have a bad day and finish early. Sherraine Mackay (http:www.SHERRAINE the fencer was like that. She should have won gold but got knocked out by a Greek no-chancer. It was a huge win for the Greek woman…did you see the look on her face? She had just pulled off the best performance of her life, beating one of the top ranked competitors in the world. Amazing. And for Mackay, it was heartbreak at the Olympics, but how many of us know just how good this woman has been? She has medalled at 15 world cup competitions since 1999 and won gold in seven world class events. She fought the worst performance of her entire international career in Athens, but does that make her a loser? On any given day she can be the best in the world.

This is why I watch sports. They are the only thing on TV and radio that IS unpredictable. Even the news offers few surprises. The only real reality TV is athletics. And it’s gripping stuff to see the top people in the world trying to find an edge that will grant them the ultimate reward.

As for Laumann, she was a bigger story than McCoy becasue she cma back from a broken leg. Another boat collided with her just prior to the Olympics and split her femure in two. She came back and won bronze. It was like Bobby Baun..a performance of amazing grit. McCoy WAS great, but Laumann’s story was rich.

As for only cheering number one, I’m not too hung up on that. Sports doesn’t really matter. As much as I love it, it’s not like winning the Stanley Cup is as important as being a Nobel Peace Laureate. It’s compelling to watch peopl try to win and I like celebrating their acheivments, however measured. But finishing first is not the sole benefit of sport. Sport produces people who, if they undertake their activities with a good sense of balance, grow to understand what it means to win and lose, to work in a team, or to become deeply aware of themselves and their limitations. Taken in a larger context and with a balance on training, winning and participation, sport can leave us with members of society who transfer their pursuit of excellence to realms that truly benfit us. In that respect, sport, appropirately played, can be a great practice field for transformation by understanding ourselves, our partners and what it takes to overcome conditions and deal with success and failure.

Most of our Olympians are not professionals, and they will go back into our communities as people who have a deep understanding of these things and who can share them with others. I think, even though it sounds over the top, this kind of approach is a benefit to our society, where so often people are told NOT to rely on their own resources, creativity and spirit.

Rob MacD's picture
Rob MacD on August 19, 2004 - 20:50 Permalink

And that should be the final word on this subject. Well said, Chris.

That was a gold medal post.

mike's picture
mike on August 19, 2004 - 21:03 Permalink

Kudos to Chris. Well said!

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on August 20, 2004 - 00:28 Permalink

Thank you, but silver…I forgot to spell check the sucker.

When you’re on a roll, sometimes attention to detail suffers. Apologies.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on August 20, 2004 - 01:51 Permalink

I wouldn’t worry — I forgot to proofread mine — of course it’s KARA, not Tara…

Excellent post Chris.


Rob L.'s picture
Rob L. on August 24, 2004 - 19:19 Permalink

Wow… athletes are forbidden to blog to protect the broadcast monopoly of the rights holders! Geez, that’s a little extreme.

Courtney C's picture
Courtney C on January 7, 2005 - 05:05 Permalink

How do you chose a country for the Olympics and why?