Canada: "Own the Podium"

I yesterday blamed Canada for denying non-Canadian athletes use of the Olympic venues. Blocking foreign athletes' access may be of little consequence in sports like tennis, swimming, or table tennis, where performance is basically independent of the standardized facility. (An Olympic-sized swimming pool is pretty much the same, no matter what building houses it.) But in sports like luge or bobsled, the course is unstandardized, and performance depends greatly on athletes' knowledge of the course. Shutting out non-Canadian athletes is totally unsporting and even dangerous, esp. if: 1) the courses you’ve created are far faster than other courses in the world; 2) you don’t put up sufficient barriers to prevent people from flying off the track and killing themselves; and, 3) you don’t bar the world’s Jamaican bobsled teams, whose relative lack of experience puts them at greater danger.

Here’s a shocking fact illustrating the degree to which Canada has abused its position as host nation:

Before his [deadly] crash, [Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili] had taken 25 training runs on the Whistler track — but 10 had begun at the novice, junior and women’s starts. By comparison, the average Canadian slider has taken 250 training runs.

Canada granted its own lugers TEN TIMES MORE rides down the luge track!

Canada made a conscious, high-level decision to be so unsporting:

Canada’s decision to give minimal access to the Olympic track to athletes from other nations now seems to have been an unfortunate nationalistic impulse. This was done to give Canadians a home-field advantage in a program called Own the Podium. In the end, safety took a back seat to patriotism.

And I’m even more disgusted by the Vancouver Olympic Committee statement blaming the athlete for the “extremely exceptional accident” caused because “the athlete came late out of curve 15 and did not compensate properly to make correct entrance into curve 16” while absolving the track because “there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.” As The New York Times reports:

[T]he idea that something terrible might happen here, on the fastest course in the world, was talked about publicly and feared for a year.

Frequent concerns were expressed about excessive speeds. Even Armin Zoeggeler of Italy, the two-time Olympic champion and a favorite here, had crashed on this track. On Thursday, after struggling to maintain control of her sled, Hannah Campbell-Pegg of Australia said, “To what extent are we just little lemmings that they throw down a track and we’re crash-test dummies?”

I may boycott these games in (a certain to be noticed by no one) protest against Canada’s maniacal obsession with winning medals, sportsmanship, fair play and safety be damned.

Posted by James on Sunday, February 14, 2010