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While many Canadians are excited that Vancouver is hosting the current Winter Olympics, it is fair to say that some of those Canadians are also anxious.
Or at least it’s fair to say that Dr. Robert Thacker says that, and he should know, because he is a professor of Canadian studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. Prof. Thacker attributes the anxiety to Canada’s history as an Olympics host.
“One of the things Canadians are very, very concerned about with this Olympics is that they are the only host country which has not won a gold medal ever at its own Olympics,” Thacker said. “So there’s a push in all the winter sports. I very much hope it does, just so that it’s happened.”
Canadian Olympics official and former speed-skating medalist Natalie Lambert agrees.
“We are born with skates on our feet and brooms in our hands. We’re either going to be hockey players or curlers.”
-- Mike Chambers, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee
“I don’t care where the medals are coming from, honestly,” Lambert said. “If we don’t have medals in curling, but more in alpine skiing, then it evens out. I just want proud and happy faces at the end of the Games."
Proud and happy Canadian faces at the end of these Games would be good. And even better, at least from the standpoint of the Canadian Olympic Committee, would be lots of ink that’s black rather than red. In that respect, according to Thacker, Canada’s current record is 1-1.
"The Canadians had the Winter Games once before in 1988 in Calgary and they were quite successful,” Thacker said. “The 1976 Summer Games are infamous because the then-mayor of Montreal (Jean Drapeau) said it would be as likely that those Games would lose money as it would be for a man to have a baby.”
Though there is no record of Mr. Drapeau giving birth, the debt incurred by Montreal for the 1976 Games was finally paid off about an hour and 20 minutes ago, an embarrassment that troubles Lambert not at all.
“I do believe that the Games in a country, no matter how much, how high the bill, it’s a platform for the 17 days to have the whole world look at your city, your province, your country,” Lambert said. “There’s nothing that compares to that.”
Nothing that compares, especially if, while the whole world is watching, Canada can come out on top in the sports that have always mattered most to Canadians: ice hockey and curling. According to Mike Chambers, the President of the Canadian Olympic Committee, the explanation for their affection is simple.
“We are born with skates on our feet and brooms in our hands,” Chambers said. “We’re either going to be hockey players or curlers.”
The tournaments that will determine which teams will medal in women’s and men’s hockey will begin Saturday and Tuesday. Curling will also commence on Tuesday. And what if Canada reaps no gold in either sport?
“That’s a hypothetical question, and I never answer hypothetical questions,” Chambers replied.
Were there tears in his eyes when Mr. Chambers was asked to entertain that disturbing possibility? Well, yes, there were. But maybe it was just the chilly Canadian wind.
This program aired on February 12, 2010.
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