Archive for March, 2010

In the Heat of the Moment – Olympic thoughts, part 3

March 1, 2010

Ten, er, Eleven Reflections on the Winter Games (Week Two)
1) To the best athletes, “Winning is everything” (Just ask Chris del Bosco and Devon Kershaw) Did you catch the interview with CDN Nordic racer Devon Kershaw after the 50K race this afternoon? The guy finished in fifth place by a second and a half and beats himself up for NOT WINNING. Similarly, last week Ski Cross racer Chris del Bosco admitted that he ‘blew’ a ‘sure bronze medal’ in his attempt to win the Ski Cross final by attempting an extremely risky move… So, here’s an idea for the Games…
2) Let’s just do away with Silver and Bronze medals completely. In Europe, in fact, the country who wins the Olympics is the one with the most GOLD medals. The others are seen as trinkets to be forgotten in a chest of drawers. “Oh, it’s my bronze speed skating medal.” So, right now, Canada would be the Number One country, not the United States. Forget ‘owning the podium’, let’s just call it ‘owning’, period. After all, as Queen says “no time for losers…”
3) No logos – don’t you love it? After covering every manner of Red Bull, Monster, TELUS, Honda, (insert corporate sponsor, here*) event for the past two decades, it was a true relief to go to a sporting event and see only ‘one’ sponsor – the Olympic brand. Sure, there was TV advertising but even the on-site OBS broadcasts were bereft of ‘commercial messages’ as were the venues themselves. Corporate sponsors paid almost a collective billion dollars and were left with little more than ‘official computer of the Olympic Games’ (hands up if you even know which company that was??). I even saw a pic of the two CDN freestyle aerialists and they had duct tape over their helmet logos.
4) Attn: Rossi, Fischer, Atomic, Salomon – huge corporate opportunity, missed. MANY of the top freestyle skiers in both aerials and moguls were skiing on unbelievably obscure brands such as the Japanese based “One-Ski” and “Hart” – a brand that was huge in the 1960s but that hasn’t been seen on the slopes i n North America in over two decades. A similar oddity of equipment occurred in both ski cross and parallel giant slalom, where some company starting with a “K” (Kessler?) dominated the podium. Oh, right, the Dew Tour offers more ‘engagement’ opportunities.
5) A ‘religious experience…’ is likely the closest thing I can think of to describe the wave of euphoria that swept over Vancouver, Whistler, and then the rest of Canada as Olympic caught on. Thing is, if you talk to Calgarians who were there in ’88, they’re still on a high. Due to the carpet-bombing saturation media coverage, everything stopped… and – due to the utterly bizarre smorgasboard of events – there was drama for everybody. Still, here in Vancouver, it was far more than that. It was all about strolling around downtown, and looking at big screens and waiting in line for hospitality houses. Aside from Oly merchandise, all that downtown activity was not about mindless consumerism. Who knew that people went downtown to do something other than shop or party? Interestingly, one place that WAS packed was the Coastal Church on Georgia and Bute.
6) Ice dancing, luge, Nordic combined, and the wrestling match that is short-track speed skating – Not even the X-Games marketers could make these sports up. Most Winter Games sports are entirely un-television friendly, but we tuned in in record numbers. Curling, people! That Canadian female skip was a fox, though! Maybe that was it. In a sense, watching those obscure events was like tuning in to the best, most unscripted reality show that you can imagine.
7) The point being… the Olympics is so much greater than the sum of its parts… At one point, I almost, almost, thought that snowboarder Shaun White was bigger than the Games themselves. THEN, he did that flippy trick that sent the judges (and the worldwide audience) into a tizzy. Ol’ carrot top truly did inject Week One with some megawatt star power, which helped pull the Games out of its funk. But Shaun was forgotten two days after he left, replaced by a cast of incredibly interesting athletes whose talents and backstory were matched only by their obscure sports.
8) Red… it ain’t really my color. Er, ‘colour.’ I’m good with the fact that $3M worth of red mittens were sold (we have a pair in the house) but I don’t look good in red, so I didn’t really wear any. Our bathroom, though, is rockin’ two very sweet Olympic mascot towels in green and blue or whatever bizarre hues those were. Oddly, I did not see Quaatchi, Miga, and Satchmo or whoever the third one was do much in the way of public appearances. The A&W Root Bear could have done better. They always were sorta mysterious creatures. At our kids’ school, the mascots could not have their pictures taken with the kids. In a similar vein, I don’t get all verklempt over “O Canada”, either. Neither, it seems, does Stephen Harper.
9) NBC Heart Vancouver – Well, the ‘in kind advertising’ (as we marketing/media types like to call it) of having the USA’s number four network beam images of Vancouver to the United States is certainly in the tens of millions of dollars during the past 17 days. NBC paid $800M to the IOC for the broadcast rights and Vancouver reaped enormous benefits in terms of free exposure. Now if the government would only ‘open the skies’ to USA carriers, maybe Americans could afford to visit us instead of being ransomed by Air Canada.
10) Sid the Kid proved that… sport is 99 percent instinctive. Announcers asked what he did… he admitted he didn’t have a clue. “I think it went fivehole…” As if he had the chance to actually think about it…
11) Finally, imagine if the rest of the world took a sport as seriously as Canadians take hockey. Indeed, tonight at the Broadcast Center, a Canadian actually apologized to an American saying that ‘he’s sorry that someone had to lose today’s game’ (don’t worry, it was not ME expressing this namby-pamby sentiment). The American dude looked somewhat bemused, then said “yeah, I don’t much care for hockey…’ Well, in three months’ time, we will see the sport that wars have been fought over. The world calls it ‘football’, and it’s ‘the beautiful game.’ The World Cup in South Africa? Now, THAT will be a transformative event. I, for one, can hardly wait. It is like that eight minutes of overtime, over and over and over again, game in and game out.