Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"The Gold Should Have Been Mine" and Other Olympic faux pas

Something happened to me last month. I became a fan of the Olympic Games and not just an occasional fan - an uber fan - and no one was more surprised than me. I have never been interested in the Olympics of either the warm weather or snowy variety. In my view they were an over-politicized, cash grab with hokey pomp and circumstance and an overemphasis on speed and brawn. I went into the 2010 Winter Olympics with the same attitude but on opening day, my kids asked if I would watch the opening ceremonies with them and so I did. I was curious to see how Canada would present itself on the world stage but I wasn't expecting too much and then it happened. I got sucked in! The national pride, beaming athletes, the cool outfits, the home-grown superstars, the special effects, the holographic whales...I was still watching long after the kids went to bed and I was glued to the TV right up until Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal two weeks later.

I'm still not sure how it happened but I'm glad it did. I approached it with a cultivated insoucciance and the next thing I knew, I was racing to the The Bay for official merchandise and chatting about triple toe loops and how shameful it would be if Canada didn't win hockey gold.

So what do the Olympic Games have to do with etiquette? Well, lots apparently. Along with the thrills, spills and chills there were many moments of genuine class and more than a few etiquette blunders. So I decided to award my own gold, silver and bronze medals for Olympic manners.

And the awards for great Olympic etiquette go to...

GOLD - Sydney Crosby - Crosby was interviewed shortly after scoring the winning goal for Canada in the men's hockey finals and when asked how he "did it", he answered in his trademark soft-spoken way that "it just went in". In a sport with so much bravado and chestbeating, it's wonderful to see this young man, one of the best hockey players in the world refer to the goal of his life with such shyness and humility.
SILVER - Julie Chu - When the U.S. Women's Hockey Team lost to Canada, they had the unfortunate role of accepting their silver medal immediately after and therefore were forced to deal with the loss in a public ceremony. This must have been tough and many of them showed it but one of them showed grace under pressure. When Julie Chu accepted her silver medal, she smiled and waved her appreciation to the (mostly Canadian) crowd. She, alone among her teammates, embraced the Olympic spirit.
BRONZE - Sven Kramer - the Dutch speed skater was disqualified shortly after a record-breaking performance that would have almost guaranteed a gold medal. The reason? His coach, momentarily distracted, sent him into the wrong lane. Ouch! Interviewed immediately after, a livid and heartbroken Kramer openly blamed his coach for ruining his Olympic dreams. I'm not an Olympic athlete (or any kind of athlete) but if I had spent my entire life training for one day and someone else pulled the rug out from under me, I'd be mad too. The next day, however, Kramer announced that all was forgiven and together, he and his coach are moving forwards to more victories as a team. Classy!
Honourable Mention: I would be remiss if I didn't include the stellar behaviour of Canadian hockey fans who spilled out into city streets after Canada beat the U.S. in overtime for Olympic gold. The celebration included shouting, hugging, singing and even an impromptu ball hockey game at Yonge & Dundas but no violence, looting or injuries. Just one more reason to believe that "the good old hockey game, it's the best game you can name" as immortalized by Stompin' Tom.

And now for the bad behaviour awards...

GOLD - Evgeni Plushenko - My first thought when I saw the Russian skating star was "boy he needs a new barber" and it went downhill from there. I have no issues with his performance which, in my humble opinion, was spectacular. It was his attitude towards winning a silver medal that nets him a gold medal for bad manners. When it was his turn to go to the second place podium, he unnecessarily climbed over the first place podium to get there. To add insult to injury, he refused to hold his head up during the medal ceremony. An Olympic silver medal is nothing to sneeze at but Plushenko's lack of grace made him an Olympic loser.

SILVER - Eddie McGuire and Mick Molloy - The Australian sports commentators described male ice skaters' routines as "Brokeback Mountain" exercises and said organizers were shocked that one ice skater wasn't gay. Never mind that Olympic calibre ice skating requires a phemonenal level of speed, strength and fitness but is this stuff really still considered funny in 2010? Pathetic!

BRONZE - U.S. Women's Hockey Team - As noted above, Julie Chu accepted her silver medal with grace and enthusiam and put to shame her scowling, crestfallen teammates. I can only imagine how difficult it was to lose such an important game and not have a moment to gain your composure before the medal ceremony. But, it's an Olympic silver medal! It's amazing! And, world-class athletes should have the training and decorum to smile through the pain.
I had to narrow my choices down from many possibilities. I would love to hear your thoughts on Olympic etiquette.


  1. My two-in-one nomination for an etiquette medal:

    One for the very generous young lady who courteously offered Jon Montgomery a cleansing pitcher of ale on his way to an interview; and another for Jon Montgomery, who showed the world how to drain a pitcher of cleansing ale with panache and politesse.

  2. Ha, great suggestion. If these Olympic games proved anything, it's that Canadians always get a gold medal in drinking!

  3. I also jumped on the Olympic bandwagon. To think of all the hours of training makes me tired :) Watching counts as exercise... right?

    Rochette for an honourable mention. I thought she had great composure during this sad and exciting time of her life.