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The cost of victory

When Canadian taxpayers were asked to fork over $117 million to Own the Podium at the 2010 Winter Olympics we weren’t given the whole story. We should have known the podium can not be owned, it can only be rented.

When Canadian taxpayers were asked to fork over $117 million to Own the Podium at the 2010 Winter Olympics we weren’t given the whole story.

We should have known the podium can not be owned, it can only be rented. What’s more, the rent goes up quickly and we will be expected to continue writing larger cheques until we can no longer afford the price or some other country is prepared to pay more.

When it comes to winning gold at the Olympics, victory can be measured in dollars and cents.

After the first week in Vancouver it was generally agreed the Canadian athletes would not meet the lofty goals set (and financed) for them. They were portrayed in the media as bums and losers. At that point, podium ownership had eluded them.

Then, during the second week, those millions of dollars started to kick in. Our well-financed team began to earn their keep and we started to see the red maple leaf waving in the breeze as our national anthem filled the air. Suddenly the athletes were winners and heroes.

Our Canadian media are nothing if not fickle.

In the end we couldn’t lay claim to the entire podium but since we did win the most gold we can at least lay claim to a portion of it. We clearly own a third of the podium. I guess we’ll have to throw in a few more hundreds of millions if we ever expect to own the other two thirds.

Across the country most Canadians seem to be pleased with the performance and Vancouver deserves credit for pulling off the winter Olympics without the benefit of snow or cold weather. There were plenty of tears and enough drama and excitement for everyone.

The grand finale for Canadians was the men’s hockey finals. We now know who would win if Canadian NHL players and American NHL players played against each other. They would each win one game. The gold goes to the NHL.

Once we had the hockey golds under our belt (remember, the women won, too) and a firm grasp on 33 per cent of the podium, Canadians started getting cocky and making some very bold claims.

The 2010 Vancouver Olympics were called a pivotal event in Canadian history. Canada had arrived. We could proudly take our place among the great skidding and sliding nations of the world. It was a great boost for Canadian unity. It was the best thing since roll up the rim.
But not so fast. Let’s not be so quick to pat ourselves on the back.

Vancouver was also host to another Olympic event although this one went largely unreported. While the Olympic torch was making its way to the stadium, another torch was being pulled through the city on a wagon to announce the Poverty Olympics.

The intent was to publicize the plight of the poor and homeless people in Vancouver. Many have been displaced in preparation for the games. Social spending has been cut while millions are made available to the chosen few who someday hope to own a podium.

The Poverty Olympic torch is 10 feet tall, weighs 200 pounds and is constructed of cement and an old garbage can. Three mascots have been carefully chosen. They are Itchy the Bedbug, Creepy the Cockroach and Chewy the Rat.

For the 600 or so spectators at the Poverty Olympics in Vancouver, it doesn’t really matter who owns the podium or which group of wealthy professional athletes took home the gold medal in hockey.

They would settle for a warm meal and a roof over their heads. Unfortunately no medals are awarded for surviving in Vancouver’s downtown east side.

You can decide for yourself what the 2010 Olympics mean for Canada. Was it really a transformational event that will inspire the country to higher and loftier goals?

Or was it a huge extravagance designed to benefit a select few at the expense of the poor and underprivileged?

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver was an exciting thrill ride and the Canadian team (even the bums and losers) should be proud.

But we should remember that these are just games and nothing more.
We still have to face the challenges of day-to-day life and the country still has serious problems to solve.

For the less fortunate, this will not be fun and games.