US, Not Canada, Is Owning the Podium
The U.S. Winter Olympic team is apparently unaware of FDR's neighborly reiteration of the Monroe Doctrine, for it is absolutely dominating its host neighbor in the Winter Games here by what is turning into embarrassing fashion.
If this was a Little League baseball game, the mercy rule would end it now at just its midway point.
To be sure, at the end of competition on Saturday, the U.S. team tallied 23 medals, including six golds. The Canadian team had just eight medals of which four were gold.
Canada's Olympic movement declared it would win its second hosting of a Winter Olympics and spent $110 million dollars on a medal-winning program it named Own The Podium.
As it is turning out, a better name for Canada's well-heeled plan would be Rent The Podium. On the weekend. During off-peak hours.
No wonder a few hundred protesters caused havoc in downtown Vancouver just as these games commenced to garner some attention for the city's downtrodden Eastside, one of Canada's most depressed areas. Some of that Own The Podium money would have been better spent on the poor, homeless and substance-addicted than fine-tuned athletes who wound up coming up woefully short.
The U.S. is in first place and on a record medal haul for a Winter Olympics; the Canadians are ranked fifth, just one medal ahead of Austria and France, and with no more gold medals than Germany or Switzerland.
"I don't think the Canadians are doing that badly," Olympic historian David Wallechinsky told me Saturday before he headed to the short-track speedskating venue. "I think they're doing alright.
"The thing is you have seven years to prepare for the Olympics."
The Canadians have 1.14 medals to show for each year of preparation.
"I can't believe that the government wouldn't say this has been a very good investment and a very good experience," Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge said in Saturday's Globe and Mail.
Most observers can't believe it hasn't (pardon the double negative in keeping with Rudge) been a losing investment.
Canada's Hamelin brothers from Quebec finished off the podium Saturday evening in the men's 1,000-meter speed skate in which America's Apolo Anton Ohno took bronze to become the most-decorated U.S. Winter Olympian in history.
The Canada-1 bobsled team of Lyndon Rush and Lascelles Brown, the Canadians' best hope for an Olympic medal in the two-man bobsled competition, crashed on their second run Saturday night at the Whistler Sliding Centre, winding up sliding down much of the run on their heads. They walked away without major injuries.
Mellisa Hollingsworth from Canada was favored to walk away with gold in the women's skeleton, but wound up clutching a tissue to wipe away her tears after hitting the wall coming out of Corner 6 and wobbling into the next turn to give up valuable time and finish up fifth.
Canada's alpine ski team, which was supposed to own its home snow on Whistler Mountain, hasn't snagged one medal of any color yet. They have five races left.
What has happened to Canada's sliding and ski teams is doubly embarrassing because they were given ample opportunity to train on the chutes and the mountains that were made all but off-limits to foreign competitors to train on. The Vancouver Olympics' organizers have been criticized for being so stingy. Their stinginess has been charged with leading to horrific crashes at those venues, most tragically that which ended the life of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was buried Saturday in his home country.
That catastrophe on top of all the glitches that have occurred during these games -- the Opening Ceremonies mechanical failure, the imprisoned Olympic cauldron, the washed-out standing-room-only mountain venue areas, etc., which brought my man Lawrence Donegan at The Guardian to label these the "worst Games ever" -- have overshadowed the first week of failures by Team Canada. But they haven't darkened the spotlight on Team USA's success.
The Americans, quite notably, haven't been stymied so terribly by the Canadians' refusal to let them get familiar with their runs and slopes. Lindsey Vonn won gold in the ladies' downhill and bronze on Saturday in the ladies' Super-G. Bode Miller won silver in the men's Super-G and bronze in the men's downhill. Julia Mancuso won silver in the ladies' downhill and the ladies' Super Combined.
The U.S. alpine ski team has a U.S. Olympic-record seven medals. The ski team has three more medals in moguls, including Hannah Kearney's gold.
Then there are all the medals for the U.S. from the Shaun White-led snowboard team.
"Both the U.S. and Canada have benefited from the adding of new events," Wallechinsky said. "But the U.S. has won in traditional events. I'm surprised."
The most notable breakthrough for the Americans was Johnny Spillane winning silver in the Nordic Combined, which was a first for an American athlete in the 86-year history of the sport, which pairs ski jumping with cross-country skiing. (Don't ask; just bask.)
On top of that, even the U.S. men's hockey team is outshining the gold medal game-favored Canadian team spearheaded by Sidney Crosby. The Americans are 2-0 while the Canadians have won both their outings but needed Crosby to save them in an overtime shootout against the lightly-regarded Swiss club.
The U.S. and Canada meet Sunday with the Canadians trailing the Americans in the Group A division by one point. That's a lot closer margin, of course, than the total medal count the Americans have that is out of reach for the Canadians.
Maybe that's why Vancouver officials are removing the chain-linked fence from around its Olympic cauldron. They aren't doing so to enable fans to see the flame unobstructed, but so the Americans can take the burning symbol of these Olympic games with them when they end next weekend. They've taken everything else.