CALGARY — Stephen Colbert is coming to the Olympics, and he has no plans to serve as an ombudsman.
The popular mock political pundit announced on his TV show “The Colbert Report” that he would accept an invitation from the City of Richmond to attend the 2010 Winter Games, but only as a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
Richmond officials extended an invitation to Colbert after he labelled Canadians as “syrup suckers” and “ice-holes” while picking up on complaints that staff have limited access to the Richmond Olympic Oval, and other venues, to international athletes.
In a press release Nov. 17, the City of Richmond offered Colbert a chance to serve as “an official ombudsman to monitor the treatment of Americans during the Games.”
Colbert accepted the offer, kind of, on Thursday night’s show.
“I have no idea what an ombudsman is, but as long as it requires no effort from me, I proudly accept,” he told viewers. “I have decided to go to the Vancouver Olympics and not just to ‘ombud.’
“If I’m going, I’m going as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team.”
Ted Townsend, a spokesman for the City of Richmond who extended the invitation, is pleased Colbert will attend the Games, even with his preconditions.
“He did accept the job as long as he didn’t have to do any work,” said Townsend. “The ombudsman’s primary responsibility will be protecting his own interests, and anyone who watches the show will know Stephen Colbert will have no problem with that.”
Colbert has made a habit of ripping on Canada since becoming a primary sponsor for the U.S. Speedskating program after Dutch bank DSB declared bankruptcy and left the team with a US$300,000 shortfall.
In exchange, he put a link up on his popular website asking the public to help out the speedskating program, and Colbert says it’s working.
“You came through and now this team can afford to buy its own skates instead of renting them from the creepy old guy at the rink,” Colbert told viewers. “Nothing can stop U.S. speedskaters now, except maybe Canadians. The Wall Street Journal has reported that for these Olympics, Canada has an aggressive new attitude.
“According to one of the Canadian coaches, Canada is finally more concerned with winning than being nice, hence their new Olympic slogan, ’Own the Podium’ — in contrast to their previous slogan, ‘Pardon, would it trouble you if we won a medal or two? It would? OK, never mind.”’
Colbert then turned back to his accusations of Canadian cheating.
“They are playing dirty,” he said. “First, limiting America’s training time at the Olympic speedskating oval, so naturally, champion skater Joey Cheek and I put them on notice and I launched a ‘Hey Canada, Don’t Be An Ice-Hole’ letter-writing campaign.”
He claimed that International Skating Union faxed him a letter stating that the Olympic oval will be ready for on-ice training three days earlier than previously planned.
“I am kind of surprised the Canadians responded this quickly,” he said. “Their postal beaver normally takes months to cross Manitoba.”
Colbert’s frequent Canadian bashing isn’t sitting well with at least one American speedskater star.
“He’s a jerk,” Shani Davis said Thursday when asked for his take on Colbert’s criticism of Canucks. “You can put that in the paper.”
He declined to elaborate, making the comment in a brief exchange with The Canadian Press before rejecting an interview request and walking away.
There may be some irony in Colbert’s attacks on Canadians.
Lineage-tracking website Ancestry.ca claims that Colbert has two paternal relatives a few generations back that lived, worked and even died in Canada.