We Canadians like to think of ourselves as good sports: honest and fair to people of all races, religions and creeds, etc. But could it be that we’re really no better than anyone else?
It seems so, judging from recent accusations that Canada is unfairly restricting foreign access for training at venues for the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver.
Apparently, Canada is trying to boost its chances for success on the podium by giving its own athletes plenty of access to training facilities while granting minimal opportunities to athletes from other countries.
That’s dirty pool — to put it mildly.
American speedskater Catherine Raney, who spent more than seven years living in Canada and training with the Canadian national team, says she’s shocked by the approach taken by officials here.
“They’re playing nasty,” says Raney, now living and training in Utah. “I think every one of us would love to prove to them that what they did wasn’t right, and we’re ready to show it on the ice.”
Raney notes that Canadian athletes were granted equal access to training facilities prior to the Winter Olympics held at Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002.
Remember, those were the Games at which Red Deer skier Deidra Dionne captured a bronze medal in freestyle aerials.
One wonders if Dionne had been treated the way Canadians are treating Americans and others, would she now have an Olympic medal to call her own?
Canadian officials say they are following the rules of access to competition sites, as set by each sport’s governing body.
And, to be fair, they appear to be living up to the letter of the agreements — although they certainty don’t appear to be behaving with any generosity toward foreign athletes.
One wonders if this Olympic scandal will forever taint the 2010 Games the way financial shenanigans marked the Games in Utah.
Canada’s recent tactics stink of desperation based on this country’s failure to ever win an Olympic gold medal on our soil.
“We’re the only country to host two Olympic Games and never have won a gold medal at our Games,” explains Cathy Priestner Allinger, the executive vice-president for sports of the Vancouver Organizing Committee, referring to the summer of 1976 (Montreal) and the winter of 1988 (Calgary). “It’s not a record we’re proud of.”
Well, maybe Canada is not so proud of that, but at least in the past we were good sports.
Now, it seems, we’re no better than anyone else, and likely worse than many countries that have hosted the Olympics.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor