In our continuing efforts to expand the global reach of our brand, here is an all-Olympics edition of the musings and meditations on the world of sports.
The soccer geeks will undoubtedly explain in great detail that Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod violated some point of the rulebook when she was assessed the foul that turned Monday night’s semi-final at Old Trafford.
And maybe they are right. But in a game of that magnitude, there is also an understanding in every frickin’ sport played on our planet that referees shouldn’t decide the game and they certainly shouldn’t decide the game with a call that has nothing to do with anything.
With just over 10 minutes to go, and Canada leading 3-2 in the Olympic semifinal, McLeod was called for delay of game when – what? – she handled the ball a nano-second too long for referee Christiana Pedersen’s liking before booting it downfield.
The resulting free kick was then taken from one of the most hazardous spots on the field and led to a U.S. penalty when the ball was drilled off Canadian Diana Matheson’s arm. U.S. star Amy Wambach tied the game on the penalty, the States won on a last-second goal in extra time and the Canadian women were denied one of the greatest moments in this country’s sporting history.
If that sounds like sour grapes, tough. The Canadian team played too well and too hard to have this game taken from them by a referee’s decision. Christine Sinclair’s brilliant three-goal performance is gone now. The hope of a gold medal is gone with it.
There are rules and then there is the spirit of those rules, and that spirit was violated on Monday night.
- Olympic sports tend to fade from view after the huge show closes, but the situation between Mike Spracklen and Rowing Canada will be worth watching in forthcoming months.
Spracklen is the most successful coach in this country’s rowing history. In London, his work with the men’s eight – building them back up from a fourth-place finish in their first heat to a silver medal – might have been the finest pure coaching job of his five decades in rowing.
The problem is Spracklen and Rowing Canada are entangled in a feud that stretches back a couple of years to when the governing body ordered a review of his coaching methods, then diminished his role within the program.
At Eton Dorney, Spracklen was only too happy to make his feelings on this matter known to anyone with a notepad or tape recorder, and the sense was Rowing Canada was con-tent to let him slip away quietly at the conclusion of the Games. But, with the exception of the silver-medal women’s eight, the other boats in the program failed to deliver – just three of Canada’s seven boats made the finals – leaving Rowing Canada in a tight spot.
Spracklen might not be for everyone, but he delivers medals. Rowing Canada, for its part, received $4.5 million in funding from Own The Podium, over a million of which went to coaching, and had tiny to show from London out-side the two eights.
They need to patch up what-ever differences exist and bring him back to the fold because, right now, it looks like they need Spracklen more than he needs them.
- When they got the broad-cast rights for Vancouver and London, the CTV, TSN, Sportsnet all-access consortium made a lot of noise about their commitment to Olympic sports.
And that is all it was. Noise. The consortium cranked up its coverage for the Olympics, but were nowhere to be found in the run-up to the games.
CBC has now won the broad-cast rights for 2014 in Sochi and 2016 in Rio and, at the minimum, the Corp. makes the effort to cover Olympic sports on an on-going basis. They pro-vide context. They cover World Cups and live events. They tell the athletes’ stories.
It’s a cinch that the IOC and COC did not get the $153 mil-lion from the Corp. that they received from the consortium. But they did get something far more valuable.
- After his win in the 100, Usain Bolt modestly pointed out: “I’m one step closer to being a legend, so I’m working on that.”
He now passes the grand-children test which, loosely stated, means we will be telling our grandkids we saw Bolt run. For an athlete, that is the real measure of greatness.
- On a related note, that was a shrewd move by NBC to tape-delay the 100 metres because, Lord knows, there were not any other media out-lets carrying the event live. On the bright side, I knew if I lived long enough I’d see the day when newspapers covered an event faster than television.
- And finally, two-and-a-half years ago we bore witness to the transformative powers of the Olympics in our city and our country and, while you can argue about the nature of that power, you cannot deny its existence.
It’s therefore moving to watch the same thing happening in London, where the tradition-al sense of British reserve has given way to unconditional fervour for the Games.
James Lawton, the sports columnist at The Independent who worked in Vancouver for a spell, took in the athletics on Saturday night when British athletes Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Greg Rutherford all won gold. Under the headline “The Finest Night in British Sport,” he wrote: “There has been much speak – and hype – about the legacies that London might bestow. Well, we know the reality of the most important one now. It is that this old nation, which at times seems so weary and battered, retains the capacity to reach out for the highest of achievement in a place which is always guar-anteed to work on the emotions of the world, every last speck of it.”
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