Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sochi 2014: Russian to the finish line


Canada’s Sochi medal haul of 25 will exceed that of Turin 2006's 24, but won’t be enough to match Vancouver 2010’s 26. 

Canada has qualified for a silver in men’s hockey, but is obviously hoping for a gold medal win over Sweden on the last day of the "Games of the Putingrad Olympiad." 

It would be the first time for a Canadian men's team to win an Olympic hockey gold medal on European ice since Oslo 1952’s Edmonton Mercurys. It would also give Canada its first "sticks and stones" sweep of all hockey and curling golds.

At Sochi, Canada will have won medals in 25.5% of the 98 events, down from the 30.25% rate at Vancouver 2010, where there were 86 events. The first road Games after being host sees a traditional decline. Canada's post-Vancouver dip was buffered by the addition of new events. 

Like Vancouver 2010, Canada went 0-for-nordic sports in Sochi. The alpine bronze at Sochi was one medal better than the shutout from Vancouver 2010. Overall speedskating medals production was cut in half. At Vancouver 2010, Canada had 10 medals (four gold, three silver, three bronze). But in Sochi, it could only muster a gold, two silver and two bronze. The Dutch dominated the long-track events by the Black Sea. 

Alex Bilodeau in moguls and Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse in two-woman bobsled successfully defended their 2010 golds. In Sochi, Russia is en route to an overall medals win, but Canada's host record of 14 from 2010 is safe. U.S.A. and Norway are in second and third overall. 

The result for Canada will mean a second chance for winter sports organizations that failed to capitalize on the post-Vancouver 2010 high. Canada’s skiing, snowboarding and sliding organizations lost sponsors after Vancouver 2010 but some of them coalesced and cut a deal with Canadian Tire for Sochi 2014. It is one of the challenges of living in a hockey-mad nation. 

The next Winter Games will be "Gangwon style" in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018 where the security fear will involve next-door neighbour North Korea and its Stalinist dictator, Kim Jong-Un. North Korea did not send any athletes to Sochi. 

In the meantime, Sochi will host the March 7-16 Winter Paralympics and G-8 Summit on June 4-5. 

Canadian Olympic Committee will be turning its attention to summer, where athletes are in need of a boost. At London 2012, Canada won one gold, five silver and a dozen bronze medals. The lone gold was in women’s trampoline by Rosie McLennan. 

Toronto is hosting the 2015 Pan American Games, the year before the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. In December 2013, Toronto 2015 CEO Ian Troop was fired after costs ballooned from $1.4 billion to $2.5 billion. Maj. Gen. Fernando Azevedo e Silva became head of the Rio 2016 organization last October. The Brazilian Olympics are behind schedule and over budget. 

Bonuses

Canadian gold medallists in Sochi receive $20,000 bonuses, which are taxable. Same goes for the $15,000 silver medal and $10,000 bronze medal bonuses. These fine Canadians will return home and be deluged with requests from local, provincial and federal politicians seeking photo ops for their campaign bumph. 

Kazakhstan, by comparison, gives its medal winners $250,000 (gold), $150,000 (silver) and $75,000 (bronze).

Doping

A spate of late doping violations was announced by the IOC on the waning weekend. Four athletes were banned from the Games. 

Biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle of Germany was first to be dispatched for the stimulant MHA.  She claimed she was taking unspecified food supplements for the last year, on advice from a nutritional adviser. 

Latvian hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs also blamed food supplements for his MHA test. He told the IOC that the Dinamo Riga doctor prescribed them.

Likewise for Italian bobsledder William Frullani, who claimed he bought a nutritional supplement online that he didn’t know contained MHA. 

Meanwhile, cross-country skier Marina Lisogor of Ukraine had a more complicated case. She was prescribed Thyroxin after thyroid removal surgery in 2004. In January 2013, she was prescribed Preductal, the trade name for trimetazidine, for fatigue. But she forgot to declare Preductal on her doping control form. Preductal was added to the WADA anti-doping list in January. 

Four years earlier at Vancouver 2010, only one athlete was banned: Polish cross-country skier Kornelia Marek for recombinant erythropoietin (rEPO). She blamed her positive test on injections administered by her team physiotherapist. She did not know what type of substance was injected. 

Two others were reprimanded.

Russian women’s team hockey player Svetlana Terenteva had tuaminoheptane in her system, apparently from Rhinofluimucil cold medication. She blamed jet lag for her non-disclosure, after including Mildronat, Gyponix, Nitrix, 5 Tetra and Otrivin on her form. Slovakian hockey player Lubomir Visnovsky tested positive for pseudoephedrine, which was included in theover-the-counter Advil Cold & Sinus. He claimed that he received advice from medical staff on the Edmonton Oilers and Slovakian national team. 

Of course, the athletes are subject to swifter punishment than the glacial justice given to IOC members, such as Rene Fasel. The boss of the International Ice Hockey Federation and Vancouver 2010 coordination commission chair got a slap on the wrist for conflict of interest in April 2010, almost a year after a Swiss newspaper reported that he received kickbacks from broadcast rights deals. Fasel admitted that he had helped a friend get contracts and was issued a reprimand. 


Tributes


Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in Whistler on the opening of the Vancouver Games, was remembered in Sochi by the IOC with a moment of silence at its meetings.

Whistler halfpipe skiing pioneer Sarah Burke inspired fellow athletes to put stickers on their equipment in her memory, until the IOC said no. That didn't stop Burke's ashes from being secretly sprinkled on the halfpipe in Sochi

There are others who were in Vancouver but aren't in Sochi. Slovakian Pavol Demitra, Latvian Karlis Skrastins and Belarussian Ruslan Salei were captains of three of the men's hockey teams entered in the 2010 Games. They were among the 43 people killed in the Sept. 7, 2011 air disaster that claimed the roster of KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. 

On the last night of the Games, NBC aired a must-see documentary called Lokomotiv


Read more about how the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics came and went in Red Mittens & Red Ink. The only independent e-book tells the story of the biggest sports event in Canadian history... and the politics and economics behind it all. 

Available on iTunes Bookstore Barnes & Noble and Smashwords

(The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were the 21st Olympic Winter Games. Buy Red Mittens & Red Ink on Smashwords and receive a 21% discount when you use the code CR34F. Offer expires Feb. 23, 2014).

Listen for my Olympic Diary during the Sochi Olympics on Sportstalk with Dan Russell on AM 650

If you're a reporter from anywhere in the world and you seek expert comment about the Winter Olympics from a news or sports standpoint, contact Bob Mackin to arrange an interview. Review copies of Red Mittens & Red Ink are available upon request.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Canada gold drought tied to cauldron jinx?

Canada has a gold medal drought in Sochi, which begs the question: is there a Vancouver cauldron jinx?  

Canada had a quick start at the Winter Games by the Black Sea, with three golds in freestyle skiing and one in short track speedskating. Dara Howell’s win in women’s slopestyle skiing on Feb. 11 was the most-recent. The Canadian Olympic Committee hopes it wasn't the last of these Games. It vowed to meet or beat Canada's 26 medals from Vancouver 2010 (including the host record 14 gold), but may fall short of the 24 medals it won at Turin 2006.

Cauldrons in Montreal (the 1976 summer host) and Calgary (the 1988 winter host) were lit on the day of Sochi's opening ceremony Feb. 7. Canada won no gold medals at Montreal or Calgary. 

Calgary's cauldron has kept burning for the duration of the Games. Vancouver's cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza wasn't turned on until Feb. 12, the fourth anniversary of the opening ceremony, after media and public pressure on B.C. Pavilion Corporation. It was turned off after a couple of hours.

PavCo said, depending on how much anonymous funding it can drum up, it would activate the cauldron at 6 p.m. every night Canada wins gold and on the evening of the closing ceremony. A week has passed since Howell's gold. Are the sports gods frowning on Vancouver again?

You might remember that during the 2011 Stanley Cup final, Premier Christy Clark ordered the cauldron be lit for Canucks’ away games. After the Canucks lost games three and four in Boston, some superstitious Canucks’ fans complained publicly on the Canucks’ website that the cauldron should burn no longer. As Sean Holman reported at the time, the Canucks censored their comments. The Bruins came to Vancouver and beat the Canucks on June 15, 2011 in Game 7. Fires of a different sort were ignited on downtown streets when a riot broke out.

PavCo claimed it would cost $200,000 to keep the cauldron burning for the entire Sochi Games -- when the fuel costs are rather cheap. But the energy use is actually quite high, as I learned via Freedom of Information in 2010

In my 2012-published e-book Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics, I wrote: 
The permanent, outdoor Olympic cauldron and the one used at the B.C. Place ceremonies consumed a combined 5,260 gigajoules of natural gas during the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, which would have heated 65 B.C. households for an entire year.

Good news for Canada is that it still has a chance to win both hockey golds and both curling golds. The slump could be snapped as early as Feb. 19 when pilot Kaillie Humphries and pusher Heather Moyse attempt to defend their two-person bobsled gold medal won at Vancouver 2010.

UPDATE, Feb. 19: Humphries and Moyse successfully defended their gold medal and won the Sochi championship, giving Canada its fifth gold medal and breaking the Vancouver cauldron jinx. 


News and sports journalist Bob Mackin is author of the e-book, Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics, the only independent chronicle of how the 2010 Winter Olympics came and went. It includes facts, statistics and anecdotes about the Vancouver 2010 cauldrons and a multitude of even bigger, hotter topics. Available for 21% off via Smashwords through Feb. 23 (enter code CR34F). 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Opening day jitters: the Fisht flake seen around the world (except Russia)

Snowflakes suspended from the ceiling of Fisht Olympic Stadium were supposed to join, then morph into the five Olympic rings and ignite fireworks during the Feb. 7 opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics. It was the mandatory showing of the rings part of the opening ceremony script and it didn't work out. There ended up being four rings and a snowflake.

In Vancouver, it was the first spectacular thing that happened on Feb. 12, 2010, when snowboarder Johnny Lyall flawlessly jumped through the rings and landed in the east end zone of B.C. Place Stadium to begin the 2010 Games opening ceremony.

While viewers around the world saw the hiccup by the Black Sea, Russian broadcaster Rossiya 1 switched to footage from the rehearsal. Some deft Olympic trickery. The coverup was worse than the mistake. 

The snowflake that stuck bore an uncanny resemblance to the BP logo. Ironically, after the oil company's Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, CEO Tony "I'd Rather Be Yachting" Hayward was transferred to the company's Russian joint venture TNK-BP. 

BP, by the way, sponsored the London 2012 Olympics and is a backer of the U.S. Olympic Committee

The ring malfunction drew instant comparisons to Vancouver, where all but one of the arms on the indoor cauldron emerged from beneath the false floor for the climax of the ceremony. Speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan was left standing while hockey's Wayne Gretzky, basketball's Steve Nash and skiing's Nancy Greene Raine stepped forward and did their duty to light the burner.  

It could have been far worse than embarrassing. Had the company that provided the cauldron not pondered problems ahead of time, it could have turned into a deadly, fiery mess. There had been no fire drill at B.C. Place for the two years preceding the Games

In Vancouver, athletes from India, the world's second most-populous nation, paraded in borrowed clothes. At Sochi, they came in under the International Olympic Committee flag. 

The IOC suspended the India Olympic Association because of governance problems stemming from corruption at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games.  Delhi handed the baton to Sochi, where the Games are costing $51 billion and that big price tag is unofficially blamed on corruption. (Sochi officials told me in June 2010 during my visit to the ice cluster construction site that the bill would be $20 billion. Oops!) 

How about that cauldron, lit by Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Vladislav Tretiak and figure skater Irina Rodina? It reminded me of the shape of the Montreal Olympic Stadium's tower. Once upon a time, the 1976 Summer Olympics were the poster child for a big event boondoggle. Montreal's Mayor Jean Drapeau gave a great "legacy" quote after the IOC chose his city: "The Montreal Olympics can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby."

And finally... Ideas for a nickname of the Sochi Olympic Stadium/cauldron combo, anyone? 

I propose "Fisht and Chip."

News and sports journalist Bob Mackin is author of the e-book, Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics, the only independent chronicle of how the 2010 Winter Olympics came and went. Available for 21% off via Smashwords through Feb. 23 (enter code CR34F). 

In the media? Click here to contact Bob for an interview.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

On the cusp of Sochi 2014, one more look at Vancouver 2010

The Games of the "Putingrad Olympiad" are finally upon us. Will Sochi 2014 measure up to Vancouver 2010? Or will these Games on the Russian riviera be known for fear (of terrorism), greed (rampant corruption) and bathroom jokes (toxic tapwater and twin toilets)? Who will own the podium?

Good luck, Russia/Udachi, Rossiya/Удачи, Россия

Four years after Vancouver, where Canada owned the gold step of the podium, many Canadians still have fond memories of that magical February. Many more wonder about the costs. 

Here are links to some of my recent stories about the Games of the Great Recession. The legacy, the comedy and the tragedy.
  






Read more about how the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics came and went in Red Mittens & Red Ink. The only independent e-book tells the story of the biggest sports event in Canadian history... and the politics and economics behind it all. 

Available on iTunes Bookstore Barnes & Noble and Smashwords

(The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics were the 21st Olympic Winter Games. Buy Red Mittens & Red Ink on Smashwords and receive a 21% discount when you use the code CR34F. Offer expires Feb. 23, 2014).

Listen for my Olympic Notebook during the Sochi Olympics on Sportstalk with Dan Russell on AM 650

If you're a reporter from anywhere in the world and you seek expert comment about the Winter Olympics from a news or sports standpoint, contact Bob Mackin to arrange an interview. Review copies of Red Mittens & Red Ink are available upon request.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three years ago...

Yes, it has been three years.

Three years since the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics began on Feb. 12, 2010.

The Games of the Great Recession. The Bailout Games. The El Nino Games. The Summer Games in Wintertime.

Hands up if you remember the heatwave or got sunburn; the sunsets were fabulous from my perch in the press tribune at Cypress Mountain.

Since then, the London 2012 Olympics came and went. We're now less than a year until the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

Coming later this month is the 10th anniversary of the City of Vancouver plebiscite on the Olympic bid, which was passed by 64% of the 46% of voters who went to the polls on Feb. 22.

Relive all the memories and learn shocking, never-before told stories. Read Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics e-book by Bob Mackin. The only book of its kind on the biggest, most-controversial sport and security spectacle in Canadian history.

Special $3 off discount -- only available on Feb. 12, 2013 -- to celebrate the third anniversary of opening day.

Click here to go to Smashwords and enter coupon code UV67Y to get your copy for just $5.99.

As a special bonus, click here to enjoy the Feb. 12, 2010 opening ceremony, in full.



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12-12-12

On this auspicious day when the 12s align, consider this list of 12 Things About the Number 12. 

A dozen British Columbia craft beers... refreshing.

Canadian football is played 12-aside. 

The Twelve Girls Band? There is not a prettier looking or sounding group anywhere.

Stan Smyl's number 12 was the first jersey retired by the Vancouver Canucks. Go Steamer!

The flag of the European Union has 12 stars. 

Twelve men, all American, have walked on the Moon

Jack Klugman portrayed a Baltimore Orioles' fan in Twelve Angry Men. 

There were 12 Tribes of Israel, 12 Disciples of Jesus and 12 Imams after Mohammed.

London 2012 soccer bronze medallist Christine Sinclair is @Sincy12 on Twitter (after her jersey number) and Canada's best athlete of 2012. 

There are 12 signs in the zodiac. (I'm a Leo who was born in the Year of the Dog. What's your sign?)

Twelve drummers drumming in the Twelve Days of Christmas

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics opened on the 12th of February (watch the whole ceremony here). 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Now available on iTunes


I'm proud to say that Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics is now available on Apple's iTunes. Why so proud? The e-book was written on an Apple MacBook Pro, the same one I used for those magic and controversial 17 days in February 2010. Click here for the link. The price is the same: $8.99.