Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Olympics’

Anything you can do, we can do better? USA hockey defeats Canada

Posted by sanityinjection on February 22, 2010

So much to write about today, but let’s start with the really important stuff. Yesterday’s victory by the US Olympic hockey team over Canada was a very big deal, indeed, for both North American countries. It marks the first time the US team has defeated Canada at the Olympics since 1960 – half a century ago.

However, the impact is arguably greater in Canada, where hockey is more than a sport – it is seen as a fundamental aspect of the nation itself, similar to the American trio of “Mom, baseball, and apple pie.” While the Canadian team does not always win gold at the Olympics, being defeated in the preliminary round by its larger southern neighbor hurts because it hits at issues of Canadian identity and the relationship between the two countries. In many ways, Canada functions as a sort of “little brother” of the US. Until now, Canadians could reassure themselves that despite many areas of US dominance, Canada was still better than the Yanks at its national sport of hockey.

And yet, as Canada begins a round of soul-searching, it is important not to overreach in drawing conclusions. Some in the US are already referring to the game as the “Second Miracle on Ice”, but this victory of experienced American NHL players over their experienced Canadian NHL teammates hardly compares with the 1980 US squad of college players defeating the seasoned Soviet professional team. (If the North American Olympic teams were still made up of amateurs, I would bet Canada would still have a decisive advantage over the US.) Canada remains in the medal hunt and is rightly considered an extremely dangerous and tough team.

It is also important to recall the disadvantage that Canada faces in trying to compete with the much larger and richer US in virtually any area. Given enough time and proper application of resources, it is practically inevitable that the US will eventually prevail.

But does this mean that Canada must be resigned to becoming the 51st US state, as it is sometimes jokingly called? Hardly. Ironically given the hockey result, the Vancouver Games have seen a tremendous flowering of Canadian patriotism. The Canadian crowds, known in the past for being polite and a bit reserved, have waved their flags and cheered their country’s teams as vigorously as the Americans do when the games are held in the US, to the point of reducing a Danish curler not used to the noise level to tears. And the Canadian athletes have responded by ending the country’s gold medal drought on its home soil. In fact, at a Canada curling match yesterday with the game on the line at the end, the crowd spontaneously broke out into the national anthem “O Canada” and inspired their curler to throw the winning shot – an occurrence that is without precedent in Canadian history.

In fact, there are still plenty of areas where Canada can hold its head up high in comparison to its neighbor to the south. Canada rightly prides itself on its success in preserving its amazing natural resources and wildlife. It also enjoys a much more admirable record of respecting native peoples and honoring its agreements with them. Canadians enjoy a reputation around the world as a kind, generous, and friendly people. Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Calgary all ranked among the top 30 cities in the world in quality of life in 2009 (all higher that the top-rated US city, Honolulu), reflecting a worldwide perception that Canada has quietly managed to achieve a nice balance of factors that make it a very desirable place to live – just ask the approximately 250,000 people who every year give Canada one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world.

So, while the US may well be singing the lyrics of the Irving Berlin song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” to their Canadian neighbors in the wake of their hockey upset and their overall dominance of the Olympic medal count so far, the verdict is far from decided. Until the day when Canadian colleges and universities start recruiting hockey players from the US rather than the other way around, Canada will still be known as the home of hockey.


Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Let Rio have the Olympics

Posted by sanityinjection on October 1, 2009

As you surely know if you have been watching Obamavision, I mean television lately, President Obama is traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark to lobby on behalf of his home city of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics. Chicago is one of four finalists for the games along with Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro.

The President has received some criticism (especially from the Right, natch) as to whether this is appropriate or represents the best possible use of his time, as both foreign and domestic priorities loom large. The best line was from conservative activist Grover Norquist, who quipped that he has no problem with Obama going to Denmark, but he’s a little concerned that he might try to come back 🙂

Putting this question aside, I’d like to make my own pitch to the International Olympic Committee, should any of its solons happen to be reading. I urge the IOC to support not Chicago’s bid, but Rio’s. Here’s why:

  • Spread the love: Both the US and Japan have hosted multiple Olympic Games. Spain had the Summer Games in Barcelona as recently as 1992. No Olympics have ever been held in South America.
  • Local support: Recent polls suggest that about half of Chicagoland residents would prefer not to have the Olympics in their city. Brazilians on the other hand are very excited about the prestige and attention the Olympics would bring to their city and country.
  • Atmosphere: Rio is internationally known as a friendly city and a place to party. Chicago, while a great city, isn’t known for either. Plus Rio has better beaches.
  • Economics: Chicago is a city with a healthy economic base. Hosting the Olympics will probably cost as much in disruptions and preparations as it will gain in business. Rio, while prosperous in some ways, has areas of shocking poverty and is far more in need of the boost the Olympics would bring, as is Brazil generally. Furthermore, while athletes from Europe, East Asia and North America can afford to attend the Olympics wherever they are held, there may well be athletes in South America for whom having the games on their continent will make the difference as to whether they can compete at all.

It’s not that I am against having the Olympics in the US, or in Chicago if the city truly wants them. However, it’s a virtual guarantee that there will be another Olympic in the US within the next few decades. Brazil has no such guarantees, and the money Rio has spent to prepare its pitch for the games is far dearer to them than to the multiple US cities that apply every single year.

As an American, I would vigorously advocate for something that was important for the future of my country. This is an athletic contest. Fun, yes. Admirable, yes. Critical, no. Let somebody else have a turn.

Posted in Current Events | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Another stain on the tarnished Olympic reputation

Posted by sanityinjection on August 22, 2008

Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel exposes the farcical IOC “investigation” of the allegations that medal-winning Chinese gymnasts had their birthdates altered by Chinese authorities to make them eligible:

I would have more respect for the IOC if they came right out and said that they will accept anything the Chinese government says at face value and never investigate any allegations of cheating. But to hold an “investigation” and then deliberately turn a blind eye to evidence is a travesty.

It is worth pointing out that little gymnast He Kexin and her teammates are not to blame in this scandal. They do what they are told, and in a totalitarian state there could be consequences for their families if they don’t. The age limits set by the FIG are designed to protect young gymnasts such as He from being exploited at the risk of the proper health and development of their bodies. Sadly, that is exactly what Chinese authorities, following in the footsteps of the doping East Germans decades ago, have done to these girls.  Once again, the totalitarian state sacrifices the health and welfare of individuals for the good of the State. But their talents and skills have been demonstrated beyond question, regardless of who wears a medal. It is unfortunate that the Chinese athletes’ accomplishments will forever be tainted with the unresolved allegations of cheating. It is for their physical well-being and for their honor, not for the other nations’ athletes, that a full and fair investigation should be held.

Posted in Current Events, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wherefore dost thou tax me?

Posted by sanityinjection on August 14, 2008

Interesting little story from Reuters regarding an Italian athlete, Francesco D’Aniello, who just won a silver medal in a shooting event at the Beijing Olympics. Apparently, Italy, like a number of countries, offers cash prizes to Italian athletes who win medals. However, those cash prizes are subject to taxation, like other forms of income. So D’Aniello, at a press conference, suggested the Italian government carve out a special tax exemption for Olympic medallists:

We athletes go through major sacrifices to get to this level. It would be the right thing to do to remove the taxes from what we get here. It would be a very good thing.

Normally I am inclined to sympathize with anyone who feels their taxes are too high. And I have no doubt that the Italian tax rates are probably higher than ours here in the US. But D’Aniello’s request is fundamentally flawed. Without gainsaying the amount of work and sacrifice that went into his achievement, does D’Aniello really think that athletes are the only ones who devote tremendous hard work and make sacrifices for their professions? How about police, firefighters, soldiers – should they all be tax exempt too? Or maybe D’Aniello thinks he’s more important than they are. The bottom line is, the government bonus for his medal is income, and should be taxed as such. The amount of the bonus was not given, but based on what similar countries pay, it’s probably a six-figure amount.

Of course, the Italian legislature might be wise to at least make a pretense of seriously considering D’Aniello’s suggestion. He is, after all, armed and a crack shot.

How do you say “ungrateful ass” in Italian?

Posted in Current Events, Foreign Affairs, Politics, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Olympic lip-synching in Beijing: A microcosm of totalitarianism

Posted by sanityinjection on August 12, 2008

I have been avoiding writing about the Olympics because I really don’t want to give the Chinese regime any more press than they are already getting. But this story is too good to pass up. Apparently, the cute-as-a-button little girl who sang during the opening cermonies was, in fact, lip-synching to the voice of another little girl who isn’t quite so photogenic.

Of course the Chinese are hardly the first to pull a “Milli Vanilli” at a major event. But what I find striking about this lies more in the comments of the Chinese once the deception was revealed. The incident is a perfect illustration of the totalitarian state in miniature: What matters is not what is best or fair for either of the two little girls (or any other tykes who could have performed in their stead), but only the need of the State for an impressive ceremony that will bring glory to the Motherland. If that sounds like Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia, it should.

Because of the considerable success the Chinese regime has had in raising standards of living, many, perhaps most Chinese have been willing to submit themselves to the greater good of the State. But we increasingly see rumblings of discontent when local authorities abuse and run roughshod over the people, and the State’s response usually comes too late. And even the strict press controls in China cannot prevent the Chinese people from seeing the contrast between their polluted, tightly controlled world and what lies outside their borders. Some in the West may be fooled by a brilliantly contrived display of pageantry (masterminded by genius film director Zhang Yimou, the Chinese Peter Jackson), but the Chinese people themselves are on the opposite side of the Potemkin village, and their eyes are slowly being opened.

Posted in Current Events, Foreign Affairs | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »