On Scene

No guts - no glory; not really
February 13, 2010
Written by Paul Dixon

Saturday, Feb. 13

Vancouver came alive on Friday as the Olympic Torch Relay wound its way through the streets of the city for most of the day. In a “Canadian, eh” finish to the day, Wayne Gretzky ferried the final torch in the back of a pickup truck at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies at BC Place Stadium to the outdoor caldron at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Heavy rain failed to deter fans who ran through the streets with the cavalcade.

Several protest groups did cause minor detours in the torch route throughout the day, but the large crowds that lined the route were upbeat and defused any potential problems simply by their numbers and sheer exuberance. A protest crowd of several thousand did gather outside BC Place Stadium as the opening ceremonies were about to get underway, but were met by a large contingent of Vancouver police who kept matters under control by taking a low-key approach, bantering and kibitzing with the protesters.

While there were no significant problems with the protestors, there was at least one RCMP tactical team in the downtown area had there been a problem. The team had been bussed in to the Hotel Vancouver in the afternoon as I was passing by. A large crowd was drawn by the motorcycle escort and there was much speculation as to what “team” it might be. The police uniforms didn’t seem to offer a clue to the scores of people taking photos. I wondered if there was anyone in the crowd old enough to have seen the movie Slapshot. Ya wanna know what team it is?  It’s the 60 Hanson Brothers.

The most serious threat to Friday’s proceedings was posed by the thousands of people who ventured into Stanley Park before sunrise to watch California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger carry the torch. The security detail was overwhelmed as people surged forward to see the Torchinator (I am not making this up!) and while the processoin was halted momentarily, sanity finally prevailed.

A sombre note was cast over the day by the death of Georgian Nodar Kumartashvili on the sliding track in Whistler. Something that won’t be reported in the mainstream media is that the emergency medical protocols in place for such an incident appear to have worked flawlessly, but the trauma was too severe. Expert medical staff were at his side within seconds and by the time he was being airlifted to the athlete’s polyclinic at the Whistler Olympic Village, a trauma team and operating room were on standby in Vancouver.

Kumartashvili’s death underscores the razor’s edge many of these athletes are on and the stresses they compete with every day. It’s easy to say “no guts – no glory”, but we have to realize that so many of these athletes are putting it on the line for little more than room and board.

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