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After 16 days of having the TV on for about 16 hours a day, I can now return to my normal diet of HBO and Netflix. Which should cut down my tube time  by half.

The Olympic Games, this the XXXI Summer Olympiad (so rare is the opportunity to use Roman numerals these days), was, despite all the speculation about Brazil’s ability to get it up and running on time, has to be declared a success. As a long time Olympic addict, it’s difficult to remember when any city hosting an Olympic Games didn’t come under the same dark scrutiny as Rio de Janeiro. (Look no further than the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics, which came off despite numerous construction strikes, mismanagement and cost overruns that took the province 30 years to pay off.) But somehow, despite stories of bad plumbing, faulty electrics, raw sewage and the Zika virus, Rio managed to pull it off –  all while in the background, a simmering political scandal and a badly faltering economy was put on the back burner.

The optics of Rio plus the thousands of athletes in the prime of their  physical lives was intoxicating. As usual, the CBC rose to the occasion with their coverage, which, word has it, is vastly superior to the tape-delayed coverage of NBC. It’s doubtful, U.S. viewers got to see the same Olympics we Canadians did. But hats off the U.S. athletes who cleaned up medal-wise with 121 medals, easily ahead of second place China (though surprisingly, if you rank countries by gold medals won, Britain ranked second.)

 

Last Canadian standing was heptathlete bronze medallist Brianne Theisen-Eaton. While others fall, Canadians stand tall.

Last Canadian standing was heptathlete bronze medallist Brianne Theisen-Eaton. While others fall, Canadians stand tall.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), with its bold Own the Podium attitude, hoped to take home 19 medals, not exactly going out on a limb considering Canada won 18 medals at the 2012 London Olympics. So, it can be considered a success by Canadian standards that the athletes won three more medal than the COC predicted. Seven of those 22 medals were won by two athletes, swimmer Penny Oleksiak and sprinter Andre De Grasse. Only 16 with two years left in high school, Oleksiak will try to decompress when she has to go shopping for school supplies. De Grasse, in case you weren’t looking closely, wore Puma track spikes, something they pay him to do after he signed a $11.25 million-dollar deal with the shoe company in 2015. Though he left the University of Southern California to turn pro, he apparently will complete his final year while on the professional track and field circuit. His school supplies will be taken care of.

This Mongolian wrestling coach, providing the best theatre in the 16 days of the Rio Games, was unhappy about a judges’ decision that took away his country’s chance at a bronze medal. Stripping down to your skivvies and socks is apparently an ancient Mongolian custom to show displeasure.

Andre De Grasse took three medals home, one silver and two bronze.

As Canadians, we don’t set the bar particularly high when it comes to Olympic medals. But long gone is the time when the public accepted personal best times or new Canadian records. We want some Olympic bling. At the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Canada won a grand total of 5 medals. It was embarrassing, a kind of turning point for athletics in Canada, where meagre investments were made in training young men and women. In the years leading up to the Winter Games in Vancouver, private and government agencies invested close to $110 million in training and coaching. There’s a new sports culture in Canada. It looked very good in Rio.

 

Eric Lamaze and his horse Fine Lady 5 take a hard right on their way to a bronze medal in the individual jump-off in Rio.

The Summer Olympics (the irony of the fact that it’s officially winter in the southern hemisphere was not lost on some of the competitors) is one of the most colourful events to make its way onto TV very four years. No snow pants, no goggles, no helmets. It’s a time for ripped athletes to shine in as little clothing as possible. The male swimmers, especially, had a certain swagger that is very difficult to pull off while wearing ski boots. And where but at the Summer Olympics could you hear a CBC announcer at the weight lifting competition say, “What an impressive jerk!”

Now back to reality.

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