Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympics rife with professionals and prophylactics

CKNW’s Marcella Bernardo livened up an otherwise typical, mid-Games news conference with the Canadian Olympic Committee on Feb. 20 at the main press centre.

She asked Vancouver-born Marnie McBean, the triple gold medal rower from Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996, about the free condoms available to athletes at the Olympic Villages.

As I said in June, not every athlete coming to the 2010 Winter Olympics will win one of the 549 gold, silver or bronze medals. But every one hoping to score can get a handful of latex.

"(Athletes are) just collecting free stuff,” said McBean, a Canadian Olympic team mentor. "I used to say it (the Olympic Games) was 16 days of free stuff. (Condoms are) out free everywhere. People just take them as a joke... People just take handfuls of them."

Some 50,000 of the rubbers are distributed freely as part of a United Nations/IOC AIDS/HIV prevention campaign.

Evidently they’re not just for athletes. On the Feb. 9 media tour, I wandered into the medical clinic at the Vancouver Olympic Village and the volunteers invited me to take a handful. Even after I took only one, they encouraged me to take more. I politely told the kind volunteers that the Games had yet to begin. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink.

McBean denied that the villages are a den of debauchery. They’re more a pressure-cooker environment, she said.

Former synchronized swimmer Sylvie Frechette, who is also working as an athlete mentor, revealed at the same news conference that Canada’s hockey team has a secret passion for ping pong.

"If you hear the ping-pong table at 9 am, it's Sidney Crosby and Shea Weber,” Frechette said.

After the shocking 5-3 Feb. 21 loss to the United States, I'm betting that coach Mike Babcock is ordering less table tennis.

You may recognize Frechette’s name. She was cheated out of a gold medal at Barcelona 1992 by a judging error, but on Dec. 15, 1993, she was awarded the medal in a ceremony at the Forum in Montreal by Canada’s senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound. Because of that, she was the first Canadian awarded a gold medal in Canada.

Cross-country skier Beckie Scott was the second on June 25, 2004 in Vancouver after the IOC revoked gold and silver from Russian doping cheats at Salt Lake 2002. IOC member Charmaine Crooks bestowed the medal on Scott at a Vancouver Art Gallery ceremony.

Of course, Alexandre Bilodeau was the first Canadian to win a gold medal in Canada on Feb. 14, 2010.

Frechette was inducted to the Canadian Sport Hall of Fame in 1999.

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