By JIM TAYLOR -- Calgary Sun
Here's my plan for the next Olympic Games: A month before the first event, Canada should announce that it expects to win no medals whatsoever.
Nary a gold, silver or bronze.
Nothing for good conduct or participation or being best-dressed or cutest or most sportsmanlike. Nada. Nil. Ziltch.
We should go even further. Canada's chef de mission should issue a press release:
"Well, yes, we are taking a team over and we know our athletes will do their best because they're a great bunch and we love them all. But standings-wise, our aim is to finish ahead of Bhutan and Djibouti."
Crazy? Maybe. But the Games aren't a week old and already we've zoomed to the top in the one competition at which we are unexcelled: the Agonizing Reappraisal.
The same people who were writing and broadcasting going in that we had a strong team and should better the 22-medal performance four years ago in Atlanta are now writing and broadcasting and wondering what went wrong.
'How Come We're So Bad?' screams the headline in one of my morning papers.
'Color Canada Red, White and Olympic Blue' laments one of Canada's national papers, which has so many reporters on hand it could design a flag and go as a country.
Everywhere you look there are stories on the state of the national team. They run the gamut from don't-panic-we've-got-good-chances-coming to the quadrennial bleat that medals cost money and we're just not putting up sufficient loot.
Hogwash, all of it.
The Olympics were never supposed to be about winning. Victory was supposed to be nothing more than a by-product of competition, an extra scoop of ice cream on an already-delicious cone.
Naive? Of course. The Games are professional in everything but name. Endorsement contracts hinge on where you finish. Gold is bonanza, silver pretty good, bronze not bad. Fourth place? Don't call us, we'll call you. When getting there can bring so much, is it any wonder that some run the life-threatening risk of chemical shortcuts?
It's just that I have this old-fashioned idea about international events: that if they are truly about fellowship and friendly competition -- and if they aren't, what's the point? -- then we shouldn't send our athletes out on the world stage weighted down by a country on their backs.
Frankly, it wouldn't bother me if our Olympic team came back without a solitary medal.
Not if they went and gave their best, if they represented us with exuberance and dignity and class as they almost always do.
Not if they made good friends and shared the Olympic experience and came home with memories that, win or lose, made the whole thing worthwhile.
The Olympics have grown cumbersome, a colossus turned corrupt. But that's not the athletes' fault. Television networks and sponsors and equipment companies risk only money. It's the athletes who give their time, their bodies and their dreams.
Every athlete we sent to Sydney went joyously, determined to give his or her best, delirious with the knowledge that they might get to see their flag go up the pole and hear their national anthem sung as the gold is draped around their necks.
Maybe they don't win. But they don't lose. And neither do we.