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Saturday, September 30, 2000
Memories that linger from Games

By NOEL GALLAGHER -- London Free Press

 Who expected an Aussie fortnight to fly by so quickly? This time tomorrow, the 2000 Summer Olympics -- launched two weeks ago in Sydney with the traditional "Let the Games begin!"-- will be history.

 The four-hour closing ceremony (airing on CBC at 4 a.m. Sunday) also marks the finish line of an intensive TV marathon for local viewers, 15 hours and 15,000 kilometres away from the Down Under site.

 There's no gold medal up for grabs in the Canada-U.S. battle of the broadcasters but CBC's 288 hours of live action easily beat the 160 videotaped hours on NBC. The American network drew its worst Olympic rating numbers of the past two decades and discovered "better late than never" doesn't apply to covering important world events.

 Tomorrow's farewell pageant -- to be rebroadcast at 7 p.m. -- will be hard-pressed to equal, never mind surpass, the spectacular opening ceremony that left TV watchers around the globe breathless.

 Its stunning first impression may be the most lasting memory created by the XXVII Olympiad.

 But other recollections are also likely to linger:

 - A host of athletes did Canada proud but special mentions must go to Simon Whitfield for his gold-medal victory in the triathlon and Steve Nash, whose never-say-die spirit almost carried the Canuck basketball squad to the medal podium.

 - CBC host Brian Williams didn't record a personal best at these Games but deserves credit for his journalistic pursuit of the drug controversies that threaten to taint the competition. "We can't just say we're here covering sports," explained Williams, taking an unsubtle shot at NBC's "see no evil, report no evil" attitude about the doping issue.

 - Next to the drug problems, the lack of funding for Canadian amateur sport was the most debated topic of the last two weeks. Our competitors' claims that more money would mean more medals were ignored by federal government officials, ridiculed by the media and uninvestigated by CBC. Guess it's just a crazy coincidence that the winning nations in Sydney are also the biggest spenders, eh?

 - If there were a prize for Olympic spin-doctoring, it would have Denis Codere's name on it. The federal secretary of state responsible for amateur sport keeps saying medal totals aren't an accurate gauge of this country's success in Sydney. Excusez-moi Denis, but competition is the name of the Games. As my old high school football coach used to say, "If winning didn't matter, we wouldn't be keeping score."

 - Ron MacLean, better known as Don Cherry's goofy sidekick on Coach's Corner, has been surprisingly effective as host of CBC's graveyard shift.

 - TV commercials continue to interrupt the fun of the Games. Note to advertisers: Endless repetition does not make viewers' hearts grow fonder and too much familiarity breeds contempt for your products. CBC's done-to-death promos for its shows are particularly irritating.

 - Call it the irresistible lure of the Olympics: people intently watching beach volleyball, trampoline, water polo, cycling, floor gymnastics and other contests they know and care little about. "I'm hooked. I think it's the intense competition that grabs you," notes a friend who found herself fascinated by the synchronized diving competition. It's another of the sports that won't matter again until the five-ring circus moves to Athens for the 2004 Summer Games.
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