Thursday, February 5, 1998
Elvis has earned the flag
Today, in the usual cloak-and-dagger manner of these always suspicious times, the Canadian Olympic Association will announce its flag-bearer for the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games.
But it shouldn't be any mystery. It shouldn't be difficult. It should just be Elvis Stojko.
There is a certain honor in being the flag bearer. There is a certain dignity to it. It is supposed to be about success, about performance, about our country.
And it is supposed to show something to the world, show them a face they know, an athlete to remember.
In Lillehammer, it was Kurt Browning. In Albertville, it was Sylvie Daigle. In Calgary, it was Brian Orser. In Sarajevo, it was Gaetan Boucher. In Lake Placid, it was Ken Read.
All of them world champions in their games. All of them comfortable on the world stage.
And so it should be this time with Elvis Stojko, three-time world champion, Olympic silver medallist, and until the NHL players arrive next week, the best-known Canadian face at these Games of Nagano.
There is that special moment in every opening ceremonies of every Olympic Games. It is a personal moment, a private moment depending on the country in which you live. Your athletes walk in in uniform. You stare. You focus for a moment on the flag-bearer.
And instantly, you recognize him or you don't.
That should be the test. But this flag business is often political. If you follow the bouncing Canadian ball, you can see how the game often works. If a man carries the flag in the opening ceremonies, a woman often carries it in the closing ceremonies. If an anglophone carries the flag to begin the Games, a francophone carries the flag to end the Games.
It shouldn't be this way, of course, but it is. Too often it is about political correctness. And in the back of some people's minds is this: If Canada wins the gold medal in hockey in these Olympics, how do you not allow Wayne Gretzky to carry the flag to close the Games?
So the question is this: Do you begin and end with a male anglophone? Do you buck the political process and the tight-rope walking the Canadian team has long specialized in and do the right thing this find?
Now. Stojko isn't the only Canadian athlete worthy of consideration, but he is the best choice. Oh, you can make a strong case for Myriam Bedard, the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history. She did win two gold medals in Lillehammer. She did win a bronze in Albertville. She likely is in her last Olympic Games.
But she carried the flag in closing of the Lillehammer Games and no one before has closed one Olympics for Canada and opened another.
Another choice might be Jean-Luc Brassard, also a gold medallist from Lillehammer. He is extremely popular in Japan and his his event, moguls skiing, is growing in world-wide popularity. Brassard is a three-time world champion himself.
But think of the picture. Elvis Stojko on one side. Jean- Luc Brassard on the other.
Which sport is larger on the world scale? Which sport is more popular? Which face is better known?
There is even another name to consider: Catriona Le May Doan, the speed skater from Saskatoon. She might win one gold medal here. She might win two. She is one of those special athletes who seems to have found her place in her sport at precisely the right time.
She wouldn't be a bad choice. She just wouldn't be the best choice. Not now. Not yet.
You have Brassard from the freestyle ski team. You have LeMay Doan. You have Bedard.
You don't have much of a choice.
This is supposed to be Elvis Stojko's time. He has been to the Olympics three times. The first time he skated wonderfully and placed seventh. His were first time marks. The second time he deserved better and placed second.
This is his third Olympics. Probably his last Olympics.
There isn't much of a choice here.