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Welcome to Toronto's Sports Summer: Welcome to Thunderdome
by Jeff Beer

It's been a bizarre and ugly summer of sports in Hogtown.

The Blue Jays suck. The Argos are worse. The Phantoms are good but nobody knows who they are; I think the Jays should've gone after some quality players this past year instead of trying to bring fans to the SkyDome with cheeseball nostalgic promotions to highlight the acquisition of an alumnus from a mediocre era in the team's history, Buck Martinez, as the new Manager. Now I like Buck as much as the next sucker, but c'mon — fans know (for the most part) winning talks, while bullshit marketing schemes walk.

Speaking of bullshit, how 'bout them Argos? First of all, they stink. Bad. Second, if they don't move to a smaller stadium next year — that is, a place where normal people can watch good football for a decent price and hammer down really cheap booze — then they should leave town. Go to the Maritimes, I say, where people will appreciate them.

I'll be the first to admit, not only are Toronto sporting folk a fickle bunch, they can be rancid snobs as well: take the Toronto Phantoms, our newly arrived Arena Football team. It took a first-round playoff home victory over the New York Dragons to get them actually mentioned in the local papers (only the second time I've seen that done all season). Here's a football team that has a few "name" players and wins, yet still can't get any respect. Perhaps some celebrities should buy them then someone will give a shit. (Calling Mr. Gretzky, your Midas ownership-touch is needed) Hoho.

Damn, the Argos should be so lucky, to have a guy like Ty Law (current Phantom, former pro-bowler with the NFL's New England Patriots). These are just a few tidbits that annoy me about the Toronto Sport Scene — also that I have yet to be offered VIP status anywhere is not exactly favorable. My biggest complaint, however, is the Olympics. Indeed, you knew it was coming now that that five-ring circus is over. The evil Red Giant has won. Oh sure, there were plenty of cries for justice from around the world, but alas, no allowances were given.

There is something to be said about a group of people who hand the Olympics to a country with such a heinous human rights record. If you weren't aware, earlier this month the 2008 Olympic Summer Games were awarded to Beijing, China. Other cities competing for the chance to host were Toronto, Paris, Osaka (Japan) and Istanbul (Turkey).

After watching the bidding process for the Games through various news sources it seems apparent that the International Olyimpic Committee (IOC) is still nothing but an "Old Boys Club" whose members still need to have their asses kissed as much as possible to make a decision.

Of the IOC's 150 or so members, approximately 50 are former Olympic athletes. These athletes have been pointed to as the "new breed" of the IOC; the type of members who will make decisions based on the athletes and not in the name of self-interests. Nice idea.

Problem is, the old members who make up the majority of the IOC just can't seem to adjust to life without corruption. One observer of the pre-selection frenzy in Moscow commented, "I know of one IOC member that's already promised their vote to both Beijing and Toronto. Well, you can't do that, can you?" Hell yeah. That place is like Thunderdome - no rules. The strongest survives. The greedier the better. These older members seem to be pissed they can no longer take the bribes and perks of the pre-Salt Lake City bid races of yesteryear.

They would like to go back to the Salad Days of now ex-President Juan Samarach's golden years. For those who loved a little kickback to go with the job, they grieve the end of that Loony ol' coot's IOC Presidential tenure. It is a strange time with unknown consequences. Bid Committees have to do all they can to influence IOC members without stepping out of bounds. If they do, the IOC has a watchdog called the Corruption Officer or Standards Official - either way, Brian Williams of the CBC called the position an oxymoron. He went on to further comment that IOC has not rid itself of corruption, just changed the way the corruption was done.

So here we are. Losers. After all the big talk and confident swaggers, Mayor Mel's "Greatest City in the World" lost its chance to host the Olympics for the second time since 1996. As much as I'd like to blame our Midget Buffoon of a Mayor and his comments towards the people of Africa for the defeat, I'm afraid the fix was in before all that.

Let's face it — it doesn't matter if the Toronto bid was put together "by athletes, for athletes". Anyone who seriously thought that would get the win still believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth-Fairy (not unlike all those blubbering teary-eyed boobs who crammed Front Street in Toronto, just to hear the inevitable announcement with only free pancakes to quell their sorrow).

Just four days before the decision was made, the Toronto media began bracing the fair citizens (and themselves) for failure. The Toronto Star's Jim Byers said,

"In some ways, second place might be just what Toronto wants to be. The frontrunner usually takes all the shots (witness the recent outcry in Europe over China's human rights policies) while the second place city goes relatively unscathed."

Hey, ah, Jimbo - are you kidding?

The only "shots" winners take are of stiff drinks and pats on the back. Sure, the second-place city comes out of it unscathed, and with no Olympics either.

Perhaps Byers knows something I don't, or he has the complex of always being the last kid picked in road hockey. I could be off here, but I thought the "recent outcry" regarding China's human rights record began as soon as Beijing was named a finalist, and that outcry came from all over the world, not simply within Europe.

You can talk of the Olympic spirit — the compassion, the comraderie, the love of the Games…but that doesn't pay the bills, hondo - oh no, bid committees must show the IOC that they have the money to make the Olympics a commercial success. Period.

The politics involved to simply arrive at a conclusion as to who should host the games is mind-numbing. Not just bid committees schmoozing and throwing pamphlets under hotel room doors in the dead of night, but personal politics play a vital role in the decision making process.

One example of this is how the IOC Presidential race may have influenced the decision to give the Games to China. Canuck IOC member, the unfortanately named Dick Pound, wouldn't vote for Toronto because of the running theory that the IOC would never give the Presidency to a Canadian after awarding the Games to a Canadian city the week before. It sounds like a decent strategy, but poor Dicky lost the IOC Presidential race anyway. So we have two losing efforts in less than a week. Cazart.

No matter how certain members of the IOC and the other Bid Committees attempted to remain diplomatic about the "human rights issue", there were several stealth references to human rights in the days leading up to the decision. But all these furrowed eyebrows and terse looks of concern added up to shit al in the endl. During its final presentations, Toronto was questioned about Mayor MonkeyMan-Buffoon's comments, yet China didn't have to face one human rights question. Go figure. By that time — the pockets were already lined, the deals were done…and the fix had been in from the jump.

* * * * *

It has been a few weeks now and Toronto has licked its Olympic wounds and started to focus on the summer's remaining sporting extravaganzas; such as the LPGA Bell Canadian Open, the Rogers AT&T Cup for Pro Tennis at York University and, of course, the Innisfil Rodeo held just outside of Toronto in the hamlet of Innisfil.

So there seems to be plenty to keep ourselves busy for the remainder of these summer months. Next thing you know, hockey and basketball will once again rule the sporting landscape.

Ahhh, but there's plenty of drunken sport-wagering left in this season of the sun. Take advantage, and to hell with the consequences.


Jeff Beer would like it if the IOC came back to Toronto when he was in PEI.

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