Archive for February, 2010

Hi everyone:

It’s now Monday February 15 and Canada is on top of the world today. Once again, the Winter Olympics are on home soil, this time out in Vancouver. Ever since the Games were awarded to the city in July 2003 the excitement has been mounting.  In fact, some cynics might say that all this has been so hyped that it might just be a relief when the Olympics are over. For the past year, and especially within the past six months, you really couldn’t go anywhere in Canada without knowing the Games were coming. It was everywhere. Sure, it would be easy to become cynical, jaded, or just not “buy into” the whole Olympic experience. But how often does your country get to host an Olympic Games? Especially when it’s been 22 years since Calgary, the last time the Games came to our shores.

For many Canadians, including yours truly, my first real involvement was with the Torch relay. It was a great idea that the Vancouver organizing committee wanted to have a relay that would take the Olympic Flame to every corner of our country.

The Flame arrived in Hamilton just after 6:00 p.m. on Saturday December 19, and I got to see it about as close up as anyone. I stood at the corner of King and Bay Streets in downtown Hamilton, and as I watched the Flame come along King Street, over the Queen Street hill and down the slight incline to us at Bay Street, I couldn’t help but think of my aunt Hazel.

One of my father’s sisters, Hazel lived in Calgary, and participated in the 1988 Torch Relay. In fact, her turn with the Flame was in downtown Calgary just a few hours before the Opening ceremonies. She passed away in 2008, so when I saw the Flame coming towards me, I offered a silent prayer in her memory.

As luck would have it, one of the “exchanges” (when one runner handed the Flame to the next) took place right in front of me. I was only a few yards away – close enough that if I had the appropriate device with me, I could have lit my own “torch” from the Flame itself. It only took a moment, and then the next runner was on their way. Like all the others, they did their 300 metre stretch before passing it off to the next one.

I stayed with the Flame during much of its run through downtown Hamilton, but decided not to attend the celebration party at Dundurn Castle. Instead, I watched the party live on our local cable system.

The next morning, Sunday December 20, the Flame started its journey again outside Hamilton City Hall. I joined a few hundred people to see it off and even though it was a wee bit chilly outside (which you expect for a Sunday morning in mid December), our spirits were warm.

I stood just beside the truck that also housed the Webcam that allowed people across Canada and the world to watch the Flame’s progress via the Torch Relay section of http://www.ctvolympics.ca I got talking with the guys running the Webcam – one of them had noticed my Hockey Night in Canda tuque and wanted to know if the Leafs had won the night before.

It led to a fun conversation and while I was not allowed to actually enter the truck and see the equipment, they showed me as much as they could from where I was standing. It was fascinating to take a behind-the-scenes look at the technology, and gave me a fresh understanding of how all of us could participate in the Torch Relay, if only by watching online.

Just after 7:15, the first runner of the day emerged from a small van that contained the first group that would carry the Flame through Hamilton. As one might expect, she was very excited – jumping up and down, screaming and shouting.  Now of course, one might argue that another reason she was doing all this was simply to keep warm on a cold winter’s morning. But I will let you be the judge of that one 🙂

A moment later the Flame itself was ready, lit from one of the many miner’s lamps that served as a backup in case the Flame went out for any reason. Then a last minute check to make sure everything was ready and soon the first runner was on her way. Just past James Street, her 300 metre run was over and I saw her pass it along to the next runner. I stayed with the Flame for a few more blocks, turning off King Street at Catharine to walk back home. I waved good-bye to the Flame and said a silent prayer that everything would go smoothly on its journey west to its final home in Vancouver.

Last Friday night, nearly two months after the Flame visited Hamilton, it did indeed arrive in Vancouver, and the Games began with a wonderful opening ceremony at BC Place. On a scale of 1 to 100, I would give the ceremony a 95. For the most part, it was really well executed and ran almost flawlessly. It’s unfortunate that due to a hydraulics malfunction that the indoor cauldron did not light completely as planned. But it was a nice touch to have some famous Canadians such as Nancy Greene, Rick Hansen, Catriona LeMay-Doan and Wayne Gretzky involved in the lighting.

The other reason I give it a 95 out of 100 was because I wasn’t crazy about the 2 anthems that were sung. I believe that when you sing something as important as a national anthem or other meaningful song, you should sing it as written, and in a meaningful fashion.

But I find it sad these days that when many people sing a national anthem or other patriotic song these days they want to “make love to it”. They get all emotional with it and distort the tune and/or the words. Such was the case with the woman who sang “O Canada” as our flag was being raised. I was rather disappointed with the performance because she tried to turn it into a love song instead of just singing it.

Some of you may tell me that I am too harsh – and of course you have just as much a right to your opinion as I do. Or perhaps it’s because I have sung in a number of choral groups and have a good “musical” sense. But I simply wish that people would respect and affirm the true spirit of what the composer originally intended.

Don’t turn a national anthem or other patriotic song  into the latest chart-topping hit song, or put things into the arrangement that aren’t supposed to be. Instead, why not just sing it properly with the right inflections, the proper musical notes. Don’t “swoop” it when you sing – do it with respect and sing it properly!

The second “anthem” I really didn’t like was the Olympic Hymn that is always sung at Olympic opening and closing ceremonies when the Olympic flag is raised and/or lowered. It was originally written in Greece, the ancient home of the Games, and as such was written in the Greek language. For some reason, however, the woman who sang it on Friday night did it instead in English. Don’t get me wrong – she has an excellent voice and sang well. But why not sing the Olympic Hymn in its original language? It was meant to be sung in Greek, and I think that by singing it in any other language, you demean the true spirit of the song, and diminish the tribute to our Greek forebearers and the Games ancient roots.

As I write this, the Games are just getting started. Today (Feb. 15) is just the fourth day of competition. So many of the wonderful moments we will remember for years to come are still in the future. But I wanted to close off this entry with one more wonderful moment.

Yes, at long last Canada has finally won a gold medal on our home soil. Now many of you reading this, especially if you are from countries that have hosted either the summer or winter Games in the past, just might shrug your shoulders and say something like “Been there, done that, got the T shirt…” But last night, Alexandre Bilodeau won the gold medal at the men’s moguls course at Cypress Mountain, just outside Vancouver. And that was the first time ever that Canada had won a gold at home. Not in Montreal when we hosted the summer Olympic Games in 1976. And at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988? Nope.

So coming into Vancouver, we all had to wonder what would happen. Although Canada easily has the strongest team we have ever sent to any Games, I’m sure we all wondered when (or if) we could end the jinx. Many thought it would happen on Saturday night when Jennifer Heil was in the women’s moguls event on the same hill. She was in first place until the final skier, an American woman, blasted down the hill with a great run and won the gold medal – deservedly so. Heil finished second. So close and yet so far.

Fast forward to last night (Sunday). Bilodeau has just done the performance of his life. A wonderful run and it put him in first place. Now, just like Jennifer Heil 24 hours before, only one more competitor. That close to a gold medal. The final skier, this time from France, turns in a great run to close the competition. A hush falls over the crowd as the judges confer and tallied up the score. You could cut the tension with a ski pole!

And then after what seemed like an eternity – it happened. The scoreboard showed that Bilodeau had won the gold. A huge roar from the crowd. Followed by celebrations right across Canada. At last, gold was ours. I hope it’s the first of many that Canadians win in Vancouver. If you’re reading this after the Games end on February 28, you’ll know the answer.

A couple of final thoughts here. First, maybe it’s appropriate that Canada’s first ever gold medal at home was won on Valenttine’s Day. After all, for many people Valentine’s Day is all about love, romance and that special someone in your life. And the first time you fall in love is always the most special one of them all. It might happen to you several times, but there’s nothing like the first time.

I think it’s the same thing here. I believe that what happened last night at Cypress Mountain was just the first of many times Canada will win gold at a “home” Olympics. Not just at Vancouver 2010 – but we are fortunate enough to host future Games, either summer or winter, I know it will happen again. But Bilodeau’s wonderful performance last night was the first one. And just like falling in love, the first one is always the most special.

Second, although I haven’t seen this mentioned elsewhere, I think it is particularly poignant that our first gold medal winner on home soil was born in Montreal (the site of the 1976 Summer Games) in 1988 (the year of the other time Canada has hosted the Games, the winter ones in Calgary). And having done this at the third Games in Canada, there is a tie-in to all 3 Games held in Canada to date.

Time to sign off now. Who knows what wonderful Olympic moments await us over the next 2 weeks? There have already been many of them – perhaps none more so that what happened at Cypress last night. I pray that these will truly be a Games to remember and that the people of Vancouver will feel the same “buzz” that so many of us (including yours truly!) experienced when we hosted the Games in Montreal in 1976.

Until next time, Citius. Altius, Fortius!!


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Hi everyone:

As I write this entry, it is February 2010 and I am delighted to once again be writing all of my blog readers. Sorry that it has been a while since my last entry, but things have been a bit busy for me.  January wound up being a more hectic month than I had originally intended – both personally and professionally.

One of the reasons for being busy is that I have launched a brand new business venture – getting this thing up and running is one of the key reasons why January was a crazy month.

 I call it “Greg’s Mega Marketplace”. In simple terms, it means that I have turned part of my Web site into a giant Internet shopping mall. Whether you are looking for books, CD’s, home entertainment or computer equipment (just to name a few things!), you can find it via GMM.

I commend this new venture to all of you, and if you want to learn more, just contact me at any time.

And of course, you can find it at:


I hope you enjoy it, and I would love it if you make it one of your favourite sites and do all your online shopping there. Not only that, but please feel free to share this online shopping location with anyone you wish.

That’s all for now, and I will be back again soon 🙂

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