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Olympics Flame, Vancouver

© VINCENZO PINTO, AFP, Getty Images

The flame is burning bright in Vancouver—despite mishaps.

I admit that I’ve been nuts about the Olympics since I first watched it on TV way too many years ago. Right out of college I had the opportunity to edit a magazine focused on the Olympics. Unfortunately, the publisher had not cleared the name of the magazine with the Olympic Committee. I found this out after I landed in Colorado Springs to interview the entire training team and was told,” fuhgeddaboudit.” That IOC is pretty territorial, right up there with Disney.  Don’t tread on their name or logo or else! If this were a branding blog, I’d say there isn’t a better brand out there to protect.

But this year we have many Canadians and others protesting the “corporatization” and cost of the games.  But how do you stop the funding for what has become an addiction? A thrilling, agonizing, exciting, sometimes magical addiction, at that? “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat,” as Wide World of Sports used to day.

At Beijing in 2008, sponsors fretted China’s human rights abuses, but that didn’t stop the games. In Vancouver, they’re screaming about trampling on First Nation lands. But several First Nations were right there in the opening ceremonies. That relatively inexperienced luger, Nodar Kumarotashvili, died hours before the opening ceremonies in Vancouver and that didn’t stop the games. In fact, his accident was blamed on his inexperience, and he’s not here to say any different.  Officials, however, quickly made changes to the track.

The only thing that has stopped the games is war. The brutal terrorist attack on Israelis in 1972 only temporarily suspended the games.  The U.S. boycotted the Moscow games in 1980, but many were upset that careers were ruined because of it, not supportive that we were standing up for a principle. What was that principle, anyway? Oh yeah, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. That went well, eh?

Yes, I’m sick of the insane commercialization, particularly the promos delivered by Bob Costas about Dreamworks latest dumb movie and sticking in so many commercials the broadcast continues til to midnight. But sponsorship can have a good side. Because of Visa’s involvement with the new We Are the World recording benefiting Haiti, an edited version premiered during the opening ceremonies, followed by the full version the next day.

Reviled or revered, the Olympics is one event where the world does come together– even if we try to beat the other guy out of a medal.

Read Bill Plaschke’s columns from the Olympics in the L.A. Times for his eloquent commentary from Vancouver.

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