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Get ready for newest Olympic sport: the leap of faith

Hey, know what Thursday is? It's the day the Olympic countdown begins in earnest, exactly one year from the opening of the 2010 Winter Games. I can't wait. Can't wait to show B.C. to the world. Can't wait for the pageantry.

Hey, know what Thursday is? It's the day the Olympic countdown begins in earnest, exactly one year from the opening of the 2010 Winter Games.

I can't wait. Can't wait to show B.C. to the world. Can't wait for the pageantry. Can't wait to somehow get engrossed in the kind of sports you never see except at 5 a.m. on TSN after the lawnmower racing or the World Hot Dog Eating Championships or the Lithuanian Speed-Whistling or whatever.

There's the chaos of short-track speed skating, which is like NASCAR on ice.

There's figure skating, which has more crooked judges than the Mafia.

There's biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting, though I prefer the Canadian version, which includes a bottle of rye and has a "is that a man or a moose" air of mystery to it.

There's bobsled and luge and skeleton, which is less a sport than a drunken dare, one of those "hey, Lars, hold my schnapps and watch this" deals.

There's snowboarding, featuring the slalom, half-pipe and, I think, full-pipe. Sounds like another sport for Michael Phelps.

I think ice fishing is in, too, though I might be confused about that. There is a group wanting to make pole dancing part of the summer Olympics, though. I'm not making that up.

What other sports can we look forward to? Oh, yeah, there's Guess The Budget. That's a good game. The Vancouver Olympic Committee insists its 2010 budget is $1.75 billion, but when you start adding up all that Olympics-related government spending, we're really looking at something closer to $7 billion.

Who knows what the real figure is? As the provincial auditor general has pointed out, your government isn't doing a very good job of telling you how it's spending your money.

Guess that means one of the other sports is the Leap of Faith, which is like ski jumping, but with a harder landing.

And after Guess The Budget comes Guess The Debt. We keep hearing about how Canada wants to own the podium. Yeah, we'll own the podium, all right. We'll also own several hundred million dollars worth of condos in the athletes village. If things don't go well, look for the public to engage in a spirited game of Pin The Blame On The Donkey.

Already, British Columbians aren't terribly confident about the Games. A recent poll showed only half of us believe the Olympics will offer Canada more benefits than drawbacks.

Truth is, we're of two minds. On one hand, we want the Olympics to be a success. We want to showcase B.C. We want the world to have fun at our party, to go away feeling good about us. And the Games really do offer an example of sports at their best.

Remember the last Winter Olympics, when the Norwegian coach replaced the Canadian cross-country skier's broken pole? It cost Norway a medal, but was one of the finest examples of sportsmanship you'll ever see.

On the other hand, we're pretty cynical about the patronizing way we're being treated by our politicians as they spend our money on an event that most of us won't even be able to get near.

And we're leery of how the guests will react when they stumble into the Downtown Eastside -- "a ghetto that would seem inconceivable in a city like Vancouver or in a country like Canada," is how Britain's Guardian newspaper described it in an Olympic countdown piece last week. The reporter wrote of the Pickton murders, sidewalks that reek of urine, junkies shooting up in public. (Hmm, I wonder if the Austrian ski team will use the safe-injection site.)

But hey, we're committed now, so let's make the best of it, make this the best Olympics we can, make sure we remember to have fun at our own party.

The most important thing isn't the gold we win during the Games or the gold we owe afterward. In the end, only one thing really matters: beating the Americans at hockey.

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