Mark& Steve – Olympic Update

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Mark and Steve talk about different aspects of the Olympics taking place in Vancouver.

Mark: Hello and welcome to EnglishLingQ.

Here we are for another Olympic podcast.

Steve: Hello there.

Mark: Mark here with Steve again.

Steve: Yup.

Mark: As always.

Steve: We are in Vancouver, the Olympic City.

Mark: I know.

Steve: We’re looking out the window and it’s raining and overcast.

Mark: Which it started out with the Olympics being raining and overcast, but then we had a great string there; about a week of sunny weathers.

Steve: Unbelievably glorious weather and Vancouver was a festival city like I have never seen.

It was extraordinary and, I think, partly because we were helped by the weather, there was just this outpouring of enthusiasm for the Olympics and, of course, people waving the Canadian flag and wearing Canadian colors.

Mark: Well, it’s not…

Steve: But very good natured; you know they’d run up against some Swedes or some, whatever, Dutchmen, USA…

Mark: …and only beat them up a little bit.

Steve: No, they didn’t.

Mark: No.

Steve: No, it was extremely good natured.

I mean I thought, you know, with tens of thousands of people coming into the city…

Mark: Tens of thousands?

You mean downtown?

Steve: Downtown.

Mark: People downtown?

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: It’s not tens of thousands; I mean it’s just mobs of people.

Steve: Okay, but it’s not millions, okay?

Mark: It’s hundreds.

Steve: You think so?

Mark: I don’t know. Maybe not quite, but…

Steve: I think it’s tens of thousands of people on any given day.

Mark: No.

You’re down there and every street you turn down is full of people.

Steve: Full of people, yeah.

Mark: I’ve never seen it like that.

Steve: You know and it’s a very interesting phenomenon.

People will go and line up for like five hours for something that they would normally not even bother doing.

Mark: True, because you’re looking for a reason.

Like people are downtown…

Steve: Right.

Mark: I mean most people are just downtown milling about.

Steve: Right.

Mark: And then a few people go downtown because there’s lots of people…

Steve: Right.

Mark: …and they’re looking for something to do.

Okay, well, I guess we’ll line up for this thing.

Steve: Right.

Mark: I must say, I haven’t been in any of those attractions.

Steve: No, I haven’t been in any of those lineups either.

Mark: I mean I’m not going to get in line to go…

Steve: People line up for six hours in order to get on that zap line or whatever it’s called.

Mark: Zip line.

Steve: Zip line.

Where they hook themselves up to a cable and in 30 seconds they shoot across the…whatever it’s called…square there.

Mark: Robson Square.

Steve: Robson Square.

Mark: I mean it’s kind of neat, you’re way up high.

Steve: Six hours?

Mark: I wouldn’t wait there for six hours, but obviously some people are happy.

Steve: I know.

Mark: They’re just happy being there.

Steve: I know.

Mark: Happy in line.

Steve: Amazing.

Mark: It’s been amazing and it’s not because we had the glorious weather.

They were out there before the weather got nice.

Steve: Right, but it was nicer with the nice weather.

Mark: There were more people, yeah; although, they’re still out.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: It’s not like they’re not out.

Steve: I know.

Mark: I mean it’s every night.

Especially a lot of young people, they’re just down there every night.

Steve: But they’re all ages.

Oh, but the young people are there every night.

Mark: They’re there every night, yeah.

Steve: You know I think the whole thing was worth it.

I think the Olympics…it’s positive.

You know I said I might start a blog on this whole issue of national identity or whatever, but people feel positively about their country.

It doesn’t matter which country it is.

We were talking about the money that governments spend – that they invest — in training.

Because, I mean, if you’re going to be in any of these events, bobsled, for example, well, I mean…

Mark: It costs a fortune.

Steve: It costs a fortune.

But in all of them…in skiing it’s not like it used to be where you train, you know, on weekends and expect to make it to the Olympics.

I mean it’s a full-time job and you’ve got every scientific evaluation instrument working for you.

Mark: Equipment and…

Steve: Equipment and stuff.

And, so, is it really worth it?

But, you know what, you were saying it is and I tend to agree with you.

Mark: I think it is.

I mean we see it in Canada, but I’m sure it’s the same throughout the world – how much enjoyment people get from seeing their fellow countrymen do well.

Steve: Right.

Mark: You know whatever the event, events that, at least from our perspective, no one here would ever watch most of these events, but they’re in the Olympics now.

Canadians are in the events and it’s exciting and people are watching and when Canada does well everybody is fired up and it’s a big party.

Steve: Okay, but then the question becomes alright, like Canada, Norway, yeah, Russia probably, the US, Germany, these countries can afford to spend a lot of money on this.

As you work your way down the list some countries don’t have the means…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …to do that, so the Olympics comes down to how much money you can spend.

Mark: That’s basically what…I mean it’s been that way for quite a while now.

Steve: Except in some great events like the…

Mark: …hundred meter dash.

Steve: Well, the hundred meter dash or, I was going to say, those long-distance events…

Mark: Right.

Steve: …where it seems like the athletes from the poorest countries do the best.

Mark: Ah, not necessarily so.

Steve: Well, the marathon is owned by the Ethiopians and the Tunisians and Moroccans and Kenyans.

Mark: Well, obviously there it’s not about the money.

I mean you’ve got to train, but there’s not much equipment required to run and so there you have natural ability.

Steve: Right.

Mark: And, you know, your Jamaican sprinters, but they have a tradition there.

I’m sure they have a program, but at the same time you don’t need that much in the way of equipment.

Steve: Right. And the same if we look at other sports like soccer.

I mean Brazil; they’ve got a couple of hundred million soccer players so that the best ones will come forward.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: And, again, we don’t know how much money some of these countries will spend on their athletes.

Like maybe the Brazilians spend a lot of money.

Not so much on their soccer, although they probably do.

There’s a slot of money in Brazilian soccer, I’m sure, relative to everything else in Brazil.

Steve: Well, I’m sure that they get a couple of hundred thousand people out to watch each match.

Mark: Exactly.

Steve: So that I’m sure those guys are not amateurs, they’re top soccer players.

Mark: No and they’re in these special development programs and so on.

Steve: Yeah, well that’s it.

Mark: I mean I’m sure there’s a lot of grassroots soccer that they originally start playing, but at a certain age I think they’re worked on.

Steve: Mind you, you know if you look at hockey in Canada, I don’t think those…I mean their parents spend a lot of money on them, but I don’t know that all of the…

The problem with government spending money is I can’t imagine they’re any more efficient in spending money within these sports associations then they are in any other stuff that they do as a government.

So once you have bodies and you’ve got the head and the chairman and the subdivision and committees…

Mark: Yeah, sure.

Steve: …and the rules and regulations and you have to have your level 3 coach — they introduce so much bureaucracy.

Mark: I mean, I guess, you don’t know.

You don’t know what these associations are like.

I think different associations have different levels of bureaucracy.

A lot of the Olympic sports, you know, those athletes they don’t have much.

They don’t get paid much.

They train hard.

I think most of the money probably does get spent properly.

The bigger associations like probably the alpine skiing and, you know, Hockey Canada…I know there were a lot of issues with Soccer Canada or whatever it’s called where there was money being spent or not spent well.

Steve: I don’t know.

I just see a lot of the people coming here with the Olympic Committee and whatnot.

Mark: But that’s not the same…

Steve: I just think it must be full of bureaucrats.

Mark: That’s not the same.

That’s another issue, though.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: This whole issue of the Olympic…whatever the…whatever they call it.

Steve: IOC?

Mark: IOC (International Olympic Committee) members.

I mean you go to any venue and you see it in the hockey arena.

I guess Kindrey and the girls went to the figure skating last night and, there again, half the rink is taken up by this special section of seating for the press and the IOC.

A lot of the time those seats are empty.

They take up more room than the equivalent number of seats outside that area.

Like there’s more space.

There’s a desk set up.

People come and go as they please.

They obstruct seats along side that viewing area because there’s like a wall set up.

Your fans are paying a lot of money to go and these guys — fat cats — get prime seats, pay nothing.

On top of that they get picked up; like all the IOC members are being squired around town by volunteers in the donated cars from GM wherever they want to go.

I know someone who’s involved.

He owns a ski resort and somehow, I don’t know exactly how, but he’s involved in the Olympics.

He’s got special rights.

Steve: Right.

Mark: So he’s got more tickets than he knows what to do with.

He’s giving them to his kids.

The kids are going with their friends.

The Olympic vehicle is coming to pick up his kid and his friend and take them to whatever venue.

Steve: That’s ridiculous.

Mark: Like it’s ridiculous.

Steve: Ridiculous, yeah.

Mark: Those tickets should be available to people — to the fans who will pay money and don’t need to be squired around.

It’s just this sort of special treatment that these IOC members get.

It’s ridiculous.

Steve: You know there should be some kind of ‘freedom of information’ thing.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: I would like to know how many hangers on, useless, you know, snouts at the troth.

(I’m sure our transcriber can get that one).

You know, how many useless hangers on there are.

How many bureaucrats are there here that are just enjoying the party…

Mark: I know.

Steve: …at somebody else’s expense.

Mark: And there’s no tickets available for anything, unless you want to pay above face value now, because they’re all sold.

Steve: Right.

Mark: Either they’re controlled by the IOC or people have them or scalpers have them.

Scalpers are people that buy and sell tickets.

All the tickets are gone, but in the figure skating, in a few different competitions that we’ve seen, tickets that everybody would love to have, there’s empty seats.

And last night was the Women’s Final…

Steve: Yeah?

Mark: …empty seats.

My wife was saying that she was in seats and just below them was a big empty area and nobody was there.

So their seats were obstructed by this judging or the IOC area, so they moved down into the empty area.

Steve: Were they chased out?

Mark: No, they weren’t, but eventually it all filled up.

It became not completely full, but people started arriving; all the volunteers.

They have a section set aside for volunteers.

I’m not exactly sure how it works, but the volunteers, the blue-jacketed guys…

Steve: Yes?

Mark: …they can go to any event they want because they’re a volunteer.

Steve: Right.

Mark: That means they’re driving people around in the cars.

Steve: Okay, but the volunteers work hard.

Mark: They do.

Steve: They work hard.

They can be up moving garbage around at 4:00 in the morning some of those people.

Mark: Right. That’s true.

But they can go to anything…

Steve: Right.

Mark: …and they can sit in any empty seat…

Steve: Right.

Mark: …because they want the seats taken.

But the seats aren’t taken because somebody has the tickets who’s not interested in using them.

There’s just a whole lot of this kind of stuff going on and there’s people who would be dying to go and pay.

Steve: And, you know, I was talking to this judge who was actually Slovakian and we were talking about this incident, so-called, where the Russian skater was very upset that he didn’t win Gold.

Mark: Oh, yeah.

Steve: So this Slovakian who, in fact, was a judge, he was explaining to me why according to the system in place that they had no choice but to rule the way they did.

And so it was a perfectly correct decision, even though some people would prefer to see more, you know, quadruple or whatever.

But he was complaining.

He said that in Torino he could go to any event whereas here he can only go to skating events.

Like he is a judge, therefore he’s an official and therefore he can go to any skating event, but he can’t go and watch, you know, luge or downhill and he was complaining that he was being restricted here.

Mark: Did you say I can’t go to any event, unless I pay?

Steve: Well, no. I mean I don’t know what the deal is.

He’s probably not paid that much to be a judge.

Mark: Maybe, yeah.

Steve: He was a very nice guy, a very nice guy.

Mark: Plus they get scorn down on them by everyone who doesn’t get the result they were looking for.

Steve: Well, I know.

It’s a major political issue.

Putin, I think, has declared Plushenko the winner, you know?

Mark: Well, I’ve got to say, the Russians can’t be too happy.

They’ve got to be crying in their vodka over there.

Their team is not doing well.

They hockey team got smoked by Canada in the quarter finals.

Steve: I know. They’re not happy.

They certainly have their work cut out for them for Sochi, because if they have these kinds of results in Sochi.

But I was listening to my Russian radio program and, yeah, I mean there are some issues.

They said right away ‘we’re going to build ourselves a bobsled track in Sochi and we’re the only ones who are going to use that bobsled track’.

Because it’s laid down and this is what the Americans did in Salt Lake and this is what the Canadians did and you’re only required to allow other people access to it.

So you’ve got to hand it to the Germans.

Apparently everybody in the world trains in Germany.

Six of the perhaps half dozen or six of the 10 tracks in the world are in Germany.

Mark: Right.

Steve: All the technicians, all the designers, everything related to bobsled is in Germany and everyone trains there.

But if you have your own track then presumably you have an advantage.

Mark: Now is there not a track in Calgary from the last time we had the Olympics?

Steve: There might be.

Yeah, there probably is.

But I guess the advantage is that you get to train all the time on your own track.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Although, there was a rather unfortunate what we call ‘yellow journalism’ under the UK where they were trying to blame the unfortunate deadly accident involving the Georgian luger on Canada in some way, which is completely ridiculous.

First of all, the track was designed by a German and then there were suggesting somehow that this guy, if he had had more experience…he had actually been down it 40 times.

Mark: Twenty-six times.

Steve: Twenty-six times or whatever.

Mark: Right, they’re allowed to go 40.

He had been down 26 times already before he lost control.

I mean it was a totally freak thing.

Freak things happen.

Steve: And there’s a lot of sniping around, I saw this sort of ‘Worst Olympics Ever’.

The British were the first to say it and, of course, that gets picked up right away.

So the Russian thing, they’re saying the ‘Worst Olympics Ever’ and stuff like that.

I mean I guess it depends on your perspective.

If you’re a journalist and you got rained on or your bus was late then you get unhappy, but from the point of view of the average Vancouverite who’s paying the bill here — most of it — I think it’s been a tremendous success.

Mark: And there were some early comments by the British Press I understand, but I think now the perception is quite a bit different.

I mean people are saying this is one of the best ever and I mean as far as the community support — people getting excited and the Olympic spirit – they say the only Olympics to rival it was the one in Australia and that was the Summer Olympics, so.

I mean there are a lot of positive things happening.

I heard firsthand from one of the players on the Swiss National Team.

I mean he said this is his third Olympics.

He was in Torino, he was in Salt Lake and he said hands down it’s night and day.

This is by far the best.

Steve: But, you know, I think it depends on, again, what sport you’re in and what happened to you.

Mark: Sure.

Steve: Certainly, from a hockey perspective, this was the best because you’re staying in luxury apartments down on Falls Creek with a bird’s eye view of the mountains and the whole city.

You’re playing in a …

Mark: …on the water and the hockey rink is around the corner.

Steve: And it’s an NHL, world class.

Mark: And you’re downtown, right downtown Vancouver and the Athletes’ Village in Vancouver, they’re basically million dollar condos on the waterfront.

Steve: Right, on the waterfront.

Mark: I mean that’s what they are.

Steve: But I gather the village in Whistler is not…

Mark: …not as nice.

Steve: It’s a little more Spartan.

Mark: Right.

Steve: More along the traditional lines; it’s more of army barracks.

Mark: Right.

Steve: And the other thing is that some of the events…I mean, yeah, it was unfortunate with the weather conditions here at Cypress and even some of the cross-country events.

When I saw that Slovenia cross-country skier slide off the track down into a ravine, just about…

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: and she then had broken ribs and kidney damage or whatever and she still competed and won the Bronze Medal.

Mark: It’s amazing.

Steve: But how can they have it so that you can just slide off the track and fall down this ravine?

Mark: I don’t know.

Steve: I don’t know either.

So I think there were some technical issues.

My biggest beef with the VANOC, which is the Vancouver Organizing Committee, is that it stuck me as very arrogant.

Like they chased some poor Greek who had a pizza parlor called Olympic Pizza and he had to change his name.

Mark: No, he didn’t in the end, but that was a long time ago too.

Steve: Yeah, but there’s arrogance.

I just felt that they were very pushy in their whole approach.

Anyway, that’s…whatever.

Mark: Anyway, I think we don’t need to discuss the nuts and bolts.

Steve: No, no.

Mark: It’s more about the competition.

Steve: Well, that’s right.

Mark: There’s been some great stories and it’s been lots of fun watching the Olympics.

Steve: Lots of fun.

It’s extraordinary, for example, it was interesting watching the Chinese curlers because, obviously, curling is not a popular national pastime in China.

Mark: Right.

Steve: It is in Canada. I mean probably Canada has more people curling than anywhere else in the world.

Mark: I’m sure. Not probably, by a factor of 10.

Steve: You know every little community has curling.

I mean curling is what you do in the winter, right?

Mark: Right.

Steve: But in China…they may be the only four curlers in China, I don’t know.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: And, yet, they are the world champions.

And I gather that they were long-distance speed skaters.

Mark: Oh, really?

Steve: And, of course, the Chinese Government said hey, you know, curling, there’s a medal.

We’ll pick some people with some good athletic ability, you know, and we’ll train them and there they are world champions.

Mark: Yeah.

Steve: Four of them.

Mark: I understand that they spend the winter in Edmonton or something and curl over here.

Steve: Oh sure.

Mark: Because they’ve got to play against somebody.

Steve: Well, that’s right.

So if you pick people who have this basic athletic ability and the right frame of mind and they learn it and then they come out here and they get some topflight competition and, there you are, they’re internationally competitive.

Next thing you know we’ll have a curling team from Ethiopia, you know, that spend a couple of winters in Edmonton and they’re ready to go.

Mark: It is a bit of a funny sport, really, as sports go.

Steve: You know your mom is totally into it now.

Mark: Really?

Steve: She’s there watching now, Canada-Sweden.

Mark: Oh, it’s the finals.

Steve: It’s the finals and she loves it.

That’s one of the things she most likes watching.

Mark: Right.

Steve: I don’t understand it.

I still don’t understand it, but it’s just about a national sport.

Mark: Yeah. Well, especially small towns.

Steve: Yeah.

Mark: It’s not so popular in the cities, but in the small towns they’re crazy about it.

Steve: Well, I know.

I mean in Manning, Alberta, a thousand people, I mean they followed the Canadian championships that led up to the selection of Kevin Martin.

I mean that was big news.

That was bigger than hockey.

That was bigger than anything there.

Anyway…

Mark: Well, we’ve got a few days left, a few days left, but of course the big event for us will be that Canada hopefully beats Slovakia tonight and makes it to the Gold Medal Game again the U.S.

Steve: Surprising, surprising, I would have called Finland to beat the U.S., but anyway.

Mark: Anyway, we’ll see.

We’ll be back after — next week — and then we’ll either be happy or sad.

Steve: That’s it. Okay.

Mark: Talk to you next time.

Steve: Bye for now.

Mark: Bye.

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