Naked shots, curling brooms and $24 beers

VANCOUVER DIARY: Tweeting, cheer-leading and gold medal sex all get a look in as the Winter Olympics come to a close

Remember the bad old days of boycotts and protests, and blokes in blazers emploring anyone who would listen to “keep politics out of sport”? Well, what with Tiger, Terry and Cashley, it may not be too long before someone’s appealling to keep sex out of sport, and not just for boxers on the eve of a title fight, either.

As Rick Broadbent has discovered in Vancouver, the Winter Games are a hotbed of sex and scandal. Maybe it’s something to do with keeping warm at night.

In his Times blog, Broadbent writes, “Danish curler Madeleine Dupont [pictured left] was forced to defend her decision to pose nude as her team bowed out of the semis…

“‘Most people think it’s cool,’ she said… ‘In Denmark, more people have heard of curling now, which they didn’t before and now they watch it on TV.’

“Dupont added of her photo shoot: ‘It’s probably a bad thing. Not sure it’s a good thing, but it is quite stylish and it’s not totally out of line’.”

The 22-year-old had appeared in a calendar called Fire on Ice, one of two such 2010 calendars in which women curlers pose nearly naked with nothing more than a strategically placed broom. Which, as Broadbent notes, “I doubt Harold Robbins, DH Lawrence and Lester Bangs could come up with a sentence quite like that.”

□ After winning zero, zip and nada gold medals in Montreal in 1976 and Calgary in 1988, Canada began hosting their third Olympic Games desperate to break their duck on home soil. By the early hours of Friday morning, with Canada winning the women’s ice hockey final 2-0 against the United States, their tally was up to eight golds. Impressive, but the “Own the Podium” campaign was not without its problems.

As Broadbent’s Times colleague, Simon Barnes, put it: “It is hard to say whether Canada’s Own The Podium programme has been a bigger disaster in terms of sport or public relations. Gold medal in both categories, I think.”

Time for a bit of traditional British reserve
As the Vancouver Games head in to their final weekend, while Britain has missed its target of three medals, Canada has recovered from a shaky first week – in performances both in the sporting arena and around it, by the hosts’ officials. Neil Wilson, in his Daily Mail blog, says that there’s an important lesson for London 2012: don’t set ourselves up for failure by over-stressing the expectations.

Wilson writes:

“Let us not inflate expectations for London. UK Sport bent the Government’s arm up its back in 2005 by saying we could finish fourth in the medal table given enough money.

“They were given enough money, spent it wisely and, what do you know, we were fourth in Beijing four years early. That’s enough. No more promises. If it is fourth in London, great. It will be a triumph because we are a nation of 60million against the giants of the United States, China and Russia.”

□ The occupants of the BOA’s own press office might do well to read Wilson’s column. And if they have any remaining illusions about not over-stating their own team’s prospects and achievements, then read another offering from earlier this week, when Wilson simply reproduced some of the more overblown headlines and comments included in official Team GB press releases.

“Teenager gets Team GB off to a spectacular start” doesn’t properly convey the full weight of the achievement of Ellie Koylander, 24th out of 28 in the women’s moguls.

There was no hint of complacency in the remarks of cross-country skier Lee Jackson, who said, “I have really enjoyed the last week and I can walk away happy”, after finishing 55th in the 10km, 56th in the 12.5km and 66th in the 20km.

And to think that the winter sports chiefs, egged on by BOA Chairman Lord Moynihan, complaied before the Games about the inequality in the funding between themselves and struly successful sports such as cycling, rowing and sailing.

Donegan all a-Twitter over existential curling crisis
As well as manfully handling much of The Guardian‘s, and Observer‘s, Winter Olympic coverage from Vancouver and Whistler (didn’t anyone consider the plight of sending a single correspondent to a split venue Games?), the stoic Lawrence Donegan has also been Tweeting throughout (you can follow him @lawrencedonegan).

Thus, we know that our man by the curling rink paid $24 for one beer and a glass of wine on Wednesday (please note, London’s caterers: defy expectations and don’t let 2012 become the “Rip-Off Olympics”).

Donegan surely got the award for the Tweet of the Games when, in his 140-characters or less as the nail-biting curling play-off between Sweden and Britain’s men was getting underway, he wrote: “The nameless journalist next to me having existential crisis; what are we doing here watching men with brooms brushing ice?”

□ After these Games had been blighted by a lack of snow and too-warm temperatures, Cypress Mountain, the freestyle skiing and boarding venue near Vancouver, finally got some much needed snow yesterday.

It might be worth considering the weather conditions in Sochi, Russia, venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics, where the mercury in the past week has been around 2 degrees warmer than in too-warm Vancouver.

□ With only one gold from a team of 52 whose preparations cost £6.5 million, the feeling is that Team GB (or what anyone who speaks English steadfastly calls “the British Olympic team”) has failed to deliver. Australia – Australia for goodness sake – has managed two gold medals at these Games.

But it could be worse. We could be Finnish. Finland, a real winter sport country, sent more than 90, expected 12 medals and has won one silver and a bronze in the women’s ice hockey – where even there, they were thrashed 5-0 in the semis.

Previous diary entries from Vancouver

Back of the queue: a hack’s life in the unmixed zone

Bus stops, the wrong wax, and Cindy Crawford

All downhill with BBC Vancouver coverage

Putting death in the picture: sports journalism’s worst ethical dilemma

Snow-less Vancouver and the long road to London

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