Monday, March 1, 2010

Oh, My Garsh--They're Drinkin' at the Olympics!

The legendary, quadrennial Olympic Games has a dark side and it is really, really dark.

As countless reporters/teetotalers have noted recently, the Winter Olympics were a veritable orgy of booze and sex and endorphins.

- 100,000 condoms were distributed in the Olympic Village, for 7,000 athletes and trainers/coaches.

- A US bronze medalist was sent home for getting photographed 'disrespecting' a medal by sticking it in a girl's mouth as if it was his dick, which is, most likely, the exact same punishment he would have received if it actually was his dick, which is funny to think about. Should have!

- The IOC is investigating the fact that the Canadian women's hockey team drank beer/champagne and smoked cigars on the ice after their victory over the only other team in the competition, let's be honest.
As if that wasn't enough to make you laugh, check this out:
Two minutes. That's all it took for an intoxicated Canadian to start badgering me. On Friday evening, I was on my way to Vancouver's Waterfront Station to catch a train to Robson Square, the downtown area filled with bars, restaurants and nightclubs that was sure to get a little wild if Canada beat Slovakia in the men's hockey semifinals. A young man wearing a red hockey jersey and red paint on both cheeks staggered over to me as I walked toward the station. "Hey, how do you f______ get downtown?" he asked slowly, putting his hand on my shoulder.

I wriggled free and pointed toward the proper train. "F___ yeah, I'm coming with you," he said. Terrific. As I walked, and he stumbled, into the station, he yelled "Woooooo!" at disturbed passersby. We got on the train, and he turned his glazed eyes toward me and said he was meeting friends. "Want to come with me?" he asked. Um, no thanks.

The city of Vancouver and the ski village of Whistler are terrific hosts for these Olympic Games. The air is clean, the public transit is scarily efficient, and the harbors, with snowcapped mountains for a backdrop, are picturesque. Whistler, two hours to the north and home to the skiing, sliding and Nordic events, is a winter wonderland. But let's face it: if public intoxication were an Olympic sport, Vancouver and Whistler would own the podium.

I'm not saying this because of the photographs of a few Canadian female hockey players sipping champagne (and chugging Molson) on the ice after winning the gold medal. Those images, however, seem to encapsulate the spirit of the host country. Throughout the Olympics, drunken revelers have overrun the streets of Vancouver. Local hospitals are reporting spikes in emergency-room visits for alcohol-related sicknesses and injuries; most of the intoxicated patients are males between the ages of 15 and 24. In Whistler, the partyers have turned what should be a cozy village into rows of frat houses in need of soundproofing.

Yes, the mood is festive. And for the most part, law and order is being maintained. In Whistler, police have said arrests are lower than what they would typically be during New Year's Eve or, for that matter, your average rambunctious summer weekend. Still, while walking through downtown Vancouver after a long day's work, you can't help but think, These must be the drunkest Olympics ever.

Believe me, I'm no prude. But all the yelling and screaming and woo-wooing becomes grating. These are the fourth Olympics I've covered, and Vancouver drinks Athens, Torino and Beijing under the table. I asked a few journalists who have covered more Games than I have to rate Vancouver on the intoxication scale. Vahe Gregorian of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who has covered eight Olympics, dating back to Atlanta in 1996, agreed with my chart-topping assessment. In reference to downtown Vancouver's main strip of nightclubs, he said, "Granville Street itself is unlike anything I've seen at an Olympics." And he noted that all the drinking has led to a lot of public urinating. "I've personally witnessed about 8 to 10 guys whizzing at once along a fence half a block off the main street," he said. "It's like the infield at the Kentucky Derby."

Bonnie D. Ford, who is covering the Games for, has been to every Winter Olympics since 1998 in Nagano, Japan. "There's no second place," she said when asked where Vancouver ranks on the booze barometer. (In fairness, you can pretty much strike from the debate Salt Lake City, the abstemious host of the 2002 Olympics.) Ford's hotel is near Granville Street, close enough for her to hear the "Can-a-da, Can-a-da" shouts at 3 a.m. "It's been a two-week tailgate," she said. "I've covered a lot of college football, and this is like the Dante's Inferno version of tailgating."


The obvious question on every sane person's lips I know--you are confused. Why is this news, you ask yourselves.

Well, for those out there in the ether that talk to themselves every night before they go to sleep at 9pm, believe in magical beings, and don't understand what the word 'celebration' means, please read on, as I have provided some Helpful Information TM for you.

Helpful Information TM:

Fact--People who ski and snowboard generally drink more than people who run track and field. I know--I've seen it firsthand and these guys are 5'10' 210lbs for more than one good reason (they drink, gravity helps you get downhill faster). That being said, fans of skiing and snowboarding also drink more than fans of long-jump...not sure why, but that is the case. Scientists have proven it.

Fact--Vancouver has more people than Salt Lake City and Torino combined.

Fact--People in Vancouver are more into partying than people in Salt Lake City, Torino, Atlanta, Athens, and Beijing. Love it or hate it, it's indelibly part of the laid-back, outdoor-enthusiast culture.

Fact--The games aren't often in North America, so our binge drinkers are more prominent in these games. Mostly that is the fault of the puritanical United States--if the age limit wasn't 21 and parents weren't so black-or-white on the alcohol issue, our citizens would learn from an early age to be more responsible. Look at Europe! [But not Britain--something in the blood over there... -Ed.] Similarly, marijuana is semi-legal in Holland and the only people who have a problem with it are the tourists who come in from elsewhere and get fucked-up (mostly the Brits); your average Dutch person doesn't even smoke weed--they just think people should be able to, although they are changing their minds on the issue thanks to the ridiculously excessive Brits.

Fact--There is nothing wrong with chugging a beer and drinking champagne after you just won a gold medal. If the media thinks it sets a bad example, they can turn the cameras off--I'm sure there's always some figure skating going on somewhere...

Fact--There is no way there was more drunkenness in Vancouver than there was in Sydney in 2000, which I notice wasn't discussed at all in that article. Australia is a country, after all, that measures distances in the Northern Territory not in kilometers, as you might expect, but in the number of cans of beer you would consume if you chugged one right after the other, with no breaks, as you drive from Point A to Point B.
Example: "How far to the next roadhouse?" " and a half."
Coincidentally, they also have the highest rate of alcoholism in the world. I was in Australia during the end of the games in 2000 and met many Canadians (oddly enough) who moved down there to party for an entire year; there were also many Dutch, German, English who did the same. Needless to say, even months after the games had ended, there were tons of people from all over the world getting fucked up every night all over the city and most of these people were only there because of the Olympics (and the convenient fact that Commonwealth/EU residents could stay for up to 1 year, while Yanks were only allowed 3 months). Perhaps the fact that Sydney is TWICE THE SIZE of sprawling Los Angeles helped keep the teetotaler journalists out of the thickness of it all?

- "Oh. My. God."


- [Yawn]


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