If you are reading this in Australia, you may not be glued to the big screen TV and all those colourful events of  the winter Olympics.  Although the opening ceremonies were put together by an Australian, the land down under isn’t exactly lapping up the medals.  It may not be the lack of snow, but a dearth of mountains that is to blame.  There is skiing in Australia, but most serious downhill racers head to New Zealand, South Korea or Japan in July and August.

Even though the USA is cleaning up the medals this year, I have been disappointed by NBC’s version of the winter Olympics.  I like watching winter sports, and the coverage has been inundated with advertising and talking heads, leaving what seems like ten per cent of air time for the intense, gorgeous and exciting sports themselves. The ads are good, I must admit, but once you have seen them one time the wit and charm begin to pale.

According to today’s Wall Street Journal, my ten percent guess is a gross exaggeration.  A full quarter of each hour is actually devoted to the events of the Olympic games. Only 27 of each sixty minutes is given over to commercials.  The rest is eaten up by the NBC commentators, replays, video segments, medal ceremonies and athlete interviews.  How generous of the sponsors and the network!

When an opportunity arose for my wife and I to visit Windsor, Ontario for a day, I leapt at the chance to see the Games on the home court.  Getting to Windsor from Durham is not difficult, since it happens to be located directly across from America’s motor city– Detroit.  Oddly enough, Windsor is situated on the south side of the Detroit River, making it Canada’s southernmost city. We had unusually chatty Canadian cab drivers both directions, taking us through the tunnel into Canada and over the bridge back to the USA.

Windsor was settled in 1749 as a French agricultural settlement, making it the oldest continually inhabited settlement in Canada west of Montreal.  Aside from its significance as a tiny sister  to Detroit, Windsor was an important point of entry into Canada for refugees from slavery and a major source of liquor for Americans during Prohibition.  It remains the home of Hiram Walker distillery, even though that company has been taken over by Pernod Ricard. It is the car capital of Canada, but that isn’t saying much anymore.  There is a very large Ceasars casino, which may help make up for the boom and bust cycle of the American automotive industry.

Although the city center is not much to look at, a lovely 5 km (3 mile) park lines Windsor’s river front, offering views of the Detroit skyline across the water . The western portion of the park contains the Odette Sculpture Park, which features over 30 large-scale contemporary sculptures.  From our perch in hotel, we could watch the joggers far below, and see a silent Canadian ice cutter as it pulled up to dock nearby.

Then we turned on the television.  The Olympics came at us in all their glory, spilling forth on the very night Alexandre Bilodeau of Quebec won Canada’s first gold medal in the winter games on home turf.  Beside him on the podium was a former Canadian who now represents Australia, Dale Begg-Smith.  The “Iceman” looked unhappy to  be there, rolling his eyes at the injustice of coming in second to the upstart Canadian in the Moguls.  An American won the bronze.

I was in a position to root for all three athletes.  Sometimes it pays to be a nomad.  The Canadian commercials were pathetic but they didn’t overwhelm the action, the way they do here on NBC.   I settled back in the big bed and smiled. What a treat for an armchair athlete.  We were warm and cosy, in on the action and excitement of a homegrown victory. The ice from Lake St. Clair was drifting by on the river far below.

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