Members of the Canadian women’s hockey team are the latest Olympians to get caught up in celebratory scandal. After their 2-0 gold medal victory over the United States, the players returned to the ice and, according to NBC’s Olympics website,” began their celebration in earnest –smoking cigars and swigging beer and champagne.”
While no spectators were present, media and venue officials were still milling about, providing a perfect photo op for the merriment, which included some underage drinking and one player trying to “commandeer the ice-resurfacing machine.” (Though it must be noted that the drinking age in British Columbia is different than in Alberta, where the team trains.)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was not pleased with the very public antics and is investigating. “If they celebrate in the changing room, that’s one thing,” Gilbert Felli, the IOC’s executive director of the Olympic Games said, “but not in public.” The team has since apologized for their actions.
This investigation comes close on the heels of Team U.S.A. snowboarder Scotty Lago apologizing to the IOC and leaving the Games after rather suggestive, dare I say lewd, photographs surfaced on the internet of a woman kissing his bronze medal in a rather conspicuous place. (Lago will be on Jimmy Kimmel later this evening sure to be addressing the issue. Perhaps it was just an inopportune angle.)
NBC’s site also reports that Jon Montgomery, who won a gold medal for Canada in skeleton, “walked through the streets of Whistler guzzling from a pitcher of beer that he gripped with two hands.”
Many message board commenters say that it’s the athelete’s right to party hard after all of the hard work he or she put in, while others say it’s disrespectful of the Olympic podium. It seems to boil down to different generations’ attitudes about what exactly constitutes a celebration. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but I tend to agree with the IOC, more so in the case of Lago than the Canadian ladies. For better or worse we hold Olympians to higher standards than other athletes. We don’t even hold these very same athletes to the same standards when they are competing in other competitions; the Olympic Games, as so many of the athletes themselves say, are special.
More importantly, the IOC and their national teams hold the athletes to certain standards of conduct. All Olympic participants are required to sign a contract thatincludes a code of conduct and partake in the Ambassadors Program, which provides media training as well as an introduction to ethics and conduct.
But these conduct cases can also provide human interest and stories of redemption. Take for instance Jeret “Speedy” Petersen who was ejected from the 2006 Torino games by U.S. Ski Team officials for getting in “a drunken scuffle with a friend [which] attracted the attention of the Italian police.”
What do you think? Are these Olympians simply blowing off steam after years of hard work or are they not living up to the Olympic mettle?