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Stephanie Levitz

Olympic organizers have 12 days to show they're better than this

Fourth-Place Medal

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Oh, to go back to the days of the boxing kangaroo.

That was the kind of gentle issue thrust upon the organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in the days before the Games began. They could laugh then and did, with energy and spirit, about the coming Games.

Now what laughter comes is the halfhearted chuckle of someone who has just tripped on the sidewalk and realizes a crowd has seen the whole thing.

That’s not to say Olympic organizers aren’t taking seriously the problems they’ve faced in the last five days. What started out as teething issues – lost bus drivers, swamped concession stands, unbelieveably long and slow lineups – have gotten much worse. They have become more like the tantrums thrown by a toddler: without warning, and with sometimes deafening screams.

The death of a Georgian luger on a training run raised serious concerns that a track earlier celebrated as being one of the most technically challenging in Olympic history was, in fact, deadly.

At the penultimate moment of the Opening Ceremony, the Olympic cauldron failed to materialize as expected from the floor, leaving Catriona Le May Doan standing awkwardly in the center of B.C. Place Stadium while three other torchbearers lit the iconic flame.

The secondary cauldron outside that was supposed to be the showpiece of the Olympics instead became a zoo exhibit, a chain-link fence cutting it off from the people – seen as a sign Games organizers were out of touch with the ideals the flame symbolized.

The insertion of a single French musical act into the Olympics has been taken by Quebec as a snub. Quebec notes that Canada’s first gold medal came from one of its own, yet the province ends up ignored in the planning of the Games themselves.

The spectator areas for the snowboarding venue at Cypress are so waterlogged they’re no longer safe, meaning 28,000 ticket holders are getting refunds.

The ice resurfacing machine at the oval broke down. The timing machine in biathalon is wonky.

The reaction from the British media has been fierce, the headline in the Guardian summing it up neatly: Vancouver Games continue downhill slide from disaster to calamity.

If the media are the guys in the coffee shop who are infuriated by that screaming toddler and wonders why its mother doesn’t shut it up, Olympics organizers are the mom, knowing their baby isn’t always this way.

They have 12 more days to make the world understand that.

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