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"I strongly believe in sport and in the Olympic dream. Politics don’t have anything to do with sport." – Fernand Labrie, chairman of the Quebec 2010 bid society Of course not — except politics have everything to do with sport. Why else would Glen Clark, Ian Waddell, Philip Owen, Hugh O’Reilly, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, Calgary Mayor Al Duerr and Quebec City Mayor Jean-Paul L’Allier (who passed on Lucien Bouchard’s regrets) have made their way to Toronto last weekend, where Canadian Olympic Association delegates cast ballots for the bid city for the 2010 Winter Games? Why else would the COA decide to delay counting the votes until after the Quebec election? And if the reception for COA delegates the night before the vote, hosted by the three bid cities, wasn’t a political convention it’s only because the bid societies aren’t registered political parties. What looked from the outside like a polite social gathering to kick off the weekend was actually a carefully orchestrated last-minute frenzy to sway votes. Each bid society had identified the COA members it felt were undecided prior to the Friday evening reception and assigned members of their delegation to convince those undecided voters of the virtues of their bid. The Quebec delegation went beyond merely targeting COA delegates and sent the large Quebec media contingent into apoplectic fits when they brought Maurice and Henri Richard into the room. Not only did they bring the Richards, they furnished a photographer with a Polaroid camera who gave away photos to anyone who wanted their picture taken with the Rocket or Pocket Rocket. And there were many. As one Toronto newspaper summed up the process the day the convention got underway: "Let the glad-handing, back-stabbing and bad-mouthing begin." And if there was ever a shortage of innuendo among the bidding cities — Whistler’s fine but Vancouver’s not a winter city (Quebec); the Olympics are not about whose turn it is (Klein); no country in the world has been able to maintain two sets of winter Olympic facilities (Calgary chair Patricia Trottier); Quebec is politically unstable (attributed to Vancouver-Whistler chair Arthur Griffiths, although he denies the remarks) — there was always the Toronto media, quick to remind all that the Centre of the Known Universe has the COA-given right to bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics and no Winter Olympic bid should get in the way. Many COA delegates stressed that the vote, which will be counted on Dec. 1, will be very close. Still, having seen the presentations, heard some of the delegates’ comments before and after the vote and taking into consideration factors such as how each bid would fly internationally, a Vancouver-Whistler victory seems most likely. If that’s the case there will be some hard feelings in Quebec and Calgary, but the city most offended may be Toronto. Despite the fact the three Winter Olympic bid societies agreed to work with the COA and Toronto in partnership and support each other’s efforts, that doesn’t mean the winning 2010 bid can’t or won’t start its international lobbying efforts soon. An influential IOC delegate is scheduled to be in Vancouver next spring. And prior to Christmas there should be a line of 2010 T-shirts and logo-wear available in either Quebec, Calgary or Vancouver-Whistler.

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