Maxed Out 

So Jesus and Muhammed walk into a taverna in Sestriere

So Jesus and Mohammed walk into a taverna in Sestriere. Jesus orders sacramental wine; Mohammed goat’s milk. Both ask for it to be served in an official Olympic™ souvenir glass. A long-in-the-tooth, down on her luck streetwalker strolls over to them and says, "You fellas lookin’ for a good time?"

Jesus says, "As a matter of fact, we are. You got any cheap tickets for the pairs figure skating finals?"

Okay, so it’s not particularly funny. But it hopefully won’t get me beheaded by some imbecilic Islamofascist or rabid evangelical Christian with a shriveled, vestigial sense of humour.

Such is the state of the world as we skate merrily back toward the Dark Ages.

In Italy, in scattered mountain towns with narrow, two-lane roads leading in and out, my esteemed editor, Bob Barnett, sits on a bus wondering, no doubt, why the governments of Canada and British Columbia are spending a bazillion dollars upgrading the Sea-to-Sky highway while the Torino Olympics™ sail by with latter-day cow paths. Are over-blown highways only "requirements" in countries so addicted to travel by SUV they’d rather choke to death on exhaust than spend the money on alternate forms of travel?

Or maybe he’s wondering why tiny Whistler, who was, in essence, promised we’d no more be saddled with Olympic™ debt than a man could get pregnant, is weighing whether or not to go into hock up to our collective eyeballs to build a Paralympic™ sludgehockey arena capable of seating 3,500 when ice events in the real Olympics™ are drawing half-full crowds and scalpers are pleading with people to buy tickets for less than half their face value.

Is it just the laconic Italian ClubMed lifestyle dampening the spirits and keeping the crowds away? Or is it a more fundamental Olympic™ fatigue among anyone not part of the Olympic™ family? Maybe we’ll have to wait and see how the television numbers shake out.

But are there lessons Whistler can glean from these Olympics™? Lessons we can incorporate before it’s too late? Before we wind up the west coast Montreal? Or have we been duped into overbuilding, overspending, overindulging in dreams of Olympic™ glory?

Was that a rhetorical question?

Of course it was.

Work is already commencing on the gash that’ll surely become the White Elephant Memorial Sliding Centre on the flank of Blackcomb mountain. While there is no firm idea what this monument to retched excess is really going to cost – and c’mon, what kind of sucker would you have to be to believe any of the numbers associated with the 2010™ games – there are still no voices asking what ought to be the threshold question: Why are we doing this?

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