February 12, 2006


Today brought the opening of the cross-country skiing at the 2006 Olympics, and the most gripping competition so far. The men's 30 km pursuit had everything an Olympic race should have, and if you get a chance to see it on replay, I highly recommend it.

Kwan Done

Michelle Kwan withdrew herself from the Olympics today, and Emily Hughes will take her place in women's figure skating. Although I have a few thoughts on the subject, I will just be happy never to mention Kwan's name in this space again.

Updated Predictions

Canadian medal prediction, 2006 -- Updated 12 February

Figure 1 — Probability distribution for Canada's 2006 winter Olympic medal total.

Back here I made a probabilistic estimate of the number of medals Canada would win in Torino. I'm updating that estimate as events are decided. The blue curve shows my original (a priori) prediction, and the red curve shows the current prediction, accounting for events that have already happened.

Overall, Canada had some disappointments today. Cindy Klassen's bronze came in an event where I had predicted a significant chance of winning more than one. There were three other events where I had predicted a non-zero probability. The combined effect has been to reduce the expected number of medals to 20.2

Canada on the Podium

As a completely frivolous aside: I present Canada's 2006 Olympic podium suit (see also Cindy Klassen). The Canadian clothing is being provided by HBC this year. I have nothing positive to say so far, so I won't say anything at all.

On second thought, I will refrain from criticizing the Canadian walking-in uniform or the podium suit, but I think there is an issue here that bears some discussion. In recent years, the companies providing the Olympic clothing (Roots and now HBC) have also been offering it (or variations of it) for sale to the public. The clothing is therefore designed for mass consumption; in other words, the designers aim for something hip, modern, and casual, as opposed to elegant, classic, and formal. This really stands out when you see the Canadians standing on the podium next to athletes from other countries.

Women's Hockey

Canada's women's hockey team drubbed Russia 12-0 today, a day after a record-setting 16-0 thumping of Italy. Canadian officials have reportedly received some complaints from fans at home that our dominant women are "running up the score" on their hapless opponents.

There is nothing the Canadian media like better than a manufactured "controversy" that concerns hockey, so expect to hear more about this. The Canadian coaches have responded by pointing out that the "home" team in the gold medal game will likely be the team with the best goal differential in the tournament, and they don't want to throw that small advantage away. The coaches are absolutely right. The rules of the tournament encourage Canada and the United States to beat their opponents as badly as possible.

I will also point out that it is so typically Canadian that in the one sport where a gold or silver medal is virtually assured, we are worried about being nice; and meanwhile you can almost smell the national angst as the nation's athletes suffered their first day of relative disappointment at the Games.

And while we're on the topic: are those really cheerleaders at the women's hockey games? I thought that was limited to beach volleyball. Ugh.

Are those cheerleaders hiding in the aisle?

Also, have you noticed that some of the referees are wearing clunky-looking cameras on top of their helmets? I wish I had a picture, but I can't find one. The perspective seems to be used rather sparingly during the broadcasts. It's interesting to think about how this view might be used during instant replay reviews — unfortunately, as far as I know they still do not use instant replay in international hockey.

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