The Canadian Press
The poster TV personality Stephen Colbert has made available to fans in his quest to support the U.S. Olympic speedskating team. The poster TV personality Stephen Colbert has made available to fans in his quest to support the U.S. Olympic speedskating team. (Stephen Colbert/Shepard Fairey)
Stephen Colbert is finally going to meet some of the “ice-holes” he’s been mocking all this time.
After months of lampooning Canadians and Olympic ideals, the American satirist is in Vancouver, facing his chance to don the pink hat of the Olympic Oval ombudsman.
Despite the jaunty chapeau, Canadians shouldn’t expect a sheepish Colbert on his visit to the Olympic city.
A downloadable poster he’s offered to fans shows a cartoon Colbert holding high an Olympic torch while riding a bridled eagle. The poster reads “Vancouver 2010, Defeat the World!”
Colbert is taping two episodes of his show, The Colbert Report, at a downtown Vancouver park next to the Science Centre Wednesday and Thursday mornings. His website invites fans to “help spread the word about his historic visit to Canada.”
Colbert has poked fun at the Olympics and Canada on his show for the last several months, calling Canadians “syrup-suckers,” “ice-holes” and Saskatche-whiners.
He complained that Olympic organizers weren’t giving speedskaters from other countries enough practice time on the ice.
Appointed oval ombudsman
The City of Richmond, the home of the Olympic speedskating venue, offered Colbert the job of official oval ombudsman, which he accepted during his show.
Ted Townsend, media spokesman for Richmond, issued the invite. He did interview after interview, reading the letter he sent to Colbert, all the while sporting the pink toque the city expects the ombudsman to wear.
Townsend hopes Colbert will put on the uniform.
“Just the pink toque is all that’s required to bring the sense of gravitas to the position,” Townsend said, tongue in cheek.
But Townsend admitted he doesn’t expect much from Colbert, noting that he accepted the job as long as it didn’t require him to do anything.
“He is working – if you can call it that – for NBC,” Townsend said. “He expects to be quite busy, but we’re still hoping we have a chance to meet up with him at some point.”
Colbert, whose show is on the cable channel Comedy Network in Canada, made an arrangement with NBC to be allowed to film inside the oval. In exchange, he will join Bob Costas for a commentary on NBC.
Raised funds for team
If nothing else, Colbert has improved the exposure of both the Olympic Games and speedskating.
When he found out the U.S. speedskating team lost its sponsor, he rallied fans to contribute $300,000 US for the team.
He also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a speedskating suit.
Antonio Faiola, media spokesman for the Canadian long-track speedskating team, is a fan of Colbert and watches his show often. “I think from an awareness perspective it’s been good for the sport. People that didn’t even know about speedskating, now all of a sudden, there’s an awareness.”
As for Colbert’s visit to the oval, Faiola doesn’t expect the comedy star to be a distraction.
He said the athletes have trained too long and hard to let something like that derail their medal hopes.
Townsend, for his part, isn’t worried that Colbert may not wear the pink hat, adding the exposure for Richmond has been tremendous.
“It did catch on like wildfire and got a lot of media exposure across the country and even more so was picked up on line by people blogging and tweeting and things like that.”
Townsend said Colbert reaches an audience that doesn’t necessarily tune in to a lot of traditional media and allowed the City of Richmond to introduce itself to that crowd.
He also said it shows Americans that Canadians can take some ribbing.
“It’s all in good fun and at the same time showed that Canadians can take a joke and make a joke.”
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2010/02/16/bc-olympics-colbert-speedskating-vancouver.html#ixzz0foYkHs3I