Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The Golden Pole
For many of us the Winter Olympics don't really start until the Mens Hockey Tournament gets underway, and it's a special moment for me as the Canadians take on Norway in the opener. For the last 3 years my wife and I have been the caretakers of the Sons of Norway lodge in Victoria. Hanging over the bar is a little momento to symbolize the true meaning of the Olympic spirit and THE special bond between the two countries that was forged at the 2006 games in Turin.
It was 4 years ago Sunday that Canadians Sara Renner and Beckie Scott were competing in the Women's Team Sprint in Cross-Country Skiing. Renner suffered what could have been a disastrous mishap: a broken pole during the race. The coach of Norway's squad, Bjørnar Håkensmoen saw this and without thinking gave his team's spare pole to Renner. Renner and Scott went on to finish in 2nd for the Silver medal, the Norwegians finished in 4th.
Much was reported about Project Maple Syrup, which saw 7200 tins of the sticky sweet Canadian treat shipped to Norway to say thanks to Håkensmoen. But Keith Wells, who was at the time a sports reporter for CHEK TV in Victoria decided to also show the country's appreciation for the selfless act. HE presenting the lodge with a special "Golden Pole". It hangs proudly in the lodge over top of the bar (known affectionately as 'Valhalla', one of the two destinations of those slain in battle according to Norse legend) and is one of the best memories associated with the Olympics for members of the lodge. Wells has moved on from the station but the pole will always be there to celebrate the connection for the members, many of whom were born in Norway.
A little sappy sentiment? Perhaps. But a nice reminder of the real message of the games: sportsmanship and the human spirit always overcomes adversity and recognizes no borders. I will be cheering loudly for Canada today, but through my association with the Sons of Norway, I will also be rooting for them to keep it close. Well, somewhat.