Politicians ponder professional athletics

By in Sports & Health

Sports Editor

“Screw the Liberals and their election threats,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper must be thinking, “I’d rather watch hockey.”

With health care reform making President Barack Obama grind his teeth down south and a potential, platform-less election on Harper’s hands, the two world leaders have oddly caught bouts of sports fever. Does taking a pro-sports platform make a politician more likeable? It just might.
Obama’s Olympic rampage
Obama’s hysteria surrounding sports lies in his charge to bring the summer Olympics to his hometown of Chicago in 2016. Closer to home, Harper, a typical hockey-giddy Canuck, is downright irked by the U.S.’s recent travel ban on Canadian NHL teams that would prevent the six clubs from overnight charter flights while competing on American soil.

Recently, Obama held a flamboyant Olympic rally on the lawn of the Whitehouse to promote his hometown of Chicago as the location to host the 2016 summer Olympics. On Oct. 2, Obama and his wife Michelle will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to persuade the International Olympic Committee. Though the president initially declared the health care debacle presently unfolding in the U.S. would keep him busy in Washington, Obama has now made plans to travel to Copenhagen.

Chicago will have a difficult time trumping other cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo who are also vying for the 2016 Olympics. I don’t know about the IOC, but Chicago rests at the bottom of my to-do list for destination spots.

What’s Chicago even known for besides Michael Jordan, Oprah, deep-dish pizza and being the “Windy City”? Not a lot and I’m pretty sure the windy thing doesn’t fly with that well with tourists either.

Who knows though; during their time in power, Russian president Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were both successful in using their political weight to acquire the Olympics for their countries. Though Obama’s status as the first African-American president in the history of his country may carry some political persuasion, it might not be that easy for the U.S.

When the Russian city of Sochi successfully landed the 2014 Olympics, their committee flew an outdoor skating rink to balmy Guatemala to perform Sleeping Beauty in front of the IOC. Don’t expect the Obamas to go to such excessive measures, but if they are successful in their bid it will be at the hands of Obama’s keen political instinct and charm.

Canadian hockey politics
Though the politically awkward Harper looks like he belongs in the library rather than a hockey rink, I just want to say “good work Mr. Harper,” on making the NHL travel ban a high priority discussion topic with President Obama recently. When conversing with one of the world’s most powerful, influential citizens, who could submerge a small country with the push of a button, Harper found hockey to be an instrumental conversation topic.

Harper claimed he and Obama have come to an “agreement in principle” on the travel ban imposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation that would prevent Air Canada from flying Canadian and U.S. hockey teams between cities south of the border during the approaching NHL season. For now “open skies” have been declared that will continue to allow Canadian NHL teams to travel freely when in the U.S. The ban would have also had the same effect upon Canada’s lone NBA team, the Toronto Raptors.

U.S. officials cited security and carrying passengers between destinations in foreign countries, known in the airline industry as “cabotage,” as reasons for the heavy restrictions.

Hopefully Obama paid attention to Harper’s hockey woes and tells his Department of Transportation to permanently buzz off. The complaints against the Air Canada charter flights seem slightly ludicrous; we’re not living in a police state yet and I don’t think professional athletes need to be the next minority group profiled as terrorists.

In any case, Harper likely made a positive impression upon the masses of Doug and Bob Mackenzies across Canada with his pro-hockey stance. And if stereotypes of Canucks perpetuating in pop culture serve me correctly, that would be everyone, eh?

So Mr. Harper, the next time the words “non-confidence vote” pass through the lips of the opposition, you can look Michael Ignateiff smugly in the face and tell him he’s un-Canadian because you like hockey and he doesn’t. This tactic will surely help you achieve a majority government.

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graphic Danni Siemens