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Bruce Dowbiggin

China Rules: Will Trudeau Give Beijing Olympics His Blessing

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Q: How many Canadians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Two. One to ask permission from CCP boss Xi Jingping and one to then screw it in.

The tennis world has been roiled by the sudden absence of Chinese star Peng Shuai. Peng seemed to have gone missing for two weeks after publicly accusing a high-ranking Communist Party apparatchik of sexually assaulting her. The repercussions of her reported abduction could have wide-ranging effects—including on the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

Her sudden disappearance drew the ire of Serena Williams (“Devastated and shocked”) and the World Tennis Association. Steve Simon, the  president of the WTA, says “`I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug. I have been clear about what needs to happen and our relationship with China is at a crossroads.”

Simon says the WTA is so concerned that it is willing to forgo billions from China if the case is not properly resolved. (This in stark contrast to NBA stars such as LeBron James who talk social justice about Kyle Rittenhouse in the U.S. but cravenly capitulate to Chinese authority when their running-shoe endorsements are threatened.)

The tipoff that China is concerned that Peng’s absence might hurt the Olympics came when she was made available Sunday via conference call to IOC President Thomas Bach, IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Emma Terho, and IOC Member in China Li Lingwei.

Peng thanked the committee for its concern and explained she is “safe and well” in her home in Beijing and would like her privacy respected. But it was hard to know who controlled her words— especially as the interview was staged with IOC suits, who stand to lose a lot from any Olympic boycott.

Also lending credence to the conspiratorial nature of Peng’s condition was the news that China has temporarily blocked CNN’s feed in the country to prevent the network reporting the story (If it’s true it would be the first story CNN has reported properly in a long time.)

The Peng kerfuffle is the latest example of China’s tin ear on human rights. It  comes as many are questioning whether nations should boycott the Winter Olympics, slated to start in February. Even U.S. president Joe Biden, who is hopelessly compromised on China by his son’s grifting, has said the U.S. might do a diplomatic, not athlete, boycott to protest China’s high-handed attitude lately.

There could be more. Many are now saying having the Games in a nation that sponsors concentration camps and suppresses democracy in Hong Kong is comparable to staging the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin where Hitler was allowed to whitewash his regime even as it geared up for genocide.

It also recalls the reaction of the West in boycotting the Moscow Olympics in 1980 over the Soviets invasion of Afghanistan. The IOC has been traumatized ever since about politics and— witness Peng’s sudden “appearance”—wants this snowball stopped.

Clearly the IOC— which awarded the Games to China— will make no stand itself on Peng. The collection of princes, plutocrats, klepto-rulers and time-serving criminals has never let a little human-rights violation get in the way of profit. Whether it’s rewarding China or Putin (Sochi) it has  major concerns when the IOC’s alleged brotherhood hurts the bottom line.

For a struggling Biden, whose polling is tanking, the boycott issue could provide an easy win. Keep the politicians and state actors home, let the athletes have their medals, snub Xi  and appear to be taking the high ground. (Better yet, send Kamala Harris and don’t bring her back.)

The question will then be what will Canada do if the Americans engineer a diplomatic boycott? After the detention of Wauwei executive Meng Wanzhou  and resultant Chinese retaliation would Justin  Trudeau dare tangle with them again, particularly after earlier saying, “There is a level of admiration I actually have for China, Ahh, because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime”?

Why wouldn’t Xi feel confident that no one in Canada will push back? After all, he kidnapped the two Michaels for almost two years and Canada’s prime minister acted like the men had simply gone on an extended Carnival Cruise. Better yet, Canadian voters then rewarded said PM with another term. Xi is laughing.

Plus the federal Liberals are so far up China’s butt they can see Hunter Biden’s shoes. Former PM Jean Chretien and his family connections have long sought to appease the Chinese to protect investment there. Chretien tried to interfere on behalf of the Chinese in the Meng case. As Macleans wrote in 2019, “given the respect Chretien enjoys among senior officials in China, the fact he’s advocating for the Trudeau government to interfere in the court case to make China happy will only serve to embolden Beijing.”

With so much Canadian capital riding on smooth relations with Xi— plus the need to bring China into Trudeau’s daffy climate schemes— does he dare anger the regime by insulting their Olympic propaganda coup?  Canada knows this: If Trudeau shows backbone in a tough international dispute it will be the first time.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author of Cap In Hand was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Dramatic? Yes. But 1972 Was Not The Greatest Hockey Ever

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One of the advantages of being alive for an extended period is how you develop a filter for propaganda. Experiencing seminal sports events in real time affords the ability to separate hype from history. Perhaps the greatest sports events for Canadians of a certain age were those in September 1972, when— as a first-year student at U of Toronto— we cut classes to watch the national mental trauma of The Showdown Series.

Even 50 years after the emotional tumult of Canada/USSR, it’s fair to say that it was a drama unlike any other. It legitimized International hockey competition. In an age when a 36-inch TV was a luxury, hockey sticks were made of wood and Foster Hewitt was still semi-coherent the eight-game matchup between Canada’s top NHL stars and the “amateurs” of the Soviet Union delivered as a clash of cultures. Many who weren’t there call it the greatest hockey ever played.

The greatest hockey ever? Certainly the Soviets played their best. But the Slap Shot quality of Canada’s winning effort could not hold a candle to the 1987 Canada Cup squad that beat a Soviet team in a three-game final as the USSR was collapsing. Without Bobby Orr, Bobby Hull and Gerry Cheevers in the 1972 lineup— and lulled into complacency by homer media— Team Canada squandered its obvious advantages by arriving out of shape for Game 1.

Neither were they prepared mentally for the political consequences of eight games on two continents over 26 days in September. How high were tempers and how damning the criticism? The late Rod Gilbert’s own brother called him “a disgrace” after Canada suffered an embarrassing 7-3 defeat in the opener. While time has soothed frayed tempers the Summit Series was not Canada at its best psychologically. To be blunt, Canada’s top stars were their often own worst enemies when adversity appeared.

That’s been largely forgotten today as fans smooth out the team’s rough edges. Perhaps the best example of revisionism was Phil Esposito’s pouting, whiny screed after Canada lost Game 4 in Vancouver. Espo was pure entitlement, demanding that fans ignore the ill-tempered, slap-dash attitude of their heroes. While sycophantic journalists have re-fashioned the Johnny Esaw interview as a call to arms, it was more like a put-upon call to Canadians for pity.

Almost as egregious was the deliberate injuring of Soviet star Valeri Kharlamov, the speedy winger (think Pavel Bure) who had destroyed Canada with his skill. And so Bobby Clarke went full Ogie Ogelthorpe, breaking Kharlamov’s ankle in Game 6 with a cynical slash. Kharlamov tried to continue, but he was done as a factor in the remaining games. (Years later series star Paul Henderson admitted, “I really don’t think any part of that should ever be in the game.”

Then there was the late Jean Paul Parisé’s intimidating assault on controversial referee Josef Kompalla in Game 8. Frustrated about calls in the final game, Parisé charged at Kompalla with his stick raised. Just before he brought the stick down on Kompalla he pulled back. Parisé was ejected, but it proved an ugly moment mitigated only by Henderson’s later heroics.

To say nothing of Alan Eagleson’s obstreperous behaviour skittering across the ice with a raised finger after reportedly escaping the KGB. He was matched by Bill Goldsworthy’s raised finger at Game 8’s end. Espo’s repeated “choke” signs at bemused Soviets. Or the four Canadian players who jumped ship before the series switched to Moscow. It was high drama. The greatest hockey? No.

Thanks to Canada’s globalist PM Pierre Trudeau, Canada was looking to break its image as an imperial chattel of Great Britain. The series was a springboard to that for many. But Canada had to win. My friend Bob Lewis, who covered the series for Time magazine, is excellent in the Icebreaker documentary at presenting the trauma for a vulnerable Canada. The country headed for a federal election in October wondering how a defeat might hurt Trudeau’s chances. (The win didn’t keep Trudeau from losing his majority.)

The 50th anniversary, like previous anniversaries of the 1972 series,  has produced documentaries and films reliving the moments with surviving players and journalists who were there in the flesh. While neither CBC’s four-part series Summit 1972 nor Icebreaker: The ‘72 Canada Soviet Summit Series breaks any new ground on the Cold War climate, they do serve as a reminder to anyone born after the Series of the cultural impact of the showdown with a feared nuclear rival. And it uses the latest technology to clean up video and audio that was being lost to time.

The principal difference between the two productions— besides length— is the scoreboard of which players on the two teams appear in each documentary. Who gets Ken Dryden? Who nails down Phil Esposito? Who gets Vladislav Tretiak? The greatest impression is the age of the surviving men now (10 Team Canada members have passed away) who look more like WW II vets than hockey heroes.

Sadly, the producers of Icebreaker also include extensive interviews with convicted felon Alan Eagleson, who stole the glory from Joe Krycka and Fred Page of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association who originally negotiated the series. The corrupt Toronto lawyer then pushed them aside in his position as player agent and NHL Players Association director. Yes, he was part of the series, but allowing him to restore his integrity via a starring role in this documentary makes for tough watching.

So for those beleaguered by a modern world, the 1972 retellings will be a balm with a happy ending— like when Esposito met noted USSR hockey fan and cold-blooded dictator Vladimir Putin years later. “Mr. Esposito, I thought you hated all Russians,” Putin remarked. “Mr. Putin, I did until my daughter married one,” Esposito replied.

For others it might fill in the stories told by now-deceased relatives and friends who saw it all. And for aging Boomers, whose proxy was carried by Team Canada 1972, the throwback will be a reminder that something of worth more than bell bottoms and sideburns emerged from their glory days.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book of by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Losing His Timing This Late In His Career: Send In The Clown

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“Although your baby/ May be/ Keen on a stage career/ How can I make it clear/ That this is not a good idea.” Noel Coward

The latest theatre of the absurd from Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has received mixed reviews. For reasons best known to himself and his circle of advisors, Trudeau thought it might be a swell idea on the eve of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral to go the lobby bar in his swank 5-star London hotel for some kick-ass karaoke and first-growth Bordeaux.

In keeping with his reputation as failed thespian Trudeau imagined that belting out Bohemian Rhapsody for an audience in the lobby bar would be a suitable tribute to the rock band Queen. And, by extension, Queen Elizabeth II who was, at that moment, about 40 hours from being entombed at Windsor Castle. Did he know he’d be filmed in this Canada’s Got No Talent? Debatable.

The reaction was not. Many Canadians, to use Trudeau’s own expression, did not experience it the same way as the PM and his jolly choristers. Disrespectful would probably be the best word to describe the leader of a Commonwealth nation making a prat of himself yet again in the performing arts. (Remind me, where was NZ PM Jacinta Ardern performing the same night? Did Jamaican PM Andrew Holness have a gig?)

If the urge of ululate was so strong, could he not have restricted his Freddy Mercury tribute to a private room, far from prying eyes? Did any of his advisors hint that, after his Bollywood and Ali Baba disasters, maybe going small might be a better tack? Or at least wait till after the solemn ceremony? So far, no one is talking.

But there were those supporting the erstwhile boy soprano. “@jake_naylor Yup, the Queen would have been real upset about the Prime Minister of Canada, who she called “extraordinary” to meet, playfully singing a song from a band — founded by Brian May, Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire — that played her Platinum Jubilee Party.”

Others said that, in the spirit of a good old Irish wake, it should be all singing and dancing and reminiscing about meetings with Her Majesty and the Corgis on official business. After all, funerals are sad events. Why make them more sad? Raise your voice in praise of a life well lived.

Well, yes. And no. First, the insult was not to the dead Queen. It was to her grieving family. Second, there can be little doubt that the period of mourning, ended by the state funeral, was a throwback to an earlier time, say the 19th century, when the passing of a regent called for maximum dirge and decorum. To those, like us, captivated by the pomp and ceremony of mounted Life Guards, admirals in full garb and princes by the bushel, the funeral march to Windsor was evocative and splendid.

 

A suitable tribute to a woman who’d bridged the gap between the stoic Windsors (née Battenburgs) and the age of social media. If it’s possible to have made that vast transition with dignity and purpose, Queen Elizabeth did. She withstood the righteous anger of the Irish, Africans and Asians who were trampled by her nation’s Empire— and pacified much, but not all, the hate.

And so we saw the stricken faces of King Charles III and his subjects at their loss. Prince Andrew’s shame at having not lived up to his mother’s example as he romped with the execrable Jeffrey Epstein. Princess Anne, always passed over, yet more capable than her siblings, conducting herself with dignity. Meghan— enough said.

It was as heavy as it can get. So maybe, like the PM, those who advocate for a ceilidh have the right idea. Many put it in their wills that no sadness should be tolerated when they pass on. Prop Her Majesty up in the corner, then drink and dance till the dawn. Have a party. Why so sad?

Or maybe we are meant to mourn. That we need to mourn. Having seen the range of options with our own deceased parents and now our friends, grieving is a natural state. Joined with family and friends it girds us for what is to come in our own lives. Anglican minister Matt Kennedy offered on Twitter why it might be best to take this contemplative route.

15h I’ve presided over funerals in which families, trying to honor the wishes of their departed loved ones, have wanted to bring in balloons, play rock and roll, tell wild stories about the deceased’s youth…all in the effort to run from grief and mourning and solemnity. 

But the human soul yearns to mourn in the face of death. It must be done. It cannot be avoided or suppressed. Death is the great enemy that divorces body from soul, the union we all know in the depths of our being that should never have been torn apart… No one needs to conjure up new words or songs or things to say. Words have been given to us, and acts, and ceremonies, and hymns that allow us to grieve and yet not as those who have no hope.

If you have been moved by the queen’s funeral, that is because the queen in her wisdom loved her family and people well. She gave herself to the ancient ceremonies knowing these would be salve for the hearts of those who loved her and give glory and honor to her Lord.”

Ironically, Justin came to prominence at his father’s funeral, weeping openly beside Pierre’s casket. His grief bonded him to many Canadians. Now, however, he’s decided that warbling, “Galileo, Galileo” in a London bar is more suitable. His choice. But we liked the young Trudeau’s decision better.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft YearsIn NHL History, , his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book of by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

 

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