Al Jazeera’s Chris Tortise on the highs and lows so far at the Winter Olympics.
|Despite their fame, many Olympians go to the games without getting paid [GALLO/GETTY]|
Switch on the TV in Canada right now, and you’ll probably come across one of the cleverest adverts ever written. A man walks into a job interview, and is told he won’t get paid, will have to cough up for all his travel and accommodation and insurance, and risk his life and health.
His response? “Ok, when can I start?”
The ad is for Can Fund, a non-profit organisation devoted to raising funds and awareness of Canada’s athletes. It serves to underline that, despite their fame, Olympians – unless they are at the top of their game and have sponsors – don’t get paid to represent their country.
Often just getting to the Games has been a life-long quest, paid for by parents, friends and relatives and involves re-mortgaging the family home several times over.
In fact, many of the not-so-famous athletes here in Vancouver have second jobs to support their passion for their chosen sport.
Biathletes Tobias Eberhard, Nina Klenovska and Martina Beck are police officers who have swapped their pistols for rifles to compete in Vancouver.
Four firefighters have been drawn to the Olympic flame, and three of them (poetically) spend their time on the ice – competing in the bobsleigh and curling.
Several Freestyle skiers have proven to be business moguls. Shannon Bahrke, who won bronze for the USA, owns her own coffee company, while Dale Begg-Smith, a men’s silver medallist, runs an internet company he started at just age 15.
There are vets, engineers, chefs, massage therapists, pharmacists and a professional guitar and mandolin player.
But perhaps the biggest worry for me is that some competitors are doubling up as journalists. Canadian luger Regan Lauscher and ski cross competitors Katharina Gutensohn and Ivan Sola have unrestricted access to all that goes on in the athletes’ village.
My cameraman Ben and I tried to combine skiing and reporting the other day for a piece about the Whistler weather. It was all going so well, until Ben took a tumble while carrying the camera. He saved the camera, but took a bit of a face plant.
It served to remind us that combining two jobs is difficult enough, and doing it at an Olympic level is something that deserves a huge round of applause.