Comic Stephen Colbert visits Olympics

This Nov. 2009 photo originally provided by Comedy Central shows left foreground, U.S. Speedskating executive director Robert Crowley, Olympic gold medalist Dan Jansen and host Stephen Colbert on the set of "the Colbert Report" in New York where Colbert announced his show has become the primary sponsor of the U.S. Speedskating team at the Vancouver Olympics.
by AP

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VANCOUVER — Stephen Colbert is finally going to meet some of the “ice-holes” that he’s been mocking all this time.

After months of lampooning Canadians and Olympic ideals, the American satirist is in Vancouver and about to face his chance to don the pink hat of the Olympic Oval ombudsman.

Canadians shouldn’t expect a more sheepish Colbert on his visit to the Olympic city despite the girly chapeau. 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 of his shows at a downtown Vancouver park Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Everyone’s invited.

Colbert has poked fun at the Olympics and Canada for the last several months on his show “The Colbert Report,” 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.

A quick response from the City of Richmond, the home of the Olympic speedskating venue, only tickled Colbert’s funny bone.

Richmond offered Colbert the job of official Oval ombudsman, which he quickly accepted during his show.

Ted Townsend, media spokesman for Richmond, issued the invite to Colbert, and even wore the pink toque they expect the ombudsman to wear as he did media interview after interview reading the letter he sent to Colbert.

Now 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.

“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, 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.

Townsend knows getting a chance to meet with Colbert may be slim, noting that Colbert only accepted the job as long as it didn’t require him to do anything.

Colbert will hold two days of taping live in a Vancouver city park and has invited fans to “help spread the word about his historic visit to Canada,” according to his website.

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 for the team.

He also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in a speed skating suit.

“I’m excited for him to come,” said American speedskater Elli Ochowicz, who has yet to meet him.

“I’m very excited for what he’s done for U.S. Speedskating, I know all of us athletes really appreciate the exposure he’s given us. Hopefully the exposure we have had will help us find new sponsors for these next four years. ”

Ochowicz’s teammate, Lauren Cholewinski, is supposed to make some type of appearance with Colbert. She said his presence is helping in more ways than financial.

“The Olympics is very tense and serious and he’s helped bring out some humour.”

Antonio Faiola, media spokesman for the Canadian long-track speedskating team, is a fan of Colbert’s 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.”

Whatever Colbert’s impact, Faiola said it hasn’t been negative.

As for his 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 isn’t worried if Colbert doesn’t wear the 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 he 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 Canadian’s can take a joke and make a joke.”


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