Colbert accepts Olympic ombudsman position, sort of…
The U.S. comedian — who plays an over-the-top right-wing political pundit on The Colbert Report — announced on his show on Thursday night that he would accept an invitation from the City of Richmond to attend the 2010 Winter Games. Then he said he would only come as a member of the U.S. Olympic team.
Richmond officials extended an invitation to Colbert after he labelled Canadians as "syrup suckers" and "ice-holes" while picking up on complaints that Canada had limited the U.S. speedskaters' access to the Richmond Olympic Oval.
In response the City of Richmond issued a news release Nov. 17 offering Colbert a chance to serve as "an official ombudsman to monitor the treatment of Americans during the Games."
Colbert appeared to accept the offer, sort of, on Thursday night's show.
"I have no idea what an ombudsman is, but as long as it requires no effort from me, I proudly accept," he told viewers.
But then he said he'd also be going as part of the U.S. team.
"I have decided to go to the Vancouver Olympics and not just to 'ombud.' If I'm going, I'm going as a member of the U.S. Olympic Team."
Colbert also failed to don the official ombudsman's pink tuque sent to him with the offer by Richmond.
He also failed to say if he would rise to a challenge by CBC sportscaster Shane Foxman for a speedskating duel on the Olympic ice.
Ready and welcomed
The Richmond Oval, just south of Vancouver, will be the venue for the long track speedskating events.
Ted Townsend, a spokesman for the City of Richmond who extended the invitation, is pleased Colbert may attend the Games, even with his preconditions.
"He did accept the job as long as he didn't have to do any work," said Townsend.
"The ombudsman's primary responsibility will be protecting his own interests, and anyone who watches the show will know Stephen Colbert will have no problem with that."
Colbert has made a habit of ripping on Canada since becoming a primary sponsor for the U.S. Speedskating program after Dutch bank DSB declared bankruptcy and left the team with a $300,000 US shortfall.
In exchange, he put a link up on his popular website asking the public to help the speedskating program, and Colbert says it's working.
"You came through and now this team can afford to buy its own skates instead of renting them from the creepy old guy at the rink," Colbert told viewers.
"Nothing can stop U.S. speedskaters now, except maybe Canadians. The Wall Street Journal has reported that for these Olympics, Canada has an aggressive new attitude," he said.
"According to one of the Canadian coaches, Canada is finally more concerned with winning than being nice, hence their new Olympic slogan, 'Own the Podium' — in contrast to their previous slogan, 'Pardon, would it trouble you if we won a medal or two? It would? OK, never mind.'" said Colbert.
Colbert then turned back to his accusations of Canadian cheating.
"They are playing dirty," he said. "First, limiting America's training time at the Olympic speedskating oval, so naturally, champion skater Joey Cheek and I put them on notice and I launched a `Hey Canada, Don't Be An Ice-Hole' letter-writing campaign."
He claimed that International Skating Union faxed him a letter stating that the Olympic oval will be ready for on-ice training three days earlier than previously planned.
"I am kind of surprised the Canadians responded this quickly," he said. "Their postal beaver normally takes months to cross Manitoba."
But Colbert's tongue-in-check Canadian bashing isn't sitting well with at least one American speedskater star.
"He's a jerk," Shani Davis said Thursday when asked for his take on Colbert's criticism of Canucks. "You can put that in the paper."
Davis declined to elaborate, making the comment in a brief exchange with The Canadian Press before rejecting an interview request and walking away.
There may be some irony in Colbert's attacks on Canadians. Lineage-tracking website Ancestry.ca claims that Colbert has two paternal relatives a few generations back that lived, worked and even died in Canada.