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Olympic fever slow to spread

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It used to be that everyday Americans cared about Winter Olympic sports for at least a month or two every four years. But that window has grown narrower. When held on North American soil, the Olympics tend to feel grander and more "present" than when held overseas.

But Vancouver might as well be at the South Pole for all the excitement it's generated. On the eve of the XXI Winter Games, it appears Vancouver is setting an Olympic record for "least-hyped Olympics." Where's the buzz?

The fashionable thing would be to blame the global recession. Maybe people are too depressed about unemployment to follow skeleton and ice dancing. Or maybe it's the lack of snow, or that people are tuning out NBC after Conan left, or that Lindsay Vonn's shin hurts, or that women's ski jumping has been left off the Olympic program. But probably not. It's possible that controversy drives excitement and the Canadian hosts are just so reliably unscandalous.

Here's an exciting fact: tomorrow's Opening Ceremonies will be the first in Olympic history to be held indoors. I know, wow, right? Kind of a downer after the show Beijing put on. I guess the confined venue rules out the likelihood that we'll see thousands of Canadians banging drums in perfect unison. At least it won't be on an 18-hour time delay.

Whatever the cause of this Olympic indifference, remember: if the Olympics are reliable for anything, it's unexpected drama. Where will it come from? There are many possibilities. Olympic hockey trumps the NHL in my book, and the rivalry (both men and women) between Team Canada and Team USA should be fun to watch. The United States is bringing the strongest field in decades for both men’s Figure Skating and Nordic Combined; multiple medals in each of these sports is a real possibility. Bode Miller could say something crazy (the men’s Downhill, the premier skiing event, will be contested this Saturday).

Unbelievably, Canada has never won a gold medal on home soil, after failing to do so in both 1976 (Montreal) and 1988 (Calgary). If we don’t “Oh Canada” during a medal ceremony over the next sixteen days, consider it a curse.