Donovan Bailey snubbed

Bailey puzzled by Olympic snub
Last Updated: Saturday, February 13, 2010 | 9:11 PM ET Comments77Recommend128

By Paul Gains, CBC Sports

Former sprinter Donovan Bailey expressed disappointment that he wasn’t asked to participate in the 2010 Olympic torch relay.

Celebrities galore participated in the longest domestic Olympic torch run in history, including Shania Twain, Michael Buble, Walter Gretzky, Rick Hansen, Nancy Greene-Raine, Steve Nash and Wayne Gretzky. Even California governor Arnold Schwartzeneger, an admitted steroid user, was among the 12,000 torchbearers.

Conspicuously absent was the man who delivered one of Canada’s greatest Olympic moments: Donovan Bailey.

The apparent snub has the sprinter wondering if Canadians have forgotten his accomplishments.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Bailey broke the world record in the 100 metres in a time of 9.84 seconds, earning him the most prized title of “world’s fastest man.”

Bailey would have accepted an invitation to participate at Vancouver, if he had been asked.

“Of course,” Bailey said in a tone revealing contempt for the question. "As a proud Canadian, I represented our flag globally for ten great years and I still do.

“For 10 years, I wore the Canadian uniforms and, since I retired in 2001, wherever I go in the world, I am still Donovan Bailey, Olympic champion.”

Like most Canadians, the former Olympian followed the progress of the torch. When Bruny Surin, teammate on Canada’s Olympic gold medal-winning 4 x 100m relay squad, carried the torch in Montreal, Bailey began to wonder why he had not been invited to participate.

Two days before the Games opened, Frankie Fredericks, the Namibian sprinter whom Bailey relegated to silver at Atlanta, carried the torch through West Vancouver. And former British middle0-distance runner Sebastian Coe, who won back-to-back Olympic 1,500m titles in 1980 and 1984, participated on the final day.

Bailey was left on the sidelines.

“I feel disappointment,” he said. "I can’t describe it. I don’t know why I am not a part of it.

“Over the past two years, I am sure there has been some conversation with VANOC and they always knew I was available. If I am not part of something, then someone is trying to send me a message. Frankie and Seb are both good friends of mine, and they are IOC members. Seb was one of the greatest athletes ever from England and Frankie is Namibia’s greatest athlete so, technically, I should be beside them representing Canada. It should be happening.”

‘We made every effort’
Bailey says that he conveyed his willingness to be involved in the 2010 Winter Olympics to none other than VANOC CEO John Furlong. The pair met, he says, two years ago at a meeting of the Celebrate Canada Committee in Kelowna, B.C.

In a statement released in Vancouver, Furlong said, “We made every effort to ensure that throughout the relay, working with our partners as many Olympians as possible were torchbearers,” adding that “while these decisions are always subject to critique, we are very proud of the selection and hope all Olympians are proud of their fellow athletes who represented them last night.”

Bailey will be flying to Vancouver in a few days, having been invited to some “private functions.” Among the people he will socialize with are Fredericks and Coe. He says his relationship with the IOC is cordial.

Bailey wonders if it’s a case of his popularity being greater outside Canada than domestically. He is a regular invitee at the IAAF world track and field championship,s where he makes appearances on behalf of the sport’s governing body and for adidas, his longtime sponsor.

In 2002, he actually participated in the final stages of the Commonwealth Games baton relay, handing the baton to David Beckham at the opening ceremony. But he has come under fire within domestic sports circles for his supreme confidence, which can be interpreted as abrasiveness.

“I don’t know exactly how I have upset people,” he declared. "I got on the track and I did what I said I was going to do.

"Maybe the confidence I exude is still an issue. I was hard on my relay teammates, Glenroy [Gilbert] and Bruny. I would say to them, You show up and you don’t believe in yourselves.’

“Maybe that is un-Canadian to be confident. I expect all my fellow Olympians to show up and I am never going to change that.”

Story comments (77)
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dougie b wrote:
Posted 2010/02/13
at 11:17 PM ET

Might it be because Mr. Bailey’s gigantic ego wouldn’t fit into the Olympic organizers limited time scheduling slots? And what’s with Mrs. Betty Fox complaining? These people have to understand we’re a large and diverse nation consisting of many, many, famous personalities and it’s clear everyone can’t be accommodated. By complaining, their comments come across as nothing more than sour grapes. Bit your lips people or risk tarnishing your legacy.

176517Agree 65DisagreePolicy Report abuseBeatle7 wrote:
Posted 2010/02/13
at 11:16 PM ET

No disrespect but have not seen or heard of Donovan Bailey in years is he even still living in Canada?205720Agree 57DisagreePolicy Report abuseJoseph B. wrote:
Posted 2010/02/13
at 11:16 PM ETNot only was Donovan not born in Canada, he had this to say after winning his gold medal: “I’m Jamaican, man. I’m Jamaican first. You gotta understand that’s where I’m from. That’s home”.

And then he wonders why he’s not considered one of Canada’s top sporting heroes…484948Agree 49DisagreePolicy Report abusebigrroy wrote:
Posted 2010/02/13
at 11:14 PM ETYa - on balance, I think Bailey should have carried the torch somewhere along the way.

He’s paid his dues - on both sides of the equation.81781Agree 7DisagreePolicy Report abuseHaasey wrote:
Posted 2010/02/13
at 11:12 PM ETYeah, I don’t understand some things I saw happen on the torch run, either. I’m sorry for Donovan, a true Canadian champion, who seems to have gotten bypassed for some who are not even Canadians.

I’m not bad-mouthing VANOC, I just can’t find a place to put that piece of the puzzle. But I thought the opening ceremony was simply great.

Yeah I just saw that news article and was going to post it here. They invited Frankie and Surin, but not a Canadian gold medalist and former record holder in THE premiere event of the Olympics. Oh, and Arnold.

What do you expect when the most important “Olympic figure” they can think of to light the flame is Wayne Gretzky!!

My attention was lost when they annnounced Matt Lauer was carring the torch.

I didn’t think Gordon Campbell’s influence would reach so far as to include a host of non-sporting ‘celebrities’, many of whom are not Canadian.