Who knew? Well, as it turned out, Brian Williams seemed to. At any rate, he called it. He did predict that Canada would capture 26 medals at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Not mid-way through the Games when Canadian athletes began their medal haul in earnest…but a month before the Games even began. He was on a Winnipeg radio show with Charles Adler when he made the bold prediction. Then, in March a month after the Games wrapped up, he was back on the same show when Adler reminded him of his previous visit. “I had forgotten I had predicted it and he played a clip from that show. He said ‘Brian how many medals do you think they’ll win?’ and I said I don’t know if they’ll be first overall but I think 26 is a realistic figure.”
However, even he, who has covered 13 Olympics, never foresaw 14 GOLD medals. Williams, now a three time recipient of Sports Media Canada’s Broadcaster of the Year Award, (he shared the award with Terry Leibel and Ron MacLean for CBC’s coverage of the 1998 Nagano Games and by himself in 2001) was CTV’s primary anchor in Vancouver.
As usually happens at all Olympic events one or more stories grab the headlines and Vancouver was no exception. Williams says he approaches every Olympic Games with one plan in mind. “Expect the unexpected.” Vancouver had its compelling stories. “They were both uplifting and tragic,” he says.
“The TV consortium’s main theme … and we had it hammered into all of us, was to tell stories … tell the stories of the Games to the public. That’s what they want to hear and the stories in Vancouver were compelling. It started that first day with the death of the young Georgian luger…then of course, you had the weather and the effect it had on Cypress, the warmest winter in a hundred years. I had been at Cypress the year before and the snow was up to my waist.”
Cypress also was where Canada’s first gold medal of the Games was won. Alexandre Bilodeau captured the moguls crown but in his poignant interview with Bilodeau after the victory ceremony, Brian got him to talk about how his brother Frederic, who has cerebral palsy, inspired him.
“There was Joannie Rochette winning her bronze medal after the death of her mother only days earlier.
And cross country skier, Petra Majdic from Solvenia, while training prior to her competition, falls into a ditch some three metres deep, breaks a few ribs, punctures a lung, goes out to the start line and wins a bronze medal.”
Williams was on the selection committee for the Terry Fox award which was charged with picking an athlete who exhibited the qualities Terry had and stood for. “I thought Joannie was a slam dunk for the award. But when I went into that meeting, we decided equally deserving was Petra Majdic.”
And then there was the drama of all dramas. Little did Brian Williams expect that his prediction of 26 medals in Vancouver would depend on success in the final event of the Games … the gold medal encounter with the United States in men’s hockey. “Come on, if you said to me a year before the Olympics … even a week before the Games began … that Canada would win gold … they’ll be ahead … blow the lead … go into overtime and that Sidney Crosby would score the goal, I’d say, look, that’s a Hollywood script. That’s what anybody would hope for. Well, that’s what happened. Being the last medal of the Games … Gold number 14, setting a record. The stars aligned perfectly in Vancouver.”
So, considering his powers of predicting were flawless for the Games of 2010 — could he be looking at a number for London in 2012? “I think we’re looking at an improvement. I think Mark Tewksbury is a great choice to be Chef de Mission, and I look for an improvement over Beijing. I think finishing among the top 12 is realistic.”
…… by Fred Walker