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U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert speaks with speed skater Lauren Cholewinksi during the women's 500-metre event at the Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. (Adrian Wyld)
U.S. comedian Stephen Colbert speaks with speed skater Lauren Cholewinksi during the women's 500-metre event at the Olympic Oval in Richmond, B.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010. (Adrian Wyld)

Jane Taber

Stephen Colbert makes amends Add to ...

After months of mocking Canadian "syrup suckers" and "iceholes," Stephen Colbert says he "takes it all back."

The American comedian, all perfect white teeth and well-coiffed dark hair, was on Canadian soil/ice yesterday, attending the Winter Olympics and also taping segments for four of his shows, The Colbert Report.

"I take it all back," he volunteered to The Globe and Mail, not even waiting to be asked about his derisive descriptions of his northern neighbours. (He also said he reads The Globe whenever he's mentioned in it; he was clearly sucking up.)

And he likes Vancouver, Canada, and Canadians - never mind his insults.

"What's not to like?" Mr. Colbert said, gesturing around at the Richmond Olympic Oval, the venue for long-track speed skating.

It's an attractive building but full of problems; Mr. Colbert didn't mention the small matter of its ice cleaning machines ruining the ice. He'll probably save the sarcastic comments for his show.

Wearing a red fleece warm-up jacket, with the words "Assistant Sports Psychologist" written on the back, the comedian was at the rink early to help out NBC sportscaster Bob Costas with colour commentary.

"I actually do know what they are doing," he said, noting that he's knowledgeable about speed skating.

The comedian, whose show is broadcast in Canada on the Comedy Network, touched off controversy in Canada after complaining that Olympic organizers were not giving speed skaters from other countries enough practice time at the Richmond Oval.

And he had so much fun doing it, throwing out the "icehole" and "syrup sucker" references.

His comments provoked an outcry but also inspired a micro-brewery in Vancouver, R&B Brewing, to launch a European-style brew called "Iceholes Celebration Lager."

"Canadians can wreak their revenge against Stephen Colbert in a truly Canadian way" is how the company billed the beer when it launched for a limited run on Feb. 1. So far its first run of 5,000 bottles is selling out, and R&B co-owner Barry Benson says they are now printing more labels.

Mr. Colbert, meanwhile, is helping to fund the U.S. speed-skating team, which lost its sponsor; he was able to get his fans to donate $300,000 to the team.

An avid speed-skating enthusiast (he said he doesn't skate himself; he's from Charleston, South Carolina), he got hooked on the sport during the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.

That's when American speed skater Eric Heiden won five gold medals. It was also the Olympics famous for the "Miracle on Ice," in which a U.S. men's hockey team that was made up of amateurs beat the Russians for gold.

Asked if Canadians have been nice to him while he's been here, Mr. Colbert said about 6,000 people were out to see him earlier in the day where he was taping more segments.

Despite having to stand in cold mud, which Mr. Colbert dubbed "the Canadian swamp," fans held "Syrup Sucker" banners and chanted his name while clouds of marijuana smoke wafted around the crowd.

With a report from Mine Salkin

(Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

 

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