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Robert Silver

Jack Layton's Olympic history Add to ...

There has been much made about Jack Layton's imitation of Dikembe Mutombo boxing out all comers in front of a TV camera while watching the Olympic men's gold-medal hockey game. I have no doubt Layton was as surprised as anyone that he happened to show up at a local watering hole at 6 a.m. in order to get a good spot right near the bar to watch the sporting match and who happened to be at the very bar? Why, CTV broadcasting crowd reaction to an entire nation. I mean, what were the odds? (For the sake of full disclosure, I am a co-owner of Torontoist, the site that broke this story. I have absolutely nothing to do with Torontoist's day-to-day operations and first saw this clip when other blogs started linking to Torontoist).

After watching the game, Layton fired off a press release full of grand statements on the success of the games, how proud we are to have hosted the world and what a historic moment this was for our country.

Wonderful stuff. The right tone and rhetoric.

Jack Layton of course didn't always feel this way about the Olympics. In fact the person who led Toronto's bid to host the 1996 Olympics, to this day blames - guess who - Jack Layton for Toronto's loss.

Here's a blast from the past with emphasis added:

Failure pinned on Jack Layton, poverty group

By Royson James, Toronto Star, Sep 19, 1990

Atlanta's Olympic triumph lit up Toronto City Hall's switchboard.

Metro residents picked up their phones to fire angry salvos at city Councillor Jack Layton.

"I've had calls on both sides," said the besieged man many blame for sabotaging Toronto's bid for the 1996 Summer Games.

"People are very disappointed.

"They put their heart and soul into the bid. It's quite natural for some people to point fingers, but I hope that passes."

Councillor Tony O'Donohue said Layton "put a dagger in the heart of the city's bid" - using the "dirty work of the Bread Not Circuses Coalition."

The two-year-old anti-poverty group has been bitterly opposed to Toronto's Olympics bid and even sent representatives to Tokyo to intensify its opposition during the Games lobbying.

"It's a victory for Jack Layton but a defeat for the city," O'Donohue said.

Councillor Kay Gardner said Layton must vote according to his conscience, but his Olympic opposition could stick with him through his political career.

It could be especially damaging, Gardner said, if he tries to run for mayor in the next civic election.

"That's ready-made ammunition for someone running against him, isn't it?" said Gardner, who supported the bid only in the final stages.

Layton said Toronto had less money to offer the International Olympic Committee because of its commitments to "a socially responsible Olympics.

"If to win you need a socially irresponsible bid, then perhaps it's better to lose," he said.

Layton said he opposed the Games because the federal and provincial governments did not give iron-clad agreements that they would pay for social benefits that should flow from the Olympics.

The energy mustered by the private and public sectors in pursuing the Olympics must now be harnessed to meet the same social needs the Olympics promised to fill, he said.

(Photo: Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

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