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Thursday, January 9, 2003
Updated: January 10, 12:58 PM ET
North of center of the sporting universe

By Ray Ratto
Special to

When the good people of Quebec heard that the governor of New York was calling, they should have instinctively checked their wallets.

And when he uttered the word, "Olympics," they should have run for Ontario as fast as they could.

Give New York and Quebec the Olympics, and we'll be sure to send events like Mascot Gymnastics north of the border.
Apparently, the Right Semi-Honorable George deCoubertin Pataki thinks there is a Winter Olympics in their mutual futures. You know, along the lines of the 2002 World Cup, or the French and Indian War.

And the Quebecois agreed. Apparently the hangover from the Nordiques' departure for Denver lingers still.

The problem, of course, is that at some point, some Canadian sharpster is going to ask, "So what's in it for us?"

The next sound you hear is that Jackie Gleason hum-a-nuh, hum-a-nuh, hum-a-nuh noise he used to emit when Audrey Meadows figured out his latest idiotic scheme in "The Honeymooners."

I mean, what do you think New York is going to offer its sudden friends from the northern suburbs of Plattsburgh? Ski jumping? Bribery of figure skating officials? Any of the good stuff?

Please. The Quebecois will be lucky to get gravel curling and the drunken biathlon. I mean, if New York gets the Olympics, it isn't getting them with an idea toward sharing. That isn't the New York way.

Besides, our Francophonic friends nearly had to sell off Prince Edward Island just to pay for the 1976 Montreal Games, and that was before the Canadian dollar featured profiles of Catherine O'Hara instead of the Queen.

Now it must be said that we shouldn't appear too sympathetic toward our Northern brethren. Someone in Quebec just came up with the snappy idea of asking for a leg of the Tour de France. After all, Quebec will be 400 years old, and the thought is it would be nice to drop a hint about its prezzie from Europe.

A savings bond? Nope.

A toque and underwear? Got 'em.

How about the Riviera? UPS won't ship large land masses overseas any more.

But it never hurts to ask, does it? Of course not, even if you know the answer ahead of time. The French barely recognize the parts of France that are too close to Belgium, and now they're going to give up a hunk of the only bike race anyone pays attention to? What next, move the French Open women's final to Saskatoon?

We are all for this, if only it is stipulated that the racers must actually pedal from Normandy to Montreal. We'd just like to see if Lance Armstrong would grow gills.

But back to the Olympics. New York beat San Francisco to be the U.S. candidate for the 2012 Summer Games, without saying a word about a Winter Games with Quebec. Maybe San Francisco would have been considered more favorably if it had offered to share the '12 Games with Milwaukee. Or Peru. Or Senegal.

Then again, since most Bay Area citizens thought that Hell would be a better choice than San Francisco, maybe it wouldn't have made that much difference after all.

Still, if New York needed Quebec to prop up the cheaper Winter Games of Whenever, it probably should have said so up front. And maybe Quebec ought to admit now that the speedskating final will be shipped out to Ottawa, and the Endangered Olympic Sports exhibit to Halifax.

I mean, the IOC will need to know how to correctly categorize the graft distribution between the Tiffany's jewelry, the scholarship to McGill University and that handcrafted Indian throw rug with the faces of all three Stastnys.

And while we're at it, will the Canadians need to come with extra graft to make up for the currency discrepancy?

Where to put the Olympic Village? The Bronx? Albany? Ile des Sept?

Or the Media Center? The Tombs? A barge off the coast of Rhode Island? Olympic Stadium the day it is imploded?

This whole scheme, quite frankly, stoops to the level of stark-staring nuts. Of course, the eagerness of cities to have the Olympics has always been a measure of man's inhumanity to man, so it's not that much different than someone asking to go on a blind date with an extortionist. There's only so much sympathy a body can manage.

Besides, we're still waiting to see how that Tour de France thing works out. If Quebec City can pull that off, maybe it can get a few laps of the Indy 500, or first furlong of the Kentucky Derby, or second round of the NBA draft, the Caribbean World Series or even the next papal election.

It's the least we can do for the Expos, long may they live. And you know that the least is what we do best.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to