Human rights should be the first criteria for a successful Olympic bid, not the last.

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The cold at the cross-country venue has been paralyzing. The first gold medalist was a convicted doper. A Polish skater was so frightened, the Guardian reported, she said she “cried until I have no more tears.”

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After an opening ceremony that was as sterile, dystopian and forgettable as it was flawless, the host dictator couldn’t resist having a member of an oppressed minority as one of the two athletes to light the Olympic flame.

And Canada fell way behind Australia in curling, of all things, and couldn’t fight its way back.

The Olympics that should never have been are unfolding despite it all. Even for a certified Olympic junkie like myself, it’s hard to find a reason to watch through bleary eyes.

The Games are in my blood. For a decade in my youth, making the US Olympic team was pretty much my only goal. There were always pictures of Olympic high jumpers on my wall. I set a state record and won a scholarship—and stalled there, tantalizing inches short.

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But I was one of the lucky ones. I got to cover the Olympic Games—seven of them in all. I’ve seen beautifully run Olympics in Nagano and Sydney, and one complete disaster in Atlanta. I froze waiting for buses in Calgary, cried watching Clara Hughes skate to gold in Torino and laughed in delight over the sheer level of skill involved when the Czech hockey team met Finland in a tiny auditorium in Nagano.

Not this time. The IOC has to do better. Massive human rights violations are a reason not to award the Olympic Games to any nation, no matter what Richard Pound says. The worst part of it, as Pound of all people ought to understand, is our athletes are caught in the middle.

I mentioned my own failure to make the Olympic team because I understand what it takes to fail. Simply making an Olympic team is unimaginably difficult. Getting to a medal podium requires years of sacrifice, discipline and talent. Even faced with a horrific host regime, athletes don’t want to throw all that away — especially when the Olympics only come around once every four years.

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Amid calls for a boycott, Canada, the US and other nations went partway with a diplomatic boycott. That allows our athletes to compete without sanctioning the host regime. It was either that or tell our athletes to come back in 2026 for the Milano Cortina Games, meaning for many the gap between 2018 and 2026 would be far too long and the opportunity would be lost forever.

Human rights should be the first criteria for a successful Olympic bid, not the last. Yet three of the past eight Games have been awarded to nations that should not have been allowed to bid — Russia once and China twice.

Enough. The Games can’t be both an international symbol of peace and a bauble awarded to the highest briber, no matter how repugnant.

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A Rocky mess for the Commish: It should have been an easy save for Rocky Wirtz. By now, he has surely been briefed on how to respond to questions about Kyle Beach and the Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

All he had to do was to say the right things, promise the organization was following up, give some indication unleashing his pit-bull lawyers on Leach was just normal corporate behaviour.

Wirtz handled it like a fourth-strength goalie muffing a fluttering puck. “We’re not going to talk about Kyle Beach,” he said. “We’re moving on.”

Guaranteeing the hockey world would not be moving on. Wirtz was given the liberty to behave like a cross between Donald Stirling and a convoy trucker by none other than Gary Bettman, who implicitly endorsed Wirtz’s wretched behavior while threatening to move the draft from Montreal and home games from the Canadian teams.

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By now it should be clear we’re never going to see 21 st century leadership from Bettman or the likes of Wirtz. The NHL is roughly a half-century behind the NBA right now and clearly determined to remain there, no matter what the issue.

Bettman celebrated his 29 th anniversary as commissioner last week. For hockey fans in Canada, however, that anniversary is more like a national day of mourning.

How it’s done: The Canadiens should hire Cat Belanger Toffoli, wife of one Tyler Toffoli, to teach players and player wives alike how to approach social media — and how to handle life itself in a province where most people speak a different language.

Rather than complain about how she is “shunned” when she goes to the supermarket, Toffoli has embraced life in Quebec. Her Twitter account is witty and fun, not an extended whine. And her photo of her husband and Jake Evans at poolside in their matching Hawaiian outfits is worth the price of admission.

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Heroes : Mikael Kingsbury, Isabelle Weidemann, Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Laurie Blouin, Matt Shiltz, Jeff Gorton, Kent Hughes &&&& last but not least, Cat Belanger Toffoli.

Zero’s : Rocky Wirtz, Gary Bettman, Kerry Fraser, Theo Fleury, Mike Fisher, Jamie Sale, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria. Now and forever.

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