She stood there alone. She is surrounded by corporate symbols: Bell, Coca-Cola, Molsons, Petro-Canada. Her name is “Dr. Vie”—a name every one of her friends call her.
She’s originally from South Africa of Indian ethnicity with two PhD’s from Ohio State in food sciences. We are in Trafalgar Square in London in the middle of the 2012 Olympic Games. We are in Canada House, which has been converted into a gathering place for Canadian athletes, parents thereof and assorted friends, and hangers on. On the big television screens, we are watching the race for the bronze medal in women’s cycling pursuit.
The race consists of three women who cycle in unison, one behind the other, alternately changing positions because the leader must keep the speed up.
They appear on the TV as almost one unit. The race lasts three minutes. Canada versus Australia. They speed up to 60 kilometres per hour and there are no brakes!
Dr. Vie—as she is called by everyone—started making raw health foods in 2005. She baked them from scratch with her mother, healthy natural foods. At first it was in Montreal. She has just moved to Vancouver. With her own scarce dollars, she stared sponsoring the women.
Dr. Vie gives Gillian Carleton a boost.
The problem was there was no Olympic-recognized women's team pursuit event for women. There was for men. To his credit, the men's coach, Richard Wooles, helped start a women’s cycling team. Problem, no sponsor. Along came Dr. Vie, who, with a very limited income but with a vision, gave the team some money and some of her nutritious product. She even encouraged the youngest woman, Jasmin Glaesser, to get her Canadian citizenship just before the Olympics.
Young Jasmin Glaesser appears in this Dr. Vie video.
Jasmin lives in Coquitlam. The other two on the team are Gillian Carleton from Victoria and Tara Witten, a three-time world champion in different races from Edmonton. Laura Brown from Vancouver is their back-up rider.
The girls started in training in Vancouver, but with Dr. Vie’s help they were able to go to the velodrome in Los Angles, which might have made the difference on the big Olympic day.
As we watch the race in Canada house on the big-screen TV, Dr. Vie begins to cry with emotion as it looks like we can beat the Australians. This is after all historic. This is the first race of this event in Olympic history. She was able to share in their joy.
I wonder why is Dr. Vie not actually at the race itself. The answer is the scandal at this Olympics. Seats have been allotted to the big Olympic sponsors and to the “Olympic family”. Problem is there are no bums in them.
A real grassroots sponsor like Dr. Vie and a lot of tourists like myself can’t buy or beg seats. Welcome to the global corporate world.
Dick Pound, a Canadian Olympian and one of the few outspoken people on the International Olympic Committee (think of anti-doping), presents the medals to three girls. Fittingly, Dr. Vie hugs us and cries with joy. She is entitled to it.
Ian Waddell was the first B.C. cabinet minister responsible for Vancouver's Olympic bid. He's attending the London Games.