AOC's graceless whingeing an embarrassment to us all
That some of Australia's Winter Olympics coaches and officials are willing to drag the nation's sporting reputation through the Vancouver slush by whingeing about the not-particularly-contentious defeat of an expat Canadian in a sport in which few of us participate, and about which not many more truly care, says everything about the Australian Olympic movement's tawdry desperation to justify its position of patronage and privilege.
Here is what happened in the men's moguls on Monday: local star Alexandre Bilodeau put in a blindingly fast and, according to experts, technically correct performance to snatch the gold from the defending champion, Dale Begg-Smith, thus providing the hosts with their Cathy Freeman moment.
Here is how Australian coaches and officials behaved in the aftermath to what was, to everyone else, one of the most joyous moments of the Winter Olympics: with barely disguised contempt for the judges' decision and the winner's ability, followed by a whispering campaign conducted by unnamed members of ''the Australian camp'' who were eager to let the media know that Begg-Smith was the victim of biased judging.
Thus Australia, which flatters itself as being the home of tough-but-fair competitors, is being justifiably portrayed in Canada as a nation of sooks and poor losers. Where Australian wine was once a premier export, now it is Australian whining.
While Begg-Smith's personality is unlikely to melt a snowflake, let alone the hearts of his Aussie mates back ''home'', his reputation as the Darth Vader of the Winter Olympics is not the reason the graceless campaign mounted on his behalf rankles. To his credit, the Canstralian (or is he now an Ausnadian?) accepted defeat in the same manner he appears likely to greet either a 10-figure lottery win or a dire prognosis from his doctor - with a tight grimace. ''I think it was great that Canada won gold and the crowd was really happy with it and everybody went crazy,'' he said.
However, that Begg-Smith, raised a hop, skip and a very big somersault from the moguls course, was recruited to represent Australian rather than his native Canada is a prime example of the AOC's manic desperation to win the gold medals it believes justifies funding for obscure Olympic sports. Thus, the deprivation of a second gold for Begg-Smith was a blow both to the AOC's recruitment policy and its fevered medal tally ambitions.
Disappointment after such a desperately tight finish is natural. But you suspect that craving for self-justification partly motivated the bleating of Australian team officials.
The tone of entitlement was set by AOC boss John Coates last year when he lashed out childishly after increases to Olympic funding were threatened by the findings of the Crawford Report into government sports spending. Yet, as with the Coates outburst, rather than rallying an aggrieved nation, the whining about Begg-Smith's treatment merely underlined Crawford's contention that some of the minor sports under the Olympic umbrella are not part of our national ethos.
Australians complained bitterly about the penalty to Italy that led to the Socceroos elimination from the 2006 World Cup. Justified or not, the outcry was based on an increasingly sophisticated collective knowledge of a growing game. How can you expect a passionate response to the fate of an imported participant in what seems, to most, a fun hobby?
That does not mean Australians do not care about their Winter Olympians. Because they are out of the ordinary and often against the odds, there is natural pride in Australian performances - especially when they are produced by actual Australians.
Popularised by elite stars such as Torvill and Dean and the human punchline Eddie the Eagle, the cold Games once provided the refreshing opportunity to watch top-flight sport without the overbearing, sometimes joyless weight of expectation created at the Summer Games.
However, the pathetic moaning of the Australian team emphasised how the AOC has imparted the same win-at-all-costs mentality into sports which, outside 16 days of slushy silliness, most of us have little interest. More pathetic given that, deep down, whether Bilodeau or Begg-Smith got the better score, we all know Canada finished first and second.