Tag Archive | "latvia"

Exploring Latvian Poets, Flags and Presidents in Vancouver


Austria vs LatviaOver the past 8 years since attending 2002 Olympic Winter Games in SLC, I’ve spoke to groups at colleges, bars and conferences about the difference between seeing the Olympics on TV and “on the ground.” My examples most always include the first-ever Nepali Winter Olympian (a x-country skiier) and the passion of the Latvian hockey fans as sources of inspiration for my documentation.

Despite the small population and history of totalitarian Soviet control, Latvians ice a team good enough to play in the A Pool but not necessarily good enough to win the big prize. However, you can’t tell them that as any Latvian truly believes their team is as mighty as the rest.

Austria vs LatviaThis belief comes from a long history of performing with heart and vigor although often in the Soviet system and/or on Dynamo Riga club team which is filled with Latvians.

The proudest moment for the Latvian Men’s Hockey Team was when they defeated the Russians in 2000 – in St. Petersburg, Russia – at the World Championships led by (former Vancouver Canucks) goaltender Arturs Irbe.

arturs irbe playing for dynamo riga

While speaking at Capilano University about the Olympics, I met a Lativan student named Reinis Spaile who posted my enthusiasm on a Latvian social networking website which produced a throng of Latvian fans following along with my Olympic punditry including my “People’s History” manifesto.

My pal Chris Breikss is of Latvian heritage and we’ve spoke of the unique nature of these fans from the Baltic country. He’s rallied the enthusiasm from the Latvian community into a Latvian Fan Unite Facebook group and began rallying meetups and events to both welcome visitors and explore his own Latvian ancestry (personally i am happy to provide a wee bit of inspiration as i think this internationalizing is the best part of the Olympics).

As it turns out, Chris’ Latvian story is stunning – a real life Dr. Zhivago story of sorts including poets, gulags and love.

As explained in Vancouver Sun article by Gerry Bellett: “Tragic tale prompts Canadian to fly Latvian flag – Chris Breikss’s grandfather was a famous Latvian poet and patriot who starved to death in a Siberian gulag after being arrested in 1941″

The tale involves his grandfather, Leonids Breikss, a famous Latvian poet and patriot who was arrested in 1941 when the Soviet army invaded Latvia.

He was sent to a Siberian gulag, never to be seen again by his family, and died within a year of starvation.

“He was taken because he spoke against the occupation and talked of peace and love for his fatherland,” Breikss said.

Leonids’ wife, who is still alive and lives in Toronto, was pregnant at the time with a son — Chris’s dad, Peter, who would never see his father — and the pair eventually made their way to Canada at the end of the Second World War.

“She’s 91 and still remembers the day they came and took him away from her,” he said.

To honour his grandfather, Chris Breikss has become an unofficial Latvian Olympic team cheerleader. Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, PNG, Vancouver Sun

Chris’ fellowship with the Latvians also included a meet and greet with the President and Prime Minister who visited Vancouver to support their team as evidenced in a video clip from the event: President of Latvia Meets with Vancouver Latvians: The President of Latvia, Valdis Zatlers, met with Vancouver Latvians at the University Golf Club at UBC. Later on this day the Latvian Hockey Team takes on Russia in their first game of the 2010 Olympics.

And finally, while at the men’s hockey game vs. Russia, Chris interviewed two Latvian fans with a compelling story with unfinished research, ergo:

According to Martins and Filips Andersons, the flag that they were wearing at the first Latvian hockey game of the 2010 Olympics was from 1917-1918. This was a time when Latvia was first becoming a country in the 1st World War. Could we have had one of the first Latvian flags in hand? It appears so. More details wanted…

An Original Latvian Flag

Now, how do I get my hands on English translations of the collected works of Leonids Breikss?

Posted in Vancouver 2010Comments (0)

Canadian Trail is a freeway today ~ Olympic Notebook for Feb. 16th


Dropping in with some thoughts, comments, … coming in briefly cause so much going on!

Skating away with medals

The Canadian Men and Women both earned Silver in a brand-new event – Long-track Speed-skating Team Pursuit relay.  Two teams of 3 skaters start at opposite sides of track and race around 5 times or so.  The clock stops when the third skater crosses so some team dynamics, drafting come into play.

The Women (3 skaters per race, but may alternate through 5 team members during heats) lost to the strong Germans led by the legendary Claudia Pechstein (this is her 8th Olympic medal), along with Annie Freisinger and Daniela Anschuetz Thoms (sniff and i knew her when she was just Daniela Anschuetz).

The men went down to a Italian team skating on mission in front of the home fans.  Cool event and did anyone even notice Canada does well at new sports in the Olympics (freestyle, short track, …)?

Last night (or yesterday it is too hard to tell), Short Track Speed skater (the affable) Anouk Leblanc-Boucher won a bronze in a gutsy race in which she started in the outside and battled Chinese skater for position and stood strong against her body checks.  The Silver medalist (Evgenia Radanova of Bulgaria) lifted her skate while going over the line so may be DQ’ed in which case, the Canadian in 4th place will move up a notch after the challenge is reviewed.

Also on the short track, the Men moved on to the Finals in the 5000m relay.  They led throughout and, when the Korean team went down, pulled away from Germany.  The Koreans went super-speed and made up most of their lost time passing Germany for 2nd place and a spot in the finals tomorrow (4 teams, 3 of them get medals – US and China are the other 2).

Hey, even figure skater Jeffery Buttle (who had perhaps the least froofy costume) came away with a bronze to pad Canada’s stats.

We Canadians are Sliders too

Mellisa Hollingsworth-Richards won the bronze medal in Skeleton (see another new sport). Heck Lindsay Alcock finished 10th – i smell a sweep in 2010.  but really, this is a sport which Canada will improve in from the 2010 legacy since athletes won’t have to go to Alberta to try being a Sketathlete.  I want to try once (perhaps on a padded course ;-) ).

Hockey Upsets and Canada Rolling

Canada did not take Germany lightly and came away with a strong win over an German club much inproved since SLC. They still play a conservative style but no where near as slow and plodding a game as the match in Provo in 02.  Some great play but Canadian forwards but still losing a lot of one-on-one battles that will cost goals against more talented teams.  The team is sending lots of long passes and tricky pasing plays in deep which will hopefully get the squad in a ryhthm as the tourney heats up.

Finland rolled over Italy 6-0 making that 2 straight shut-outs (beat Swiss 5-0 yesterday) for the pesky Finns.  Selanne had a couple of beauties and Italy seemed (from the brief high-lights i saw) out of jam from yesterday’s bout with Canada.

Sweden was killed by a Russian team likely embarraessed by yesterday’s loss to the Slovaks.  5-0 was the final if i recall correctly.  Curious to see how Sweden responds after a strong win in their first game vs the Kazakhs followed by a crushing loss in second- could be tough for a team looking for positive emotion to build on. BTW, both Sedins scored in game 1.

The big news (besides Latvia tying the USA) is The Swiss (led by great goal-tending by David Aebischer) beat the mighty Czechs 3-2.  This will just wake the Czechs up after likely losing Hasek for the tourney.  Vokoun struggled and the team was simply outworked when it mattered (esp PK) and  despite being very outshot, came away with the biggest win in that country’s hockey history.

Finally, the Slovaks beat Latvia in what appeared to be an exciting game.  Slovakia got uip early but Latvia kept clawing back but finally the offessive stars of the Slovak squad got enough pucks at Irbe that the little big man was beat with a final of 6-3.

Remember that goal-differential is the tie breaker so right now Finland with 11 GF and 0 GA would beat Canada’s identical 2W 0L record and their 12 GF but 3 GA.

Bertuzzi, Nash, Richards and Sakic particularly caught my eye and Lounogo seemed a little unsteady (besides that crazy out of net play).  Major ups to Wade Redden for the big save and big goal – he is smiling all day i bet.

The Swiss are next for the Canucks after a day off (they’lll probably go watch curling).

Oh yeah Steve Moore, you are *really* helping yourself with the Valentine’s day lawsuit.  Any sympathy the public had for your whining has run out now, have a nice life.

Olympic Outsider Podcast Feed

I’ve stuck the Olympics Outsider Podcast into the Canucks Outsider feed so to subscribe, just stick http://feeds.feedburner.com/canucksoutsider in your podcatcher or subscribe in iTunes. 2 episodes for ya so far.

Posted in Torino 2006Comments (0)


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