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Sunday, December 26, 1999


It is a generally accepted fact that Olympian Paul Henderson of Toronto is an enigma.

He is a man who has the word Toronto tatooed on his behind and defends the city wherever and whenever he can. Paul shoots from the lip at any time of year, Christmas notwithstanding. And he never fails to defend what he calls "my city." As a former triple Olympian, Henderson is a rapidly advancing executive on the international sports scene, not only as president of the International Sailing Association, but also a member of the Association of Summer Olympics Federations.


In fact, Primo Nebiolo, former head of ASOIF, recommended Henderson for membership in the newly created IOC Drug Commission just 24 hours before his death. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch endorsed Nebiolo's recommendation and Henderson is now on the commission, chaired by Canada's Dick Pound. Henderson, who used to refer to himself as ' the bald-headed little plumber' is not a politician. But that doesn't prevent him from attacking politicians.

Particularly Toronto councillor Jack Layton, who opposes Toronto's Olympic bids. "Layton and his cronies were opposed to our 1996 Bid and kept screaming for housing for the homeless," Henderson said. "If we had gotten the Games we would have had 10,000 housing units which would have accommodated 30,000 homeless people. What happened to Layton's 10,000 housing units? They didn't get anything. A guy like Layton plays politics in order to get elected mayor." Once Henderson opens a barrage on any topic, he is relentless. Particularly when it comes to Toronto and its bid for the 2008 Olympics. 

"The only thing that ties Canada together is a universal hatred for Toronto," he says. "Look at what happened to other Canadian cities. Montreal was given the 1976 Olympics. Winnipeg had the Pan-Am Games twice. Calgary had the 1988 Winter Olympics. Quebec City had the Francophone Games. Edmonton had the Commonwealth Games and will host the 2001 World Track and Field Championships. 

"As a result of these major international events, Montreal expanded its subway system, Calgary built its LRT and the Saddledome and, by being given $150 million by the feds, Winnipeg's downtown area now looks great. And who paid for it? Toronto and Ontario taxpayers, in a big way. 

"Olympian Chris Chataway once said that by getting the Olympics, it allows a city to complete a 30-year urban renewal program in five years. And what did Toronto get as far as major international events are concerned? A fat nothing." Henderson went on to explain that the basic point critics of Toronto's Olympic Bid are missing is the fact Ontario's Golden Horseshoe houses Canada's major taxpayers and that Toronto deserves a kick at the can. 

"Don't tell the world the Olympics wouldn't cost the taxpayers any money," advocates Henderson. "That is nonsense. Instead, demand from the governments that for the next five years, Toronto's and Ontario's tax money should remain here. Can't we use our own money for five years? How else do you think we could bury the Gardiner (Expressway)? If we could have hosted the 1976 Games, our waterfront would look like Chicago's and not what it looks like today.

" In spite of his soapbox-like performance, he hasn't forgotten his humour. When I asked him about the critics who are knocking Toronto's traffic situation and shudder what it could be in 2008, Henderson remarked: "Let them camp in Algonquin Park for two weeks, then return home."


The way he spoke, it appeared he might be interested in joining Toronto's 2008 Olympic Bid group. But he shot down my theory. "I don't think I would be interested. But then, they didn't ask me. Also, due to my positions in ASOIF and sailing, I am not sure if I could. Most importantly though, I don't want to have anything to do with the 2008 bid because I can't stomach those local negative politicians." There are not many decent Torontonians who can.


Toronto's Victor Deschenes, the popular horse-racing enthusiast and owner of the shipping company Expedite Plus, is a known humanitarian. Deschenes has come up with another goodwill gesture by sponsoring a free Boxing Day Dinner at Natty's Bar and Grill in two locations -- Mississauga Rd. and Lakeshore, or Dundas and Dixie. Free turkey dinners, complete with juice, coffee or tea and dessert will be served today from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. "So if you know someone who may not have been able to fully enjoy the bounty of Christmas for any reason, bring them along for a free Boxing Day dinner," Deschenes said. 

Copyright 1999, The Toronto Sun Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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