CANADA so often seems an enviable country that modestly gets almost everything it does just right. It could easily be overwhelmed by its huge neighbour to the South, but goes its own distinctive way. It has ridden the storm of the separatist instincts of its French-speaking citizens. Its politics may not often make the news but many wise and effective Canadian men and women have contributed to the international community. So it comes as a shock that Canada has apparently made such a mess of the Winter Olympics taking place in Vancouver at the moment.

The Olympic authorities have taken to blaming the British press for overstating the problems; the Toronto Globe and Mail claimed yesterday, “Reports of demise of Winter Games greatly exaggerated”, which may be literally true but does not obscure the fact that an unreasonable number of things have gone wrong -- including, tragically, a badly designed luge track which led to the death of a young Georgian competitor. In fairness, it must be said that the weather has been unkind to the Games organisers but contingency plans seem to have been in short supply. Things got off to a bad start with a technical hitch with the Olympic flame at the Opening Ceremony. Some eight thousand ticket holders were turned away from the snowboard cross races because the spectator platforms had been washed away. Enough: a top level team from the 2012 London Olympics is at Vancouver and will have been observing with anxiety how easily things can go wrong.