Colbert goes for gold, sponsors US speedskating
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Of the many countries participating at the Vancouver Olympics, add Colbert Nation to the list.
On Monday's "The Colbert Report," Stephen Colbert announced his show has become the primary sponsor of the U.S. Speedskating team. The team's largest annual cash sponsor, DSB Bank NV, left the team in the lurch after it declared bankruptcy in October.
The name "Colbert Nation" — the catchall for the legion of ardent fans of the satirical Comedy Central program — will be emblazoned on the team's uniforms.
"On their enormous, billboard thighs, it will say, 'Colbert Nation,'" Colbert said in an interview before Monday evening's taping. "Be looking for that logo as it comes around the final turn. It will be easy to see because it will be in first place."
Speedskating has produced some of the most iconic figures in U.S. Olympic history, from Eric Heiden to Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair. In all, Americans have claimed 75 medals — 32 of them gold — on the traditional long track oval and the wild-and-wooly short track rink. In Vancouver, Shani Davis, Chad Hedrick and short track star Apolo Anton Ohno will all be vying for medals.
"I personally love Comedy Central + The Colbert Report," Ohno said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Any attention the sport can get is going to be beneficial. I'd like to see how creative they can get! I'm game to do a skit about it :-)"
The show isn't paying the team any money directly. Instead, Colbert is calling on his fans to donate to the team via http://www.colbertnation.com and http://www.usspeedskating.org. In the past, Colbert has had a great deal of success raising money this way. He has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Yellow Ribbon Fund, a charity that assists injured service members and their families.
The Dutch bank DSB was to pay $300,000 for the sponsorship but failed to make any payments. That put U.S. Speedskating in a difficult position with little time to court new sponsors before the games begin in February.
U.S. Speedskating executive director Robert Crowley, who appeared on Monday's show along with Jansen, acknowledged it was a "definitely unconventional arrangement," but said it would generate exposure for the sport.
"We're highly optimistic that the country is going to get behind this and get behind the Colbert Nation and support this amazing team," Crowley said. "I don't have any idea if it's going to make $5 or $500,000. I couldn't tell you."
Colbert, who often leads his audience in chants of "U-S-A!," said he had been considering taking "The Report" to Vancouver for the Olympics, much as he took the show to Iraq earlier this year to perform for American troops.
"My character sees the Olympics as war, but nobody gets hurt," Colbert said. "It's a way to peacefully figure out who has got the top country."
Colbert, who plays a kind of mock conservative talk-show host on "The Report," also has a penchant for seeing his name adopted for various causes around the world. Things that have taken his name include a NASA treadmill used in the international space station (COLBERT), a bald eagle (Stephen Jr.), a Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream flavor (Americone Dream) and a junior hockey league team (mascot Steagle Colbeagle the Eagle).
An American Olympic team is clearly a step up, and Colbert can be expected to feature the team frequently on his show in the coming months.
"It still tragically involves a lot of Canadians," the comedian said. "It's kind of unseemly how many Canadians I'm going to have to be dealing with."
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