Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I promise that what follows will be the last you will hear on the topic of the Olympic Games. I think it is safe to say that there is a certain degree of sadness and malaise present now that they are over, we find ourselves with nothing to watch on TV, nothing to unite us as a country and the same dull sports as before. My opinions on the first are likely well-known and a recapitulation thereof would be a waste of time, energy and sleep. Concerning the third, the raw energy and hunger that are so lauded in our amateur athletes are in fact ever-present. These people don't simply congregate in television studios and ski chalets waiting for their quadrennial opportunity. The Olympic spirit, about as meaningless of a word as 'concept', 'post-modern' or 'society', is defined among other things as the beauty of amateur sport: sport for the sake of sport.

If that quality is at all attractive, not only is it present year-round, but it is easier to find than its counterpart in professional sports. Sport for the sake of sport is present in a game of tag or street hockey, in a track meet featuring 60-something competitors hustling around faster than most of my friends, in a bike ride to the other side of town, in CIS or NCAA competition. This is nice, but does not have a very high degree of gravity, certainly not that of the nationalism experienced, willingly or otherwise, in watching the Maple Leaf raised.

The state of affairs is not such that Canada, or any country for that matter, is united by the victory of a hockey team or a skier. While such a victory does serve that function, save perhaps the Jessica Spano crowd, I would argue that the swell of pride experienced is a sort of tapping into a unity that exists regardless. It is ridiculous to suggest that there is nothing to celebrate about this country save hockey, beer and other cultural artifacts. Canada, experienced to the fullest as a cohesive community, exists perpetually in the same way as Canada exists physically. The successes of Canada in which we can share a similar unity are both glamourous and unglamourous, both culturally specific and generic. What water cooler conversation about Cindy Klassen signifies is an engagement with our shared experience. This engagement can be an interaction with a stranger, participation in a civic event or with the apparatus of the state, traveling around the country and, yes, simply believing that we share an experience by virtue of being Canadians.

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