Sunday, February 14, 2010

Doesn't this defeat the point, pun intended?

A large part of what makes Canada the greatest country in the world is that, like some geopolitical Fight Club, we don't really talk about this being the greatest country in the world. We receive consistently high evaluations from our peers because if you bump into us, we'll apologize for being in your way. While we tend to err towards excessive deference, I've always been grateful that I wasn't educated in the myopic superiority of my country for no other reason than the fact that it's my country.

Knowing what we're like, our expensive Own the Podium plan is either a novel, fresh breath of air or a nationalist abomination. Considering that we've managed to host two Olympics but never won a gold medal in either one, the first gold medal we win here will be history-making. That I'm now supposed to care about the nationality of the tights-wearing man hurtling himself into the air on skis after years of not is news to me.

Many people around the world will watch anything if someone from their country is winning. Americans tuned into cycling when Lance Armstrong, supposedly, beat groups of men doped to the gills while not being doped at all himself. Koreans report on the minutiae of figure skating because Kim Yuna (pronounced yawn-ah, really) is an Olympic medal favourite. Ethiopians know all about marathoning because of Abebe Bikila, Mamo Wolde and Haile Gebrselassie, though it's doubtful that they organized many marathons before Bikila's epic win in 1960.

Sure, we have Cindy Klassen commemorative quarters, but we're also the people whose national sport is controlled by a foreign country. So while I hope that the tights-clad men and women from our country beat the tights-clad men and women from yours and all other countries, I didn't start watching sports just to see the Canadian win and I'm not about to start now.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

I do understand people cheering for their home country athletes in the Olympics, just like people cheer for their home city professional teams. People do sometimes claim an awkward "ownership" of the home team, though (as in, "We won..."), but pride and excitement for the home team is not a phenomenon unique to the Olympics.

But I also enjoy the sports for what they are, and watching these high-caliber athletes compete is very exciting and inspiring no matter what country they represent. I find it funny that some people only become interested in sports like downhill skiing when a Canadian Olympian wins gold, but so it is.

The "first Canadian gold on home soil" thing is a bit odd, though. Most of the Olympians today were not old enough to compete in 1988, so it's somewhat irrelevant, other than in reference to the funding commitment that the country now has to amateur sport. That's a positive legacy these games will have.