Vancouver 2010: The Good, The Bad; The Olympics.
From the 2:30 mark, “The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 21st Olympic games in 2010 are awarded to the city of….(dramatic pause)….Vancouver.”
I still remember ducking out of my hated construction labor job for 20 minutes in July of 2003; strategically hiding from my boss, taking refuge in my car which I parked out of plain view, reclining the seat and turning up the radio to hear the announcement being broadcast on a local station. My hair stood straight up and chills ran down my spine when IOC President Jacques Rogge finally said “Vancouver.” Unfortunately I had to go back to hating my job and life prompty after that, but they were 20 minutes I’ll never forget. I still get those same chills even when I remember back to it now. For seven years, I’ve been excited for Vancouver, and Canada, to host these winter Olympics. I know I’m not the only one either.
An event like the Olympics effects not only one entire nation, but the entire world. Anytime things of that magnitude occur, opposition naturally follows. And that’s part of the beauty of our democratic societies; that we allow free speech, and people have the right to balk at things they believe are worth standing against. Are there bad things that will come out of Canada hosting the games? Surely. The $500 million+ dollars pumped into these games could’ve been spent a lot of other ways; especially amongst a recovering economic recession. Would we have ended homelessness in our country with that money? Tough to say. Were we not careful enough with the environment when constructing facilities? Did we not represent the Indigenous people of Canada, and our other cultural origins correctly? Did we go overboard on security in an attempt to keep terrorism and other threats to peace out of the picture? Are there another 100 things that were not done to the liking of our 30 million residents? Probably. Is anyone actually making the case that we did things perfect? Not likely. Sometimes athletes cheat, sometimes there’s corruption in the IOC. Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t. Some countries get more money to train, and some have to just make due. Personally, I don’t like the fact that our politicans and corporate sponsors ALL managed to get prime tickets to ALL the events, and the public was subject to an inane online lottery system. Oh, and that some of those tickets cost $1000 or more. Athletes get hurt, and probably more unfortunate than anything else, sometimes athletes are fatally injured; as in the case of Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili. So yeah, there’s a lot of imperfect things that the Olympics bring.
But can we think positively for at least 2 weeks? If anyone who watched the opening ceremonies that saw the 60,000 Canadians packed into BC Place draped in red and white, waving the Maple Leaf, and resounding in excitement, thinks that Canadians aren’t pleased as punch to be hosting these games, well they couldn’t be more wrong. For every stick in the mud, there’s an entire tree full of green, growing branches, reaching for the sky and enjoying their time in the sun. And that’s exactly what Canada has before it; 2+ weeks to shine in international light.
Canadians love sport, and we love our athletes that compete for us as well. The thing about athletics is it has the ability to transcend even the thickest cultural and international disagreements in the name of sportsmanlike competition. If you need any proof of that, look at the nations of Iran and North Korea; absolutely scorned by the Western world as being on the brink of nuclear war with us. But through all that justified tension, North Korea has sent a speed-skater, and Iran’s sent 2 skiers to compete in the Games; and to, if only briefly, join and be welcomed by the international community. Even Israel and Lebanon will put aside differences to be a part of the Olympiad. That’s powerful stuff.
Look at Ghana, Ethiopia, Nepal, and other impoverished countries that may or may not even see a flake of snow in their countries, but come to the Games with the support of their governments and train between full-time jobs to earn spots on their national rosters to compete because they believe that the Olympics are worth the effort and sacrifice necessary to get to them. And really, that’s exactly what the Olympics are all about in their purest form; the best amateur athletes in the world, putting aside barriers, competing cleanly, for their country, to showcase the best that their human abilities have to offer in terms of their unique sport.
The thing is, there’s so much good to be harvested out of such a criticized event. We ran a little flicker of a flame from Greece, around the entire planet, and through the streets and neighborhoods of nearly every city in our own country. In Kelowna, we had a kid with cancer cut out a few days of his chemotherapy treatments so he could be a local torchbearer. Many similarly touching stories laced our national torch relay as well.
We’ve come together as 6 continents to show that there’s at least one thing we can all be civil and peaceful about, if only for a short time. The world of sport blends together with art and culture to put on a show unlike any other. Our troops fighting for our freedom overseas gather around a TV, dressed in Canada clothing and sipping Tim Hortons’ coffee to watch the proceedings of Canadian icons Rick Hansen, Nancy Green, Betty Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and others completing the Olympic opening ceremonies. We bought pairs of red mittens, various apparel, grocery items, and pretty well anything we could get our hands on that we either knew would support Canadian athletes financially, or just emblazoned “Canada” on them to show our support.
So, through all the things there are to protest against, there are plenty of others that Canadians are rightfully excited about. How bananas are we going to all go when a Canadian wins our first gold medal that we’ve ever won on home soil? Our when our hockey team(s) (hopefully) strike gold as well? Between the Olympics and Paralympics, it’s going to be an exciting few weeks, and a historical moment for our country. I hope you choose to enjoy them with the rest of us. Go Canada go!