Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My take on the Olympics


Pretty much, I'm not a fan.


If I was king, I'd eliminate medals altogether (and not just because I'm Canadian and we don't win those things anyway).

When I was young and naive (now I'm not so young), I thought the idea of the Olympics was as an opportunity for the citizens of that little blue marble called planet Earth to come together as one and celebrate the human experience through goodwill comraderie and the shared joy of sport. But the element of "winning" and the stigma of "losing" injects a poison that all but spoils the spectacle for me.

Doping scandals, who gets caught vs who doesn't, nationalistically biased judges awarding compatriots/allies and punishing political enemies are all enough to push any spirit "brother and sisterhood" way off to the side, as we celebrate the winners and have little time for the losers except for those "feel good stories of overcoming odds to be there."

Ah, "I'm just happy to be here" - which we hate to hear in competitive sport - would be most welcomed at the Olympics. Of course, players will console themselves with that notion...when they fail to bring home hardware. And winners will "say the right thing", but the headlines speak louder. Just do an internet search for olympics and Canada and see how our national performance is being covered.

Is there merit to a medal paradigm? Sure. It may be an indication of the priority of amateur sport in a country, a barometer by which a nation can measure its support of its people's opportunity for development in sport. By this, we see that Canada has a real problem.

Is it that Canadians are just not good athletes? Nonesense. Canada has a long history of athletic acumen. But, on the world stage, something is missing, and it may be the lack of financial and social support and development in amateur sports in Canada.

Some sense of national pride, of excellence in execution, is on display when the world comes together to play. In this respect, if there's any value in medals, it is that it leaves Canada naked - we can talk all the talk we want, but when it comes down to it, we do not invest enough in our people.

For a country that is so highly taxed among 1st-world nations, we look around at the sagging health care, under-funded public transit and public schooling, and wonder where in the heck our money goes?

It certainly isn't going to our athletes.