My Reflections On A 17 Day Event That Consumed My Life: A Retrospective on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games

I have to admit I am feeling a tad of Olympic withdrawal, but at the same time, my body is appreciating the extra sleep it is now getting. Naturally, when one spends a long time being immersed in something, they have a lot to reflect on. I obviously am only a fan and thus don't have the same perspective of the amazing athletes that devoted decades and years for this one huge moment. I don't even have the same type of perspective as a fan who was there live since I only have the view that was afforded to me by CTV. I still felt something when watching these games and I have definitely left them with some opinions. Rather than spend several paragraphs rehashing what I saw, I thought I would give my view and opinions on three major issues that were brought up during the games. Since during the games we saw a lot of headlines, I will divided each of my major thoughts with headings (and also, it is just easier to separate my opinions in that way).

The Canadian Coming Out Party

Until the Vancouver games, Canadians had a reputation of being reserved and laid back. Actually, I feel a lot of Canadians probably prided themselves on this view as well. Canada had their rowdy and rambunctious neighbours of the south that made themselves aware to the entire world, while Canadian quietly went about their business. This was a perception that Canadians seemed to like being attributed to them. The Americans seemed to want to be recognized while Canadian were happy giving that type of glory to others while still working hard in the background. This perception was shattered during the Olympic games because quiet and reserved was not what one could observe while watching Canadians.

The question is, was that a bad thing?

I read a few articles and talked to a few people who feel that the Canadian fans at the games behaved in a matter that was embarrassing. It was declared disrespectful, arrogant and juvenile. Of course, it was deemed to be very UnCanadian. It was claimed that Canadians acted in a way that was shameful and it was disrespectful to all our guests. Though I can appreciate this view to a degree, since I've always appreciated the fact Canadians are viewed as polite and well-behaved, I have to completely disagree.

What I saw at the games was patriotism. It was patriotism that made me proud to be Canadian. I loved seeing how excited Canadians got over the accomplishments of our athletes. I loved seeing the spontaneous breaking out into singing of the Canadian anthem. I loved the waving of the Canadian flag and the donning of Canadian colours. It made me feel really good inside.

I think, it can be very easy to confuse patriotism with arrogance or rudeness. I defintely think what we saw at the games was mostly patriotism. I know that when many people think patriotism that they immediately think of the United States, often people will complain about how 'in your face' or arrogant that some American can come off. I want to make it clear that despite that perception, I don't believe there is anything wrong with an American being patriotic. If anything, I had always wished that Canadians could take a bit of that patriotism. At these games, I think we finally saw that.

The issue is what is the different between arrogance and patriotism? I think of a friend of mine who is an American who is very proud of her country. She is proud of her heritage and is proud to be an American. I also know that she is interested in finding out about other countries. She is is more than willing to show respect to other countries and be willing to learn about other cultures and customs. When she goes to other countries, she is respectful to their ways and beliefs and does not shove her own values down the citizens' throats. But she still isn't ashamed to declare where she is from and let others know she loves her country. I would say that is a pretty respectful form of patriotism.

During the games, I saw Canadians who proudly wore their country's colours and gleefully waved their flag. They cheered and hollered when their country's athletes were successful. I also heard other country's athletes declare that they were shocked by the Canadians' patriotism and how supportive they were of their athletes. What I didn't hear was those athletes complain about the behaviour of the Canadian fans. To me, the Canadians were just showing support and passion. When we won the gold medal in hockey, there was a giant party all over the country which displayed how proud and passionate we were. I don't see any shame in any of that. The problems would have arose if we insulted other nations or got in fights over the results. I don't think there was too many examples of disorderliness or embarrassing rowdiness. I didn't hear about looting during the hockey celebration. I didn't hear about Canadians getting in brawls with fans from other countries. Canadians accepted that other countries would be visiting the games and we were respectful of that. Canadians were also willing to cheer and celebrate when athletes from other nations put on an amazing performance. Showing respect towards other countries does not mean the fans did not show their passion and love for the athletes that represented Canada.

I feel it is important to be respectful to all countries and all backgrounds and cultures. I think it is imperative that we are not sheltered and unaware of the world around us. We must be informed and respectful, but that doesn't mean we aren't allowed to love our country and show how we feel about it. Patriotism does not mean disrespect and ignorance. I personally think true patriotism was shown at the games, and I would love for it to continue.

The Worst Games Ever???

I think, I have made it clear that I loved these Olympic games. There were several reporters from London and Russia that seemed to make it a hobby to constantly be negative about Vancouver. I agree that it was a tragedy that Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in the luging accident, and there is a strong possibility that the track may have sacrificed safety for speed. I agree that it was a little emberassing that the phallic symbol at the opening ceremonies has a mechanical failure (I am sure some men can relate to that). It must have been frustrating for many involved that the weather did not want to cooperate with the games thus causing some postponements. I was even frustrated with the Zamboni that preferred to ruin the ice with leaking water rather than clear the ice for the speed skaters. All of those things I found frustrating, but the reality is, things like this always happen at major events. Has any event been run completely as planned without any problems? Sure, some events are able to hide most of their glitches and definitely some of Vancouver's problems were quite significant. I think it is a bit of a overstatement to declare these the worse games ever. I would also think it is a little disingenuous that the biggest complainers also happen to come from the countries that will be the next hosts. I hate to be a cynic but it would appear they may be trying to get the heat off themselves a little bit for when they have the entire world watching them.

Yes, there were some big mistakes. I believe that despite those errors, the Vancouver team continued to work together and try to put on an amazing event. I think the closing ceremonies displayed the tongue in cheek humour that Canadians are known for. I think most of the events went off without much problems. I would guess that most of the people who were at the games had one of the best times of their life. I would consider the games a massive success despite some of the errors that were committed at the beginning.

Canada Won the Most Golds Ever! What Does Canada Do Now?

The first week of the games, there was a lot of complaints that the 'Own the Podium' program was a failure. The goal going into the games was to win the most medals of any country at the games. Those a very lofty expectations from a country that has never done such a feat. They were even loftier expectations when you recognize this is a country that never even won a gold medal on our own soil at the Olympics. Yet the expectation were there and a lot of Canadians were complaining about our athlete's performances. Then there was talk that they would consider the 'Own the Podium' program a failure and cut the majority of the spending.

They were going to cut off a program that had only been around for 5 years. Let me repeat, that this was a five year program. Compare this to countries like the United States or Russia or China that have invested millions into athletics for decades. Yes, the USA, China and Russia are considered athletic powerhouses but this has happened after years of creating world class training facilities and dropping several million into every program. These also are countries that have much larger populations, thus a greater pool to choose their athletes from. There is reason why typically a school from Toronto does better than a school from a farm town when it comes to athletics. It doesn't have to do with the fact that Toronto grows more naturally athletic people. It has to do with the fact they have a greater population thus more students to choose from when it comes to picking a sports team. Plus a greater population also means they can raise more money thus buy better equipment that can be used for training. People generally accept that fact when it comes to sports in high school (which is why there is divisions based on school size), yet we're oblivious when it came to international competition. The reality is, Canada was an underdog because they had less people and less money than the bigger countries (population wise -- our land mass may give us more beavers, moose and tundra but that does not help create a competitive alpine ski team).

All of sudden, Canada creates a program with the goal of putting as many athletes as possible on the podium. The belief is that after only investing five years that our athletes should be the best in the world, despite the fact this type of attention has never been shown before. When it started becoming clear that Canada would not 'own' the podium, there was talk of scrapping the program. You can't expect massive changes in five years. You also can't expect a five year program to compete with programs that have been in place for decades. The 'Own the Podium' program is similar to the programs implemented by the USA or China but the difference is, those programs have been going on for decades.

Despite all this, Canada still won the most gold medals ever at the Winter Olympic games. Which means we won more competitions than any other country ever at a single winter Olympics. This would make me think our athletes were successful at the games. I would think this is something a Canadian should be proud of. I also think this is a sign that a program like 'Own the Podium' should not be scrapped.

The reality is since Canada will not be the host country at the next games, thus there will not be the same amount of money dropped into Canadian athletics. I do think the program should remain and a large amount of money should be poured into the amateur athletics. I can think of two main reasons, the first being that competition does instill patriotism and unity unlike many other things, and two, the success of our athletes helps motivate many other children to pursue their dreams and athletics. I think it is integral to get children to dream and to have goals. I think it is even better if those goal motivate a child to pursue a sport that causes them to be healthier and happier. Some people may say that these are only sports and games thus should not have a huge part of the tax payers' money. I think, these sports and games have amazing value because it promotes a healthy lifestyle, it promotes teamwork and hard work, and most importantly, it promotes others to have dreams. I am not sure you can put a price on things like that.

This Is Where I Conclude My Long Ramblings

The things that I will remember most about these games will not actually be the issues that I discussed above. Instead I choose to remember the amazing stories that were told at the Olympics. I will remember how Alexendre Bilodeau won the first ever gold medal on Canadian soil and declared that his inspiration was his brother with cerebral palsy. I will remember the story of the Slovenian skier, Petra Majdic, who had broken her ribs during the race but still did not give up, then ended up giving her country their first ever medal. I still have a picture in my mind of the excitement and passion that Jon Montgomery showed when he found out he won the gold medal. Who will ever forget Joannie Rochette winning the bronze medal, which she was not favoured to win, after going through the pain of having her mother suddenly die? I love the many stories of athletes reaching their career best or overcoming adversity. I love the passion that was seen in every single athlete. Despite the fact they all wanted to win, I loved seeing the humility and sportsmanship that was displayed by almost all of them. This is what I choose to remember about these Olympics. This is what the Olympics was about for me. This is the same reason that I will spend many sleepless night watching them in another 2 years.

Here's to Vancouver 2010, a fantastic event that I will not forget, ever.