The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Maybe we could rent the podium

It feels so un-Canadian to try to "own" the podium. It feels rather like inviting guests into one's home and then denying them the best of everything we mean to serve. There is an arrogance about it that just is not us.

Since January 2005, the Own the Podium public programme and the lesser-known private B-2010 programme have been assisting Canadian athletes to do the very best that they can, no longer crippled by money and equipment worries or government support that has never been much better than so-so. The original reason was embarrassment: Canada has never yet won an Olympic gold medal on home soil. This much was understandable.

Somewhere along the line it became much more. Our athletes are being sent into these Games with the weight of expectation so heavy on their backs that anything less than complete dominance of other countries is failure. How can the weight of such expectations be anything less than millstones around their necks?

While we have placed respectably in previous Olympic Games, especially considering our population, we are not the athletic powerhouse of the world. That used to be East Germany. Is this the model we want for ourselves?

Given a reasonable level of support, our athletes will work to the best of their ability. We can have faith in them. Many of them are world-class. Several will win medals, and some of those medals will be gold.

Just lay off the heady predictions. They may come back to bite us.

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