The Canadian Imagination

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

Re-evaluating

It seems our Olympic castles in the sky have come crashing to earth. The Canadian Olympic Committee conceded on Monday that Canada won't come first in the medals total after all. At once, one and all, the kindest of the media have proclaimed Own the Podium a failure. Those less kind rip into a few athletes as perennial chokers and demand tax dollar accountability. These last also tend to be the same channels as commonly demand that those tax dollars return to private coffers. (What better use for our money than fulfilling our every individual desire?)

But let's take another look.

Of eleven Canadian medals, more than half are gold. Even the two strongest overall teams, those of Germany and the United States, have only managed one more gold medal than Canada -- and we have every possibility of winning at least four more medals (one hopes for a gold colour). If we can manage so much angst over winning only six gold medals, feel the pain of the Russians, with only half that. In 2008, China declared in no uncertain terms that the world has changed. In this changing world, how can we be so upset with only six gold medals?

(Surely it can't just be that we were unable to dominate the United States on our own soil?)

By total medals or gold, by population, by GDP, by just about any other measure: Canada is among the top five Olympic nations of the world. At the same time, we have not sacrificed our way of life to achieve this result. By economy in this topsy-turvy world, we come out nearly on top: not in spiralling GDP (sorry, Kevin O'Leary!) but in security and equity retention. By health, by life expectancy, by freedoms, by personal safety, by nearly all of the positive indicators of well-being, we remain among the top ten. Almost no other nation can say that.

So we don't end up "owning" the podium. We don't dominate every other country in Olympic medals. We don't showcase a beyond-beatable Dream Team. Why would we want to?

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