Monday, February 15, 2010

Our Long National Nightmare is Over - Olympics Day 3

That of the USA was disposed of in a little over two years, but apparently as a Canadian I have been suffering quietly for over thirty years, with all other Canadians, because of the shame that Canada had never won a gold medal in an Olympic Games hosted on its own soil.
This always seemed an odd notion to me; like many Canadians, I have never been in favor of Canada pissing away resources hosting these gigantic commercial and nationalistic farces. Moreover, most countries in the world have never hosted an Olympic Games (and they should count their blessings), so it seems an oddly masochistic thing for our press to decide to focus on this ridiculously small concern. Oh well.
In any case, Alexandre Bilodeau has lifted the curse from the land; perhaps now Canada will start getting probable and improbable wins in all other events and "own the podium". The rise of the oceans will begin now to slow; the recession will end; the lion will lie with the lamb; the separatists will never again be a force; all because our national shame is at an end.
The Olympics are a funny mix of the attractive (generally the athletes and parents), and the unattractive (the media, and the political and bureaucratic nonsense around it). It's a hard balance.
It is enjoyable and often moving to watch the relatively obscure sports, that I watch once every four years. The competitors toil in relative obscurity for years, on the off chance of having a few days in the sun once every four years, and if successful likely assuring themselves a modest future as a coach in the sport, with perhaps a quadrennial broadcasting gig. It is an amazing commitment, and lying behind it is the commitment of family and friends, often great financial sacrifice, and certainly great sacrifice in their time as well as the athlete's. It's a big gamble, and I would guess that over the large population of aspirants to success, there is an enormous deadweight loss. (I imagine this has been studied.)
It is NOT enjoyable watching the collective IQ of the media drop by 45% starting weeks before the opening of the games. I don't care much for nationalism per se, but the nationalism of the Canadian media is a pathetic then that robs all perspective. I must give some credit to the individual sport color commentators, usually ex-athletes, who do maintain some understanding of likely outcomes, and of who is doing well and who not so well. On the political side, the fact that Canada Post is already announcing issuance of a commemorative stamp marking this signal event is a measure of how much political benefit the government sees in this development. And of course that means it thinks there are votes, amazing. Not mine.
All that said, I rather enjoy watching the Moguls finals; the outfits are weird, it is surely one of the strangest sports ever concocted, clearly extremely athletic, with a great frisson of danger, and the athletes seem to be generally enthusiastic, except for that odd apparently surly Canadian-Australian (Australia, you're welcome to him). I really liked the little 'squirrel ears' Hannah Kearney created outside her helmet with her hair. And while I usually think too much is made of the human interest stuff, this morning's CTV interview with the Bilodeau family was quite touching. (Will add link when CTV pops it up here.)
The only bad thing about moguls is that the whole event for Bilodeau lasted under 25 seconds; this means it can be repeated, and is being repeated, 10 times every five minutes (small exaggeration).
So congratulations Alexandre Bilodeau, your family, and all those who supported you. To the media and 'Canada' (whatever that is), not so much.


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