Who will speak for Canada?

So the Vancouver Olympics are just about half over and all-in-all, going very well. The weather’s been a bitch, but that was never VANOC’s failing. The IOC picked Vancouver for the Olympics and if they didn’t bother to read a weather report before making their pick, fuck ’em. And even if they did, it’s the weather. One misplaced El Nino and people would have been wearing shorts in Salt Lake City. But unfortunately for Canada we aren’t a major economic power like the US or China so when we hold an Olympics, no one feels compelled to caress our balls and tell us how pretty we are. Sure, we don’t run our people over with tanks or start illegal wars but we don’t have the bomb and we can’t make a t-shirts for 49 cents — so we have to understand our place in the world. But to be honest, I can handle the criticisms, however misplaced, from the outside media. When you read a piece of witty nonsense written by an Englishman who’s probably never seen more than 6″ of snow, you can simply brush him aside; maybe give him a little “fuck off, wanker” on the way by. Same with the American press who’s shitting on us is more about bigging up their own team than a serious critique of an international event.

About a week ago, when the first article from the Guardian came out and suggested that Vancouver might be hosting the worst games ever, CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi posted a link to the article on his Twitter and was immediately bombarded with what I gather were some harsh responses. His shocked reply, to question whether or not we should traded an objective view of outside opinions for “blinkered nationalism”. My answer is yes, at times.

For the last week on my Twitter, Facebook and to as many people face-to-face as would listen I’ve repeated the mantra that there are times when we, as Canadians, need to close ranks and protect our own. When for the good of the country we need to prove that we can work as a whole and put on a good show for the world. And that call to action extends to every person in this country; to the average Joe and Jane, who are already doing their best, to those in government and most importantly, the media. There’s no better story than the one about a noble country of some 34 million that pulled together to make something happen. Instead, we’re seeing more ink on our losses than our victories. Some offer that this is simply our quintessential Canadian-ness. I hope not. If it is then we’ve bought into our own hype and surrendered to the false, manufactured reality that Canadians are demure and resigning; that we value modesty above all else.

So who will stand up for Canada? If we’re permitting outside criticism maybe we’ll take some outside validation. Start with Tom Brokaw, whose NBC piece on the Canadian/US relationship contained by far the nicest words anyone has said about our country in the last week or so. But that’s not nearly enough. We need a voice, a big one, to spend the next 7 days shouting from the mountain tops that this is Canada and we’re proud and everyone should know it. And all you haters out there can write all the filth you want and we’ll read none of it.

I didn’t think this is where I’d end when I started this little diatribe…but the conclusion, unavoidable and inevitable, is that when the world is watching we need the CBC. We need a broadcaster who speaks for Canada in a language we can understand. CTV has Canada in the name, but its association ends there. We need the fire and brimstone of Don Cherry just as much as we need the comforting certainty of Ron MacLean. We need the CBC and we always will.

Let these 2 weeks be a lesson to those who think we’d be better off dumping our public broadcaster. Take a hard look at the cynicism which permeates the coverage of these games. That’s our voice right now, at least as far as the rest of the world knows. We deserve better than that because we are better than all that.

5 thoughts on “Who will speak for Canada?

  1. I’m not proud that we took full advantage of every scrap of “home field advantage” the rules allowed -this is supposed to be about sportsmanship.

    I’m not proud that we had a luge track that our athlete’s were afraid of and did nothing and someone died.

    I’m not proud that VANOC was “shocked” that the torch was fenced off as it was part of the media safety perimeter but ALSO admitted that the space around the torch probably couldn’t have taken the weight of that many people -if it was supposed to be open to tourists then why wasn’t it made safe. Someone is either lying or really, really dumb and got their ass saved by the fence.

    I can’t believe that after all these years of Olympics, after what happened in Montreal, we can’t even come anywhere near an estimate of what an Olympic event will cost. I don’t blame the Olympics for the economic downturn reducing how much the games will earn BUT an El Nino happens 1 out of 5 years and if its been 2 years since the last one you know the next winter may be one. The cost of moving snow should have been included in the estimates but I’m sure its not.

    And “own the podium”-gag

    Not to mention the complaints from Aboriginal Canadians

    Maybe I’m blinkered but I don’t really see what’s making this Olympics “great” and I don’t think “as good as China” when it comes to scandals is much to be proud about.

    • I think fencing off the torch was a misstep, but “unsafe”…gag, as you say. And what the fuck do you care if we want to “Own the Podium”. After every Olympics for as long as I’ve been alive to watch them there’s been some story about how much better Canadian athletes could do if only they were better funded. Even with “Own the Podium”, which was only ever a fancy name for increased sports funding, we’re still not funding our athletes as well as our major competitors. You think the Chinese curling team has to hold down jobs at the Tim Hortons between Olympics? When we’re facing another era of “Red Army” teams, what is wrong with stepping up our efforts? Oh, is not “Canadian” to want to win or do we only apply our winning spirit to hockey. That’s all well and good if you’re a hockey player but pretty shit if you’re an ice dancer.

      I’m not happy the luger died and I think VANOC isn’t doing this perfectly, but with the exception of the weather I make no attempts to defend VANOC in my article. Rather, I’m defending Canada and trying to point that while shitting on an organization might seem like fair play you should take into account that VANOC is representing the entire fucking country right now and if they did fuck up, we’ll have plenty of time to reprimand them AFTER everyone has gone home, lest you should want this to be the last time anyone trusts us with a large event.

    • Oh, and one more thing. You said our athletes used every home field advantage the rules allowed. So they were within the rules but not within them enough for you, is that it? How much of a buffer should they have left to make you feel better? If our athletes broke rulesn then no one should get behind that. But if they played within the rules, as you claim, then what did they do wrong and how has it stopped other countries from winning a pile of medals??

      • I think the rules are wrong to start with, but normally countries pick one or two events events and use the home field rule to their advantage. Its not common to limit practice time for absolutely every “field”.

        Also specifically with building “the most difficult luge” that “will ever” be built taking full advantage of every rule that prevents other teams from practicing is bad sportsmanship.

        The Olympics are supposed to be about sportsmanship, not grudge matches.

        =======
        Also “Own the podium” smacks of “by any means necessary”. If we have to cheat, lie, or go “Tanya Harding” to win then go ahead and do it.

        It also diminishes the efforts of our athlete’s. Being 4th in the entire damn world isn’t exactly shameful. And its become more nuts than that -anything but gold isn’t good enough apparently. Even second in the whole world is no good!

        Wouldn’t you be perfectly happy to be the second most popular blog in the world? Or the blog that earns the second most amount of money?

        =======
        Also I don’t think that waiting until the world isn’t watching to own up to any mistakes made is the right way to go. If we want more events we better show that we are AWARE of the problems and will discover what caused them so we can prevent it next time.

  2. Your final points are well taken. I have a huge Hate on for Bell Globe media. Firstly they are are a massive corporate juggernaught that not only controls most media outlets in Canada but are also providers of access to those media outlets.
    They more than any other organization in canada are run by Boardrooms more than by on the ground Canadians. We the public are seen by them as clients or worse yet end users rather than people with buying power and choice. When CBC broadcasts the olympics it has a national identity to maintain. In part due to their public funding. CTV on the other hand cares more about advertisers than national identity. They do care about their identity and remind you of this every second they are on air. They care more about Brand identity than national identity. This may be the new reality but multi national sports are about nations not advertisers. On line gambling companies are a major sponsor of CTV’s coverage and the mere idea of publicly connecting gambling to sport is tasteless at best, criminal at worst ask Wayne Gretzky’s wife or Micheal Jordon.

    I am not naive enough to think that you can’t run an event as large as the Olympics without corporate involvement however it feels this particular Olympics reeks of corporatization. It feels as if VANOC was not representing the hopes and aspirations of the citizens of Vancouver let alone those of BC or Canada at large but rather corporate board rooms.

    As for own the podium… we should celebrate any Canadians aspiration to be the best in their field no matter what they do. Our government pulled out of funding of sport in the nineties due to “economic crisis'” Do you think they will continue to fund our athletes well once we aren’t showcasing to the world? I doubt the Bean counters can see the economic benefits of having a strong athletic presences in all sports. and for that matter Cultural events too! (I hate when we separate arts and culture from sport, They are both sides of the same coin in building strong national identity! Look to Quebec as an example)

    Just my 2 pence
    Ben

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