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Behind the cool logos, the goofy mascots, and the native imagery, what exactly do we have? A bunch of made-up games with made-up rules, played by teams that come from places with made-up boundaries and made-up identities. Colourful flags, shiny suits, and planks of wood, fiberglass, and steel strapped to our feet. We humans are a strange bunch.

A friend of mine wrote a major paper on Vancouver’s efforts to secure an Olympic bid.  If I remember correctly, it was called “Bread, Not Circuses.”  I’m sure there was also a catchy subtitle for it, but not having read her paper, I can only guess what it might be.  (The best one that I have come up with is, “Why Vancouver’s mayor can go suck on a handful off razorblades for being so socially unaware.”)

The mention of this paper did get me thinking, though, about the very real arguments for and against the Olympic games.  I do admit to being a bit annoyed at the fact that there were so many protesters clogging up the torch routes and such, but that mostly stems from my experiences at the University of Guelph, the only post-secondary institution where you can spend the entirety of your education with a placard in your hand without anyone ever looking askance at you.  (I’m willing to bet that a bunch of the more stoned protestors in Vancouver had bussed in from U of G.  Those guys would protest a three-legged puppy adoption agency if it got them out of class.)

That being said, Vancouver does have its fair share of domestic issues.  Vast areas of the city are plagued by drugs and poverty, and the money that went into the Olympic bidding process alone (a cost that includes a non-refundable $500,000 cheque to the IOC just for the right to be in hosting contention) probably could have helped to alleviate it to some degree.

Normally I would point out the spirit behind the games, the coming together of nations in peaceful events of skill, speed, and strength, and all the good stuff that such things represent.  But I’m just not feeling it this year.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because it’s in my own country, a normally humble land that has become rather obsessed with trying to beat out nations that are ten times its size.  I’m just used to Canada being a place where we quietly did the best damn job that we could, regardless of what other countries could muster up.  We prized cooperation and compromise over contests and competition.  We supported our athletes but maintained our spending priorities.  We aimed for gold but graciously accepted an individual’s best effort.

Now, every time that one of our “locks” fails to make the podium, the Canadian media acts like we lost something of real value, instead of just a symbolic hunk of metal on a strip of ribbon.  Instead if friendly competition, it’s getting to feel like unfriendly grudge matches.

As I am writing this, the US is two goals ahead of Canada in the men’s hockey game.  The Canadian hockey team, of any of our athletes, is probably under the most pressure to win gold.  We call it our game, we pride ourselves on having the best players, and the end result is an atmosphere of hostility against any and all challengers to the title.  At 34 million people, we don’t really have the talent pool to compete against the 304 million people in the US, and the Swedes (9 million) and Finns (5 million) both show almost as well despite being even smaller than us.  So why do we take ourselves so seriously when the skates go on?

I want to cheer for Canada.  I love my country, I love what its stands for, and I wear my maple leaf proudly wherever I go.  But these days, I’m getting kind of tired of us trying to own podiums and bury the competition.

I’d much rather that the Vancouver 2010 games were remembered for having gracious hosts, good beer, and a few friendly games of shinny.