I’m not fond of the Olympics, which is not to say I have anything against Olympians or the respect they’ve earned for their hard work.  As well, I do have a soft spot for hockey… That said the Olympics seem to me to bring out the worst in us, rather than what’s traditionally believed to be our best. 

Here in Canada we have assumed the role of host and in that capacity we are responsible for presenting brand Canada to the world whatever that might be, while being good hosts to our invited guests.  Thus far we have been sharply criticized first by a British journalist about the horrible luge accident involving the young Georgian Nodar Kumaritashvili, followed by complaints from athletes denied practice time (unlike their Canadian counterparts) on the various slopes and rinks.  I’m unclear about the first criticism but the second one makes sense.  It’s unfair to deny others the benefits of practice we indulge in, no?  This is very unsportsmanlike, and out of step with what I’d presume fair play and the ‘Olympic Spirit’ represents.  Or is it?

Reading the morning news I came across an unfamiliar phrase: Own the Podium.  Apparently it’s the Canadian Olympic Committees’ program to fund and train our athletes to win the most medals while casting long shadows on our competition.  Over $100 million dollars went towards this program, including generous tax dollars over five years.  While learning of this it occurred to me: did the program encourage excluding others on the practice slopes and elsewhere?  Regardless of intent, the program has not lived up to expectations as the Canadian medal count lands us well below third on the list.  I really don’t care, but what does bug me is the attitude that helped facilitate such a program and the posturing that goes along with it.  Forget Olympic Spirit, we have to be number one.  Forget fair play, we need more practice to gain a competitive edge.  Forget being nice, we need to walk with swagger and show the world…what exactly?  There is a mean spiritedness to competition that can overwhelm the best of us.  And it made me question where it comes from until I realized it is the essence of Olympic Spirit.  The purpose of the competition is to compete and win even at the expense of others and sometimes especially at the expense of others.  That is the point of national pride, to earn the bragging rights to claim we are better than you

That, in a nutshell, is why I’m not fond of the Olympics.  It’s a small but potent example of what’s wrong with the world.  It institutionalizes our unfortunate tendency to struggle, rather than cooperate with one another .  It overemphasizes national pride.  It engenders tension between neighbors.  It’s derisive and insists on accusing the opposition of playing petty games.  It forces us to prorogue parliament.  It…wait a minute.  The Olympics are… Stephen Harper?