Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic spirit?

It's no secret that our household hasn't been supporters of the Olympics. We've been against it since the announcement was made. My grinchiness is the result of the tax hangover suffered by Montreal after it's Olympics. We both felt that the exhaltation of sport and the money poured into building new sporting venues around the city would be better spent elsewhere. And as the games approached, the silliness just seemed to reach, well, Olympic proportions. Snow being trucked in from 3 hours away to make up for the warmest winter in 115 years was the least of it. More insidious was the closing of operating rooms in case they were required by the Olympics - denying the people paying for the games, access to care during the games. The takeover of all advertising space in the city by the Organizing Committee for official sponsors only. It's not hard to find our city's problems - most media covering the games will wander down to the east side to see the drug problems and homelessness that plague our city. Where some of the money spent could have housed people. Whether that would have happened in the absence of the games is debatable. It doesn't make it right though, that so many suffer.

The cherry trees started to bloom in the week before the games started. The torch approached the city. Vanoc told us to get out of our cars and take transit. Transit warned us of huge delays (up to 2 hours). Polls showed that half of us were less than thrilled with the whole prospect of the looming event. The torch ran right by our house one morning just over a week ago, so T and I got to see it from our window. I drove past the torch convoy that night driving home. Crowds were growing at the torch events and a buzz was building in the city. I saw more and more shuttle buses on the highway driving to Cypress or Whistler or back again.

A few days before the games a local columnist summed up how I felt. I wasn't in favour of the games but I hoped they would succeed.

Then right before the opening ceremonies a young, Georgian luger lost his life on a training run. As the mother of a son, I cannot fathom the pain of his own mother. A young life lost, suddenly, tragically. A cloud over the games. But they went on. The opening ceremonies happened. In my opinion, watching it, it seemed to me that if you weren't Canadian watching them you would think that we are all aboriginal or mad, Celtic fiddlers/tap dancers. The effects were gorgeous but the national anthem was made to sound like a sentimental Christmas song. Months of debate ended about who was going to light the cauldron - 5 people including I was glad to see - Nancy Greene Raine. But one of the arms didn't come up - oh well, the cauldron still lit. And then the Great One (Gretsky) was loaded in the back of a pick-up truck and driven in the pouring rain to light the outdoor cauldron. That was very Vancouver!

Now it is day 8 and Canada has won 4 gold medals! There is an enormous surge of patriotism I've never seen before. We've been critisized in the media for the weather, the non-working cauldron arm, the fence around the outdoor cauldron, our audacity at wanting to win medals and everything else. But it doesn't matter. People are thronging the streets of Vancouver, dressed in red and white, with wacky, outrageous costumes supporting our country and our athletes. Even I'm getting swept up in it. As I write this I'm wearing red and white. So GO CANADA GO!

My wish for this games is this. That Canadian athletes kick butt! That visitors to the city have a wonderful time and don't get ripped off. That they go home and tell people that it's a great city to visit. Mostly I hope that Vanoc hasn't been lying to us, that the games pay for themselves and that the Olympic village condos all sell, so those of us who live here don't end up paying for the games into perpetuity. And my wish for the future is that all Canadian children have the opportunities that are being given to our elite athletes. That one day, arts will be funded as well as sports. And excellence in all endeavours will mean as much as say winning a hockey game. (What a foolish notion!) Because while our Olympic champions are being feted (and supported), programs for sports and arts in schools are being cut, medical funding for things like early support for autistic children is being cut. So here's to hoping the future medalists in the culinary Olympics, the artistic Olympics, the para-Olympics, the special Olympics and all other endeavours will one day prompt massive cheering and waving of our nation's flag and those medalists can be heroes too!

No comments: