July 20, 1996
Parade of nations the real golden moment
By STEVE SIMMONS
ATLANTA -- She walked into the Olympic Stadium, heard the roar, shivered from the emotion, and it was then Diane Ratnik began to cry.
She knew it would happen and she knew exactly when. It happened the first time she watched an Olympic opening ceremonies on television 20 summers ago and it happened the first time she walked into an Olympic stadium wearing Canada's colors in 1984.
"You walk in, you hear the noise and you begin to shake all over,'' said Ratnik, one of the members of Canada's women's volleyball team. "You're thinking, `This is awesome.' You get shivers down your back and a lump in your throat.
"It is the most overwhelming feeling I have ever had.''
Diane Ratnik is one of 307 athletes representing Canada at the 26th Olympiad, another little-known name and another little-known face taking part in the most famous of sporting events.
But she, and not Donovan Bailey or Silken Laumann, is more typical of what it is to be a Canadian athlete here. For every Bailey and every Laumann there are 50 other Canadian athletes in Atlanta, without a chance for headlines or medals.
They mostly are qualified, the best we have in some sports we follow and many we don't, and last night was their night to shine in the Atlanta heat. It was their Olympic moment.
Ratnik will remember last night forever. The details of volleyball games won and lost will pass with time, as will the memories of finishing seventh or eighth, or wherever the team winds up, but not the feeling involved in the parade of nations. That will be hers forever.
This was her medal ceremony. The stadium was her personal podium. And she shared it with so many others.
Ratnik watched the opening of the 1976 Montreal Olympics and decided then that one day she would be part of an Olympic Games. She was 13. She didn't have a sport.
"I just knew I wanted to be part of that feeling,'' she said. "I just knew.''
Ratnik is 34 years old, a former Toronto bookkeeper who quit her job two years ago for one final Olympic shot. She had been there once, in Los Angeles in 1984, and wanted another opportunity.
"I don't want to live my life with regrets,'' she said. And last night, after all the sacrifices and so many questions, there were none.
She is from Scarboro, on a team with women from Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, B.C. and New Brunswick. What can be more Canadian than that?
Those who walked in the parade of nations from Canada represent every region of the country and much of our history. They were born in 28 different countries, so many the children of immigrants, together last night as one.
Dominec Filane is 27 years old, a child of immigrant parents who anglicized his name. He wears the Canadian colors with bursting pride. This is his second Olympic Games. His first time through the boxing wars, his Olympics lasted only one bout. The Canadian 105-pound champion isn't expected to go a whole lot farther here.
But last night that didn't matter.
Last night, his chest was out, his spirits high. He was fighting for the heavyweight title.
"This is the most exciting time an athlete has,'' Filane said. "For me, it symbolizes all the years of training I've endured. It's the show before the show. It's excitement before the tension. It's like the last bit of relaxation an athlete will have before he mentally switches gears to complete concentration on their sport.''
There almost always is little relevance between the Olympic Games and the ceremony utilized to open the event. It mostly is a show for the corporate ticket-holders and for those watching on television. There were singers, dancers, pick-up trucks and everything Southern last evening.
But for those who play the Games, the show didn't matter. The parade of nations did.
"It's a spectacle and you want to be part of it,'' Filane said.
"The Barcelona Olympics were the most exciting time of my life. I had to come here. I had to do it all over again.''
The character of the Olympic Games changes from country to country and year to year, as do the themes of the opening ceremonies. But the parade of nations doesn't change.
"You walk in,'' Filane said, "and you feel it. You'll never feel anything like it again.''