Olympics won't change Canadians
"We're not that kind of people"
By Terry Jones
VANCOUVER — What kind of winners will we be?
Will we go jingoistic?
Will we turn into ugly Americans who chanted “USA! USA! USA!”, while ignoring the rest of the world, especially on U.S. television?
It happened to the Australians at Sydney 2000.
“Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi” was entertaining at first. But then it got annoying and eventually overbearing.
Will Canadians be blinded by all the gold, the silver and the bronze we're supposed to win here and go beyond shout to lout?
“I sense more noise. The 'Paint The Town Red' program is starting to manifest itself,” said Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge here Tuesday.
Canada has become a Winter Olympic power. We've funded our athletes like never before and had the audacity to call it the “Own The Podium” program.
There's expectations of being able to compete with Germany and the USA for first place in the overall medal standings. Sports Illustrated has Canada down for an unprecedented 30 medals – six more than our record four years ago in Torino. Put me down for 33.
But if Canada does have this sort of success, how will the true north and previously-not-very-strong handle it?
Much has been made over the years of Canada being the only country in history to host an Olympic Games and an Olympic Winter Games without winning a gold in either.
There's never been an Olympics, home or away, where Canadians have known the stories of so many of our own Olympians. Which is wonderful.
But going into Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988, Canadians knew the ‘Who's Who’ coming to our Olympics. I don't think that is true for Vancouver 2010.
And Lasse Viren, Nadia Comaeci, Alberto Juantorena, Bruce Jenner and Sugar Ray Leonard were celebrated in a here-they-come, here-they-are, there-they-go sort of way as were Alberto Tomba, Matti Nykanen, Eddie The Eagle and the Jamaica Bobsled team in Calgary.
Canadians know the top hockey players, curlers and figure skaters in the world, but after you get past them, who do you know? This time around how many people can attach the sport to the names who are going to put their names on the Games elsewhere in the world?
Canada's incredible television consortium will ensure every minute of every event is shown, which will be welcomed by visitors from around the world. If they hit the mute buttons. CTV, TSN, Sportsnet, etc. have already telegraphed that their coverage is going to lean big time to cheerleaders for the home team.
Canadians have been inundated with Pepsi commercials produced by an American ad agency which seems to think it is desirable to get the “USA! USA! USA!” thing going by promoting their contest-winning cheer “Eh! O' Canada Go!”
Pepsi made a major effort to try get it going at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Saskatoon where they had people out on the ice between periods and positioned in every section in the stands encouraging everyone to take up the chant.
Saskatchewan would have nothing of it. Rejected it out of hand.
So maybe we ought not be worried.
COC boss Rudge says he isn't.
“I think Canadians are going to get excited watching our athletes succeed. But I think Canadians will still want to be Canadians and embrace the rest of the world.”
Canada's chef de mission for these Olympics, Nathalie Lambert, agrees.
“I don't think it's in our culture. We're not that type of people,” she said. “I don't think we'd put it in people's faces. I think we'll be very gracious to the rest of the world.”
Lets hope so.
But I don't know. Winning all that gold could make Canadians go as goofy.
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