Harper asks Canadians to fly the flag high

PM calls Olympics a "point of departure into a new and exciting era"

By KATHLEEN HARRIS, QMI Agency

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling on Canadians to burst with unbridled pride in our country as we welcome the world for the Olympic Winter Games.

Delivering a speech to the British Columbia legislature, Harper called the 2010 Games “the most ambitious sporting event ever held on Canadian soil.”

Stories of courage, commitment and fair play will serve as examples to future generations of what it means to be Canadian, he told the gallery of politicians and dignitaries.

“Patriotism as Canadians should not make us feel the least bit shy or embarrassed,” he said. “I know that thoughts of grandeur and boisterous displays of nationalism we tend to associate with others ... yet we should never cast aside our pride in a country so wonderful in a land we are so fortunate to call home merely because the notion has sometimes been abused.”

The Vancouver-Whistler Games officially open Friday. During the Olympic and Paralympic Games, more than 6,800 athletes and team officials, 10,000 journalists and a quarter-million spectators will descend on the city.

Harper urged Canadians to fly the flag high at embassies, aid bases, outposts, vessels, stadiums and even homes during the Olympics and other special events Canada will host this year. The flapping Maple Leaf will serve as a sign of welcome to the international community as well as a show of national pride, he said.

“Let it be a cheerful red and white reminder of a quiet and humble patriotism that, while making no claims on its neighbours, is ever ready to stand on guard for itself,” Harper said. “We will ask the world to forgive us this uncharacteristic outburst of patriotism, of our pride, to be part of a country that is strong, confident and tall among nations.”

Harper heaped praise on the natural beauty of B.C., and lauded the event organizers for their “tremendous accomplishment.”

“The work of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee, in conjunction with its partners at all levels of government, is itself a feat worthy of the ancient Olympiads that these Games honour,” he said.

Harper predicted that down the road, the Olympics will be seen as an affirmation of what British Columbians have achieved and a “point of departure into a new and exciting era.”

“This truly is British Columbia’s golden moment,” he said. “And it is also Canada’s time to shine.”

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