In search of our Roots

Our proud Olympians entered into Sydney's extravagant opening ceremonies a little under-dressed in their hip Roots gear — despite the less-favorable, sexual use of the word on the island continent. However, for a significant number of Canadian athletes, their roots lay in another country besides Canada.

For the 330 athletes who will compete under the Canadian flag, 49 were not born in Canada — nearly fifteen per cent. Conversely, on the coaching staff, 32 of the 140 coaches and team leaders were born in a foreign country — just shy of a quarter.

The Globe and Mail ran an interesting article in their Saturday paper which described some of the athlete's personal experiences with Canada and its athletic program. Some of the athletes, like India-born field hockey player Robin D'Abreo, emigrated from their native countries over a decade ago and have developed their skills under the Canadian program. Other athletes, like Nigerian-born wrestler Daniel Igali, have come in search of not only a better funded athletic program, but what they perceive to be a better life. Igali simply did not return home with his team after the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, B.C., and defected to Canada.

Some of the athletes should be cautioned, however. Some of you may recall how Ben Johnson's media status went from a proud Canadian athlete to a Jamaican-born runner after he tested positive for drug use and was stripped of his gold medal.

Many of the athletes believe the diversity of the Canadian team enriches the quality of their athletic program by bringing together a wide range of experiences and techniques. For millions of Canadians watching the Olympics, however, the diversity of the Olympic team seems more representative of Canada's rich, multicultural composition. And if the rest of the world doesn't like it, they can go root themselves.

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