Will you be watching the Olympics?

match point

I’ve always loved watching the Olympics. There are so many great moments involved in an event of such magnitude, where all the athletes have worked so hard to get there and have dreamed about it for so long. I even watch the opening ceremonies. I know, they’re cheesy and overblown. But there’s such magic and joy in the faces of everyone involved that I can’t resist.

I look at all the athletes walking in with the giant flags of their countries, and they look so proud and happy, like they can scarcely believe they’re there. I love the ones taking pictures — “Look Mom, I’m in Athens! I made it, after all this time!”

That’s why I keep watching the Olympics. All the athletes have put in so many hours of training, overcome so many challenges, and survived so many early mornings and grueling practices just to get to this moment. And now they’re here and it’s go-time. What happens next? For my money, there’s no better drama in sports.

Speaking of money, most of these athletes don’t have much. They’re not playing for their million dollar contracts or for the jersey they’ve been paid to wear. Most of them have to balance an outside job with the rigorous demands of their training, and they have to scramble for funding when it comes time to travel.

They play for a love of sport, for the competitiveness inherent in them, for pride in themselves, as well as their countries. There are any number of fascinating reasons why they play, but in all likelihood money is not one of them. I love that.

And I love how very proud I feel of my country thanks to our athletes who are there representing all of us. I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense, feeling so proud to be Canadian because of one dude or chick who can throw a pole well or run fast, but I still am.

I remember the moments when these good Canadian kids made me so proud of my country. I thought that my heart would burst out of its maple-leaf-wearing chest. I screamed for Donovan Bailey and for the 2002 men’s and women’s hockey teams; I stood in awe at the skills of Caroline Brunet and Myriam Bedard; I lived and died with the saga of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

I’m proud of our athletes, whether they win or lose, for being there and for overcoming so much and for representing so well the country that belongs to all of us. Yup, I’m a cheeseball, but I like it that way.

So I’ll be watching these Olympics, and as always, cheering my heart out. Plus this year, there’ll be the added bonus of seeing whether the facilities have all been built properly and on time. Hooray for Athens ‘04!

--Megan Grittani-Livingston

The Olympics return to their birthplace in Athens this summer, but you’d be more likely to find me speaking Greek than watching them. Before you dismiss me as the typical male sports chauvinist — only willing to tolerate baseball, beer, football, basketball, and hockey on my limited athletic plate — hear me out. In the spirit of Socratic discourse.

It is not just that it would be difficult to drag me out of the fleeting August sunshine to watch some guy or girl toss a hammer. In Europe, track and field enjoys a popularity I will never understand. In my living room, it always looks like some very athletic people had a little too much open space, and way too much free time. “First, we’ll have running. Then we can add some obstacles. Maybe a water pit or a wooden fence. Wait. We can’t forget the impossibly high bar. Better give them a giant stick.” What I do understand is the appeal of watching people who have trained hard and sacrificed for the opportunity to represent their respective nations. Ah, nationalism. Now I’m beginning to understand what’s afoot with these strange games — U.S. hegemony on the basketball court; technically sound Chinese divers. These athletes are going “higher, faster, stronger” — as the motto promises — for their fellow countrymen as much as themselves. Yet, I’m still inclined to believe that the interest they create for skeptics like myself does not even reach the podium compared to the personal satisfaction of proudly representing their nation while satisfying their natural competitive urges.

Still, that thinly veiled nationalism and the means by which they satisfy their urges is just not enough to generate my interest. The Canadian Olympic Committee seems equally disinterested. As a result of the COC’s stringent new standards requiring our athletes to demonstrate the potential to be among the top 12 in the world in their event, we are sending our smallest contingent of athletes since the 1980 Games in Moscow, which, by the way, we officially boycotted.

Maybe myself and the Committee are suffering from Atlanta amnesia. We forget 1996 when Canada as a nation cheered as Donovan Bailey captured the 100 metre gold and then duplicated the feat in the 4 x 100 metre relay. Certainly Sydney was utterly forgettable. Only 23 medals. Three less than Belarus. Here’s where I distance myself from the COC in explaining the reason that I won’t be watching the Olympics. The values of the Olympics are about national pride. My lack of excitement is a reflection of the COC’s lack of commitment to our athletes and our nation. Forgive me. So if you catch yourself swelling with Olympic pride during the running of the marathon — the name of which commemorates a mythic battlefield run from Marathon to Athens around 490 B.C. — remember that there will be no Canadian runners in the event to invest your spirits in. A sad comment on our mythic nationalism. Meanwhile, this Canadian will be lounging in a lawn chair, counting the days until the Winter Olympics. They have hockey. And biathlon.

--Gordon Miller

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