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Why the Olympics finally mattered to me

The Olympic Flame in Vancouver
The Olympic Flame shot by my TSN buddy Danny Celia

I worked for the Sports Network for just over a decade (with a little 18 month sojourn to other places thrown in there), in that time I worked through four Olympics.  I arrived at TSN just in time for Nagano Japan, and I was away for Sydney Australia, but there for Salt Lake City USA, Athens Greece, and Turin Italy.

We made some cool apps, and always had great traffic around the time of the games.  TSN was a broadcast partner for Australia through Turin, so we had a lot of really great access.

However, in all that time, I was never as into an Olympics as this year.

Now part of that is that everybody loves a winner.  It’s a ton more fun to watch an event when our own country actually has a shot at medaling, and the thing with this year was that we had a legitimate shot at pretty much every event.

The atmosphere in the buildings was amazing.  Every time a Canadian athlete was announced the reaction was awesome.  What’s even better is that when a rival won, our crowds cheered for them too.

Saturday night during the men’s curling final, as the end was drawing near, the crowd erupted into a spontaneous rendition of “Oh Canada”, which sent chills down my spine.

There were also phenomenal stories. You had the storybook tale of the kids from London and Ilderton who were paired up at seven years old and went on to become Olympic gold medalists Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue.  The absolute heartbreak of Joannie Rochette’s loss. The dynasty of Kevin Martin’s curling team. The absolute domination of the Women’s Hockey team. The crushing defeat of the Men’s hockey team by our US rivals in the round robin.

Yet through it all, our athletes stood behind one another.   The cameras always found our boys and girls in the crowd, and they were always cheering the loudest.

The performances were spectacular as well.  The first week was a bit disappointing, but I think that made us all hungrier for more.  We as a country were being criticized for our lust for Gold, which the rest of the world was saying was incredibly “un-Canadian”.

Screw that.

Just because we’re not entirely jingoistic does not mean that every now and then we’re not allowed to wave our flag and show some nationalism.

Was it un-Chinese for China to pour money into Amateur sport in order to capture nearly double their medal haul of 2004?  Was it un-British for the United Kingdom to do the same, which saw their medal haul rise from 28 in 2000 to 47 in 2008, and presumably more when they host in 2012?  No, it’s expected of a host country.

The Americans, our brash and bold neighbours to the south responded to our “Own the Podium” campaign.  US Snowboarder Nate Holland said “hey can take that thing home, we’ll rent it for the month.”

Of course you can’t really get mad at him. He’s American after all. Well that, and of course he was kind of right.

Personally I’ve never felt more proud to be a Canadian.  Our people have shown the world that you can host a games without insane security presence intimidating everyone.

Most importantly, we’ve shown that just because we’re polite, doesn’t mean we’re pushovers.  Canada’s always been the world’s younger brother…but every now and then the younger brother does something that shocks and amazes you.

To our athletes who have amazed and inspired an entire country, thank you.

To the rest of the world for experiencing what we’ve done in 2010…you’re welcome.

By Brian Garside

Brian is a digital experience expert, and part time internet superhero. He focuses on digital first design, digital strategies, content management, website usability, and user experience. He was part of the team behind BalanceDo, the co-founder of All New Comics, and the chief strategist at NorthIQ.

One reply on “Why the Olympics finally mattered to me”

Moir and Virtue are from London and Ilderton btw.

And in regards to “the crushing US defeat” in Men’s Hockey – unless your prognosticating today’s result, isn’t so crushing when you consider they managed to rebound and end up rematching with the US for the gold medal game today. Silver medal doesn’t equal crushed.

But I think I get your point. Finishing 2nd, if they do, will feel like a letdown to most.

I agree this has been one great Olympics in terms of medal count alone. But I can’t say honestly that I am feeling into them this go around more than any other. Truth is I am glued to the TV for the two weeks any Olympics have been on, anywhere they happened to be. I love Olympics. So exciting… so much to see and do.

It’s hard for me to understand what it would have been like working on the inside, I am sure it would be the same way I couldn’t look at a Big Mac for a decade after having worked at Mickey-Donalds.

Oh and as for the CTV coverage, and especially from the MuchMusic side of things, I will be happy if this is the first and last time they have coverage.

Having baseball commentators that seem more at home driving kids to the neighbourhood ball diamond than commentating half pipe (saying words like “rad” no less) was painful at best.

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