Thursday, February 25, 2010

Games and gold medals fan Canada's flames of patriotism

From my column in 24 Hours this week.

Since the Olympic games are all anyone seems to be talking about in Vancouver what else could I write about? Winter sports have become the patriotism of Canada.

We with each medalist we have new heroes to talk about every day, heroes to unite us as Canadians. A Harris Decima poll on Monday had 77% of Canadians saying the games are doing a lot to unite the country, event the majority of separatists agree with this. In this same poll 58% said the games are one of the greatest achievements of Canada.

The only relevant topic of conversation in Canada today will the gold medal women's hockey game, will we smoke the Americans or not? Over the next four days we are likely to win 12 more medals, five of them gold.

How successful have the games been? How much have we embraced them? The 2010 games are the first Olympic games to sell out all of the events. If you want to go the gold medal men's hockey game, tickets start at $1800. Getting a ticket for the Women's gold medal game today will cost you over $1000 if you can find any for sale.

Vancouver has seen crowds beyond what anyone has expected. No Olympic games have ever had such large crowds celebrating in the streets. People are spontaneously singing our national anthem as the party in Vancouver. International media that have been to numerous Olympic games have never seen any games embraced like Canadians have embraced these winter games.

It is not only in Vancouver, it is across all of Canada. The Opening Ceremonies set the record for TV with 13 million viewers watching all of it and 21 million watching part of it. In 1988 only 4 million Canadians watched the Opening Ceremonies in Calgary. Each day events are garnering record TV audiences We have a fractured media world, but are coming together as one nation to cheer on the Canadian athletes, we have a single shared experience in the form of these games, en Francais aussi.

With such enthusiasm for the games from Canadians one would have thought the government would get a feel good boost in the polls, much like Social Credit did with Expo '86 or the Liberals with Expo '67. There is no evidence the public is swayed in who they support because of sports success. This does not surprise me as I believe that Canadians in 2010 are the most politically sophisticated electorate in the world.

Have the games been perfect? No, but then no Olympics ever are, but we have a right to be amazed and proud of well the Vancouver Games have run. We have every right to be proud of how well the athletes have done. As Canadians we may finally have a patriotism and a source of unity that works for us, cheering on Olympic athletes. Lets use the next four days to wildly celebrate their success as we could very likely win more gold medals than in any other Olympic Games.
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