Friday, February 19, 2010

What Unifies All Canadians? The Winter Olympics

There are very, very few things that unite all Canadians. The biggest divide is between the English and French parts of Canada, but there is also a bit divide between rural and urban Canada and a big divide between southern Ontario and the rest of the country. There is very little that really brings us together.

  • Canada Day - not popular among francophones
  • Hockey - not all of us sports fans and with an 82 game season it is too drawn out for most people to follow. Also, our hockey is a serious of regional allegiances. I follow the Canucks and prefer to see hell freeze over before see the Leafs ever win a game.
  • Weather - Weather could unite if we all had the same awful weather at the same time, but that never happens. Here in Victoria there is never bad weather. One in ten Canadians live in an area of the country that never gets winter.
  • History - We do not have a shared history. BC is completely outside of the narative of Canadian history as it is told. Newfoundland was a separate country till 1949. The Plains of Abraham are a divide in Canada, not a unity. We do not have anything like Gallipoli for the Australians. The CPR is important for the history of the west and not the east. Th RCMP is also a western thing
  • Landscape - We do not have a one type of landscape that defines us.
  • TV - we are not unified by a single TV program because we broadcast in two languages. There is no one shared cultural experience
  • The military - it is probably the best intergrated institurions of Canada, but it is only an internal thing and not a national unity.
  • Hatred of the US - this resonates with larges parts of Canada, but in Alberta and Quebec this is not the case.
I have been thinking about what unifies us Canadians and I can only come up with one thing - gold medal winners in the Winter Olympics.

Where a gold medal winner comes from does not matter for any part of the country. A Quebecois winner can carry a Canadian flag. We all talk about these people and know these people.

It is the winter Olympics that matter because we do see ourselves as a winter nation. In the last 20 years Canada has done well at the winter games, one of the top nations in the world, but our unity around gold medal winners goes back further than that. Think of Barbara Ann Scott or Nancy Greene Raine.

In the summer games Canadians do well but we are lost in the crowd of all the nations and all the winners. We are lucky to break the top 20 countries in the world. We do not see summer as being defining to us as a people. In the winter games Canada is in the top ten of countries in the last six games and top five in the last four.

In 2002 the Men's hockey gold medal game stopped the country. Not even the 1972 Summit Series final game was followed by as many people.

The opening ceremonies of the current games were seen in part by 20,000,00 Canadians, 13,300,000 watched all three and half hours. A very good TV audience in Canada is 3,000,000. An audience of 5,000,000 is virtually unheard of. The 2002 gold medal game reached 10,000,000.

Huge audiences in Canada are watching the games. Alex Bilodeau had an audience of 9.7 million, Kritina Groves' bronze medal win was seen by 5.3 million Canadians.

So not only are we uniting around the winter Olympics, as a nation we are really coming together around the 2010 Vancouver Games.
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