The Olympics come once every two years in a blistering fury of media coverage and commercial exploitation to overstretched cities around the world. They welcome it with open arms, all of them eager to present on the world stage and play host to the world’s first and best event in sport. And to be honest, I am fairly hooked, watching the entirety of the games for the first time in glorious high definition. I find it inspiring watching athletes perform at that level, and in my very limited fashion, I try to follow their example in my pursuits. But I think it’s sometimes hard to tell what the games are actually about in the new millennium — the company to successfully milk the most they can out of the two week stint or the athletes that actually physically compete. I find it hilarious to watch athletes who claim they are headed to a certain popular fast food vendor for food after they compete, as if greasy fries were conducive to high performance athletics.
I have been somewhat more disappointed, however, with some of the pregame antics that have been going on for this set of games. It was announced today in the press that Canadians were highly unlikely to achieve the stated goals of “Own the Podium”, the wildly over-optimistic program intended to make sure Canadian athletes dominated the 2010 games. To this effect, they spent $117 million dollars on research and training for a goal that nobody in their right mind would have believed attainable. I actually think that spending a bit of money on developing athletics in Canada is a reasonable use of taxpayer resources. However, using that ill-conceived goal to stop other athletes from having a chance at making some practice runs down the ski hill earns my ire.
Winning in the Olympics, as illusory and shifting a concept as that is, should be about training and athleticism, not necessarily who can spend the most and connive their way to the top. I don’t think Canada needs to cheat or twist their advantage to win the games; our athletes are dedicated enough to stand on their own merits. I think it cheapens the achievement when we win by unfair tactics.
I’d like to see in the future, and for the rest of the games, more about the effort and the skill displayed, and less about how Canada has somewhat let down expectations. To my mind, we have great reason to be proud of the performance of our athletes thus far, and we should celebrate their efforts and accomplishments.