Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Best of Luck to Canada’s Olympic Team – But I Won’t be Watching

Stephen Vance, Editor

The latest round of the Summer Olympic Games will soon be upon us, and whenever the Olympics roll around I am reminded how fortunate I am to not have cable television.

I axed cable from my life about 20 years ago and I have never regretted it – though I occasionally find myself out of the loop, or not understanding the punchline to a joke when in the company of folks who are discussing the latest and greatest television program, resulting quizzical looks from people who simply can’t believe that I have no idea what they are talking about.

Hey, when I last had cable in the mid ’90s, Seinfeld was still a season or two away from its finale, Princess Diana was still alive, and Peter Mansbridge had a full head of… no wait, he didn’t, I think he’s always been bald and grey.

Also around the time I cut the cable (coincidentally, not necessarily because of) the Summer Olympic Games were about to get underway in Atlanta – so on the television front, I have been out of the loop for a long time.

While it may not have been the reason I ditched cable, the Olympics season is one thing I definitely don’t miss. I’m not a huge fan of consumer culture to begin with, and my recollections of the weeks leading up to and throughout the Olympic Games are of relentless, noisy commercials, branding on absolutely everything, and the sort of over-the-top patriotism that makes me want to vomit. Twenty years later I can only imagine how much worse it is.

Cable aside, these modern Olympic Games are far from the amateur athletic competitions for national pride that they once were, though they still try in some ways to market the Games that way. No, today’s Olympic Games are big business on all fronts. They are an orgy of marketing mayhem for corporations, and for athletes, they sure ain’t for amateurs anymore.

For today’s Olympic athletes, particularly in the more popular and higher profile events, big bucks are on the line – the medals are just something shiny to hang on the wall and show off to the grandkids one day. When big bucks are on the line, cheating becomes ever more appealing, and I would suggest that doping in ‘amateur’ sport is perhaps far more common today than it otherwise would be if the Olympic Games had managed to remain truly amateur.

I know, I know, I sound like a cranky old so-and-so, and perhaps I am, but I’m not completely anti-Olympics. I have a lot of respect for the athletes, and I enjoy many of the athletic events that we otherwise rarely see.

The commitment, hard work, sweat, and no doubt tears required to reach Olympic level competition is something that I marvel at, and top athletes and gold medal winners aside, I think it an enormous accomplishment for anyone to be able to compete at that level.

And while I might find the over-the-top patriotism that international sporting events like the Olympics tend to bring about repulsive, I do have pride in my country, and obviously if we are aligning ourselves to teams based on country, Canada is my team, and I do feel a sense of pride when our Canadian athletes find success in international competition. But seriously, how much red and white can one stand?

I wish all our Canadian athletes who are heading to the Olympic Games in Rio the best, and in spite of my feelings about the big corporate machine that is today’s Olympic Games, I hope our Canadian team returns home with a bunch of medals, and personal best performances. And though I won’t be watching the games on television, I will follow the news stories, and because local is always my primary focus, I will go out of my way to seek out the results for Collingwood equestrian Megan Lane, Owen Sound rowing team alternate Kate Sauks, and Duntroon rowing team alternate Matthew Buie, who are the three most-local-to-us athletes that I am aware of who will be competing at this year’s games.

And yes, I will feel that sense of national pride when Canadian athletes perform well and find success at the games, but no, I won’t wear red and white for two straight weeks in support of our Olympic team, I won’t hang Canadian flags everywhere, I won’t buy Coca Cola products or whatever the big beverage sponsor is this time around. And I will leave the hundreds of hours of commercials and in-program branding for others to enjoy – it’s just not for me.

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