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The Globe and Mail

Michael Ignatieff sees our winter wonder brand

The Olympic torch is seen next to the Olympic rings as it arrives at the biathlon track in Whistler, B.C., on Friday, Feb. 5, 2010.

Anja Niedringhaus

Yesterday it was Stephen Harper on hockey in Sports Illustrated. Today it is Michael Ignatieff on the Olympic Games in the New York Times.

What is it about our political leaders, sports and American publications?

The Liberal Leader, who is a former contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, has written a feel-good piece about the Olympics as an exercise in "branding Canada to the world" and branding "Canada to Canadians."

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"At first we grumbled about the cost and did not take ownership of the whole expensive spectacle," he writes. "But as soon as the torch relays began this fall, Canadians started lining the route by the thousands to see Olympians and their heroes carrying the torch aloft through their communities."

He says the Games have also altered Canadians' attitudes about competition, arguing that we are now serious about winning medals and we are putting some money behind training and coaching of our athletes.

"The Games will showcase a more competitive Canada," he writes. "Now, Canada waits to see whether the new spirit will pay off, especially in hockey, the national game and ruling obsession."

"Canada will have the home advantage in the Games and every player takes the ice knowing that only victory will do."

Aside from the team sports, he talks about the individual athletes and the drama that is "not between countries as much as each individual competitor's battle with himself or herself."

"Nations can pitch the Olympics as a battle between nations, but the spectators know this is a very human, very individual drama."

Mr. Ignatieff says that as the Beijing Olympics showed off China as a global power, the Vancouver Games will show off Canadians as "people the world can count on."

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"The Olympics let us tell the world: Ask us to do a job, and we get it done right," Mr. Ignatieff says.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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