Of course Canada wants to host the 2030 Winter Games. Volunteering for a duty no one else really wants, and choosing to do it when its someone else’s moment to shine. That sounds just like us.
The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees’ endorsement on Tuesday of an as-yet theoretical Vancouver bid for the outing in eight years’ time hits all the usual notes. It’ll bring us all together. It’ll convince average yobs to get off the couch and take up the monobob. It’ll solve our historic inequities through the healing power of many, many official statements.
Some of these things might even be true. But what goes unsaid is that what another Games will do most of all is give a few, already important people a chance to feel even more important. It’s the world’s most expensive photo opportunity, paid for by you, but not featuring you. Cool trick.
The rest of the world? It very wisely finds something fascinating on the floor to stare at whenever the IOC starts asking around for a place to crash. Things have gotten so bad that they have essentially done away with a competitive bidding process.
Hey, speaking of which, do you want to host an Olympics? Because if you’ll agree to knock down your garage and replace it with a velodrome, they could probably work something out.
Amongst the world’s countries, only Canada’s couch is always available. In fact, government will pay for a brand-new, one-use-only sectional sofa. Not good enough? Just tell the politicians what sort of number you’re thinking of, and they’ll give you a few hundred million more. No, no, don’t worry – they won’t be in power when it becomes a problem. They’re fine.
In return, the IOC has to tell Canada that we are smart and wonderful, and that our mountains are steeper and shapelier than everyone else’s.
That sort of transparent manipulation can’t sink its hook in many places any more. Too many scandals. Too much pillage. But it continues to work in Canada because we are the Tracy Flick of the Olympic movement.
How did this one country – generally unambitious, but not usually a pushover – become the willing pack mule of the European sports elite?
It probably has something to do with screwing things up in Montreal and never really getting over the resulting feeling of inadequacy. That, and a raging case of middle-child syndrome. Whatever the cause, an Olympic doormat is what we have become.
Should Vancouver 2030 come to pass, Canada will have hosted four Games since 1976. That’s more than any country save the U.S. And that doesn’t include one failed bid, and another scuppered prematurely by local, civic outrage.
Where’s Germany in all this? Where’s the Netherlands been hiding? Norway comes to every Winter Games and starts sweeping the buffet table into a duffel bag, but they’ve gotten the cheque once in the last 80 years. Maybe they should be offering to host the holiday dinner that year.
Better yet, how about everyone put some money together and pay to build this thing a permanent home? Or stage it in locations that have never held an Olympics, would like to do so, but can’t afford it?
That doesn’t happen because there’s no need for bold change. If there is an embarrassed silence after the topic of money comes up, Canada will rush in to fill it. We are incapable of playing it cool.
The way Canada goes wobbly over the flagbearer at the Opening Ceremonies is another symptom of this disease.
On Wednesday night, the COC booked a press conference room to announce our national cloth handlers – Marie-Philip Poulin and Charles Hamelin. Both are remarkable Olympians. Both seem absolutely lovely. A very well deserved honour in both instances.
But you know how many other countries here make this big a production out of the flag-bearer announcement? Zero. It’s just us.
The flag bearer presser took thirty minutes. A half hour after it ended, the COC did another one in the same room to open the Games.
These people may have a problem and, sadly, I don’t think there is a rehab facility that treats press-conference addiction.
Vancouver 2030 came up and Tuesday’s release was read aloud from memory.
“Bringing the Games back to Canada is positive for not only sport, but for all Canadians,” said COC president Tricia Smith.
How, exactly? This notion does not seem to obsess anyone else in the world. They all go to the Olympics. They watch the Olympics. But they do not feel compelled to repeatedly pay for the Olympics.
A bigger hint as to why Canada finds itself so afflicted came from chef de mission, Catriona Le May Doan.
She went on for a long while about the experience of the Olympics, voice thickening and cadence slowing. “The Olympic village has a spirit,” Le May Doan said. “And we all feel the spirit.”
It sounded like someone reading aloud from their dream journal.
When you put in those terms – as a religious experience – who wouldn’t pay for their sporting salvation?
All this unbridled enthusiasm has its charms. There are few things more winsome than a gushing Olympian. And Le May Doan was right when she said we could all use a little “inspiration” around now.
But that leaves little room for conscientious Olympic objectors, and they pay taxes, too. It also makes us easy marks.
Anyone who questions why we should repeatedly undertake huge effort and expense to convenience a bunch of global party is shouted down as a killjoy or an enemy of progress or both.
“All Canadians” don’t benefit from another Olympics in Canada. They’re the benefactors. There’s a difference.
The only people guaranteed to feel their spirit moved by this are members of the IOC. Canada can spend limitless effort imagining a Games unlike any that has gone before. A more responsible Games. A more equitable Games. A sustainable Games.
And all the IOC will be thinking is, ‘You had us at ‘We’ll pay for it’.’