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Visitors to Chongli, one of the venues for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, pass by the Olympics logo in Chongli in northern China's Hebei Province.Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press

It goes without saying that no Games may end before the Canadian Olympic Committee has patted itself on the back hard enough to break ribs.

You’ve heard about how many medals we won in Tokyo (24). But have you heard how many impressions Team Canada made?

“Over 250 million impressions,” according to Sunday morning’s exit briefing. Whatever that means.

A numbers wonk for another country “complimented us – Canada! – for leading the world in content produced and our fan engagement,” said COC chief executive officer David Shoemaker.

Will you ever hear a purer distillation of the ineffable beauty of the Olympic spirit? I don’t think so.

“In my opinion, this is the best result Canada has ever achieved at an Olympic Games,” chef de mission Marnie McBean said.

Are we talking medals or impressions or some combination thereof? I’m always excited to get the COC’s annual report to the board of governors, but this year I’m super excited.

Sure, it’s easy to make fun, mostly because they are begging you to do so. Is there anything more uplifting than multiple people beginning prepared remarks by reading the word, “Wow,” off a prompter? Just like JFK used to do it.

But you also feel for them. This was their last chance in a while to make content hay while the Olympic sun shines.

On Sunday, these people were still part of the country’s most elite, publicly-funded clique of middle-aged cool kids. Strutting around in your red-and-black varsity jackets. Kings of the cultural cafeteria.

By Monday, they will have become the face of Canada’s push to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, and de facto supporters of the policy goals of the Chinese regime. In some quarters, that makes you a stooge at best, and a collaborator at worst.

When the issue of China was put to Shoemaker, he didn’t have to go to anything prepared. He had this one memorized.

“Make no mistake. We have serious concerns about what’s going on in the host country,” he said. “We’re confident that those issues are being dealt with on a government-to-government basis. We believe strongly that a boycott is not the answer.”

No one said “boycott.” Shoemaker was the one who brought it up.

That line – which the COC has been pushing for the better part of year – has worked in the past because no one was paying attention. All the oxygen in the Olympic conversation was sucked up by Tokyo and COVID-19.

It’s not going to work any more. Not without a great deal more elaboration.

The word on the street around Tokyo at the outset of this Games was that China has two demands of foreign non-competitors who want to attend the Winter Olympics.

First, that they agree to a hard quarantine in Beijing for three weeks before the Games begin; second, that they get Sinovac.

Is that all? No oaths of loyalty? No genetic material donated for future cloning experiments?

You’d have to be pretty committed to seeing the luge in person to go through that. One presumes that’s the point.

The West has a history of playing host to its parties in places that aren’t particularly kind to their own citizens. The 1978 World Cup in Argentina leaps to mind.

Between the time the event was awarded and the actual staging of it, a murderous military junta took over. Hey, no problem. In order that no visitor be offended by the bloody excesses of the regime, they built walls along highways and byways so passing buses filled with foreign journalists couldn’t see what was going on.

Thanks to COVID-19, those walls will be administrative in China.

As bubbles go, the one in Tokyo was more of a whiffle ball – lots of holes. Despite warnings beforehand that everyone would be tracked via their phones, that didn’t happen. This was quarantine-lite.

Prepare yourself for extra-strength quarantine.

It is not difficult to see how this will play out. China will ask the moon and stars in terms of COVID-19 measures, hoping no one will come. The International Olympic Committee and national organizing committees will push back hard, realizing that if news organizations give up on this Olympics, they might start wondering why they bother with any Olympics.

That tug of war will end in some sort of compromise whereby journalists can show up the day before, but can’t go anywhere except to watch sports, which was what China wanted all along. I believe the local term for this is realpolitik. We ought to try it some time.

It won’t be the regime out there convincing people this is all totally normal and can’t we just think of the athletes and their dreams? That will be Ottawa and the COC, and their equivalents around the democracy-loving world.

They are forced to become the spokespeople for an Olympics that in a generation may be viewed the way the 1978 World Cup is today – as a terrible concession to power, justified for specious reasons like “the family of sport,” and in fact underpinned by the love of money and glory.

If it’s good enough for Coca-Cola then why isn’t it good enough for you? That’s the real Olympic motto.

The COC is right on one thing. Boycotts accomplish nothing. The Olympics is too valuable a venue to put at risk – a politics-free neutral ground where nations who violently differ may come together for a brief moment in friendly conflict.

That’s why the IOC is right not to go along with the current vogue for podium protest. On the one hand, you have the issues of individual athletes, however justified; on the other, you have an event which, through its unfashionable commitment to neutrality, is able to turn down the temperature on incipient wars. Only one of those things needs to be safeguarded at all costs.

But in its lust for perfect fairness, plaudits and plunder, the IOC has a habit of painting itself into ethical corners. Beijing 2022 will be the greatest test yet of that tendency.

Will it go ahead? Absolutely. Too much money has already been spent, and the athletes are too useful as an argumentative crutch.

Do we care about the detention camps? Of course we do. But we urge you to think of all the poor bobsledders and short-track speed skaters. What about their hopes and dreams?’

That line will take you as far as Canadian athletes care to allow. It’s going to be interesting to hear how individual members of Team Canada square the moral circle of going to China, or whether they will bother trying.

At the least the COC doesn’t have to waste the usual amount of energy in the lead-up pretending not to care how many medals Canada wins. Just getting to Beijing in one piece will be their Olympics.

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