WD Fyfe

A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society

Our Olympic Anniversary

The reason the modern world has festivals and anniversaries is that, long ago, primitive peoples had such short, brutal lives that, every once in a while, they had to stop working themselves to death and have some fun.  In the days when people still toiled, these quick breaks were important to regenerate the emotional batteries.  It was an excuse to take the day off, get together with the tribe, get drunk and eat all the food that was going to go rotten anyway.  These events were usually local and also served to strengthen the common bonds of a town or village.  Today, February 11th, we celebrate the one year anniversary of one of the best festivals Canada ever had.  One year ago, Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic Torch and we partied like it was 2010.  Essentially, for 17 days, we forgot we were Canadians and became a primitive tribe marking out our territory in the world of winter sports — although it could just as easily have been a buffalo hunt or a successful raid for ponies.  For one brief, shining moment, we were citizens of our country — and we liked it.

It’s difficult for Canadians to be Canadian, simply because we have no single imperative to hang our toques on.  In case you haven’t been watching, Canada doesn’t work the same way as most countries.  We really don’t have a defining moment that stamps us out as Canadians.  There was no war of liberation nor a revolution that gave birth to our nation.  We negotiated our country into existence as an extra-territorial Britain, and then bought the rest of it — including a very confused native population — from the Hudson’s Bay Company.   Once a year, journalists try to shoehorn Vimy Ridge into our national consciousness, but somehow, it never rings as true with us as Bunker Hill does with Americans or the Storming of the Bastille does with the French.  Nor do we have an historical persona that identifies us; we were never Vikings or Cossacks or philosopher kings.  Our best effort was the Coureur de Bois (who was, in reality, a petty crook, trying to trade furs without a license.)  Besides, the plaid shirt and red toque has always been an object of fun — on both sides of the Two Solitudes.  Furthermore, we do not produce larger than life leaders, like Churchill or Gandhi — at least not since Sir John A. discovered single malt.  Nor do we lionize our military.  We have no collective cultural memory that leads us to exalt the art and architecture of our Golden Age.  Nor do we depend on cheese or cuckoo clocks to distinguish us from our neighbours.  Our cuisine consists of everybody else’s, and our national dress is probably a parka.

There is no single overwhelming ideal that guides us, no event that names us, no crisis that forged us.  Yet we are the people called Canadians, and for a brief moment last February, we knew why.

So what the hell happened last year?  The answer is easy.  We had something to believe in.  As our young people chased their young people up and down the ice and snow, we believed in them.  We wanted to win.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, fair play, good sportsmanship and camaraderie, but in the end we wanted the podium.  We want to stand one head taller than everybody else and hear our music being played.  We wanted to prevail.  And when we did (and even when we didn’t) we gathered around our totem – the red maple leaf – and celebrated our accomplishments.  We were no longer Canadians by accident of birth or immigration record, we were Canadians by the power of our deeds — a great northern tribe, jubilant in our triumph, dancing by our fires, far into the night.

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3 comments on “Our Olympic Anniversary

  1. anne moriarty
    February 11, 2011

    Wonderful, Bill. It took me right back – with a little tear, and all.

  2. N Watt
    February 11, 2011

    What makes us Canadian, well toques and parkas aside, we are different from other countries in many ways. Take our national animal for example, other countries have chosen lions, and tigers, bears and eagles, what is our emblem, why the beaver of course, a nasty little pest that can and does cause wide spread destruction. Only in Canada, you say, you bet!! Canada is a huge family that loves and hates each other all at the same time, Quebec, BC and a couple of other provinces have been talking separation for years, has it ever happened, no, and it won’t, because we just love to bitch at each other, that is what makes us Canadian. We make fun of each other, laugh at our differences, and sometimes the debate gets a little heated, but we don’t shoot each other or our leaders, no we throw pies. The Olympics showed the world how we Canadians really feel about our country, we love it and are proud of it and ourselves. Canadians don’t wave the flag or beat our chests, we don’t have to, we know what we have, we took a bunch of “stuff” from alot of different places, mixed it all together and made a country. And that is what makes us unique.

  3. B.J. Vandale
    February 11, 2011

    One year ago, it all started with the Olympic Torch being presented in cities and towns across this great Country of Ours. People showed up along the Highways and Streets from sea to shining sea. Ordinary people carrying the torch sending an invitation to the biggest party Canada has known and will ever know in some time to come. Canadians were cheering for their athletes and not afraid to show the world how patriotic Canadian people can really be. We were proud of everyone of our young people participating in our games. Win or lose, they were our young people. Canadian people are the family that can make fun of themselves but when push comes to shove and we are pitted against the world. Watch out, we are as united and hang together tighter than any other country. We were for 17 days the Flag waving, chest beating country no one expected. Yes, we had the red toques, mittens and jackets but did they not stand out in a crowd and the rest of the world knew who we were. We were Canadians and in truth, we shocked the world. We are generally like the one that gets picked last for a team, not this time. We were first and we knew it. No one ever expected the party that Vancouver put on, the world was in awe of this country and it’s people. This is a vast country with many different people and customs but for 17 days the Canadian people showed the world that we can be just as loud and proud as anyone and we know how to party. One year later and the glow of those 17 days are still with us all. We all still have the proverbial hangover from the party and no matter what any one else thinks we are Canadian and proud of it.

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This entry was posted on February 11, 2011 by in Social Comment and tagged , , , .
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