Fair. Balanced. American.

Monday, February 15, 2010

O Canada

A very bad day for the Spam Man.
Three men stood in the sea of red at Cypress Mountain on Sunday, their chests bare except for paint. Euphoria surrounded them, men and women, young and old, who waved Canadian flags and clanged cowbells and danced to the Black Eyed Peas.

Alexandre Bilodeau of Canada won the gold in the Men’s Moguls on Sunday.
Minutes earlier, Canada had secured its first gold medal of these Winter Olympics, a men’s moguls triumph from Alexandre Bilodeau in the last event on the second day of competition. It was also the first gold medal won by a Canadian in an Olympics in Canada. [...]

Directly to his right sat Dale Begg-Smith, the silver medalist. This, too, was important to Canadians, because Begg-Smith grew up near the base of this mountain and left Canada, in a departure that grew more contentious and controversial over time, to compete for Australia as a teenager.

The gold medal Begg-Smith won at the Turin Games in 2006 kept a Canadian off the podium. [...]

At the news conference, Begg-Smith fidgeted at the podium, his green hat with an Australia logo pulled low, as if to cover his eyes. He said that he had skied the way he wanted and that he felt happy — no regrets.

His face betrayed the stoic theme he tried to portray, showing the effects of a long, taxing and sometimes hostile Olympic experience. This was not so much a homecoming as a home inquisition.

All week, Begg-Smith ducked Canadian reporters who had questions about the Internet business that made him rich, about his pop-up ads and manufactured spyware, about his unflattering nickname, Spam Man. Begg-Smith repeatedly said he was not here to talk about his business, at least when he did talk, and even after his first run Sunday, he blew past reporters and left his coach to answer questions for him.
Bilodeau, on the other hand, according to CTV, is the real deal, an Olympic hero.
Not a lot of us had Alexandre Bilodeau in the first-Canadian-gold-medal-on-home-soil pool. The betting was with Jenn Heil or Charles Hamelin or one of the downhill skiers. Still, a careful observer might have spotted the opportunity, if Day One of the Games didn't go quite as scripted, and the truth is you won't find a better story.

Not just that he won, but that seized the moment so brilliantly in the men's moguls. Not just that he won, but that he beat Dale Begg-Smith, the Canadian turned Australian who wore the black hat in this one. Not just that he won, but that he has found inspiration in his older brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy - and that's not just one of those made up for TV things, that's for real.
The opening ceremonies of the games were a showcase for Canada's singular contribution to world culture: the exalted place it accords to human diversity. The games were opened by Canada's Governor General, a Haitian-Canadian woman. The torch was brought into the Olympic stadium not by a politician, movie star or the inevitable Wayne Gretzky, but by Canadian paralympian legend Rick Hansen. The performance pieces honored the First Nations and Canada's linguistic and ethnic diversity. And their showstopping final number was "Hallelujah," beautifully phrased by k.d. lang, a powerful testament to Canada's courageous trailblazing on gay rights.

For most host countries, the Olympics are a call to nationalism, of a jingoistic or even militaristic sort. Canada, however, is a case of middle power greatness.
Middle Power does not just mean a state’s size or military or economic power. Rather, 'middle power diplomacy' is defined by the issue area where a state invests its resources and knowledge. Middle Power States avoid a direct confrontation with great powers, but they see themselves as ‘moral actors’ and seek their own role in particular issue areas, such as human rights, environment, and arms regulations. Middle powers are the driving force in the process of transnational institutional-building.
There aren't too many good citizens in the world community, but Canada is special. Despite, or more likely because of, its proximity to us, it has evolved a set of values that really are reflected in its people. That's why Canadians embody the Olympic spirit, continually demonstrating an unironic enthusiasm that Americans simply aren't capable of.

Canadians have achieved that perfect balance: a justified pride in their nation that is free from narrowness and the assumption of superiority that mars most patriotism. Maybe the games should be held there every year.


Anonymous said...

It's amazing that "Hallelujah," a tribute, if you will, to the very question of whether individual care and effort can overcome despair -- "I've heard there was a secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord, but you don't really care for music, do you?" -- could ever be played at an Olympics.

A little different from Beijing! Or Moscow, or Berlin.

And of course it was written by Leonard Cohen, a son of Lithuanian and Polish Jewish immigrants, of Montreal.

A lovely tribute, Jusiper.

el blogador said...

This bartender at the student bar thought it was David Hasselhoff singing "Hallelujah" at first, and then after watching a bit, his jaw dropped and he was like, "Fuck, it's K.D. Lang!"