Opening Ceremonies

There’s lots there to dissect, and dismiss, but I’ll settle for a couple of quick thoughts on Henry Aubin’s editorial in the Montreal Gazette.

  • The focus of the opening ceremonies at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics was twofold: Aboriginal culture, and Canada’s natural landscape. Anything that didn’t fit into that narrative was, for the most part, excluded. I could name any number of things about our country and its history that were left out. Personally, I didn’t like the focus, and thought much of the opening ceremony reinforced the stereotype of Canadians as polite lumberjacks living in Igloos, but I also realize that it was impossible to convey everything there is to convey about our country, the province of British Columbia, and the city of Vancouver in a three-hour ceremony. I also realize that there is a closing ceremony where some of this stuff can still be acknowledged. I have little sympathy for the complaints about the lack of French in the program, but then again, I’m a western Canadian who has always had little time for the never-ending grievances of La Belle Province. Considering the time-restraints and the fact that the Olympics are being held in Vancouver, not Montreal, I thought that the French language and Francophone culture received ample air time.
  • As for the Gretzky stuff, it’s a terrible, misleading argument. First off, Gretzky wasn’t the only final torchbearer. There were five, if you include Rick Hansen. All five, including Gretzky, are former Olympians (or Paralympians). One of them, Steve Nash, is also a professional athlete, yet interestingly Aubin doesn’t seem to have a problem with him or his commercialism. Secondly, Gretzky has consistently answered the call of his country, both as an amateur and as a professional. He has played for Canada in the World Junior Championships, World Championships, Canada Cup, World Cup and Olympics. He’s given to his country post-retirement, as Executive Director of the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey teams in 2002 and 2006.  He was also a member of the presentation team that helped Vancouver get the 2010 Olympics in the first place. In short, few athletes, professional or otherwise, have given as much as Gretzky has to his home and native land. He’s a national icon, a true ambassador of both our country and its most treasured sport, and his place  as one of the final torchbearers was well-deserved. Personally, I’m not inclined to pay much heed to a guy who judges Gretzky’s enthusiasm by looking at his face, or who spends a good chunk of his time complaining about the evils of nationalism and then implies that Gretzky isn’t Canadian enough because he’s chosen to live with his American wife and their two children in her homeland. You want to talk about arrogant? Let’s start right there.

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