Maxed Out 

Olympic ideals, a perfect world… and reality

By G.D. Maxwell

Wow! Gold in Hand Wringing. Gold in Self-Flagellation. Gold, Silver and Bronze in Second Guessing. Nowhere near the podium in Self-Esteem. Canada, you’re a powerhouse at the Angst Olympics. You rock, babe.

Just when things were beginning to look up for the jocks – both on the fields of battle and in the comfy armchairs across the Great White North – just when Canada was finally beginning to win medals in sports few knew were even Olympic events, just as the gold and the expectation of gold was starting to roll in in volumes unseen since the last annual report of Bre-X, Perdita stumbles and casts the National Psyche into a wing of Olympic perdition not visited since our last period of Seoul Searching. Bad trip, man.

A collective gasp rippled across the nation and was reportedly heard as far away as Buffalo. Guttural choking noises reminiscent of Inuit throat singing generated white noise to mask the wailing of those who invested perhaps a bit too much in the great Greek tragedy. The comforting strains of Oh No Canada were played by mournful streetcorner violinists. And everywhere, there was a growing suspicion we had, in a biblical sense, reaped what we’d sown – the bittersweet destruction of heightened, yea almost prideful, expectations. The gold medal was "ours" to lose and lose it we did.

I feel Perdita’s pain. It would be inhuman not to and when I last looked at my organ donor card, Human was still the box checked off.

I’m not sure I feel Canada’s pain though.

The biennial Olympic scourging, complete with Greek Chorus, is louder and longer this instalment than usual. Perhaps it’s the timing, coming as it does during the malaise of summer’s end and the post-coital lethargy still suffered from a national election and the subsequent disappearance of all things politic. Did Paul Martin at least have the courtesy to leave a twenty on the dresser before he got up and tip-toed out?

With so little to hold our diminished attention, CBC’s endless coverage of the Bummer Olympics has rushed in to fill the void. And, as usual, Canada’s left to wonder why we’re getting the stuffing beaten out of us by such athletic powerhouses as Thailand. Ironically, the successes we share, the medals our athletes win, seem almost to gently drive the sliver of doubt and discomfort a little further under our national fingernail. It’s as though an occasional win is worse than no win at all.

And so we ponderously ponder the future. The national debate, as it is after every Olympics, is nearly engaged: Should Canada go for the gusto? Should Canada pour public money into funding "amateur" athletics?

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