National pride... or national folly? 

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The Olympics are over and the Paralympics are chugging along. I only know that because once again, there is no news on CBC, only endless Olympic highlights, none of which I've seen and none of which I intend to see.

The last Olympics I took note of happened in 2010. It was impossible to miss them if you lived in Whistler and even I'm not sufficiently strong willed to overcome that much peer pressure.

In general, I take the Quixotic position of boycotting and ignoring the Olympics. I know it's a meaningless gesture but it's the only one I can take. I boycott them because they're corrupt to the core. After the International Olympic Committee got into bed with Hitler's Nazis in 1936, they never got out. They've been hopelessly criminal since that time and I'd no more support them than I would the Colombian cocaine cartel. Actually, I'd be more likely to support the Colombian... never mind.

One of the IOC's main rivers of cash — cash being the source of most of its corruption — is television rights. The television rights to the Olympics are directly correlated to the number of eyeballs watching. You can't watch the Olympics without being part of the problem. QED.

But that's not the only reason. Put simply, the efforts of "elite" athletes simply aren't interesting to me. This stems partly from my natural inclination to avoid competition with anyone other than myself. The only competition, if that's the right word, I'm interested in is the one that pits my previous efforts at, well, anything, against my future efforts at the same thing. I hate making the same mistake twice, especially in light of the fact there are so many new mistakes yet to discover. Whether it's skiing, furniture building, cooking, gardening, camping, climbing, whatever, I try to learn everything I can from my last effort and do it better next time.

I'm also disinterested in the efforts of "elite" athletes because as far as I'm concerned, too many of them are psychologically disturbed individuals. If they spent the time, effort, single-minded determination, obsession and money on anything other than sport, their parents would seriously consider having them committed or at the least subjected to an intervention to wrest them from the cult of sport.

Too harsh? I don't think so. If your child pursued, say, video games six hours a day, every day, if he/she refused to take their schooling seriously, refused to pursue higher education or get a real job, if they opted out of early adulthood to play video games because they wanted to be the best gamer in the world what would you do? Maybe that's a bad example. Gamers are pulling down some serious coin these days and no sponsor really cares if they trash a restroom and report a bogus robbery.

Finally, I'm not interested in that level of sport because I take zero national pride in the medals won by Olympians. I'm not sure how much an Olympic medal makes you swell with pride but I'm willing to bet however much it is, that pride is as fleeting as a fart in the wind. Quick, name two Canadian medalists at the Rio Olympics. OK, name two other than Penny Oleksiak and Andre De Grasse. It's almost a trick question since there were only 22 Canadian medals in total and seven of those were won by the two I named for you. But if you scored well on that pop quiz, name any medallists from Beijing.

There are many aspects to my adopted country that make me proud. Notably, the general esteem in which Canada is held in most of the rest of the world. Canada is like a neighbour you hope moves in next to you — helpful, friendly, courteous.

I take pride in the country's national healthcare system. It is far from perfect but everyone's part of the club. You don't have to die for lack of treatment or go bankrupt because you were unfortunate enough to get sick in this country.

I'm proud the country tries to accommodate others from around the world instead of throwing them into a melting pot and expecting them to pop out like those who have been here longest. I'm even proud we've been able to maintain a détente with Quebec for as long as we have.

I am immeasurably prouder of the Nobel Prizes won by Arthur McDonald in physics, Alice Munro and Saul Bellow in literature, Lester Pearson for peace and Frederick Banting in medicine, among others, than I am in all the medals in all the Olympics in all the years. They represent the best Canada has to offer the world. They too worked obsessively but at something far more significant than sport. Their efforts lifted humanity and moved us along the evolutionary trail.

And none of them whined about how the government ought to support them in their quest. Which, in the case of elite sport is a quest for, first and foremost, personal glory.

The Canadian government spends something like $200 million each year to prop up sport. Far too much of that is spent on winning medals as opposed to making sport available to everyone. Sports programs — after, of course, arts programs — are generally the ones cut from schools when budgets get too tight. And budget are always too tight. This is unfortunate in the best of times and criminal when the revolting rise in childhood obesity is factored in. The very few Olympians supporters like to point to in defence of their weak argument that the Olympics inspire kids to become, well, Olympians, pales in comparison to the numbers of children for whom sport is unavailable because of funding restraints.

It gets worse when you factor in the ironically named Own the Podium program. Initiated to overcome the terminal shame Canada suffered when it failed to win a single gold medal at the two Olympics it hosted prior to 2010, OTP — designed to be a short-lived fix to ensure we wouldn't be shamed in 2010 — has siphoned off an increasing percentage of that $200 million to splint our national pride.

Feeling the pride?

Well, the two silvers Canada won in rowing in Rio sucked up around $17 million of OTP money... making the six swimming medals seem like a bargain at only $13 million. Of course, OTP spent about the same amount for, let's see, zero medals in cycling. The list goes on but the general coefficient of nausea far outweighs the chest-swelling pride for me.

You feelin' the pride?


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