Since the Vancouver 2010 Olympics have started there has been a rush to see who can criticize them to the greatest extent. I would like to debunk a few of the more ridiculous complaints that I have heard.
The opening ceremonies of the Vancouver games were a fantastic example of Canadian pride. They gave the rest of the world a very accurate taste of what it means to be Canadian, and many commentators have said that they were the best winter opening ceremonies to date. The Beijing games spent 10 times as much on their opening ceremony as Vancouver, and China has a population 40 times greater than Canada. The summer games also have five times as many competitors as the winter games, so naturally the Beijing opening ceremony would be on a grander scale. This doesn’t mean it was “better” than ours. Our ceremony was amazing in its own right and anybody who feels pride for Canada should appreciate that.
Glitches in the games
On the topic of the glitch in the opening ceremony (in which one of the four posts used to support the cauldron didn’t emerge): there has been trouble lighting the Olympic cauldron not once, not twice, but three times before. The most recent occasion was during the 2000 Sydney Olympics, but few people remember the times that there were small glitches. Instead, they remember the games, the records that were set, the new sports, the outrageous antics of competitors and, most of all, the overall impression the host country left of the games. In 10 years, nobody will remember that one Zamboni broke down or that the ice in one rink was deemed too soft. They will remember one of the most spectacular shots of a snowboarder ever captured, which was used to open the ceremonies.
We also have to remember that while the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili was extremely difficult and saddening for everyone involved, there have been accidental deaths at past Olympics as well. It seems that winter sports are especially prone to serious accidents, with four previous deaths during the winter Olympics and two in the summer Olympics. Canadians, like the rest of the world, should accept that we cannot foresee everything that could go wrong and take responsibility for our collective or individual mistakes. The accident shouldn’t lessen anyone’s patriotism or cast the games under the unfair label the “Glitch Games.”
The cost of the games
Protestors commonly complain about the sheer cost of the games, but it is surely ridiculous to suggest that Canada should not make an Olympic bid until every single socio-economic and environmental problem is solved. The enormity of the project would see no nation taking on such a huge task. Given that we accept that no host country will ever be perfect at the time they host a large international sporting event, it is important to take a realistic look at the actual cost of the games.
While the money spent on the games is admittedly not going towards many of Canada’s social welfare issues, like poverty and health care, it is important to remember that these things aren’t an either/or choice. This has to do with policy-level changes that are rooted in the values of our people and our politicians. Disengaged citizens, who make up a majority of Canadians who do not exercise their democratic right to vote, should consider that prior to protesting the Olympics.
It isn’t fair to deny athletes the chance to compete on home soil because Vancouver has a large number of homeless people. There are many social injustices going on every day, but everyone in Canada does not simply pack up and wait at home until the problems are solved.
British Columbia has one of the highest costs of living because everybody wants to be there, because it is so wonderful. British Columbia made an attempt to clean up its streets during the Olympics, and can anyone honestly say they want pictures and video of Vancouver showed all over the world, to depict homeless people shooting up in city centre? The Poverty Olympics shed a poor light on Canada when given international coverage. The Olympic games are supposed to be a source of pride for a country, not a source of shame, and they are a totally inappropriate forum for demanding change from the leaders of our country.
Every country has an ugly side and every country has a host of social welfare problems like Vancouver’s ongoing struggle with homelessness. These do not mean that the host countries shouldn’t spend money and support the Olympic Games. In the end the economic benefits are far greater than the costs.
The images of Vancouver, the amazing array of newly built and recently renovated facilities and the overall success of the games will bring in a massive amount of business and tourism dollars to the B.C. economy. All of that extra income has the potential to be put to use to improve the quality and standard of living in the area.
All of this massive criticism has ignored the fact that the games are going great. Canada has had nearly sold-out crowds for every event, record crowds watching the events in any way they can and the highest TV ratings of any Olympics — all of this in the midst of a crushing recession where advertising dollars are scarce. The rest of the world is even impressed with the support for the games, considering a few months ago headlines were suggesting that nobody in Canada cared for or was excited about the games. So maybe, for once, we can all just stop finding something to complain about. Enjoy the games for what they are, support our athletes who are doing famously and try to be proud to be Canadian.