By Jim Chase
I may have been overexposed to the Winter Olympics. As thrilling and fun to watch as these Vancouver games were, as I watched the NBC credit crawl at the end of the closing ceremonies I was left with acute post-event let down (similar to the melancholy I feel waking up every Dec. 26) along with some nagging questions.
For example; if Michael J. Fox, Catherine O’Hara, Donald Sutherland, Michael Buble, William Shatner, Neil Young, Wayne Gretzky, KD Lang and others are so proud and happy to be Canadians, why do they all live here? I mean, as the exodus of top athletes and media began on Monday morning, I have no doubt that many of the Canadian celebrities featured at the games already had their return plane ticket to America in hand to take them back “home.”
Speaking of national pride, another question I have now that the medals have been handed out and the flame extinguished – why is it that our dear Northern neighbors can hold hands and sing, “Oh Canada, our home and native land …” at the top of their collective voice and our media gets all choked up about it? We see close ups of athletes, spectators, game officials, even Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper singing their country’s anthem with heartfelt pride and emotion – complete with an appropriate tear in the corner of the eye – and it’s a wonderful thing. Matt and Meredith, Bob and Cris all comment on how powerful a scene it is. And yet, I can’t remember watching any international competition held on American turf the past 20 years or so, when the singing of the our national anthem has, at the very least, not been underplayed or belittled as being jingoistic, embarrassing or chauvinistic. I watched with appreciation as Canadian athletes and spectators draped themselves in their country’s maple leaf flag in shared national pride and celebration. Would that we Americans could once again do the same and without loud and predictable criticism from our own countrymen. I’m just sayin’.
My last question is – how in the heck do Olympic officials decide who’s a “citizen” of any particular country? Time after time, we learned about this or that international medal contender who lives in Averageville, Indiana, went to school at the University of Middle America, trains at former U.S. Olympic facilities, trains with one of the top American coaches, but is (fill in the activity; skiing, skating, curling, bobsledding, etc.) for East Slodinkistan because his mother’s twice removed cousin once rented a chalet on the border of that tiny mountain republic and left a sample of the family DNA there one summer.
I kid you not, one of the featured woman skaters in the ice dancing competition proudly skated for her beloved home country of the Republic of Georgia. Only one problem – she wasn’t Georgian. She’d never stepped a single ice-skated foot on that country’s soil, wasn’t married to a Georgian. I doubt she could locate Georgia (either one) on a map of the world. Georgian President Saakashvili granted her special citizenship papers on a rush-rush basis so she could compete in these games as one of their own. Whatever.
In the interest of full disclosure, I hereby announce that, four years from now in 2014, if any country out there needs another person to fill out their curling team or ride along in the number two or three seat in one of your four-man bobsleds, I’m your guy. Just show me how to pronounce your country’s name, fax me the lyrics to your national anthem, overnight a passport and visa to my home address, and by the downbeat for opening ceremonies in Sochi, Russia you’ll have a new citizen to add to your census. And yes, I’m going to take great national pride in competing for (name of country goes here).
For now, I’ll go back to watching the Downhill Dumptruck Giant Slalom races on Ramsdell Avenue.
I’ll see you ‘round town.