Chinese Gold

The Olympics ended this morning, or I guess last night, or this evening, or whatever it works out to depending on where you are in the world. I always enjoy the Olympic year events, and try to watch it when I can. This year, as with any Olympics, there were some exciting moments.

Our Canadian athletes went from a worry that they were winning nothing to a final count of 18, a reasonable showing in comparison to other Olympics. We don’t win a lot, compared to some other countries, but we have to keep it in perspective. We’re a relatively small nation, just over 33 million now I believe, the US is about ten times larger (and China about forty times). Quite likely we don’t devote enough funding to the Olympics and sports in general, that’s an issue that always comes up at this time, but our governments obviously don’t consider it the priority that it is in some nations.

The Olympics is always filled with dark horse competitors, like Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, who stubbornly charged out of nowhere in Row 8 to win bronze for Canada in the 100 meter hurtles, and with the thrilling come-back stories like Eric Lamaze in the Equestrian Jumping (suddenly millions of people know who “Hickstead” is), and these people and their stories provide the thrills of any Olympics. I followed the curious path of the American basketball “Dream Team” as they remained undefeated through their competitions, a situation that could be anticipated, but never has been since they were beaten in the last Olympics by Argentina for the Gold Medal. Early this morning (“last night”) they won the Gold Medal by a margin of only 11 points in a game against Spain, certainly not indicative of their skill. These “prima-donnas” of the basketball court have been difficult to motivate in any Olympics, often playing great and exciting basketball in the first quarter and then demonstrating almost boredom for the balance of the game. Their main motivation this time around was shame for their performance in 2004, when some of them admitted they were almost afraid to go home to the US after the loss. One of their coaches put it on the mark when he said, “You’ll win this competition when your desire is as great as that of the other teams.” They came through, but I think their desire was far less, and limited them to what had to be done.
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A Rock and a Hard Place

I wrote this column originally about three weeks ago, but never posted it, when the number of Canadian soldiers lost in Afghanistan was 88. As of a few days ago, it’s apparently at 90. It’s possible that before Christmas, we will break the 100 mark, not a national achievement that we will accept with pride. While it’s a statistic that pales in comparison to the world wars, it’s a statistic that is gradually eroding away the support of the Canadian public for that engagement, and no doubt number 100 will bring a louder call to “Do something about it!”

I think most of us support our military. When support rallies are held, they generally carefully phrase the purpose as being for the military, not for supporting the conflict in Afghanistan. People are more divided on that, and I would not be surprised if only a minority of Canadians support the rationale for that “war on terrorism”.

We’re “between a rock and a hard place”, as the old saying goes. There is a generally accepted belief that if we and others pull out of Afghanistan, there will be chaos, bloodshed, and many things they’ve accomplished over the last few years will be gone in a heartbeat. I have little doubt that will happen. That fact is the main reason we are there, and for the next year at least, staying there.
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