The biggest Olympic story of all: the Canadian people!

March 2, 2010

When I made the decision to be positive rather than critical, I was beginning a personal journey, an experiment in choice. With nowhere to go but here, I made here the best place to be. I felt, at times, that I was inviting ridicule, even scorn, especially when I would only half-jokingly tell people I’ve decided to be an unofficial goodwill embassador to whoever I would meet on my walks with my best buddy,  the sausage.

Well, it turns out that millions of Canadians made the same decision.  There will undoubtedly be many conversations beginning with “was it worth it?” In fact, I already engaged in a very compelling one as I returned back to work today. After listening to this well-informed colleague talk about cuts to social programs that are happening soon and all for a party, I agreed with him but asked him in return “is it possible it was more than just a party?”

Cynicism and apathy are very close cousins. I’ve played the role of cynical femme-curmudgeon on numerous occasions but I have never surrendered to apathy. I’m hoping this will be one of the legacies of these Games–that an entire nation ran into the streets over-dressed in red and white  to greet the world. You can’t force this on a people. And I sensed very early on that the greatest Olympic story would play out on the streets Vancouver. Now, I know it was happening everywhere. 

My only hope is that something sustainable has happened, that we start to actually give a damn about what goes on in this country instead of sniping from the sidelines at our mortal enemies, whoever they happen to be.

Until my next blogging adventure, I’ll leave you with this.


This is my party, too, and I’ll cry if I want to!

March 1, 2010

Call me the biggest goof, if you want to but today, the tears finally came. I said to JH, I’m not singing the national anthem today; I’m just going to watch and listen. And then came the deluge–hot, happy, exhausted tears for a holiday of a lifetime in my own home and neighbourhood.

I’ll never be a hardened sports fan because I always feel so sad for the other team. If we had to lose to anyone, I would have felt okay with USA taking gold (I can see JH rolling his eyes at me as I write this). We just dashed over to the Ivanhoe pub where my American friend Bonnie is celebrating with her friends and family. We hugged and she comforted me, saying that the Gold was meant for Canada. Hastings street is full of honking cars and people are hanging out their windows and everyone is smiling at each other and high-fiving. It’s all so tacky really, except that it’s so wonderful!

Last night, my friend and fellow-wiener dog owner, Jen scored us tickets to Molson Hockey House. I’ve long suspected that Jen is part human and part angel. She’s one of those people who just spreads joy around the place. We were tired and a little overwhelmed when we first walked into this massive pre-hockey game party, but quickly warmed up to the friendly crowd watching the Slovakia-Finland game. I was rooting for Slovakia as were most of the people there. JH’s team Finland won and wants me to remind my sister, Clare, that she owes him 5 big ones.

Paparazzi Kim looking a little forlorn!


JH gets his social mojo back!

Two scantily clad Japanese girls trying to avoid attention

Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Colin James

What is is about bass players? Colin James' guy looks like Kevin Bacon and was uber-cool! Colin James rocked our souls--all of them, including the white-haired crowd who were rocking with stunned looks on their faces.

My new Polish friends. The one on the left looks a bit hungry, doesn’t he?


We found this guy outside our condo on our way home from Hockey House. His girlfriend says he hasn’t taken off his costume for two weeks. Priceless!


We’re off to join the cheering mob. Be sure to look out for the Toronto celebration on TV. It’s spectacular! 
As I’ve said all along, there’s something very powerful going on here that even the bitchy British press can’t take away. And yes, the financial repercussions are going to be a tough pill to swallow but there are some things that can’t be measured in dollars. I think this might be one of those things. I’m so proud that this city decided to get behind the games and capture something previously unimaginable.
Thanks to all of you who supported my little blog! I’m touched and inspired. And my heart is full!




“Cocky Canadians,” you say? Well, it’s about time!

February 27, 2010

It now seems inevitable that, having shot into the international spotlight, Canadians are taking some heat for being arrogant, unsportsmanlike, overly competitive, and yes, even cocky! With journalists in constant search of a story and “Go Canada Go” and our national anthem being heard on the streets and in living rooms across the country, accusations abound. Inevitable?–probably. But a bad thing?–not so much.

It will be some time before those of us who chose to celebrate these Olympics understand the emotional and cultural influence they’ve had on Canada and, especially, Vancouver. I suspect last night was one of the few times in my life that I will experience the national anthem sung in my own living room with friends and family. I don’t know what exactly happened here; it’s too early to tell. But what I can say is that everyone I know has been altered by it, in some way.

We all know the saying, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. The Greeks called in hubris, that moment when a human being dares to take on the larger power of fate and is immediately struck down for it, as the gods laugh. Last night, premature chants of USA! USA! from Canadian hockey fans at BC Place seemed to send the Slovaks into a frenzy of power and speed. At around the same time, one of my guests said the “s” word: “Could Luongo be heading for a “shut out”? said Giulia. “No,” the guys cried! “Don’t say that word.”  This will certainly be one of my Olympic memories, a moment when something eerie was going on, just like the strange energy and human connection I’ve been experiencing for the past two weeks. 

Canada and Vancouver will continue to be critiqued for some time to come. Bring it on, I say! It’s all part of growing up– daring to express your emotions and pride of accomplishment, in spite of what others think and say.  It’s what admirable and evolved people do all the time. But it is a skill to be honed. And it will be interesting to witness how Canadians respond to this overwhelming coverage of our once quiet home.

Here’s a half-hearted attempt by a Huffington Post blogger to chastise Canada for, of all things, “cockiness.”            

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All eyes on Vancouver streets! Let’s hope we get it right!

February 26, 2010

There are two things I’m worried about going into tonight’s hockey game against the Slovaks (other than my Yorkshire puddings rising): Canada not beating Slovakia and Canada beating Slovakia.

If Canada doesn’t win, then I’m guessing the VPD can at least focus on a few roaming packs of drunk young men (and their angry young women, to be PC and fair). The rest of us thirty and forty-somethings will likely just finish our evening off indoors remembering better days. But a Canadian win just might get ugly out there on the mean streets of international Vancouver. The NYT published an article today suggesting that there might be some problems on Granville and Robson streets as newly inspired patriots turn into pukey, mean drunks. I’m suddenly glad to be old, to not have the desire or the need to participate street-level in the rest of these games. Everyone knows how sports and nationalism can turn ugly on a Canadian dime.

Still, I’m not sorry that I donned my red hoody early on, that I abandoned my social critic’s hat for one sporting the flag.  I’m not sorry that this burst of Canadian pride has emerged. God knows, we needed a potent shot of it, both as remedy for our renowned “inferiority” complex and our polite national pride that for too long has dared not speak its own name. 

I’m just really, really hoping for both a hockey win tonight and a kinder and gentler  legacy of street-level civility that, at its worse, would turn into a boisterous, youthful  celebration with nothing more than the odd self-inflicted bruise, fall or hangover.

Now there’s a Canadian wish list for you!

Good luck to you all as you watch this nail-biter of a game.

And good luck to Canada! 

How the sausage pulled the Canadian flag down from the top of the door, I'll never know. The intelligence astonishes! He's come around since his beloved Russia's loss--especially after I reminded him of just how unfriendly they were to him.

Vancouverage Signage at Colbert’s really, really big winter sports event between 2009 and 2011

February 26, 2010

Here are some cute signs Vancouver Nation put together to greet the Colbert Nation.

The New York Times declares: “Canada is back. Challenge, anyone?”

February 26, 2010

Living in this hockey-crazed city, I guess we’ve seen our beloved Canucks snatch defeat from the jaws of hockey victory one too many times. And yet we still love them (at least, most of us do)!  Watching last night’s game, you couldn’t help get the sense that something’s gone right this time. For me, it was hard to believe these gladiators were Canadian and that they could be so physically powerful and work together at the same time. 

I’ve been searching for news on Slovak hockey culture but haven’t found much. I also went out walking with the Sausage to try to spot some Slovaks but, we all know how they can be–an elusive, quietly proud people who seldom venture out for photo ops. No, seriously, what does any of us know about Slovakia, except that they’re not particularly fond of the Czechs? I’m sure more will be revealed. Here’s a link to the NYT’s take on last night’s game, the coming games and the Slovakian team.

Some friendly, relaxed German Hockey dudes. One of them gave me a German pin. The one in the middle looks particularly "nice," doesn't he ladies?

Russia House is super popular as athe next Winter Olympics host nation. The line-ups, I'm told, are about 2 hours plus! This line-up wraps around twice.

Colbert says Canadians “get the joke.”

February 25, 2010

I continue to think that Stephen Colbert has had a blast here. 

Read on!

Tension in the house: The Sausage is rooting for the Russians!

February 25, 2010

Dano and Paparazzi Kim getting in the spirit!

Oscar and I went for a short walk in the drizzle to check out the pre-game pavilion situation. I spoke to some fans lining up for the Saskatchewan pavilion, which has been really popular for the beer-drinking crowd. They told me they’d only been lining up for 15 minutes or so and the line was moving fast. I’m guessing the loss of Olympic sun has some positive effects for those of us wanting to “share the experience,” as they say. They asked if Oscar and I would join them and I told them that Oscar was actually rooting for the Russians. They howled with laughter at that one. Everyone seems to love anthropomorphic wiener jokes!

I spotted a group of German fans decked out in their Olympic sweats and I said in my best German “Congratulations on your 2 points yesterday.” They politely nodded and gave me the thumbs up. But since looking in my German-English dictionary, I might have asked them to come home with me and wash two of my dishes. I should probably stick to my broken French and Spanish. 

Five very tall and lithe young men (calm down, Anne!) just left our building wearing FULL body suits of red (I mean covering the head and face!). They had flags draped over them like batmen. It was truly creative. I hope to see them on the news (the one day I was without a camera!)

Go, Canadian young bloods!

“Know thyself,” a wise guy once said (with a little help from Tom Brokaw!)

February 24, 2010

I used to explain the post-modern worldview to my sociology students this way:

Imagine what it would be like standing outside of that sense you call “yourself.” Stand outside it, look inside, look to the past and ask yourself: what might others, who have not existed as you, see your story? I would tell them that you can’t understand yourself without understanding your childhood and the complex stories of the parents who formed you–for all the good and bad. I would remind them that national stories are created to separate us from others in thrilling and horrifying ways and that they must be courageously and yes, sometimes painfully, explored. And I would tell them that who they are is largely a result of what others have told them. Tough messages, to be sure, but hey–they’re in the textbooks so I boldly persevered!

Here’s US broadcasting journalist, Tom Brokaw, explaining US to THEM.

Message to Canadians: “Don’t let any group of talented athletes tell you who you are!”

February 24, 2010


Granted, this is fitting advice for ayone caught up in the “hype” of international athletic competition. For Canada, I prefer the term “pride” to “hype” simply because, as Canadians, we rarely get to express passion for our country beyond a vague sense of satisfaction that we are a polite people (not always true), that our country is a natural beauty (luck–not accomplishment) and that we have a fairly decent healthcare system that, so far, has survived the corporatization of everything (fingers crossed!).

 I love the fact that most Canadians I know are suspicious of outward expressions of patriotism, mostly because we’ve been forced to witness the irrational exhuberance of US Cold War/Gulf War culture. But an uncomfortable fact is that  Canada has managed to maintain social programs, in part, because of our proximity to the world’s super power and our lower population.  Knee-jerk Anti-Americanism has been a consistent source of entertainment for Canadians very since our “hip” Prime Minister Trudeau made it a national sport. And the Bush/Cheney debacle certainly made it impossible for us to feel warm and fuzzy about any foreign policy decision made by that particularly repugnant branch of the Republican party.

But those days are gone. Canadians are faced with a new era in Canada/US relations. Many of us here are far more supportive of Obama’s Olympian task ahead of him than his once-adoring supporters. The Huffington Post is a progressive blog, that for millions of Americans, was a welcome relief from the mainstream media’s ridiculous attempt at balanced reporting by placing two attack dogs on opposite sides of the screen and letting them scream at each other. For a lot of American liberals (like Canadian liberals), US mass media has become paralyzed by a vicious culture war that has wacky fringe right-wingers demanding their fair share of the air. The problem is there’s nothing fair about it. The biggest casualty in these disingenuous debates is the truth. Ideas have been abandoned for ideologies; and this Canadian is indeed smug and disgusted with the death of ideas in the mainstream media at a time when they are needed the most. But alas–many of the Huffpost comments belie a frustrated liberal America deeply divided and hopeless. I try to stick to the thoughtful posts and resist scrolling down to the comments, many of which of more supportive of Canada and Canadians than anything going on in the US (yes–I still peek now and again!)      

Canadians are identity-challenged. But I say, so what? Identity politics, whether sexual, cultural, racial or national have enjoyed their fair share of the sun. I’m hoping for better times ahead when at least the Canada/US relationship is less grounded in adolescent pride, historical differences and arrogance on both sides. Sigmund Freud wrote about the “narcissism of small differences”–the notion that people who are most similar and geographically close see themselves as fundamentally different from each other, leading to a hostility, even hatred,  that is rarely seen between truly different peoples. As the young American woman from Atlanta exclaimed following the Canada/US hockey game:  Go North America! Still tribal, you might say–but at least a step in the right direction as an expression of how most of us feel when we meet our North American cousins.

Whatever happens down South with the precarious reign of post-culture warrior Obama, I’m hoping that this rising Canadian patriotism resulting from the Olympics  might signal the beginning of the end to that Canadian smugness toward the US that has festered since the 1960’s. Times, they are a changing. And for Canada, maybe a healthy shot of national pride will allow us to religuish old and tired ideas that position us against our neighbours with the smallest of differences–as long as Sarah Palin and her ilk, with their ugliest manifestation of modern tribalism–remain on the margins of power, that is.

Here is an interesting article from the Huffington Post about sports, identity and reality.