I am an Olympics junkie. Every two years (because I love the summer and the winter games) I devote two weeks of my life to following elite athletes compete at the sports that I love, and the sports that I have either never heard of or that I don’t understand (or both, actually). It’s a thrill for me to watch the best of the best compete for the ultimate glory of being named Olympic champion, but also to see them excel at something that they clearly love doing. To me, seeing a personal best on the world’s stage does matter.
This year, we are living in India, without the comforts of CanCon and the focus on Canadian athletes. I was worried that I would miss out, and that the Olympics experience would be tainted for me. I did miss all the behind the scenes coverage that Canadian networks offer, coverage that I do enjoy. Thankfully, there were four channels broadcasting the games here, and the London 2012 youtube channel covered everything else that I wanted to see, live. I actually got to see more Canadians compete and more win medals than I thought would have been possible.
Twitter became my water cooler for these games. I didn’t so much join in, but got to see what the folks that I follow were saying about the competition. Many were clearly enjoying as I was, and some kept me more in touch with what was going on than the official broadcasters. I was shocked, however, at how many people felt that the performance by the Canadian team was “awful”, “an embarrassment”, “shameful” or felt it necessary to call out the team and individual members for being a disappointment. Several suggested that a nation as large as ours should be doing much better than we did, than we have historically.
As far as I am concerned, the size of the nation has very little to do with the success at events like this. If you consider the ratio of medals won (regardless of colour) by population, Canada is firmly in the top ten following London Olympics, and did much better than the super powers of the USA and China, who came first and second in total medals. Most Canadian athletes are not given the financial supports (through public and private funders) that most of the athletes from these two nations are reported to receive. Many, especially the lesser known athletes, have to work part-time or full-time to support themselves while training, and even have to line up their own sponsors to actually get to competitions.
I am very proud of ALL the Canadian athletes. To me, they embodied the spirit of the Olympics, especially those who didn’t win a match, didn’t finish, were disqualified, or finished last. They were there; made it to THE games. They owned their performances, held their heads high, and continued to support the members of the entire Canadian team til the end of the competition.
If you want to see the athletes do better, support them. This doesn’t have to be a financial contribution; just let them know that you are proud of how far they have come, and what they have achieved. It’s guaranteed to have a more positive impact than sitting on the couch criticizing them.