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Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Object!

Before I break into a rant let me say I have been watching quite a bit of the Olympics and am pleased Canadians have do so well. I look forward to more doing well and even winning medals before the events are over.

That out of the way, let me say all year I have been troubled by the official aggressive attitude being expressed by the offical Canadian Olympic establishment, "Own the Podium!". More and more we have heard that Canadian athetes are expected to win medals, perhaps, more than at any other Winter Olympics. We have had to put up with this mantra of only winning being of value up to the Olympics.

While winning medals is the icing on the cake for an athelete and used as reason for National pride, it cannot and should not be the test of success for athletes. Only very few climb up on the podium but each and every individual needs to be recognized and honoured for just being there.
Personal best is still the fairest measure to success.

It was predictable that commentators would start to talk of an athelete who is expected to win a gold medal and ends up winning a silver or bronze as "failing". This kind of talk grates on me.
We all know that in any particular day in a high calibre competition any one of a number of contestants can win. Even the most outstanding athelete can do his or her best on that day and another athlete can score higher. This is not a failure but an accomplishment and we should recognize it as such rather than make an athlete feel they have failed , themselves, their team mates, their country. I was prepared for this and have put up with the broadcasting nonsense.

This is not what has left me uneasy about the Olympics. It took me a while to sort it out. It began with the opening ceremony which lead me to look at the Canadian athletes as a group.
I thought the opening ceremony was a visually interesting presentation. I gather it was an attempt to display who Canadians are, their values and how they feel about our magnificent country. It failed.

Canada is officially a bilingual and multi-cultural country. This differentiates us from our sounthern neighbour. When you examine the Opening Ceremony you realize there is very little French spoken or French speaking entertainers making a contibution. Even the official statement by Mr. John Furlong ,the head of the committee that organized the Winter Olympics was only done in English.

It was nice that the local First Nations' people were highlighted. And so they should be. The First Nation's people of British Columbia never ceded their territory in treaties as occured in most of Canada. Only in recent years have substantial settlements been made with First Nation's communities in British Columbia . They have regained some sovereignty over their traditional territories and there is an increasing appreciation of the uniqueness of their customs and culture. There is a lot more to be accomplished in the area of how Canada treats First Nation's people. Our historic record is quite shameful. Canada is still one of four countries (Canada, United States , New Zealand and Australia) which has failed to sign the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, a small but symbolic jesture of some importance.

With the exception of the First Nation's presence in the Opening Ceremony there is little recognition of the ethnic and cultural mix of Canada. Vancouver is one of the most ethically diverse cities with very large Asian populations. Where were the Asian faces in the celebration of the Winter Olympics? Where are the faces of all the identifiable minories in Canada.
From the Opening Ceremony you would get the impression that Canada is still an English dominated country which tolerates some French. This is not Canada of the 21st Century. This is the Canada of two or more generations ago. They should have celebrated Canada and Canadians are they are now in the beginning of the 21st Century.

How did they get it so wrong? After I sorted this out for myself I discovered that my view is more widely shared. The Heritage Minister, John Moore and the Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, among others complained at the absence of French. And apprently, the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) rightfully heard from the local ethic organizations about the absence of visible minorites. I gather they are scrabbling to make some changes at the last moment in the closing ceremony to limit this criticism. What is distressing is that early on the Committee had heard these concerns and put together the programs largely ignoring them.
Again, how could they get it so wrong?

Finally, I look at the athletes themselves. We need to examine out support of athletes and athletics and make sure that all ethnic communities have access to sport. From the faces of Canada's athletes, with the exception of a handful you would think Canada had very few visible minorites. I hope that this is just a lag in minority communities getting involved in Canadian Winter sports and not some de facto racism within Canada. We need to examine ourselves over this so that by the time another Winter Olympics comes around Canada will field athletes from more of our ethnic communities.

I hope everyone is enjoying the Olympics and appreciating the efforts of all athletes.

My grandson, Dylan, has come to the end of the portion of his time in Vancouver. He is now on his way to the interior of BC to Osoyoo, in the Okanagan Valley, to spend some time at a resort there getting in some snowboarding and hot tubbing, (these seem to be the to things that interest him the most.

Here is a video of Baldy Mountain in the Okanagan region. I think it is this resort he will be at.

A snowboarder's paradise


At 8:42 p.m., Blogger KGMom said...

The New York Times did a piece called "Crib Notes on Canada, From a Canadian"--apropos the Olympics.

Read it

At 7:36 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

This "Own the Podium" thing isn't doing all that well either. Saying something doesn't make it happen.

At 7:36 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

PS: KGM's link doesn't work for me.

At 8:38 a.m., Blogger Granny Annie said...

Is your dog a BMC (Black Mouth Cur)?

At 6:50 p.m., Blogger Cathy said...

Hello Philip
Try being down here when the Summmer Olympics are on - especially the swimming and athletics lol
'Own the podium' - we'll give you a run for your money lol
Take care

At 3:57 a.m., Blogger Tom said...

"Personal best is still the fairest measure to success" well said Philip.... I could not agree more... I will not comment on the rest you wrote as the UK are not better if not worse... but I will comment on the video.... Awesome is the word that came to mind... I would have loved to have snow boarded when I was younger... it really looks fun.

At 8:48 a.m., Anonymous オテモヤン said...


At 4:09 p.m., Blogger Ginnie said...

I know that the competitive edge is very different from the "Special Olympics" but they could learn a lot about human values from them.
I look forward to Dylan's writing more on his new blog.

At 11:51 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have got to see this. Obama playing on XBox. Funniest video ever.

At 7:07 a.m., Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Happy Birthday, Philip.

At 8:56 a.m., Blogger Serenity said...

Pop over my place... I've got something to show you! ;o) x

At 8:56 a.m., Blogger Serenity said...

It's me....daffy btw! :o)

At 10:30 a.m., Blogger Jane said...

Wow. First let me say that I am a regular reader of your blog and I enjoy it. You have a lot of interesting things to say. However I must say that I totally disagree with most if not all of the points you make regarding the Olympics.

Firstly: “Own the Podium”. I think you are being way to politically correct here. It is a slogan designed to help inspire the athletes and inspire Canadians to be behind them. If you have ever coached a little league team or played in competitive sports, then you understand the fun and joy in wanting to win and the exhilaration that comes with competition. No good coach says “ok guys lets go out there are try to be ethnically diverse, and lets let the other guys win if they really want to, and lets not try too hard, etc…” Now if our slogan was “Lets win at all costs..” or “Lets do what we can to mess up the completion” or something like that then yes I would have a problem. However “Own the Podium” is fun and inspirational. Heck it is ok to show some pride (and edge) to being Canadian without constantly worrying that others are thinking we are too happy, isn’t it? Also to the naysayer downers who say things like "Own the Podium" thing isn't doing all that well… I would suggest you got it all wrong. If you naively believe the fact that since Canada is not in first place then they have failed, then I think you have missed the point. We have done great at these games and we have been inspired by all these great programs.

Secondly: “Failing athletes”. I totally disagree with your observations on the commenters thinking athletes are failures if they do not win. I think CTV has done a great job and has often worked very hard to praise the athletes when they have not achieved what they thought they would. In fact I think the biggest critics of performance are the athletes themselves. I saw many interviews were the athlete was down on him/hersef and the broadcaster said ‘hey, you got 5th place in the world and that is much more than anyone else can do….” etc. I am not sure what network you are watching, but you should switch to the main one … CTV. It is much more upbeat than whatever downer network you are watching.

continued on next post….

At 10:32 a.m., Blogger Jane said...


Thirdly: “Opening ceremonies”. I thought it was a fantastic representation of the culture and values of Canada and kudos to the people who worked tirelessly to put it on and try and be inclusive as possible. Interestingly as one point, there was so much French that I turned to my spouse and said “I can’t understand what they are saying half the time” (since sadly my French is sub-par). There is only so much you can do to be politically correct and only so much time for a ceremony. We heard 4 different native American languages as well as French and English. (BTW the Canada/US hockey game was broadcast in 8 different languages the other night!). You know, there are some 130 countries in the world and probably 10 times that many languages/dialects spoken. Probably someone from each of those 130 countries and innumerable cultures lives in Canada. Had they organizers tried to have all ceremonies in all those languages and dialects, we would still be watching (or sleeping!) though he opening ceremonies yet today 12 days later!!! Where do you draw the line !?! Five people who live on the north shore in Vancouver speak Yoruba so you repeat all the dialogue and speeches in Yoruba? I think not. You got to face the face (weather it is politically correct or not) that Canada is a primarily English speaking country and the Olympics is hosted by a primarily English speaking Province. Interesting that when you go to Mexico to watch a baseball game, the announcers are in Spanish .. huh. When you go to Germany to watch a soccer match the announcers are in German .. huh… perhaps they have something here… hmmm.

Fourthly: Lack of diversity of athletes: Oh dear, please don’t tell me you next want to have some sort of quota system for the athletes based on race. On top of a fictitional Olympics where Canada is not allowed to show some swagger and pride, weird networks that talk about Canada’s athletes as failures, opening ceremonies that are so politically correct that they take days and days to get though the speeches and recognition of every ethnic group ever seen in Canada, the replacement of the best qualified athletes that have earned the right to get there with athletes picked on a racial quota system would be icing on a sad joke of an Olympics. I spend a lot of time around ski hills and hockey rinks. Yes there is a high percentage of White Anglo Saxon people there… hence that is where the Olympic athletes evolve from. Go to a basketball court or a lacrosse game and you will see a different set of athletes playing. Many ethnic groups have different sports and activities they are interested in; that is diversity. Tell me, do you feel the same way about some of the sports at the Summer Olympic games where certain ethnic groups dominate? I just look at it as the wonderful diversity of mankind. Sure white Anglo Saxon people like to ski and because of that, statistically the best skiers in the world will be white. It may not present a wonderful utopian view of what everyone wants, but unless non Anglo Saxon people are banned from skiing, then it is what it is.

I think these have been wonderful Olympic Games. Hats off to the organizers for such an amazing job with organization and inclusion. Hats off to all the athletes of the world that have put on such an amazing show. Hats of to Canadians and Canadian athletes who have show so much pride in their own country.


At 1:03 p.m., Blogger Julie said...

Happy Birthday Philip! Love to you!

At 1:04 p.m., Blogger Navigator said...

I had quite a bit to say about this posting until I read Jane who basically covered most of my points and did it so well. Kudos to Jane.

I believe that ethnic groups take up certain sports that they identify with. In Toronto, in the summer you will see all sorts of South Asians playing cricket -- who else bothers with this one.

Soccer is fairly universal and you will see a real mix of people playing that one.

Professional tennis, despite the excellent example of the Williams sisters, and a handful of Asian players, seems to remain a largely white dominated sport. I have belonged to tennis clubs where there were plenty of members who were not white, but for whatever reason it seems the bulk of the ranks of the pro players remain white.

Hockey is Canada's national sport and is celebrated from coast to coast but youth hockey clubs in the big cities are facing declining enrollment because the ethnic minorities do not identify with that sport, even though there are some black athletes in the national hockey league. Check out the white Canadian players' home towns, and you will find most of them come from little places, not the big cities.

Sailing, of which I have done a great deal in my life, tends to be predominantly white, even though I know of no bars to entry into that sport.

One of the things that came across in the Vancouver Olympics is the rise of Asian skaters from China and South Korea into the medals category. Maybe those role models will encourage young people of those origins in Canada to take up those sports.

Finally, a word about medals. I did not hear one Canadian athlete who won a medal say, "Oh, this is just the icing on the cake. I only came here to do my personal best. I only trained for 4 years for that one 20 second run down the slope just to see if I could get a better time or a better mark than the last one I got." To a person, they were thrilled and beside themselves with joy to have won medals.

It is a competition, Dude, in which some of these people who compete in obscure winter sports get the one opportunity in their lifetime to showcase their talents to a worldwide audience of billions, and the payoff is being among the three best in the world. Let's not start social engineering sporting competition to achieve "equality of outcomes."

At 2:47 p.m., Blogger bigbikerbob said...

Hi Phil, Just popped in to say Happy Birthday.Have a great day.

At 2:49 p.m., Blogger stephanie of stopbouncing said...

Have a Happy Birthday!

At 3:05 p.m., Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Happy Birthday, Philip! Daffy sent me over.

May all your birthdays bring you joy;
many, many, more;
years to journey.
May each new day be more wonderful than the last;
discovering life's bounty;
filled with love, health, and happiness.
May your heart find its path;
through all that you do;
as God continue to bless you.

At 3:20 p.m., Blogger Tara said...

Hello from the U.S.! A nice birdy told me that it is your birthday today! Soooo....


At 3:27 p.m., Blogger ChrisB said...

A little bird (aka Daffy) let on it's a special day. So just dropped by to wish you a Happy Birthday.

At 4:16 p.m., Blogger amelia said...

I left my wishes on Facebook earlier but I'm leaving them here too, to round things off nicely!!

Happy Birthday Philip!!

At 4:18 p.m., Anonymous Harry said...

From a snow-free Scotland....have a happy birthday, 'lang may yer lum reek'.....that's Good Wishes in lowland Scottish!

At 5:22 p.m., OpenID thedailydish said...

Happy Birthday!!

(I am a friend of Daffy's and am following orders to wish you ALL THE VERY BEST!) Hope it's wonderful!

At 5:52 p.m., OpenID goodnightgram said...

Phil: Check out this link - and Happy Birthday!

At 6:27 a.m., Blogger judie said...

I havent visited in awhile. Thought you were going somewhere, traipsing off with a lady and traveling to far off lands, yet here you are keeping track of Olympics and new kittens. I'm glad you are there. The homestead needs you. xoxoxo

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