About a week ago, I was preparing to write a post about how I just couldn’t get into the Olympics this time around.
I’ve always watched the Olympics, summer or winter, since I was a child, so this was a new experience for me. I felt cut off.
People kept talking about medals and close races, about how well Canada was doing at first, and then about how we were slipping. I was completely out of the whole thing.
We don’t have a TV so it wasn’t like I could just turn the games on and flop down to watch them. Part of our thinking there was that we didn’t want our son, who is drawn to a screen like a moth to a flame, to spend 2 weeks slack-jawed in front of any old sport just because it was a screen.
There was an app, though, and online streaming. And I finally got myself organized.
This morning, my son is sitting slack-jawed in front of the computer watching the 30k cross country race. Not his favourite sport. But a good sport. One I wish he’d get into. So maybe this isn’t such a bad thing after all.
I have my favourite Olympic sports I prefer to watch. Skiing, snowboarding, bobsled, luge, skeleton. Some of the skating.
I love the drama of the Olympics. The stars you expect to shine don’t always, and sometimes the underdog wins. I guess that’s true of all sports but the nation’s pride is at stake here, and that draws me in.
The country’s greatest medal hopes sometimes fall or crash, but when they live up to all the expectations, you can feel the spirit of the country soaring all around you.
And, big sap that I am, I also love hearing O Canada played while the glowing red maple leaf rises high above the crowd.
Last time around, I watched the gold medal hockey game. I don’t usually like hockey. At all. I don’t like the fighting, the nastiness, the attitude of the players or the fans. But ever since I lived abroad, I have become a proud Canadian. And a Canada v USA hockey final, especially played on Canadian soil, would bring out the national spirit in almost anyone.
I loved that game. And I think I would have loved it even if we’d lost.
This year, I think the golden moment for me was the women’s hockey final. I say this before the men’s final, but I stand by my statement.
Again, even if we’d lost, I think I would feel the same way.
I listened to it on the radio, first at home and then in the car when I had to go out. And then I took my phone into the shops with me, my ear glued to the radio as I blindly wandered the aisles unaware of where I was or what I had gone to buy.
It was a great game. Dramatic, gripping, even on the radio. I couldn’t tear myself away.
During one of the breaks, the commentators talked about the people who were writing in to say they had pulled their cars over to the side of the road because they weren’t watching what they were doing.
And they also talked about someone on a street corner in downtown Toronto who had been watching the game on their phone when the crowd gathered around them – strangers – and started watching over their shoulder. When Poulin scored that final goal, all those strangers cheered, jumped up and down and hugged each other.
I love the picture of national pride that paints.
I don’t think Canada had that kind of pride 35 years ago when I was a kid.
I’m glad we do now. And I’m glad it is a part of my son’s childhood. It’s something he’s picked up on. Even before he watched the women win gold, he was walking around the house cheering for Wickenheiser, Spooner, Johnston. Heroes.
And he stood with pride as they sang the national anthem from the podium, as the words rang out around the arena.
The next morning, I was at his school and kids and teachers alike seemed to belt out O Canada with greater passion than usual. My son turned to smile at me partway through and I knew he was thinking of the hockey women.
That is what is so enthralling about the Olympics. And it’s moments like that that have led me to write to you about how much I’ve been enjoying the Olympics, rather than how I haven’t been watching.