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March 16, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright 2010. Used by permission.


The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics are now over, and most of the athletes, media, and tourists have left my home city. If the media (particularly British media) began by focusing primarily on negative issues, the drama of national teams, and individual athletes and overall medal counts seemed to drown out the naysayers, much as in Beijing two years ago. Both host countries came off as excellent hosts, and both host countries carried home unprecedented numbers of medals. If for China their Olympics had been a coming out party, an end to a century of general humiliation, for Canada these games were seen as an end to the humiliation of mediocrity: for having failed to win a single gold medal on home turf after twice hosting, in 1976 the Summer Games (Montreal) and in 1988 the Winter Games (Calgary). Canada, known as a country of nice people (A Fair Country, as John Raulston Saul recently called it in the title of his new book), has spent much of its history deferring to others, so when the Canadian Olympic Committee announced the “Own the Podium” program, investing $22.3 million dollars last year in winter sports training, Canadians and non-Canadians were surprised. Although Canada did not win the greatest number of medals, it finished third overall and set an Olympic record for the greatest number of gold medals ever won by a country in a winter Olympics. In 2008, China also dominated in gold medals without completely dominating in total medals. In both cases the extra investment and attention given the Olympics was judged to be important by some, and criticized by others.