Feb 262014
Senior Olympics torch lighting
Olympics: Bringing the world together or fostering nationalism?

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games are now over. Russia won the most gold medals, a total of 13, following by Norway with 11, Canada 10, and the United States 9.

I am not a sports fan. I rarely watch sporting events on television. But it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the Olympics. I watch bits and pieces of the games. Pride wells up when I watch the Canadian team march into the stadium at Opening or Closing Ceremonies and when I hear about a Canadian medal win.

In addition to spawning national pride, the Olympics often spawn community mini-versions of the Games in a spirit of fun. Schools may hold their own games. The two-day Senior Olympics in the 55+ community I am wintering in was made up of twelve events, including bean bag toss, basketball shoot and billiards to name a few. There was also a dessert Olympics.

The five interlaced rings of the Olympic logo represent the union of five continents. Yet, in spite of the global reach of the games, each country adopts a local, national perspective.

As a Canadian wintering in the United States, I found network coverage focused on U.S. athletes. Yes, the figure skating, skiing, and snowboarding coverage showed all countries, but interviews and focus was on U.S. athletes. Was Canadian curling covered at all? The final game of men’s hockey, between Canada and Sweden, was broadcast live. I may be one of the few Canadians who didn’t watch it. I slept in.

My sister told me of vacationing in France during one of the summer Olympic Games. Coverage there focused on French and German athletes. She saw nothing about Canadian or U.S. competitors.

I learned about highlights of Canadian competition in the 2014 winter games through friends’ posts on social media and other online news stories.Canadian Broadcasting Corporation coverage of the Games was live-streamed on the Internet and available through video replay. But not for me. Because my IP address was outside of Canada, the video stream was blocked.

One of the goals of Olympism is building peace through sport. It’s a noble sentiment, although I’m not sure how sport can accomplish something that has eluded mankind for centuries. And I wonder how limiting a country’s coverage to within its own borders works towards that goal. But counting medals has to be better than counting casualties.

What are your thoughts on the Olympics and their relevance in our world?

  One Response to “Olympic Nationalism”

  1. The olympics are wonderful, and expensive. They are over too soon.

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