By Theresa Wells
Once every few years people in our community and our country come together to celebrate a little event called the Olympic Games. These games are often seen as sport-centric, and of course they are as they are all about sports and excelling in the athlete’s sport of choice – but they are about far more, too. The Olympic Games are about the human spirit, about our drive to succeed and about coming together as community.
Over the last two weeks I have watched as our little community in the far reaches of northern Alberta bonded over an event that was happening on the other side of the world. The television coverage of the events, which occurred very early in our time zone, captured the attention of those on my Facebook timeline and Twitter feeds. Status updates and tweets about the games dominated my social media for days, keeping me up to date on medal counts, athletes who succeeded in achieving their goals and those who fell short on that particular day. The time of day didn’t seem to matter to those who were watching the Olympic Games in Sochi. It seemed even the events didn’t matter, as friends would comment about how they weren’t really into a specific sport but were watching it anyhow, glued to the event as if the fate of the world hinged on the outcome.
It was even more fascinating to observe while in the concourse at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre at MacDonald Island, where people would stop and grab a chair in front of the television screens to sit for a bit and watch luge or figure skating, skiing or hockey. They would sit almost motionless except for when medal winning times or performances were posted, at which point they would erupt into cheers – and I thought the same thing every single time. I thought “Oh, Canada”.
We are not a nation known for loud or boisterous patriotism, and yet we are so deeply and profoundly proud of what we are. We stand behind those who represent us, whether they are athletes or astronauts, and we claim them as our own. We hold them close to us in victory or defeat, and we trumpet their successes while we comfort them in times of failure. We rally round our winners – and we rally around our losers, too. And while we rally around them we rally around each other.
Sports aren’t just about athletics, you see. They are about communities, because just as it takes a village to raise a child it takes a community to help young athletes pursue their dreams. Our communities come together to create sports leagues and venues where young athletes can train and compete. Our communities are made of individuals who volunteer to coach from the time our young athletes are just starting out, often in the single-digit ages, right until they are ready to move into the hands of professional coaches. Our communities support our athletes by coming out to their events, by cheering them on, and by providing words of encouragement on days when things don’t go as hoped. Our communities rally around them, and in doing so our communities become stronger, too, forging bonds based on a mutual respect and admiration for our young athletes who are following their dreams and pursuing their goals. Our communities even watch them on television screens as they compete in countries far away, and in an entirely different time zone.
The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi culminated this week in the Men’s Gold Medal Hockey Game, which was played at an hour when most in this country would still be in bed on a Sunday. Instead thousands of us gathered in bars and pubs and restaurants which opened early just for the event, and hundreds of thousands more, like me, curled up on a sofa in our pajamas with a cup of coffee and our loved ones gathered around (in my case a cat on one side and a dog on the other, both blinking at me with puzzled bleary eyes about why we were watching television so very early). And across this country, when the time ran out on the clock, we stood together and cheered and shouted and I think most of us thought the same thing.
I think we thought “Oh, Canada”, because what else is there to say about a country where we come together in good times and in bad, and where we celebrate together in the wee hours of the morning over a hockey game played in a country across the world? What else is there to say about a country where our entire community comes together and becomes sports fans, even if just for two weeks every few years? Oh Canada, how proud we are of thee.
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