Last week while driving home I was listening to Lawrence Ben-Eliezer on AM640 lament the corporate and political motivations behind the Olympics. Specifically, he was disgusted that the Olympics feel like a two-week long advertising bonanza where corporate sponsors get to inundate the masses with feel-good commercials. While I felt he was being overly cynical, I generally agreed with him. On the political side of things, there was a lot of hand-wringing by the media over many elements that threatened to derail the Olympics before they even began: the threat of terrorism from the caucuses, Russia’s human rights abuses towards the LGBT community, the corrupt Russian plutocracy, the state of Sochi itself, and so on.
Now that the Olympics are over I feel many of these issues didn’t really matter, or at least didn’t define the Sochi games as they potentially could have. Nothing overly terrible happened in Sochi that will be blight on Olympic experience when we look back. I think we will look back on Sochi as a great Olympics despite some of the early gaffes. Sure the Olympics are practically owned by giant multi-national corporations like McDonalds, Visa, Budweiser, Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola, but as a viewer the actual companies and their products didn’t really seem that prevalent. After seeing Budweiser’s commercial for the Red Zeppelin that lit up whenever Canada scored a goal, I didn’t want to go out and buy a case of beer, I wanted to see Canada win. After Proctor & Gamble commercial celebrated Canadian moms, I didn’t want to buy laundry detergent, I wanted to hug my mom. All these commercials focused on stoking the fire of Canadian nationalism. As a Canadian, it felt nice to spend two to three weeks awash in nationalistic propaganda. We are generally a humble nation who are not prone to gloating or celebrating ourselves and our accomplishments, so it really felt good to be constantly engaged in this spectacle of pride.
It also felt good to turn on the news and see stories about Canadians that were inspiring. Too often the news focuses on crime, corrupt politicians, revolution, and useless celebrity stories. Having two full weeks of Olympic coverage was a nice break from hearing endless about Rob Ford and Justin Beiber. Between endless commercials celebrating Canadians and news coverage about the triumphs of our amazing athletes, I couldn’t help but feel great about Canada as a whole. This stoking of nationalism isn’t just about celebrating our athletes; it’s about corporate advertising helping us to mold our national identity. The “We Are Winter” rallying cry and hashtag created by the Canadian Olympic Committee was a perfect slogan to unite us.
On the projection front, Canada couldn’t have looked better. One of the best things about being Canadian is our status and reputation around the world for being humble, polite and generous. As a citizen of the world, Canadians are generally welcome everywhere. Even American’s are known for stitching a maple leaf to their travel bags so they can piggyback on our stellar reputation when they venture outside their boarders. Our athletes, coaches and Olympic delegation are our faces to the world and they were fantastic representatives. They were inspiring, generous, supportive, beautiful and most importantly competitors. We owned the podium pretty damn well this time around.
To top it all off, the Olympics culminated in the men winning the gold in hockey. As a final reminder of how gracious we can be even in victory, shortly after the game ended the hashtag #hardtotrashtalkSweden was trending across Twitter in Canada.
So, thank you corporate sponsors and partners of the Olympics for reminding us who are, for making us feel pride, and for allowing us to celebrate ourselves.
We were winter. Now back to reality.