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By: Chris Burke

I have no love for the Olympics.  On the very basic level this stems from the fact that I could care less about sport.  I appreciate and hold great respect for those athletes who’ve dedicated countless hours to perfecting their performances.  I do not wish to diminish their efforts in any way, but what they do is not for me.   Of course, a blog post on why I don’t enjoy sports would be a) very short; and b) unrelated to the issues covered by this blog.

My dislike of the Games does run deeper than a disinterest in sport.  It is difficult for me to separate the politics from the games.  I find it hard to cheer and celebrate knowing how the Games have a tendency to hurt economies, force people out of neighbourhoods for the sake of the image of the Games, and the absurd security measures, such as those witnessed at London 2012.

I’m unsure of why my co-editor, Alexandra Savilo “scoffs” when someone mentions the Games are politicised.  Scoffs at what, exactly?  I presume it’s because “politicized” is often used in a negative context.  As it should.   We should be concerned when athletic competition becomes politicized.  Underlying the spirit of athleticism at these games are disturbing trends of nationalism.

I don’t see the reason for celebrating the victory of a person who, by complete random chance, was born in the same arbitrary set of borderlines that the spectator was, yet this is the mentality promoted by the Olympics.  That we, as a nation, are somehow all better because of an individual or team’s efforts at a sporting event.  How exactly does someone running along a track or performing a dive represent the nation as a whole?  What does this have to do with the “truth north strong and free”?

I say this, even as I write for a blog meant to engage youth in Canadian politics, that my national pride in Canada is very low (and no, it has little to do with a dislike for our current Prime Minister) so why fake that pride for the sake of cheering for some athletes from this country?  I’m all for celebrating athleticism for its own sake.  I see no purpose in celebrating it for nationalism.

While Savilo speaks of sports as important to many countries as an identity, I worry that we take this identity too far.  Yes, you can relate to others through this common identity, but taken too far this relation to one group turns into a dislike or even hatred of the other.  I had a friend who was accused of being an American after refusing to a high-five a stranger celebrating Canada’s gold medal in hockey.  Where’s the sense in that?

For all my grievances with the Games, I understand their importance, their role in bringing the world together.  A celebration of athletes and the global community is what is needed.  Put down the flags and start cheering for the athletes based on their talents, not their place of birth.

http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/aquatics/story/2012/07/29/sp-olympics-london-emilie-heymans-jennifer-abel-diving-womens-synchronized-3m-springboard.html

By: Alexandra Savilo

This morning when I got up I had other plans than to watch the Olympics. I had seen the Opening Ceremonies two nights previously, and apparently enough of a fire had not ignited within me to continue watching. In my head I kept repeating, “I’m not an athlete, I’ll follow the headlines though to keep up conversation with others”. Waiting for my mother to finish checking her emails before I could pop in a new episode of West Wing (I’m really behind, don’t judge), I flipped through the channels to find the end of women’s cycling and the end of women’s synchronised diving.

In a mere matter of seconds I was sucked in more than any vacuum cleaner can suck dirt off a floor. I’ve heard that many found the Opening Ceremonies pale in comparison to Beijing’s and that the games aren’t all that important. And I’ve heard time, and time again their reasons why. That the games are politicised, that they artificially and negatively affect the local economy, that they are exorbitant in every sense of the word.

But to me, when I saw Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel diving off the three-metre springboard this morning I was captivated. One of these girls is my age. Jennifer Abel has lived, breathed and been fed ambition and determination with her cereal every morning. She has worked her dream till no water was left in the sponge. She has entered the highest competition of her sport and is competing with people from all over the world who have been working equally as hard to fulfil their passions and goals.

When I hear that the games are politicised, I scoff. Of course they are, they always have been. Because to me politics is interchangeable with identity. A national identity cannot exist without politics. If politics, as defined by the dictionary means “the activities associated with the governance of a country or area” and national identity means a “person’s sense of belonging to a state or nation via symbols, culture, history, etc” then to me it seems like a clean and easy fit that the Olympics is both.

To explain it a bit more clearly, let me put it this way: sport is important to many, if not, most countries. It brings together people of all walks of life to work together, cheer together, and deal with issues together. It’s one thing to like a sport and another to say “I’m a basketball fan” or “I’m a Habs girl”. You begin to identify yourself, to define yourself by those qualities and others can relate, associate with you better knowing it. And I find that one of the main reasons why is because people take the time to understand the sport, the players, the way things work. People may find the politics behind federal and provincial government at times overwhelming, bureaucratic and at times stupidly complicated, but sport seems to be a basic and extremely strong bond which can easily tie a great many people. It’s something people know hard work will prove to success, and it’s something that can easily be counted on. The Olympics, held every four years, is this national identity held at a global level. It is the hard work of millions to work together and reward those who have spent every waking moment of their lives pursuing their dreams. Some of our jobs don’t give us gold medals, sometimes, all we get is a salary. And there is something to be said where hundreds of thousands put their salaries, their rewards together to cheer a 20 year old and a 31 year old dream team of swimmers who have worked themselves to the bone to represent themselves, their dreams, their nation to the world. They may not have brought home the gold, but they brought home the spirit, and revive it bit by bit every time we play.

And that, is why, I will always love the Olympics.

Congratulations to Emilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel, Canadian bronze medal winners of the three-metre springboard synchronised dive. May the true north remain strong and free.