For various reasons, no one can rightly argue that the Vancouver 2010 Olympics were anything less than fantastic. We truly “owned the podium” in our success with the gold medal count, and proved to the international community that our athletes are a force to be reckoned with. Much of this has to do with the government finally realizing the positive potential of financially backing our athletes, a process that has been a long time coming, and one that will continue, as recently announced in the new federal budget.
The combination of home location, and the performance of Canadian athletes, led to an outburst of red and white in the streets of Vancouver, and across the country. People were vying for the signature red mitts, scouring the Bay and Zellers to see what they could get. There were stories of places being sold out, or having sent any remaining inventory to the west coast, where Olympic fever reached its pitch. The media commented on the unlikelihood of witnessing this patriotism on any other occasion than the first of July, and how it was a refreshing sight to see.
And yet, in the afterglow of a hugely successful Olympics, we are left to wonder – how long will this Canadian patriotism last? Will those hoodies, toques, and mitts be abandoned to the dark corners of closets and drawers, only to be taken out for our national birthday? Or will we proudly sport our Canadiana no matter what time of year it is? Will our colours come out of the wood work for the 2012 Olympics in London? Most of us know the advantages of wearing a Canadian flag overseas, but what about the advantages of wearing it here?
Some people believe that this Olympics has forged a new identity for Canadians. It reiterated a few old, but great stereotypes – that we are the best nation when it comes to hockey, for example – and reignited a passion for a community connected by its successes and by its challenges. So how will we continue to show our connectness in the days, months, and years to come?
This is not to say that our patriotism must be worn on our sleeves; there are so many other things that make us Canadian, besides a pair of red mitts with a white maple leaf. We signify good citizenship, peacemaking, and a respect for other cultures, just to name a few. But these things all start somewhere and perhaps for now, as small or insignificant as it may seem, that somewhere is a smile shared by strangers who pass each other on the street, wearing the red and white.