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Hey, it’s okay to be grumpy about the Olympics

February 11th, 2010 · 18 Comments

I heard the cheering and shouting near my house this afternoon so I, like many others in the neighbourhood, ran out to watch the torch-runner go by. It was weepiness-inducing to see school kids and little old ladies and people being pushed in wheelchairs hustle along our NDP-voting eastside streets to wave flags and cheer as the torch-runner, some young girl, jogged past us.

But in spite of that — and in spite of the fact that I finally went online this week and bought a ticket at five times the list price to see a figure-skating practice, something I’ll be going to by myself because I couldn’t talk anyone else into it — I feel it’s important to say that it’s okay to feel grumpy, whiny, cranky or any other negative emotion about the Games.

Yes, I love the enthusiasm and the sense of fun and the people roaming around town in all their multi-coloured uniforms, which I got to see when I walked downtown to do my regular CKNW appearance this week. But I really don’t enjoy all the hyper-ventilating boosters who think that you have to LOOOOVE everything about this mega-event or you’re a bad Canadian.

More than one person I’ve talked to has commented to me how happy they will be when the Games are over — not because of the traffic issues or the media madness or any of the other negatives — but because we won’t have to listen to all these Chamber of Commerce types constantly telling how how great the Games are and how they’ll salvage our limping economy and how awful it is that anyone would complain or protest against them. Some days, I feel like I’m in McCarthy’s America (“Do you have now or have you ever had any negative thoughts about the Olympics?”).

The reality is that many of us are ambivalent. There are parts we like and parts that make us feel like we’re being taken for suckers or that some weird group of hostile aliens (aka VANOC) has taken over my city.

My feelings were validated this afternoon when Angus Reid came out with a poll, which you can read here, saying that people have mixed feelings. They like the athletes; they can’t stand the people who are running the Games. They see some benefits, but they also worry about the long-term costs — and not just how many years it will take to pay off the Olympic village condos. They agree with Olympics opponents that money is being wasted, but they don’t want protesters disrupting the Games.

And that’s fine. It’s mindless to think the Games are all good or all bad. They’re complex events and we’re right to enjoy what’s enjoyable and be critical of what’s been badly done. Maybe our whining and griping will have an influence on the next Games that are put on or the ones after. That would would be a pretty good outcome actually.

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