Olympic flame ignited patriotism

Just Saying by Paul Sullivan published in Metro Canada

You could write 2010 off as another year when bad things happened to good people.

That’s how it started, with the earthquake in Haiti, which gets more than its fair share of terrible disasters, natural and otherwise.

Meanwhile, bad people continued to do bad things: Hugh Hefner’s engagement to a woman 60 years his junior, for example. Or Lady Gaga’s meat dress: One giant leap for bad taste.

But 2010 was different enough to warrant a footnote in Sullivan’s Brief History Of The World. It all started with the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The U.K. media were primed to slam dunk Vancouver right from the get-go. The Economist routinely picks Vancouver as the best city in world, which mystifies Londoners who have yet to hear the bad news about the British Empire.

It didn’t look good for the home team, faced with a tragic accident, melting venues and broken down buses. “The worst Olympics ever!” crowed the London crowd, prematurely, it turned out. By the end, John Furlong and VANOC had composed a triumph: Canada won a record number of gold medals; it stopped raining and Vancouver lifted its veil to an enchanted world. And if you believe Furlong, the Games broke even.

Furlong has earned the right to be believed. While the jackals were barking, he rallied his troops to overcome opening jitters. What started as the worst will be remembered as the best, and how’s that for a turn of events?

Canadians, even jaded hockey millionaires, dug deep into their reserves to come up with the performances of their lives. But speaking of deep, how about those Chilean miners? Somehow, 33 men survived 69 days buried deep under 700 metres of rock. Just writing the words sends chills up my spine. All 33 survived and emerged, dignity (almost) intact despite overwhelming media scrutiny. If that’s not a triumph of the will, I don’t know what is.

Magic comes in threes: Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, took on the might of the American Empire, which, while weakened by the foibles of Hugh Hefner and Lady Gaga, is still a formidable outfit. Assange struck a blow for freedom of expression, honesty and transparency, and seeing as the U.S. government is founded on those principles, at least in principle, there’s not much it can do. Except maybe try to get him convicted on trumped-up sex charges in Sweden.

I can hardly wait for the sequel. 2011? Bring it on.

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