Not just about medals

Adam Williams, Sports Editor  Ω

Few would dispute that spectator sports are all about winning.

Fans gather together to watch a sporting event, pinning their hopes on their favourite team, and for most it’s not so much about seeing a good game or a few fantastic plays, it’s about seeing the “right team” emerge victorious.

For the owners, executives, managers, and coaches of these teams it’s the same story — their livelihoods depend on their team securing enough wins each year to be considered successful. After all, spectator sports are really nothing more than a business nowadays, and successful teams are better business. With each new season hopes are renewed that this might be “the year” and organizations put together marketing campaigns aimed at attracting fans to games to support the home team. In a way, it’s sort of sad that the sports that we played for fun as children are reduced to nothing more than a job, where the focus is on becoming bigger, faster, stronger, and to make as much money as possible.

However, there is one event that’s the exception to the rule in spectator sports. It’s an event that doesn’t buy into the monetary rewards and business like approach that is so prevalent in the rest of the sporting community, which is arguably its most redeeming quality.

I’m talking, of course, about the Olympic Games.

As a sports fan it has taken me a while to realize that the Olympics, as an event, are an entirely different animal.

Sure, everyone wants to see their country do well, but the medal standings aren’t the most important part of the games. It’s no longer just about winning and losing, it’s about an athlete getting the opportunity to represent his or her country on the world’s greatest stage.

It’s about seeing childhood dreams come true, putting years of hard work, sacrifice, and training to the test. It’s about the world’s countries putting aside their differences for 16 days and showing that there is potential for us to all exist together in this world. And aside from minor sports, the Olympics are the only time beyond the sports we played as children where the fact that an athlete tried and did his or her best really does count for something.

For a long time I was frustrated by Canada’s performance at the games — especially the summer games. I wanted to see Canada win, and like it or not I was not all that impressed with bronze medals or fourth-place finishes.

But something shifted for me this year watching the games in London. Instead of being disappointed by third and fourth place finishes I was instead proud of our athletes.

Sure, when I saw that they were clearly disappointed in the outcome of their event my heart went out to them, but more and more I came to realize that just being at the Olympics is an achievement to be proud of. Winning medals, setting records, landing endorsement deals — that’s all just secondary. These people represented Canada in the world’s premier sporting event and nothing can ever take that away.

When I saw the Canadian women win the bronze medal in soccer, it was a proud moment.

Sure, the soccer pitch has seen its share of controversy during the games and Canada arguably got a raw deal in the semis versus the Americans, but when that final buzzer went and Canada had won the bronze medal, the emotions those women were feeling were clear: elation, relief, pride.

So who am I to say that bronze isn’t good enough, that we should be striving for gold and nothing less? Who am I to take that feeling of jubilation away from those athletes? I’m the guy sitting on his couch watching the game, not the woman who has made countless sacrifices and worked her butt off to push Canada to its best Olympic finish in women’s soccer, so who am I to be disappointed with Bronze.

So yes, when I turn on the TV and watch the recap of the day’s events, I would love to see Canada raking in the medals, but I no longer see it as the be all, end all of the Games.

Instead, I now try and focus on all the positive things that the Olympics represent: the power sport has to unite people, the importance of national pride and support for our athletes, and the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.

These people have devoted their entire lives towards representing Canada, largely for our entertainment, the least we can do as a country is be proud of them no matter what.

So congratulations Team Canada, on yet another wonderful showing at the Olympics. I look forward to watching you in action again, just two short years from now.