Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner August 12, 2021
These lovely July-August days in Peterborough, I have been hunkered down inside, watching hours of Olympics 2020 (a year late, but retaining the date of the original), from Japan. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of us, but adjustments have been made. Some fans I know stayed up most of the night to catch some game.
The Olympic competitions, well communicated on many platforms to Canadians even if they were” live” at ungodly hours, have been compensation for us no-cottages, no road-trips, people. I loved those “while you were sleeping” reports.
They’ve been worth it.
I maintain a critique of the huge amounts of money spent, the foolish planning that costs a country billions and leaves venues abandoned, and the International Olympic Committee's weak drug punishment policy.
But in the moment (or three weeks) of the Games themselves, all is redeemed. The grace and talent of the 11,000 athletes from 200 countries who were there, the displays of sportsmanship, as in the men’s high-jump winners agreeing to share the Gold, the education about Japan offered to a global audience, and the chance to admire Canadians from all parts of the country shine, made whole-hearted participation in these Olympics worth my time. Canadian athletes were modest, articulate and impressive. They are so NICE.
That “nice” thing is an international joke, but in this Olympics it was true. Consider Maggie MacNeil to start, then Penny, Andre, Jennifer, Maude and Damian, Mo, Christine, and Georgia (heptathlete). Consider the nine women, whose names we hardly know, who took rowing gold. The almost-winners: Rosie and Aaron and Ellie, the long-distance sisters named Stafford, the paddlers, the men’s volleyball team.
I salute Sport Canada and the intense Marni McBean, head of mission.
We also got a bit of education in mental health matters from honest athletes.
To a feminist, it provided much to celebrate. Sixty percent of the athletes were female. In enlightened countries, women are given now equal funding. Our affable chief commentator, CBC’s Scott Russell, remembers 1988, when fewer than one quarter of the athletes were women. This time, 17 of our 23 medals were Canadian women.
On the downside, the sexualization of women’s bodies continued. Two women’s teams declined to wear the skintight bikini shorts and tops mandated by the Olympic Committee. What is that Committee thinking? Don’t they recognize sexism? In a world where violence against women is at epidemic levels?
The Norwegians were fined for choosing unitards. The governing body fails to see that the rule serves men’s leering. Heather Mallick in the Star wrote that in too many sports, it is “flesh, flash and frills.” Outfits are designed to “attract hateful attention from men.”
The German women followed in resistance. An American singer-songwriter named Pink offered to pay any fine levied. It led to a full discussion. Beach volleyball will have to adopt modesty in outfit rather than co-operate in exploitation.
Our Canadian team of 300 persons showed its many-hued composition, always a delight to see. One of our medal-winning women’s soccer players is transgender. The youth factor is healthy. So is the age factor: Christine Sinclair, captain of soccer, is 38, a marathoner, 41.
But let’s not be naive. The Olympics, once all amateur, are now professional and monied, with players like basketballer Kevin Durant coming from the NBA, and lucrative endorsements for medal winners. There are pros and cons in professional sports. I think we can tolerate and enjoy them, even point to those performers as examples of many virtues: patriotism, dedication, courage, and wholesome living.
Ultimately, our admiration for professional athletes should motivate us to become a fitter society. Being fans must not supplant our own fitness commitments and our valuing of amateur sport equally. My three sons, at mid-life, take part in rowing, ultimate frisbee and martial arts. And occasional beer-league hockey. They are all post-gold-medal-stage. Me, I bike over to yoga in the park most mornings, sponsored by Activity Haven. Not so hot over there under the trees, as in the Tokyo Stadium.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or from >Amazon<