Friday, August 15, 2008

Oh, Canada

After seven days of competition in Beijing, Canada's national team was locked in a 153-way tie for 53rd place in medals at the Olympics.

Which is essentially a convoluted way of saying dead-last.

Canada, one of the world's largest and wealthiest countries, brought 332 athletes to China and has - literally - nothing to show for it but jet lag and some neat scrapbooks. Canadian swimmer Mike Brown has come the closest to bring home the bronze, finishing fourth in the 200-meter breaststroke. Meanwhile, countries like Togo, Tajikistan, Vietnam and Denmark had already produced at least one medal-stand moment.

Naturally, Canada performs much better during the Winter Games (which they will host in 2010 in Vancouver) than during the quadrennial summer version. But no medals? In anything? What gives?

This ineptitude hasn't escaped the notice of Canada journalists and other Olympic observers. This guy, for instance, considers this medal shutout a symptom of some larger societal decline. He refers to a "particular incestuous culture, that chooses mediocrity over pursuing excellence." That seems like a bit of hyperbole but there's got to be a kernel of truth in there, somewhere.

Maybe the problems all started in 1988 with Ben Johnson, who once raced to the title of "world's fastest man" and now is renowned as the man at the center of the largest Olympic doping scandal in history.

Johnson seems to have never really recovered from that swift fall from grace. Canada, too.

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