In 1998, 3 Winter Olympics ago, Kid One flew to Nagano, Japan to work as a camera assist for CBS Television. Like every media person from every country, he was suited up in specific colours. Because he was working for an American network, it was swanky black and orange Nike garb. Very warm, very nice.
However, that was the year that Latvia, newly freed from Soviet control, sent its first team to the Olympics. And since my First Husband is 100% Latvian by birth, Kid One ranks at the 50% level. As a family, we all wept as we saw the Latvian flag bearer and a single athlete make their way into the Opening Ceremonies. Wearing the Latvian colours of burgundy and white, this tiny team represented the flame of political freedom.
And so Kid One was eager to trade his CBS gear for a Latvian uniform. I should tell you that this kind of uniform trading happens all the time… each person placing a value on something else for as many reasons as there are athletes.
However, for that Latvian athlete, the first freedom uniform was worth more than anything else, and in broken English and simple Latvian, the negotiations halted, and concluded with smiles. Totally understandable.
This Friday (tomorrow) at 9 pm as we gather in front of our television sets (or our iphones, or computers, or cineplex theatres) to watch the Opening Ceremonies here in our own country, the spirit that is modest Canadianism will cause gooseflesh and full hearts among many, most, all (?) of us. My family will be watching from separate locations this year… First Husband out at Whistler as a technical producer for the host broadcaster, Kid One at home with his own wee family taking an hour from his full time job; Kid Two likely at a bar with friends enjoying the spectacle; Kid Three with a new baby tucked under her arm, and the computer screen open because they don’t ‘watch tv.’
And me, sitting with a friend and our family’s ancient black lab, enjoying the creativity that is heralding everything wonderful about Vancouver and about this country.
How often can we set aside the borders and the barriers and revel in sheer sport? How often can we collectively mourn a missed downhill gate, or a fumbled jump, or a twirl that flagged? How often can we openly cheer for ourselves? How often can we make the decision that politics doesn’t matter, that borders are just lines in the sand, that the pursuit of excellence starts with the body and the mind and its collective determination?
Every four years we can do this!
While I’ll be focussed on the red and white, the glory of our athletes–many from this very region–I’ll also pause, heart in mouth, to celebrate that Latvian team, whose athletes now number in the dozens, and watch them revel in the freedom that we red-and-whites have always had.
I’m fortunate enough to be able to join my First Husband at Whistler for a week of podium watching in the middle of this month. You can bet there will be a column on that!
Enjoy Friday night. Enjoy the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. And if Canada is your country of choice, let the gooseflesh take over. And it’s completely understandable that you’ll be issuing a cheer for the country of your birth, too!
You can just tell that I believe!