Citius, Altius, Superficialis

The 2014 Winter Olympics are entering their home stretch, and like a dutiful Canadian, I have been following along faithfully. But this time out I haven’t found it as easy to be swept up in the fervour of the games. Whether this stems from me now being older than most of the athletes competing or just a generally advancing crotchetiness I can’t say.

The Olympics always seem to catalyze a period where jingoism and hand wringing about national self-worth abounds—at least in Canada. Just as new parents are desperate to find evidence that their baby is “remarkable” through trivial accomplishments like holding his head up or rolling over before his peers, so too do insecure patriots ascribe too much importance to winning medals in obscure and arcane events. At times, it’s as though a country’s merits are self-evident if it takes home the bronze in two-man luge, but in doubt if it only gets fourth. This has on occasion led to the mind-blowing spectre of competitors “apologizing” to their countrymen if their performances leave them short of the podium—or sometimes on the podium but short of its top.

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