Olympic Games can help unite Canadians

Whatever you were doing on Thursday, Feb. 20, I am going to bet you dropped it and watched the Canadian women’s curling team or the women’s hockey team, or both, slide to glory. 


Standing in The Western Producer newsroom, surrounded by co-workers while the women’s hockey team scored the winning goal in overtime, I was struck by this overwhelming sense that everyone in the country was doing the same thing. All of us were biting our nails, pacing the floor, pulling out our hair.


And finally, we threw our arms in the air, cheering.


It reminded me so much of that time at school, as a kid who really didn’t understand what was going on, when all of us gathered around a tiny, ancient black and white TV. It was raised on a stand so we short people could see it. 


It was Canada versus Russia. The words crackled out: “He shoots. He scores. Henderson.”


Who the heck was Henderson, I wondered. Only a national hero, it turned out. 


What was going on? Only a defining moment of my life, when my schoolmates and I, unknowingly and together, witnessed a historic event.


These Olympics have yielded many more of those moments, which all of us share, wherever we are: east, west, urban, rural, at work, at play.


And we have, to some extent, paid for these nationally binding moments. Sports funding has improved dramatically over the last 15 years, and we are reaping the results in gold, silver, bronze, personal bests and next champions.


I’m OK with that. It has always been a frustrating element of our nationhood that this country spans such a vast tract of geography. We are far-flung, ethnically diverse, split on politics, divided in understanding and economically uneven. It’s amazing we’re still together.


So when we can cheer for Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., population 5,500, and Hayley Wickenheiser of Shaunavon, Sask., population 1,700, and Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers of Kennedy, Sask., and Virden, Man., and everyone in be-tween, there is that powerful feeling that, together, we really do rock.


So let’s keep those rinks flooded, and community centres open, and those dreams alive. Sports are at the core of our communities; they bring us together at the micro level. Then, someday, they yield that macro, Go Canada feeling. There is nothing else like it.