Many of us over these two weeks are glued to our TV or computer screens, trying to catch a glimpse of glory for our Canadian athletes, or simply taking in the competition and enjoying sports rarely seen at other times of the year. For many, the Olympics are a source of national pride, for others, a political and ethical minefield.
For a historical look at the Olympic games, see Gerald Schaus and Stephen Wenn’s Onward to the Olympics, a collection that bridges the historical divide between the ancient and the modern, discussing the origins of the games and some of the troubles that have plagued the modern games, such as financing such a large event, and the participation (or the troubling lack of it) by women.
Marusya Bociurkiw addresses the topic of the Olympics from the perspective of affect theory, looking at how the games inform our national pride and general sense of “Canadian-ness,” albeit a nostalgic view of Canada and its “national domestic hearth, a national family, and walls to keep the warmth and family in and the cold and foreigners out” (Applegate 22). The trope of “believe” as proliferated by the theme song and multiple-times-daily advertising, turned the Vancouver games into site of faith. Not watching the games became unpatriotic. Bociurkiw says, “those of us who maintained our activist stance about the games found ourselves shunned by more than one Facebook friend or sports fan.” For more on this topic, be sure to check out Feeling Canadian: Television, Nationalism, and Affect, by Marusya Bociurkiw.
The contributors to Imagining Resistance: Visual Culture and Activism in Canada, edited by J. Keri Cronin and Kirsty Robinson, present a history of radical artistic practice in Canada. Kirsten Forkert’s chapter considers a number of actions that have been organized against the Olympics in Beijing, Vancouver, and London. “Although actions against the Beijing Olympics tended to conglomerate around human rights issues and the presence of China in Tibet, Forkert notes that there is often an assumption that liberal democratic countries such as Canada and England are ‘innocent,’ and that the Olympics in these locations tend to be seen as celebrations of fun, pride, and the human spirit. Not so, argues Forkert, who participated in a series of actions designed to highlight theway that the building of Olympic venues can obliterate poor neighbourhoods, and, in the case of Vancouver, misappropriate Native customs for purposes of grand spectacle” (Cronin and Robertson 15).
And, finally, going into our backlist for Olympics commentary, Andrew Wernick details in “Canada, the Olympics, and the Ray-Ban Man” (from Slippery Pastimes, edited by Joan Nicks and Jeannette Sloniowski) how Curt Harnett’s role of spokesman for Ray-Ban during the Atlanta Olympics, portrayed the famous sunglasses not only as excellent, but transformed them into a “proud bit of Canada.”