Winter games edition

Ah, Canada. A colleague at work suggested I remind them  that they’re a loft apartment above a really great party. But I can’t  help but think it feels more like the next day, we Americans have a raging hangover, while Canada’s cooking up a particularly fine-smelling brunch. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve invited us ...

By , the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media.
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images

Ah, Canada. A colleague at work suggested I remind them  that they're a loft apartment above a really great party. But I can't  help but think it feels more like the next day, we Americans have a raging hangover, while Canada's cooking up a particularly fine-smelling brunch. And wouldn't you know it, they've invited us up. 
 
So,  a few observations from my recent visit to Vancouver during the Olympics:

1) They're a very, very happy bunch, these  Canadians, and generally sorry to see us go. I heard nary a complaint about  the traffic, the soggy weather, the two-hour line to get into the Irish house, the mint, and the Olympic superstore. They love the notion, quite unexpected, that the entire world came to visit them. Americans get gentle ribbing, but for folks from anywhere else (the Czech Republic, really? Here in Vancouver?)  -- backslapping and applause.
 
2) Though, to be fair, the  Canadians (from all over the country) vastly outnumber everyone else  here. And many of the Americans present are attached to some corporate  sponsor (NBC, Coca-Cola, Visa, and guests of guests of guests) -- more Madison  Square Garden than Wrigley Field. It's an expensive ticket and most  Americans have decided 2010 is the year to remember what it's like to save a  couple of bucks. So while the TV coverage tends to show a fair number of  American flags (they're in front of the cameras... in those corporate seats), the loud, proud crowds are Canadian.   

3) It's a  fantastic display of Canadian pride here in Vancouver, yes. But keep in  mind the reserved Canadian context. Looking at the homes lining Granville Street coming into town from the airport, about 10 percent are flying maple leaf  flags. For apartments in the city center -- less than 5 percent. Those numbers are up  for cars around the city center -- but that's self-selecting for folks that  want to come downtown during the Olympics.

Ah, Canada. A colleague at work suggested I remind them  that they’re a loft apartment above a really great party. But I can’t  help but think it feels more like the next day, we Americans have a raging hangover, while Canada’s cooking up a particularly fine-smelling brunch. And wouldn’t you know it, they’ve invited us up. 
 
So,  a few observations from my recent visit to Vancouver during the Olympics:

1) They’re a very, very happy bunch, these  Canadians, and generally sorry to see us go. I heard nary a complaint about  the traffic, the soggy weather, the two-hour line to get into the Irish house, the mint, and the Olympic superstore. They love the notion, quite unexpected, that the entire world came to visit them. Americans get gentle ribbing, but for folks from anywhere else (the Czech Republic, really? Here in Vancouver?)  — backslapping and applause.
 
2) Though, to be fair, the  Canadians (from all over the country) vastly outnumber everyone else  here. And many of the Americans present are attached to some corporate  sponsor (NBC, Coca-Cola, Visa, and guests of guests of guests) — more Madison  Square Garden than Wrigley Field. It’s an expensive ticket and most  Americans have decided 2010 is the year to remember what it’s like to save a  couple of bucks. So while the TV coverage tends to show a fair number of  American flags (they’re in front of the cameras… in those corporate seats), the loud, proud crowds are Canadian.   

3) It’s a  fantastic display of Canadian pride here in Vancouver, yes. But keep in  mind the reserved Canadian context. Looking at the homes lining Granville Street coming into town from the airport, about 10 percent are flying maple leaf  flags. For apartments in the city center — less than 5 percent. Those numbers are up  for cars around the city center — but that’s self-selecting for folks that  want to come downtown during the Olympics.

4) Hockey. With  the United States demolishing Finland 6-0 after one period, we were looking to  run up the score… and hoping for a few fights with the demoralized  Finns — particularly the brawler Olli Jokinen, who looks like a cross between a  speed metal rocker and a thunderdome villain. 

With the  Canadians up 3-0 against the Slovaks in the opposing semifinals, the Canadians  were rooting for the Slovaks to get a goal. After all, you don’t want to  humiliate these folks. Then they did… and then another… and then I’ve  never seen a collective panic like the Canadians experienced the last minute  of that game.

Which led to the finals, an extraordinary  breathless finale to the games.  Honestly, the Canadians made me want to  root for them, especially once the match went to overtime.  In part  because I don’t care that much about hockey. But mostly because I’d  spent a few lovely days in Vancouver, and it seemed the decent thing to do.  
 
* * *
 
P.S. The most-quoted Canadian I’ve seen  — after winning the gold, curling skipper Kevin Martin, at 43, pleased as  punch to win his gold medal, but reminding the interviewer that his silver  back in 2002 was a really, really big deal.  South of the border, we  might have a think on that.  

Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. He is also the host of the television show GZERO World With Ian Bremmer. Twitter: @ianbremmer

Tag: Sports

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