I understand that it’s easy for people to be cynical about the Olympics. Corporations spending millions to associate themselves with sport, governments bribing officials and spending tax dollars, and athletes cheating all contribute to an event that perhaps doesn’t live up to the billing.
What I observed when the torch relay passed through Canmore was none of these things. I saw world champion athletes and rec athletes mixing together on the street. I saw wide-eyed children and emotional grandparents straining to see the flame. I saw torch bearers laughing and yelling to cheering friends and family waiting on the route. The torch made its way downtown where a regular party was going on. Natives from the nearby reserve were dressed in full regalia, torch bearers mingled in the throng getting their pictures taken with just about everyone, sled dogs were patiently being mauled by toddlers, local musicians played over a loudspeaker and everyone had a wonderful time. Some Japanese tourists were beaming from ear to ear when we gave them our flag to hold when they got their picture taken with one of the torches.
As much as corporate and state interests try to hijack the Olympics, they will always just be a caboose to the experiences of real people. It’s true, Coke and RBC had giant floats blasting music and handing out promotional material preceding the torch runners (after all they paid for the torch run!) But everyone’s experience consisted of connecting to something else. No one lining the streets thought that Coke was the event. They were too busy being proud of their friends, family and neighbors. The event was all about people, and no corporate agenda took that away from anyone.