Monday, March 01, 2010

Lesson for Canada from the Olympics: Think Big!

With the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at an end, YVR likely a madhouse, and Canadians across the country calling in sick with hockey hangovers, the post-mortems on the games will inevitably begin.

All in all, I think these games were an incredible success. There were hiccups – the weather, fencing the flame. And the unfortunate death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili reminded the world of the fine edge athletes straddle between control and chaos. But we welcomed the world and showed them not just the Canada they knew but a new Canada: warm but proud, cooperative but competitive. Gracious hosts, but determined to own the podium.

Part of the port-mortem will involve the Own the Podium (OTP) program, which funnels extra funding to elite athletes and was cited by many of our Canadian medal winners as a major factor in their victories. And with so many fourth and fifth places, many more had the podium in their grasp. The federal funding is up for renewal, and is expected to be cut in next week’s Conservative budget.

The Canadian Olympic Committee (CoC) and OTP set ambitious, some would say foolhardy, goals going into Vancouver: they wanted to win the medal count. Mid-games, as it appeared we would fall spectacularly short, the predictable national hand-wringing began. But as the final five days came, where Canada had its strongest events, the medal rush began to flow.

In the end, that ambitious goal wasn’t reached. We finished third in the medal count behind the Germans and the first-place Americans, who set an Olympic medal record. But we did set a record of our own though, the most gold medals ever won in a Winter Olympic Games, and that’s a pretty impressive achievement for the little country that could, up against the global sports powerhouses.

Some will say we erred in setting such ambitious goals. That we should have under-promised and over-delivered. I’d change the OTP name, but otherwise I say nonsense to the naysayers.

We should set big goals. We should have big dreams. We should have our heads in the clouds and our eyes on the stars. Being ambitious is good. Daring ourselves to overachieve is good. Go big or go home, I say.

It may not be the Canadian thing to do. At least not lately. But if the Olympics teach us anything, if there is a lasting legacy besides a beautiful speed skating oval in Richmond or the speedy Canada Line, I hope it’s to encourage Canadians to dream big dreams, to set big goals, to dare to imagine the impossible and then strive to reach for it with all our might.

To segue that into politics, it’s time to begin looking beyond the now. Past the next confidence vote, the next budget, the next minority, the next few years. It’s time to think about the future of Canada, about where we want to go as a country. It’s time for Canadians, and for our political leaders, to be ambitious. Be bold. Be daring. Inspire us. Dare Canadians to dream big, to think big.

Macdonald envisioned a continental railway linking a sparsely-populated and vast wilderness from coast to coast. King envisioned a national broadcaster and airline to bring us closer together. Pearson envisioned health care and dignity in old age for every Canadian.

Where are our Macdonalds, our Kings, our Pearsons today?

Yes, we face challenges today. But we can’t remain always fixated in the here and now, for there have always been challenges, and there always will be. But we can’t let the challenges of today stop us from looking to the promise of tomorrow.

Hopefully, the Liberal-organized Canada at 150 conference in a few weeks in Montreal will try to seize that challenge. Hopefully the other political parties, and Canadians at large, will also look to challenge us again with big ideas and big challenges.

Let the next election be fought in the marketplace of ideas. Competing big visions, big dreams for the country, a national debate on the future of our great nation. A fight to inspire us, not to divide us. Wouldn't that be a welcome change?

Let’s think big, Canada. Let’s be ambitious, let’s be daring, let’s surprise ourselves with what we can imagine and achieve, together.

It’s time to Think Big, Canada!

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers

No comments: