Friday, August 29, 2008


The US Democratic Convention has ended with the expected dramatic speech by Barack Obama. It, plus the preceeding video created by the party, will hopefully go a long way in demonstrating Obama's background, experience, vision and leadership ability to those still unfamiliar or unconvinced American voters.

It was a momentous opportunity to witness an audience of 80,000+ in that Denver stadium, as well as the other enthusiastic gatherings around the country, celebrating the making of history. To see an event of that scale marking this new era in American politics is stunning - especially when we consider the rumoured upcoming Canadian federal election. What a contrast in style, impact, outcome and, frankly, inspiration.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the US from now until the election in November. Can't say that it will be anywhere near as compelling to participate in our own process though. Too bad.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Ok, so admittedly I've been watching a little too much television over the past week as the Olympics have been incredibly compelling.

Some more highlights:
Eric Lamaze (Lamazing!) winning gold with Hickstead after a well-known absence from Canada's equestrian team over the past 8 years. A wonderful story of second chances, redemption, faith and determination. This followed his silver medal showing as part of Canada's equestrian team (including 61 year old veteran Olympian Ian Millar and Jill Henselwood) a few days earlier - momentous events both.

Emilie Heymens winning silver in 10-metre diving in a stunning performance that was bettered only by the perfection of the Chinese gold medallist Chen Ruolin.

Usain Bolt winning the 200 metres in his second of three world-record performances. He's a pleasure to watch - both racing and celebrating - despite what Jacques Rogge says.

Jessica Zelinka was impressive to watch finishing sixth (changed to fifth due to a doping charge to the original silver medallist) in the heptathlon. In her first Olympics she has an excellent future ahead of her.

Sprinter Jared Connaughton's passion and grit helped him make the finals of the men's 400 metre as well as the men's 100 metre relay.

Thomas Hall was a surprise bronze medallist, giving it his all before collapsing, in the 1000 canoe race. Seeing him interviewed following, he was excited, gracious and eager to compete again next time. (This was a nice diversion from the disappointed Adam van Koeverden following his eighth place finish in the 1,000 kayak. Hopefully, he'll be able to rise to the occasion tomorrow during the 500 kayak race in which he is the favourite. I'm sure he will).

Tourism BC family member & favourite Riley McCormick came 14th in the 10-metre diving qualifying round sending him to the semi-finals tonight (tomorrow Beijing time)! His teammate Reuben Ross finished 15th and is also diving in the semis.

There are so many others too; however Maggy's insisting we actually turn off the tv, sign off the computer and go outside into the sunshine. :)

Photo: Eric Lamaze and Hickstead winning gold, Susan Walsh, Associated Press

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The past day at the Olympics has been outstanding with a mix of inspiring talent and heart-pounding excitement. The highlight of the games for me so far was watching Simon Whitfield race to a silver medal in the triathlon. Jumping up and down in my living room I couldn't believe how he had come from behind the leaders and sprinted to the front looking like he might even have scored his second Olympic gold (Sydney). He was overcome by the German Jan Frodeno in the last few seconds, but his gritty performance was absolutely wonderful to watch. The triathlon is one of the most gruelling events and in my opinion the performances of those athletes are truly amazing.

Another highlight was the bronze medal win by Canadian hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. Not considered a favourite, she demonstrated determination and confidence in grabbing the medal from an extremely close field of finalists. During the entire race I kept my eyes on her and while most observers had been focussed on the leader American Lolo Jones as she faltered, I saw how close Lopes-Schliep was to medalling. You could see from her reaction following the race that she knew she was close - and a few minutes after analysis of the photo finish she was pronounced to have taken third. (I was jumping up and down watching once again :).

Alexandre Despatie in diving was also a joy to watch as he maintained second place throughout his six dives in the three-metre final and won silver against the tremendous and crowd-favourite Chinese divers He Chong (gold) and Qin Kai (bronze). This was his second Olympic silver (Athens) amid countless national and world titles. Despatie has always been beautiful to watch and it was great to see him succeed in Beijing - especially as he had come back from an injury earlier this year. I find diving to be one of the most impressive and yet stressful events to watch and am always blown away by the combination of athleticism and artistry.

There have been many outstanding moments over the past few days for many other athletes as well. The really fun instances are when we see the absolute thrill and delight of being there and competing well, such as the Russian women's pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva in beating her own world record to win gold, or to see Michael Phelps win his eight golds, or witnessing the rise of spectacular young runners Usain Bolt from Jamaica and Kenya's Asbel Kipruto Kiprop, or... The number continues to mount as the days progress and it's a pleasure to be able to watch these achievements unfold.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer time

... has finally arrived in Toronto. By that I mean some sun, heat and no thunder storms with driving rain, hail and chilly temps. It really has been an odd year weather-wise and while it's good for Maggy as she breathes much better in cooler, unhumid air, people around here have been getting pretty grumpy.

I have to admit though, I'm not a fan of 30 degree temps and humidity, so this climate has actually suited me just as well as Maggy. And there's still hope for a normal autumn - my fave season of the year. Sweater weather, coloured leaves, beautiful light and a bit more energy as we start a new school year. I still feel that anticipation of getting back to the books even after all these years and once again I'm looking forward to that sense of a new start, kind of like New Year's Day.

Luckily, I'm on vacation this week in order to enjoy some of this last minute summer. Just in time before fall begins to roll in - and with it new chapters.

PS: Well, maybe the summer weather optimism was a bit premature. Maggy and I just went for a walk and out of nowhere came a rainy deluge while blue skies were all around. Strange.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Nationalism v. United Nations

Today was a good day for Canada as we finally have three medals to our credit - Gold to Carol Huynh in Wrestling, Silver to David Calder and Scott Frandsen in Rowing, and Silver to Tonya Verbeek in Wrestling. It's exciting to see their delight in winning as our nation takes a collective sigh of relief now that we're on the medal board. Congratulations go out to them and all of the other day's competitors.

While it's tempting to get caught up in nationalistic emotions during something like the Olympics, the wonderful complement to that is the fact that the Olympic games offer the chance for all countries to participate in a United Nations-like forum.

I readily admit I am a proud Canadian. I take pride in what I feel are Canadian values. I love that we espouse multi-culturalism and universal access to education and health care. We also enjoy the benefits of one of the most wealthy economies in the world. As part of the international community, Canada is seen as a terrific place to live based on various measures of quality of life.

However, we also demonstrate inequalities and issues like any other nation and these things cannot, and should not, be overlooked.

Rather than saying "Canada is a great nation," I feel more comfortable saying "We live in a wonderful place that offers freedom, equality and opportunity to its citizens." It would be truly great if those same things could be said not just within our borders but everywhere else beyond.

I feel so fortunate to live here and yet keep in mind that many other nations have so much to offer as well. For me it's not about one nation or another, but the sharing of what unites us all - our humanity.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On being Canadian

Like many others, I was feeling a bit frustrated about the fact Canada is dead last in the Olympic medal race after six days of competition.

Then I heard some of the commentary and comparisons to Australia's and China's and other nations' athletics programs. Interestingly while Canadian athletes tend to be coached and developed within a more individualistic culture, we also have to remember that we as a nation aren't especially great at supporting our athletes (especially the summer ones).

We tune in every four years and then question why we aren't doing better. What encouragement - financial or otherwise - do we provide in between? So, when our swimmers or gymnasts or rowers say that they are happy with their non-podium-earning performance as they've achieved a personal or national best, they are simply reinforcing the culture in which they live.

Canada does not really provide a concerted, well-funded athletics program. Our athletes (with support from their families and sponsors) are on their own much of the time and most of the credit needs to go to them for their diligence, talent, skill and passion. The fact that we sometimes do score medals is wonderful; however, how much of the glory can Canadians at large really claim?

All that said, I actually don't think that the 'we did our very best' approach of most of our athletes is a bad thing. Isn't this simply an insight into our oh-so-difficult-to-define Canadian personality?

Isn't it true that most of us go about our daily lives striving for success, while emphasizing a well-rounded, balanced quality of life? It's actually quite remarkable how healthy and positive most of our athletes sound and they truly do seem to believe what they're saying.

If we as a country decide that our Olympic-class athletic program is a priority, perhaps to inspire better national fitness as well as international pride, our athletes will become the benefactors of better training, support and opportunities. As a result, we all might be happier every time we sit down to cheer them all on during the Olympic games.

In the meantime, I wish them a world of success during these games as well as in their lives as a whole. They are representing us well and are indeed making us proud.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Embracing it all

Friday's opening ceremonies were simply spectacular. They were thematically rich and seemless, beautifully choreographed, perfectly executed and a pleasure to behold.

Zhang Yimou, renowned film director, created a stunning show that translated wonderfully to television - from the initial synchronous drummers filling the screen like a tapestry, through to the awe-inspiring lighting of the torch.

Watching it with my friend Lily, we were both caught up in the beauty of it as well as in the emotional connection it inspired. That's what I love about the Olympics - the other stuff aside. It's a chance for us all to become united, as part of a movement that's universal. And it's also a chance to get a glimpse into another place, other cultures and histories.

My good friends Mika and Tom are in Beijing and sharing their experiences and photos. I can hardly wait to hear their first-hand stories as well.

And best of all, my friend Margaret's son Riley is there on the Canadian diving team! See her blog for news from a mom's point of view as well as periodic posts from Riley himself. There's a wonderful photo of him during the opening ceremonies speaking by phone to his mom back in Victoria - how cool!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Olympic dilemna

I have to confess I'm torn about the Beijing Olympics. On one hand, I'm a fervent supporter of the Olympic ideals of fair play, international competition, and bringing all of the countries of the world together in peace. I, like most, become caught up in the ceremonies, the events, the touching stories of struggle and triumph. The athletes (and their supporters and families) are the heroes of any games.

That said, the politics, bureaucracy, cheating, security fears and other non-Olympic-like elements are becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. Whether I'm remembering the unbecoming jostling for glory by ego-driven government, corporate and other individuals regarding the upcoming 2010 games in BC, or observing the disturbing reports coming out of Beijing.

I want to revel in the goodness of it all and yet that's not possible knowing what is being done in China in order to 'put their best face forward'. Displacing thousands of people from their homes and eliminating authentic neighbourhoods, muzzling the parents of children killed in the recent earthquake, indoctrinating thousands and thousands of citizens to 'act' and 'cheer' appropriately, shutting down and arresting bloggers, cracking down on Tibetan supporters, preventing international journalists from reporting - it's all much too much.

I'll be curious, however, to hear the stories of friends who are going, to get a sense of their individual experiences. Hopefully they'll enjoy authentic connections with the true culture and people of China versus the sanitized, westernized, 'beautified' image that the Chinese government and the IOC seem bent on presenting.

This really is a wonderful opportunity for the world to see China and for China to see the world. Let's hope that becomes the prevalent story.