As a Canadian, whose home is in that now-familiar backdrop mountains, sea and urban environs of Metro Vancouver, I first want to thank all of you who have either visited here for the 2010 Winter Olympics or who are or who will be coming for the Paralympic Games and/or have been watching or plan to watch the events on TV and online via fixed or mobile devices.
It has been an honour (no misprint) to allow us to share with you what is the biggest story of the 2010 Olympics and that is the coming together and the coming out of Canada, and Canadians permitting us to show for the first time how proud and united we have become as a nation, one that is truly a 'true north, strong and free'.
In 1978 I was working as a security guard in Edmonton, Alberta, which that year hosted the Commonwealth Games, whose athletes come from countries that had made up the British Empire. I was assigned to a Games cultural pavilion in asset protection and crowd management roles. There was a buzz too, but it was one of a community, the capital city of a province that was arriving as an energy powerhouse, rather than as a nation.
That sense of who we are, of shared values and aspirations in 2010 created the seas of red and white with the maple leafs everywhere and forever on the screens...of Canadians from every origin: Aboriginal, French, English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian...and yes American (like my wife, who became a Canadian citizen last year), bursting out singing our national anthem, waving our flags, ringing our cowbells...
For me the most exciting moment took place at a political function I was at last Friday night, when the entire room quieted down in the final minutes and seconds of the Canada-Slovakia game then feeling that adrenalin that rose and rushed out into one loud collective yell when Canada won...
You now have had a chance to see us as who we are, sometimes a little cocky as if expecting to get humbled, and we did, whether thinking we could actually stage with global warming and predictions of a warm winter events at Cypress...or more tragically creating the arguably dangerous sled track at Whistler on which a young Georgian athlete died; we were at that track a few days later for the women's luge finals (there was an impromptu memorial set up for him under the Olympic rings in Whistler Village)...or when we faced the Americans in the men's hockey preliminaries.
Yet you also saw how we faced that adversity with perseverance and sometimes a little bit of luck. We just dug in our heels and worked at it.
Ours is a national pride not of empire and nor do we and are we evangelizing our beliefs, values and virtues to the world, which we have always accused the Americans of doing, for we are in the shadow in the U.S. Instead it is what we feel within, letting you know about it, and if you like it that's great and if you don't then that's fine too. As the Closing Ceremonies showed with the mime 'hauling' the malfunctioning fourth pillar and that 'Maple Leaf Forever' show we don't take ourselves too seriously... for this is Canada (eh?).
I loved that show for another reason; it delightfully twisted a song that had contained controversial lyrics that alluded to the victory of the British over the French in 1759, and which in doing so shows how far we have come as a country, one that nearly split apart in 1995 in the sovereignty referendum. I also loved how 'I Believe' theme was sung in both French and English on CTV.
More importantly you saw, witnessed and felt how gracious, friendly (but not overtly so), polite and helpful we are. Even downtown and on the jammed buses, ferries and trains, in the lineups for venues, and in the crowded restaurants and stores. My wife works as an esthetician in a spa and she has enjoyed talking with the clients, many of whom are American, so she was able to communicate what is going in Canada to them.
It is too bad American companies have been pulling out their nearshore contact centers from Canada because of the strong Canadian dollar because their customers are missing out on a chance to receive our (emphasis on the 'r') service. No matter, Americans and everyone else are welcome to visit us at any time.
We'll make you feel at home, in our home and native land.