05/03/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Vancouver Games: The Spotlight Goes Out

Things are returning to normal. The Olympics-themed box has disappeared from the front page of the New York Times website. Politics and crime stories are once again leading the evening news. The stream of patriotic tweets and Facebook updates is slowing.

Gone are the hero-making moments, the breathless excitement from broadcasters over feats of athleticism and dramatic finishes. Sure some of the athletes who've captured the hearts of viewers will stick around (perhaps for longer than we'd like) in endorsement deals. But the rest will return to hometowns, to training, to family, to day jobs.


And Canada, like the athletes, with recede once again from the spotlight. It will be a relief, I think.

For a Vancouverite living in New York, it's been fantastic to see my hometown on television and to hear that people from around the world have enjoyed themselves there (perhaps a little bit too much). Some aspects of these games didn't go off as planned, and a few moments have been truly tragic. But I've been proud of Canada, proud of our athletes and proud of my city -- and the way we've been portrayed. I hope that people now know a little bit about Vancouver, and that an outcome of these games will be a less frequent need to explain, "No, the other side -- the Pacific Coast. Above Seattle."

And it's been fun to laugh where the broadcasters have it a little wrong. Curlers, contrary to what you may have heard, are not as famous as NHL players in Canada, nor has "almost every Canadian curled."

As fun as it has been, however, I think it'll be a relief to be out of the spotlight. Women's hockey team aside, Canadians are not particularly showy. We're actually, if you can believe it, a little bit boring.

As British journalist Matthew Engel once wrote:

[E]veryone outside the country traditionally considers the very word "Canada" to convey the uttermost tediousness. In the US, the most boring imaginable headline is held to be "Canada! Friendly giant to the north!", analogous to Britain's own, "Small earthquake in Chile: not many dead". Merely addressing the subject here is risking expulsion to some remote and Arctic corner of the newspaper.

Although he's mocking my country, I think he's right: a country who chose a gnawing beaver as a mascot (compared, say, to a soaring eagle) probably doesn't seek to be noticed. There's a certain safety in flying under the radar, in being ignored. For one, It allows us to feel superior when Americans don't know who our prime minister or capital city is. It also means we enjoy a fair amount of patronizing goodwill from nations around the world.

Boring can be good. "Canada's tedium is a by-product of its success," continued Engel noting that our crime rate is low, and "the general tenor of day-to-day life polite and good-natured." Paul Krugman recently called Canada "good and boring," with respect to its stable economy, at least.

So, while all this Olympic hoopla has been great fun, it runs a little counter to our national character. We had fun having the attention of the world, of putting on ceremonies, but, in the end, I think we'd rather be boring.

At least so long as we've got that hockey gold.

Thanks to Bruno Wong for the photo.

Previously in this series:
Vancouver: Canada in Miniature?