Canadians, it’s often been noted, are polite, quiet, non-confrontational and downright meek — compared to Americans. We subscribe, (without calling it that) to the “tall poppy syndrome”, shared with Australians, Japanese and Scandinavians: if you boast, thump your chest, tell people how great you are, you’re considered a declasse boor. You’ll quickly be put in your place, your head chopped off for daring to peek high above the rest.
Now, in the final few weeks before the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, Canadians are talking trash. Their motto? Own the Podium.
Such in-your-face-ness is really a huge cultural shift in a nation that treasures modesty and humility in its citizens. In a year 2000 poll, 14 percent of Canadians said they enjoyed demonstrating their superiority to foreigners (yeah, national health care! great beer! kids who can ice skate at 2!). In contrast, 31 percent of Americans said so. Bloody Yanks.
Reports The Wall Street Journal:
Canadians also tend to feel awkward about patriotism. “We mumble our national anthem here, and nobody puts their hand on their heart,” Mr. Adams says. The bestselling author doesn’t doubt that Olympic success could pull the country together, particularly after past slights. He remembers vividly how, during a 1992 World Series game between the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays, a U.S. Marine in Atlanta inadvertently flew the Canadian flag upside down during pregame ceremonies. “We never get any respect,” says Mr. Adams.
In recent weeks, after some American athletes complained about gaining only limited training time on Vancouver’s venues, many in Canada expected their leaders to apologize, open wide the gates and discard the home-field advantage that every other host country has exploited. But in a reaction that seemingly energized the nation, Canadian media commentators and Olympic organizers dismissed the Americans as a bunch of whiners. “People just stood up, said we did nothing wrong and made fun of the Americans,” says Mr. Gauthier, the ski coach. “I was so proud to see that.”
But such brashness wins mixed reviews.
Publicly announcing such a goal strikes some in Canada as impolite and others as inhospitable. “It sounds like we’re welcoming the countries of the world to our doorstep so that we can trounce them,” says Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian now a University of Toronto dean. The newfound jingoism strikes many here as just too, well, American. “Own the Podium is obnoxious and un-Canadian,” says Louise Fox, a Canadian etiquette expert. “Up here we don’t toot our own horn like that.”
To many athletes, however, the boldness of the claim is thrilling. “As a Canadian I’m happy to see Canada becoming aggressive like America,” says former hockey coach Barry Melrose, now an ESPN announcer. “If you’re afraid to talk about winning, you’ll never win.”