Clap, cheer, wave the flag

Gerry Phelan
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It’s time to holler from the rafters. The next two weeks will have a bunch of feel-good moments that may make us cry, laugh, cheer and talk about something other than the weather. The Olympics are underway, and whether you like sports or not, you should try to feel some of the excitement. 

It’s been a long, cold winter. Power bills and politics dominate the news. For some of us, Christmas ended way too early, and we barely kissed 2013 goodbye when 2014 presented unwelcome challenges.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could seize the moment and celebrate the world coming together in sport and friendship? That is what the Olympics are all about.

While these Games are under the shadow of terrorist threats, peace is meant to be a cornerstone of the occasion. The International Olympic Committee promotes the tradition of the Olympic Truce, established in ancient Greece in the 9th century BC. It allowed athletes and their families to travel in total safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their home countries.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge, in 2007 said, “Sport alone cannot enforce or maintain peace. But it has a vital role to play in building a better and more peaceful world.”

It’s hard to believe it was more than a quarter century ago that the Olympic flame passed through dozens of Newfoundland towns on its way to Calgary.

I remember being on Signal Hill on a November morning in 1987 when former Olympians Barbara Ann Scott-King and Ferd Hayward shared the honour of being the first to carry the Olympic flame on the cross-Canada torch relay in advance of the 1988 Games. The competition was half a country away, but it was amazing to witness the smiles and tears of joy from those who got to hold the flame. The relay was greeted like a rock star at every stop.

I can’t help but think that the fact the flame touched so many helped make us pay so much more attention to the Calgary Games. It was a similar story in 2009, when we again participated in a torch relay, this time for the Vancouver Olympics. There were more special moments and memories.

In the middle of it all, who can forget 2006, and how we all fell in love with the Brad Gushue curling team as they did our nation and province proud in Turin, Italy? For some of us, it became one of “those” moments. Where were you when Brad Gushue won the gold?  

Now we have another reason to watch. Eighteen-year-old Kaetlyn Osmond is already hailed as the newest star of Canadian ladies’ figure skating. The Marystown native will take to the Olympic ice over the next few days, and her smile alone is sure to capture the attention of international photojournalists; her skills will take her to a whole new level.

She approaches this competition armed with determination. The official Team Canada website says her favourite quote is from Babe Ruth: “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Get behind her. Tweet or Facebook her a message. If you are not online, get someone who is to make sure she knows you are backing her.

I’m often disappointed to watch hockey players during the national anthems. Perhaps it’s a sports thing, but rarely do you see any of them singing the national song. It is so moving to hear the crowds do so, especially in Canada, where we are really not known for wearing the Maple Leaf on our sleeves.

More than 200 athletes from our country are living their dreams in Sochi, Russia. For the next two weeks let’s wave the flag a little and catch a bit of the Olympic spirit. Wear some red, show a little patriotism and use the digital world to extend best wishes to our representatives overseas.

And to Kaetlyn Osmond, on behalf of all of us in your home province, medal or not, we’re proud of you.  

Now give ’er.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster.

He can be reached at gerryp@bellaliant.net

Organizations: International Olympic Committee (IOC), Olympic Truce, Olympic Games Cross-Canada Calgary Games Team Canada

Geographic location: Greece, Newfoundland, Calgary Signal Hill Turin Italy Marystown Canada Maple Leaf Sochi Russia

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