Friday, February 26, 2010

On the National Anthem and the Olympics

The Olympics are winding down, and as usual I am heavily conflicted.

On the one hand, it is difficult to see organized sport in general, and the Olympic Games in particular, as anything more than manufactured news whose aim is to distract us from more important concerns -- concerns that include the economy, the recent earthquake in Haiti, the prorogation of the Canadian Parliament.

On the other hand, hearkening back to the heady days of the 1972 Canada-Russia hockey series, or the back to back baseball championships of the 1990s, it is difficult not to get caught up in the wave of emotion, as teams and individual athletes act out their dramas of striving and triumph and tragedy on the Olympic stage.

There are a couple of highlights (or perhaps lowlights) that I wanted to note.

The first is relatively minor. I saw a segment of news coverage (from the CBC, which really ought to know better) from the leadup to the opening ceremony which referred to a water craft which looked to me to be a native Canadian canoe as a "dragon boat".

The second is related to my National Anthem Blues post from last month. In the Olympic opening ceremony a couple of weeks ago, the Canadian national anthem wasn't sung in Hindi. Was anyone surprised by this? For the record, the government's National Heritage web page about the National Anthem has this to say:
It is possible to translate the words of the national anthem in languages other than English or French; it should be kept in mind, however, that this translated version will not have an official status.
So in fact, if there had been an audio collage of the national anthem rendered in a series of languages other than English or French (including Hindi), it would have been perfectly legitimate, as long as the official version was performed. But I doubt whether this will silence the Canada 2010 lunatics.

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