Obviously, losing to China is not so unimaginable. But fear the leaf? The Canadian Olympic Committee has told the world to be afraid, be very afraid. Still, it's unclear if Canada's goodness can coexist with a killer instinct. Many foreign athletes complained that Canada iced them from practicing at Olympic venues such as the luge course, where a Georgian slider died on a training run hours before the opening ceremonies. Former U.S. speedskater Joey Cheek, the most wholesome guy on ice, called the gamesmanship during the run-up to Vancouver "kind of a d--- move." Other issues have been raised in the first week of the Olympics too: If the Canadians dominate speedskating, will their space-age bodysuits be perceived as providing an unfair advantage? Was the 18--0 record rout the Canadian women's hockey team put on Slovakia last Saturday night a show of might or an illumination of the talent gap? Nothing breeds ambivalence in Canada like winning and losing. In a column that ran in The Toronto Star, there was a warning to Canadians who celebrate chest-puffing over a warm heart: "It's also possible that the worst in us will get the best of us."
Others on the Canadian side believe just the opposite. "Canadians remain the nice guy next door—just one that has become more competitive," Miller says. He stands as one reason for the uptick in podium optimism. Benefactors like Miller may be the difference between Canada and the U.S. and why this country could slip behind its border buddies. For years the U.S. Olympic Committee has relied on mom-and-pop donors and big corporations for funding. But what America needs now, coming out of the Great Recession, are major league philanthropists if the Olympic movement is to remain a source of national pride and not simply another event in our big-tent sports culture. We have patrons for other amateur sports—like the tycoons who spend fortunes covering the salaries of college coaches. We call them boosters. We know them because names like T. Boone Pickens are plastered across campus buildings.
In Canada amateur support is less of a peacock endeavor. Miller is part of B2ten—25 business leaders and wealthy Canadians who provide extra funding to Team Canada without wanting anything in return. It's about altruism, not ego. It's about aiding, not owning. That's very Canadian, eh? If this system works, if Canada can win without losing its soul, the nation may yet live up to the standard set by the most famous of its Mounties: Dudley Do-Right.
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