Despite what the cliché tells us, sports and politics do mix, and probably more often than you’d think.
So, partially as a year in review, and partially as an indicator of what this blog is about, here are five occasions from this past year when sports and politics collided in Canada.
1) Vancouver Games inspire cross-country nationalism
As fans gathered around outdoor screens in Yaletown and Robson Square to watch the games, wave flags and sport the ubiquitous red mittens in the warm February afternoons, Canadians openly expressed their patriotism in ways not often seen in a country noted for its modesty.
2) Edmonton debates a new arena
Oiler owner Daryl Katz spent last summer selling Edmontonians on his vision of a new arena that he argues will revitalize the city’s downtown core. The catch? How financial responsibility for the $400-million arena will be divided between Katz and taxpayers. With formal negotiations between ownership and city council just beginning, debate over Edmonton’s new arena continues well into 2011.
3) Quebec City chases federal money for new arena
Quebec City continued its attempt to lure an NHL team back to town when it unveiled plans for a new arena that would also anchor a forthcoming bid to host the Winter Olympics. With the provincial and local governments committed to funding 55 per cent of the $400-million project, Mayor Regis Labeaume turned to the federal government to cover the remaining cost. As other cities pursuing new sports arenas looked on, Prime Minister Harper avoided a political crises when he toned down talk of federal funding despite a golden opportunity to curry favour with Quebec voters.
4) Women ski jumpers excluded from Vancouver 2010 Olympics
Few sports are gender-specific anymore but when a group of female ski jumpers made its case to compete at the Vancouver games, Olympic officials turned them down : citing a perceived lack of global appeal and competitive balance in explanation. Court challenges followed, but the exclusion stood despite perceptions of old-boyism and gender inequality.
5) Simon Fraser University goes south to NCAA competition
Seeking tougher competition and a return to its American athletic roots, SFU left the Canadian amateur sports system and began competition in division II of the U.S.-based National Collegiate Athletic Association in September. Clan teams have struggled early, but the move provoked questions about scholarship regulations and the level of competition found in Canadian varsity sports.