Sunday, October 15, 2023

Where Have All the Flags Gone?

By K. Taylor, Aurora ON. Where Have All the Flags Gone? Right now; as I type these very words, Canada is hosting what could arguably be the biggest sporting event in the world. Yes we, the land of hockey, curling and lacrosse, are the proud hosts of the World Cup. The World Cup! Not only that, but we actually have a team entered; and they won their first game! Heady days indeed.

Or at least, it should be. I cannot help but recall a few years ago, when the other World Cup was being played (you know, the men’s one) and wonder, where have all the flags gone?

Cars festooned with snatches of silky fabric in every colour and design; houses proudly displaying symbols of their former homelands. You remember the days? When one needed an Advil every time a popular team scored, the symphony of car horns? You surely recall the multicultural feel, the festive vibe in the air, the sense that so many of us have some other place we love dearly; the friendly rivalries. The only complaint I heard was that we should support Canada as readily. And yet this year, when our own women have done what the men failed to do, and made it in… well, silence. I did hear a horn honk today, but that was just an irritated driver.

Now I’m not what you call a sports fan. I know vaguely of that hockey tournament; that Stanley thing? You know, the one that seems to have been dragging on since Mike Duffy and Jian Ghomeshi were good Canadian icons? How has no one won the thing yet?

Or perhaps they did and I just missed it. As I say, sports is by no means my thing. But my son is a fan; checking scores as soon as he wakes with the intensity of a trader checking on pork bellies. The Dow is up and the Jays won. (Disclaimer: neither of those statements means a thing to me, and I have no idea if either is true, so best not to make trades or place bets based on this post; you have been warned.)

But what does get me all hot under the collar is how women’s games are always somehow less. Less hyped. Less important (except when it comes to Olympic Hockey, then we care.) Last year I attended one of the Women’s Under 20 World Cup games (yep, Toronto hosted) and it was a blast. I want both my daughter and my son to appreciate that women’s games are just as fun, just as exciting. Or, as my husband pointed out, often more so. There is little fanfare, and very little money, just a whole lot of heart and determination.

But if soccer is not your thing (and you somehow still manage to live in Aurora; have you seen the parking lot of Shepherd’s Bush on a summer weeknight?) Why, even closer to home we are soon to host the Pan Am games! The excitement is too much, I know. And so it should be.

“I cannot help but recall a few years ago, when the other World Cup was being played (you know, the men’s one) and wonder, where have all the flags gone?”

Forty one nations. I’m astounded that there are that many in the Americas, but I checked and sure enough they were all legit, no Switzerland hiding under a sombrero and sneaking in the back door; no Norwegians sidling in with cowboy boots and fake Texas accents. There are actually 41 countries, from Haiti with its three athletes, to our five hundred plus. Over 6,000 athletes in all, competing in 36 sports. All this according to Wikipedia, because pretend as I might I am not always a fan of never ending facts and stats. My friend Wiki also advised that this will be the largest multi-sport event ever hosted in this country (double the size of the Vancouver Olympics,) will be fully carbon neutral (awesome) and 45% of competitors are female which apparently is a record. In other words, our games will rock.

And to really set your patriotic heart a-flutter, the torch will be coming to Aurora on Thursday June 25th. So cancel your board meetings and wedding rehearsals; ditch the specialist appointment you’ve been waiting for since September (that weird rash can wait) because there’s to be a barbecue, food vendors, entertainment and free swimming at the Aurora Family Leisure Complex.

It may not be the Olympics. It may not be the men’s World Cup. And we may not be seeing Lord Stanley’s Mug hoisted in the Toronto vicinity anytime this century, but it’s big and it’s fun and it’s being a part of something wonderful.

At our house we’ll be following the games, both Pan Am and World Cup. Heck we even have tickets to table tennis. Good times, indeed. And we’ll be cheering on our athletes, both male and female. And all there is left to say is, Go Canada!

K. Taylor
Aurora, ON

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