Colourful skeleton gold medallist Jon Montgomery, centre, is the kind of year-round Olympian that helped make the Vancouver Games so special for Canadians. (Oliver Lang/AFP/Getty Images)
A recent trip to the Olympic Green in Beijing was unsettling. The magnificent Bird's Nest stadium had its track covered with man-made snow, making it a kids' winter wonderland.
Across the way, sounds emanated from the space-age-looking Water Cube. Inside, children frolicked in a splash pool and on water slides.
At the two most spectacular venues of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the exploits of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt were a distant memory.
The whole place has been turned into an amusement park.
Back in Canada, less than a year removed from the home Olympics, the athletic achievers of 2010 are celebrated. Baseball slugger Joey Votto is the Lou Marsh winner
as Canada's athlete of the year. He is an excellent choice. From a small minority of Canadian ballplayers, Votto excelled to become a most valuable performer in America's pastime.
The most celebrated team of 2010 is the Canadian men's hockey squad
that captured Olympic gold in overtime against the United States, courtesy of the sublime Sidney Crosby.
It's not hard to figure out why. Canadians love hockey and this team gave the country a most coveted prize.
But, in an Olympic season, and knowing that the Games come to this nation once every 22 years, it would be folly to undervalue the other men and women who gave Canada so much to cheer about in Vancouver-Whistler.More than amusements
In selecting the best of 2010, the experts have reflected that Canadians are still pre-occupied with mainstream North American professional sport.
Therefore, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who captured figure-skating gold at both the Olympics and world championships, were an also-ran for best team. Gold medallist Christine Nesbitt dominated the sport of speed skating before and after
the Olympics, but was seen by some as a disappointment because she didn't win more medals in Vancouver.
Many believe that if Canada had failed to win men's hockey gold in Vancouver, the whole Games would have been "an unmitigated disaster."
Sadly, this may be an accurate sentiment for many Canadians.
The true Olympians like Joannie Rochette, Alex Bilodeau, Charles Hamelin, Jon Montgomery and the rest have been regarded as pleasant amusements during the 16 days of the Games - the creators of fleeting moments.
What really matters on an ongoing basis is how Canadians fare in the arena of professional sport.
We, as a country, would do well to keep the Olympics fresh in our memories and recall how important those athletes have become as symbols of an emerging nation.
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