The Times of London columnist slagged Canada's "Own the Podium" approach since it has, in his mind, led to us not saying "oh, terribly sorry for beating you there, love" in the proper English way.
The left-unsaid is Canada ought to be more like England (make sure you say England, so the Scots, Irish and Welsh can distance themselves from Barnes) and sneer at accomplishment. Perhaps Barnes is reflecting a bitterness the poor cousins in the colonies don't need England's validation.
"It is customary at the Olympics to say that the nation holding them has 'come of age.' China 'came of age' in 2008; Australia 'came of age' with the Sydney Games of 2000. In fact, Australia also 'came of age' with the Melbourne Games of 1956; that’s because this observation has become an Olympic custom.
"But Canada has not come of age in Vancouver 2010. Canada has regressed into a sneering but ultimately impotent adolescence. It’s been — well, rather unattractive on the whole.
"There’s a lesson for everyone in sport here. Particularly, it’s a lesson for the next country to hold the Olympics. This happens to be Britain. As you may have heard, they take place in London in 2012. Like every host country, Britain wants to win lots of lovely medals and millions of pounds are being invested in their pursuit.
"So here, in summary, are the lessons Britain and London must learn from the Winter Games of 2010.
"Seek victory, yes, but do so with graciousness, sportsmanship and, if possible, a little self-deprecating humour."
One should try to keep this within Mr. Barnes' parameters of passive-aggressive polite veneer masking jerkishness. The reality, simple Simon, is you are way off. The country doesn't owe the world an apology. The Games have not been perfect and there will be some self-evaluation afterward.
Being fourth in the medal tables, tied for the most golds, is not a "failure' for a country of 33 million people. It's also a far, far cry from how the national tennis body in Barnes' country makes money hand over fist from staging Wimbledon, but has gone decades since producing a champion in men's or women's singles.
Most Canadians would acknowledge Own the Podium was an overreach, but it's better than settling. Montreal Gazette columnist L. Ian MacDonald suggested earlier this week that On the Podium would have been a better name, less aggressive yet still on point.
The heart of the matter is Canada is a world-beater. That is how it should be for a country so closely aligned with the United States. There are enough widely known examples that this doesn't need to become a big Yay Canada! post (we invented the BlackBerry!).
The country has kept its core goodness and added some of America's attitude. It's worked and so be it if that makes our supposed cultural superiors in merry old England uncomfortable.
Barnes can preach his schoolyard idea of sportsmanship, but no one wins playing nice. Some would say he's really arguing for accepting the mediocrity associated with England's food and its World Cup soccer team. He can call it sportsmanship if that's what gets him through the night. Canada made a choice with the Winter Games, and it's better than whatever Barnes is peddling.
- Simon Barnes