MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.
Celebrating Canadaís Athletes in Beijing
Awe-inspiring, breath-taking, spectacular! All great words, but theyíre almost inadequate to describe the closing ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. This was truly a performance that had to be experienced "live" in order to see and feel its full magnitude and sheer emotion.
And what a privilege and great honour it was for me to witness it first-hand as I was asked to be the senior representative for the Government of Canada at this inspiring world event.
News reports afterwards described the ceremonies as a cross between the ultimate "Cirque de Soleil spectacle" and the "ultimate farewell party amongst friends". But it was so much more. Thousands of performers, acrobats, singers and dancers, joined by the many thousands more athletes of the 29th Olympiad.
After an opening ceremony that wowed the world, few believed the closing ceremony could compete. No need to worry as the evening surpassed even the highest expectations and truly paid homage to the outstanding and dedicated athletes themselves.
But before enjoying the closing climax to the 17 days of competition, I first had two busy days filled with numerous activities and official functions. This included the privilege of meeting many of our incredible Canadian athletes and their very proud families. I was also able to take in the men’s diving competition in the spectacular Water Cube.
My meetings with senior Chinese Government officials included Mr. Zhou Yongkang, the ninth ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee, the highest decision-making body in China, and the International Liaison Departmentís Vice Minister Zhang Zhijun. I also met with John Furlong from the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Organizing Committee, Canada’s Ambassador to China, Robert Wright, and other senior embassy officials. And yes, I was able to squeeze in a visit to the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.
Another highlight was time spent at the BC-Canada pavilion and meeting with its exceptional staff as they provided a tour of the interactive displays that promote all areas of British Columbia, including our beautiful riding. Imagine being in Beijing and learning all about Tumbler Ridge!
Other serendipitous encounters at the closing ceremony included sitting next to the Prime Minister of Belgium, Yves Leterme, and chatting up Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown and China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi.
Above all else, it was Canadaís athletes that were the most memorable aspect of my time in Beijing. I congratulate them not only for their performances in these Olympic Games but for their class, dedication and commitment to their sport that is second to none. I can’t begin to express my pride in these competitors.
Canada continues to build upon our relationship with China, which is much like a relationship between two friends. Although we may have ideological differences, we also share many common issues and challenges and we must maintain a relationship based on mutual respect despite our differences. It was most encouraging to see the incredible pride felt by the citizens of China as they hosted these logistically flawless games.