Posted by Editoress on 10/12/02
From the Hamilton Spectator October 11/02
It takes guts to say 'yes' to the real thrills of life
By Timothy Paci
Community Editorial Board The Hamilton Spectator
'No' is perhaps the most mindlessly overused word. It seems often to reign over its less popular opposite, "yes," supported by the forces of inertia and habit. Generally, not to do something takes less initiative, energy, and courage than to act. Perhaps the power of this one word can help explain many Hamiltonian's reluctance to embrace the 2003 World Cycling Championships, to be held in Hamilton next October.
Of course, saying no is often a good idea. It can keep us physically safe and financially solvent. But in many cases, it's not so much wise as just plain easy. I mean, what could be easier than coming up with a reason not to do something? We all have our favourites: it's too cold, too hot, too early, too late, too expensive, too inconvenient. "No" also gathers strength through its association with prohibitions and the human tendency to attempt to control others. Asserting control generally means telling others what not to do, and many of us get satisfaction from wielding the power of the veto.
Reasons to do something are just as abundant, but with inertia, laziness, pettiness and routine blurring our vision, sometimes those reasons get overlooked. I saw this happen in the public discussion prior to Toronto's bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics. The naysayers sung a chorus of "it's too expensive; the organizers are corrupt; it's not relevant enough to North Americans." This fixation on the negative threatened to obscure how incredible an experience the games would have been for inhabitants of our region.
I fear that the same kind of skepticism is tainting the World Cycling Championships. I have seen little evidence among Hamiltonians of an appreciation for the magnificence of the championships. Instead, I've mainly heard grousing about traffic congestion and organizational costs. Of course, there are challenges to be met in staging such an event. But those who say no to supporting the championships seem to refuse to see that some measure of inconvenience and funding risks are a small price for our community to pay for a brush with greatness.
Few Hamiltonians seem to appreciate the magnitude of the event we will host next year. As both Howard Elliott and Andrew Dreschel have noted in The Spectator over the past several months, these championships are a world event, just one step below the Olympics and the World Cup of Soccer. The athletes are of an unsurpassed calibre and international standing. Lance Armstrong, for instance, is a match for Wayne Gretzky in importance to his sport. In international significance, Armstrong even surpasses Gretzky, whose reputation is less global. One does not need to be a cycling fan to appreciate such greatness and importance any more than one needs to be an opera fan to appreciate Pavarotti. Many North Americans would also be amazed to learn of the dedication of the top cyclists. They subject themselves to great discomfort in training to perform at the highest level.
Furthermore, the championships promise to bring several benefits to our community, from financial gains, to increased athletic participation, to enhanced knowledge of the world.
But most important is the refusal to submit to the negativity of those who frown on such undertakings. One characteristic that separates humankind from other species is its ability to find importance in things and practices that do not directly involve mere sustenance and reproduction. Our lives are made meaningful in part through the observance of the exceptional.
Those who love our city will not be discussing 10 years from now how tough it was to drive to work in October of 2003. They will talk about the couple of weeks during which people from all over the world converged on our city. They will recall the short time that the word Hamilton was on the lips of millions of people around the globe. And they will celebrate having hosted some of the greatest athletes in the world. Next year, if the naysayers don't spoil the party, Hamiltonians will bask in the glow of an event that will demonstrate that we in Hamilton and Canada can put on a world-class event in style. It will also show the world that we know that events like the World Cycling Championships are among those special things that can be appreciated only by those willing to accept the possibilities inherent in saying yes.
Timothy Paci of Hamilton teaches writing and English at the University of Waterloo.He is also a runner and a musician.
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