Winter Olympics Nostalgia Zone

You know what the Olympics really mean — nostalgia for the last time the Winter Olympics were held in Canada. And you know, in turn, what that means — the star of the 1988 Calgary Olympics, Eddie the Eagle.

It’s hard to describe what he meant to those of us who were watching at the time. In a way, he was ahead of his time, a pioneer in reality television: the idea that it doesn’t matter if you’re the best, or even any good, as long as you get on TV and have a memorable presence/catchphrase/nickname. Now everybody’s used to this, because there are all kinds of failed contestants who become famous, like the Pants on the Ground guy. But when Eddie did it, it was still kind of unusual in a time when we still assumed that you had to be skilled to be a TV celebrity.

Here’s a British TV feature on him that includes (at 3:20) an excerpt from his not-very-successful single, “Fly, Eddie, Fly.”


And here is his somewhat more successful recording effort in Finnish, “Mun nimeni on Eetu.”

Let’s just say that the current incarnation of the Olympics is going to have its work cut out for it if it’s going to produce this level of awesomeness. All I see heading to Vancouver is a bunch of great athletes. And if the last 22 years have taught us nothing anything, it’s that greatness can’t compare to wacky, bespectacled mediocrity.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.