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Britain vs. Australia, not Canada

Observers of Olympic coverage today on the BBC and ITV would have noted that one of the main stories - the story in fact - was that Britain is in third place in the medals table (counted in terms of number of golds) - ahead of Australia, in fourth place. Canada, it should be noted, is only in 17th place, at last count. At one point, a news commentator said that "all that mattered" was that Britain be "ahead of Australia".

It is an undeniable truth that the British have several chief rivalries that keep them interested and on their toes: in sport, Australia (not least because of cricket, and rugby), in food and wine, France, and, in soft power, America (both nations vie for cultural-entertainment dominance, in such industries as publishing, film production, music, and the other arts). For Canadians, who are not included in these flattering, amicable and interesting tussles, much is lost.

I have long felt that the lack of a dynamic cultural conversation - let alone a rivalry - between Canada and the UK impoverishes both nations. It is particularly so, because it means that the poets of Canada and the UK are not as well known in each other's lands as might otherwise be the case (of course, our prose writers are much loved here in the UK).

At any rate, for the average British citizen, Australia looms far larger in the imagination, than Canada. Why this should be so is not clear, since it is much farther away - perhaps that is why, and because it is so warm there, and cluttered with curious beasts.

It might come as a surprise to many, in Great Britain, that Canada is, indeed, the far more imposing rival, in reality.

Australia has 20 million citizens; Canada over 33.

Australia's GDP is measured in the billions - but Canada's is over a trillion.

Australia's continental bulk is impressive, but Canada is the 2nd largest nation on the planet.

Australia is mineral rich, but Canada's petroleum reserves are reckoned to be next to Saudi Arabia's.

Australia's life expectancy is 80 - Canada's 81.

At any rate, Australia's prowess at summer sports is impressive (but less so is their skill at winter sports). They make a good Olympic rival for Team GB, if hardly a nemesis.

Canada, though, is also worth keeping in mind. After all, Canada is hot half the year.
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