The Olympic flame is in Canada. The longest torch relay in history is underway.

It’s time for the dissent to stop and for us to be gracious hosts.

Incredibly, there are a significant number of people in this enlightened nation who don’t get it. They complain about everything from the corporate greed embodied by the Games to the fact the torch relay was first conducted in 1936 in Berlin, the so-called “Nazi Olympics.”

These doubters also claim the Olympics will somehow bankrupt our affluent country and that, “…the average Joe is being screwed by corporations and the government so they can have a party.”

Even Sidney Crosby, perhaps Canada’s greatest hockey talent, is drawing fire in some quarters for being chosen to run the Olympic torch through a portion of his native Nova Scotia.

What gives?

The critics are missing the point.

Yes, the Olympics have become corrupted over time and often resemble a commercial enterprise instead of the universal movement of peace and understanding they were originally meant to be. But while it’s true the Games have become, on occasion, an example of clubby excess, they do have a redeeming quality at their very foundation.

The Olympics are designed to celebrate the potential of youth and demonstrate the possibilities for harmony and co-existence. In short, they are an alternative to the strife and misunderstanding that pervades the planet most of the time.

Isn’t that worth our allegiance — or at least an open mind as the torch relay in Canada begins?

The Vancouver/Whistler 2010 Olympics are now inevitable. As the host nation, Canada is the caretaker of the Olympic spirit, which, by the way, is what the flame is meant to represent.

It’s time to step up.

One torchbearer and bank executive I talked to, who works for a competitor of the relay’s title sponsor, summed up her motivation behind carrying the flame.

“It’s a symbol of the Games and the values they represent,” she told me. “It’s about having a meaningful goal, commitment to discipline, community and sportsmanship. These are all worthy values I would hope to impart to my children.”

Now that’s why we should all embrace the flame.

It’s because the torch represents hope that there is some goodness to be found when it reaches its destination in the Olympic city.

– Scott Russell is the host of CBC Sports Weekend seen Saturday afternoons. He has covered professional and amateur sports including nine Olympic games and numerous world championships.