No more Mr Nice Canada
Canada. The "nice" country with an international reputation for friendly anonymity. But beneath those earnest smiles lies a dark, dark secret more than 30 million Canadians want laid to rest in the next two weeks.
No Canadian has won Olympic gold on home soil. Or ice, or water. They have had two attempts - the Summer Games in Montreal in 1976, and the Winter Games in Calgary 12 years later - and failed miserably on each occasion.
This time, that had better change.
"These Games are ours, and we are going to own the podium. Our target is whatever number of medals it takes to be number one," is the proclamation from Marcel Aubut, President-elect of the Canadian Olympic Committee.
"Owning" these Olympics has been more than a buzzword in Canada for years and "own the podium" is more than a sweet turn of phrase. It is an entire initiative, driving the team forward through a series of money-spinning, performance-enhancing government and corporate partnerships.
But it will mean nothing if the Canadians do not win three things: a busload of medals, at least one gold, and the men's ice hockey.
"Whatever it takes to be number one" isn't entirely accurate, however. It doesn't mean topping the medal table in a way the British team, for example, would understand. The Canadians want more medals than anyone else - but they don't care what colour.
So Norway or the United States might win the most golds, but as long as the 206 Canadian athletes rack up enough gold, silver and bronze medals between them to post a bigger overall total, that counts as success.
Canada's world number one slider, Melissa Hollingsworth, tries not to look 'nice'
"Not winning a home Olympic gold is an incredibly deep wound," Bev Wake, the Vancouver Sun newspaper's Olympics editor, told us.
"We're the only country in the world to have hosted the Olympics and not won a gold there, and we've done it twice. It's tragic. We know we'll win several golds this time but it's a big deal.
"The Canadian government has invested a lot of money in Own The Podium. If we don't do really well, there's a sense that future funding may be in doubt. So it's really important from that perspective and there's a lot of pressure and expectation on athletes."
Curling and ice hockey are the two sports Canada would traditionally count as strengths. But the Own The Podium programme has sought to broaden Canadian Olympic prowess with the goal of threatening the medals in every discipline.
As a result, that "nice" image is starting to slip. Geniality has given way to a single-minded pursuit of the podium that to some, including British athletes, has manifested itself in slightly unpleasant fashion.
For example, the Canadians stand accused of monopolising track time in Whistler, enjoying 10 times more training on the Olympic circuit than their rivals. You may think that's not nice. Not Canadian. But the current Canadian Olympic president, Michael Chambers, isn't having a bit of it.
"We're still going to be nice," he insists, "but we're going to be nice - and winning.
"We think, for these particular Games, we're going to top the medal table. But Canadian competitors will be within the bounds of the rules, and within the bounds of competing and training ethically."
What remains to be seen is how nice the Canadian fans are to their team, and that all depends on living up to the hype. Huge flags adorn the Vancouver skyscrapers, "Go Canada" banners obscure every window, and proud parents pass on final good luck messages knowing whole neighbourhoods are holding their breath for their children.
As I walked through the centre of Vancouver on Friday, an advert played on a giant screen. It showed a man walking ahead of an icebreaking boat, bearing down on him through the ice. Is that how it feels to be a Canadian athlete: the hopes of a nation closing in?
"Competing in your own country brings it to a different level - it's connected to everyone you know, right down to your family, and if it's not properly guided it can become a distraction," advises Nathalie Lambert, a former Olympic short track gold medallist who is now the Canadian chef de mission.
"But if you know you can perform well enough to win a medal, that's based on skill and past experience - so you come with the confidence that you can deliver.
"There's a big boost from being around friends and from having more than 30m people cheering for you. Even though as an athlete it's typical to say 'we want to win', as a Canadian it hasn't been in the past. But the athletes have been saying for weeks they have never felt more ready."
Manny Osborne-Paradis faces up to Canadian expectations, and microphones
Who will be the first Canadian ready enough to earn that historic home gold? Saturday brings the first medal events and the first opportunities: for downhill skier Manny Osborne-Paradis, world moguls champion Jennifer Heil and speed skater Charles Hamelin.
"We're really optimistic that the first gold will come early," says Wake. "We have a shot at downhill because our skiers know that mountain: Manny grew up skiing Whistler, there's a good chance with him.
"Jennifer Heil has to be the favourite in moguls, and Charles Hamelin could win three or four medals at these Games. We hope one of those three comes through, and all three would be awesome."
However, Wake sounds a final note of caution. It doesn't matter what Canada does at the Games if one thing is overlooked: men's ice hockey gold.
"We talk about Own The Podium and how we could top the medal standings and exceed all expectations," she says. "But if we don't get that gold in men's hockey, the Games won't have been an entire success.
"We're all about hockey and that's the one medal everybody really wants."
It's easy to talk in the run-up to an Olympics. Easy to make predictions, easy to build yourself up into something you're not. On Friday, the torch is lit and the Games begin. For Canada, the time for nice hockey is over.