Wow, what a party. Over the past two weeks, the city of Vancouver has been bursting at the seams with an incredible positive energy, and it has been amazing to witness. For months (years, really) it built up slowly, crawling across red tape and protests and innumerable concerns and hopes among the populace who wondered if it would all be worth it. Well, I think it was.
During the Olympics, I wasn’t just watching the games, I was also watching the people. I saw great displays of sportsmanship and comeraderie, not only among the athletes but also among the fans. There were a few sour grapes and some nasty attitudes about who won which medal, but that was mainly among those who believe that “second is the first loser,” and well, that’s not how everybody looks at it.
The media (yes, CTV, I’m talking to you) was for a while complaining about the dissapointment of not “owning the podium” but my how they changed their tune when Canada won all that gold. They’re so fickle, those newsmongers. For myself, I can say I was proud of every great performance I saw. To every athlete who gave their best, laid it all on the ice (or snow), and came in 4th or 10th or dead last, you should be proud. You should be really proud of yourselves, because I’m really proud of you.
Truth be told, the Olympics are just another competition, albeit a REALLY significant one. If you’re going to pick a time to shine, do it when the world is watching. These athletes have been training day after day—with a conviction and dedication I have never achieved myself—suffering injury and pushing forward through rehab, overcoming their fears and self-doubts, perfecting their techniques, so they can bring them to all of us and let us share a little part of their “thrill of victory, agony of defeat.” And I am fortunate enough to live in one of the cities that brought such a spectacle to life.
And on the last day, I watched the game of a lifetime. Two nations that hold my heart met to compete for hockey gold. No lie, I wanted Canada to win, but I wanted a good game, and I got a GREAT game. It wasn’t lopsided, and it was a real nail-biter. Oh, Luongo, I’m glad you were minding the net, but I think Sid the Kid had a little hockey angel on his shoulder that day.
After the game, Canada literally poured into the streets to celebrate, and I did something I never thought I’d do. Well, a couple of things, actually. I walked across the Burrard Street bridge, and I drank a Canadian beer. I’m afraid of heights, and I don’t like beer, but under the circumstances, how could I resist?
There was red and white everywhere. Flags were waving, fans were wooing, horns were honking, and people were high-fiving right and left. The atmosphere was electric and incredibly friendly. Here and there you’d see an American flag and a Canadian flag hugging it out. It wasn’t an “in your face” victory, at least not where I was standing. I watched a crowd of people pass by a group of US fans, and there were handshakes and high-fives and “good game” comments passing between them. We were all just happy. And the US team looked really pretty in silver, even with a few sour pusses in the picture.
The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics reminded me a lot of Burning Man. Being a part of this was like being on the playa, except with a lot less dust and a few less naked people. I have to say, kudos to the Vancouver Police Department for providing a security presence that was effective without being oppressive. Shutting down the booze markets early was a smart thing to do. It kept the crowds a little more family-friendly.
I will remember you, stranger who took a bite of my pizza. I will remember you, the girl who gave me a Go Canada bracelet. I will remember you, Alice Cooper impersonator and Sochi mascot and crazy balloon-hat guy. I will remember you, too, smiling faces from far away places.
The Olympics are done, but the Paralympic games begin when the cauldron is relit on March 12th, and we’ll get to see a whole new kind of incredible. In the meantime, I really need to do some cooking and have a nice long nap.
P.S. HUGE THANKS to the people who shared their Olympic moments via Flickr Creative Commons so I could share them with you. My poor little camera is currently being held together by masking tape—no kiddin!