When the Vancouver Winter Olympics started 17 days ago I was very cynical. After the opening ceremonies and the first couple of days of the games it appeared that Vancouver was going to fail. There was no snow on Cypress, the Olympic Cauldron was behind a chain-link fence and our athletes did not seem to be doing that well. Our “Own the Podium” program not only seemed completely un-Canadian, it looked like a failure. Half-way through the games the ‘Own the Podium’ people came out and said their hopes were too ambitious for this games. If we didn’t own the podium in 2010, many were hopeful that we had at least put down a foundation for future games.
Then something happened. I am not sure what but things began to change. We started to win medals, many more medals than we had ever won at any other Olympic games. Plus we won gold on home soil! People became proud to be Canadian as we watched our athletes win. Canadians are not an overly nationalistic people. Historically, we have not had a galvanizing event around which we could gather and point to as a significant event in the formation of our nation. The Americans have the Civil War. Canada was formed as a result of a very successful set of negotiations. Canadians rarely feel nationalistic in the way other nations experience it. Countries like Russia, Japan, and the United States display their nationalism unfettered and without apology. For a short amount of time, our nationalism galvanized, we displayed our hopes and dreams for our country as one. A very rare event in quiet, staid, apologetic Canada.
It cannot go unsaid that these Olympic Games belonged to our women athletes. The women inspired us and their teams to achieve more. From the guts performance of Joannie Rochette to the free-spirited Ashleigh McIvor who came screaming down the mountain our women did not let us down. Clara Hughes, a veteran of both winter and summer games, won a bronze medal in an awesome performance. Our women’s hockey team played with heart and soul and won against the Americans.
In the lead-up to the Games, the February 15th edition of Maclean’s outlined a list of athletes to watch at the games. Out of 9 entries* only 3 were women and one of the women was the coach of the Canadian Women’s hockey team. This seems way out of line when compared with the actual results. They devoted an entire page to Jeff Pain and his wife discussing their marital problems. They featured Patrick Chan but not Joannie Rochette. Why Sidney Crosby but not Hayley Wickenheiser? I have my theories for sure.
Today it seemed like the entire country was holding its collective breath at the end of the third period when the Americans scored the goal that tied the game. We all breathed a sigh of relief when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal. In Olympic hockey matches winning silver means that you lost. I have never seem more miserable athletes than the Americans, both the women and the men’s team, when they lost their games to Canada. I hate to think of what might have happened had Canada lost.
The Closing Ceremonies were much more Canadian than the Opening Ceremonies. I liked how they made fun of their own malfunctioning equipment. Neil Young, William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, and Micheal Buble – it does not get more Canadian. It has been a great 17 days and I can say that I believe – if only for a little while. Bring on the Paralympics!!
*Here are the athletes featured: Jeff Pain – Skeleton, didn’t medal, Alex Harvey – Cross-country Skiing, didn’t medal, Sidney Crosby – hockey, did medal, Larcellas Brown – Bobsleigh, did medal, Ashleigh McIvor – Ski Cross, did medal, Chris Del Bosco, didn’t medal – Ski Cross, Cindy Klassenm didn’t medal – Speed Skating, Manuel Osborne-Paradis – Alpine, didn’t medal, Mel Davidson – coach of the Women’s Hockey Team, did medal, Patrick Chan – Figure Skating, didn’t medal