The Vancouver 2010 Olympics were the most fun I’ve ever had watching sporting events. I’ve always loved the olympic games (winter more than summer, but still, summer as well) and it was hard for me to pinpoint exactly why for two weeks every four years, it’s so exciting to watch dozens of speed skating races, cross country sprints and slolom runs. And I think it’s because the competition isn’t hot and angry like say, an NFL or NHL competition. It seems the aforementioned organizations are 50% business, 50% rivalry creation. The olympics brings together an entire country and has everyone rooting for the same team. Thus, rather than separating and angering, they unify, strengthen and create an abundance of pride. Vancouver 2010 allowed the world to see the real, local Canada, not the imagined version that is so often portrayed. And for us Canadians, it was a chance to wow and inspire ourselves.
I had such a great time following the games, but particular moments inspired me the most, and I’d like to take a moment to share those memories and in turn, re-live them all over again. Most of these aren’t in any particular order, but I did start with the obvious favourites first.
The gold medal hockey game. Let’s say you were a fiction writer and you pitched the following idea: a hockey team that comes in seventh place at the last Olympic Winter Games comes back fighting and just barely squeezes into the gold medal final game – as an added bonus – the games are in that team’s HOME country. And hockey is that country’s national sport. The rival team is their rival nation, their overshadowing older sibling, so often the thorn in their side. Both teams are great and very evenly matched – andd 24.4 seconds left in the game, the rival ties it up, leaving the home team looking devestatingly frustrated on the bench. The game goes into overtime. And the winning goal? It’s scored by the young, eager, spritely, handsome superstar that was considered “too young” to play in the last games four years prior. If that was in a book or film, it would be too perfect, too cliche to be real. But… it is real. And that’s what is so incredibly perfect about the gold medal hockey game. Also — as an Edmonton Oilers fan, hockey has been kind of the doldrums lately. Even when my home team wins, that win doesn’t matter at this point, really – since 2006 really, there hasn’t been a lot of bite and excitement to hockey for me. Also, hockey in this country separates everybody. But Team Canada was everyone’s home team yesterday. Not often enough in history does something like Sidney Crosby’s winning goal have people dancing, singing, high-fiving strangers in the streets in every city and town across the country. That goal meant so much to Canadians, it hurt. And just when it looked grim… our collective home team landed it. It was an absolutely priceless, perfect moment.
Kevin Martin’s gold medal. Allegedly, Kevin Martin spent years obsessing over winning gold at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. He put together the best team, ensured that team had both skill and chemistry, and worked so incredbily hard to get to the games and prove himself worthy of the gold, he remained undefeated for the better part of the last few years. He also remained undefeated in Vancouver’s round robin play, exorcising several demons – he and his teammates delivered actually some of the best shots in curling I have ever seen. After working so hard, who wouldn’t be over the moon to see he, John Morris and Marc Kennedy jumping up and down, hugging and beaming? I’ve almost never seen a smile light up a room so intensely. Curling is a silly sport, but I love it SO much. And seeing Kevin Martin get what he’s been seeking for years was nothing but inspiring. He proved that going after what you want and stopping at nothing will ensure resounding success, and that’s all anyone wants to believe, right? After this happened, I did a happy dance alone in my living room and called up my mom and said, “there’s only ONE goal that could top this one for me”. That gold is the one you just read about above.
K.d Lang and Neil Young’s Respective Opening and Closing Ceremony Performances. While athleticism is the focus of the Olympics, my life-blood is music, and the two best musical moments were for me, these two. They showcased the best of the best of (active) Canadian talent in a simple, clean, elegant way that only Canada could. K.d Lang’s performance was so intense and moving, I could only watch in silence, feeling small compared to her long notes. The lighting and her white suit seemed appropriate with the somber event that occurred just prior to the ceremony. It seemed to be Canada’s lament. Neil Young extinguished the torch, just he and his guitar. And as he sang, the snow fell as if on cue. What more is there to say about a Canadian moment like that?
Alexandre Bilodeau and Canada’s First Gold Medal. We were all waiting with baited breath over who would get the medal, but it went to thevery deserving, inspiring and inspired Bilodeau. I love how he put a focus on skiing – it’s not every day that someone who conquers moguls is a national hero. Anyone who’s ever skiied moguls will know too, how challenging they are and to see someone sail down them flawlessly like Bilodeau did was joyous.
The Women’s Bobsled Medal Ceremony. I could feel friendship, pride, love and excitement radiating from this ceremony. Canada’s only double-podium win of these olympic games had the entire country in a frenzy – gold medalists Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse were so joyous, I was glowing on their behalf. Friendship like that is a gold medal winner in itself.
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s Gold Medal Performance. The prettiest thing I have EVER seen, EVER. I sat watching in awe, emitting “wow”‘s every five seconds. The lifts were flawless, Virtue is so graceful, and Moir’s personality shines through every performance. Even sweeter was their gala performance, in which Moir donned the Team Canada jersey; obviously, he was doing something right.
Joannie Rochette’s Gold Medal. Rochette proved without a doubt that sometimes instead of crumbling under the weight of tragedy, people can rise up and seize the day because they have become impervious to everything else. She is such a competitor and she found her focus in the midst of the worst news someone could possibly ever receive. She truly finished what she started and did it better I think, than anyone even expected her to. It’s not every Olympics we get TWO medals in figure skating.
All in all, Vancouver 2010 was GREAT. It was two weeks of fantastic and friendly compeititon that allowed me to appreciate my country on a deeper level than I ever have, and also, it allowed me to really appreciate not JUST the athleticism of athletes from all over the world, but the psychology of athletes. I’ve mentioned this before, but it must take all of the mental strength in the WORLD to compete in these events – you have to have no fear, of failure or pain, and you have to show no shame, attack what you want, and focus. Focus SO much. The mental strength of these people are what make them the superstars that we love – not just the capabilities of their bodies.
I’ve seen a lot of people criticising the olympics and Canada’s attitude has disappointed me a bit – I can understand living in Vancouver and being frustrated with the influx and the changes and the transit, but… come on, Canada. Don’t think that just because we’re waving flags, it turns us into the Americans that we love to criticize and separate from. The olympics are a harmless way to get involved in national pride – we’re not fighting pointless wars or rubbing our money and power in peoples’ faces – we’re playing sports. And if something like hockey is what brings a nation together, allows us for even a few days, to exhange smiles, all be friends and all jump up and cheer together… what’s so wrong with that? Sometimes everything in the world is too frivolous and sometimes we need to show who we are by just having fun.