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Best. Olympics. EVER: Final Thoughts on Vancouver 2010.

March 1, 2010 2 comments

 

I’m pretty sure I’m going to need some Olympic detox.  Withdrawals are surely on their way.  I was hyper-tweeting on twitter, and my blogs reached record outputs (and hits!).  A few of my readers were concerned I’d never return from Olympic themed blogs.  So, with the intention of moving back to various topics, here is my last Olympic blog… for now.

Sidney. Freaking. Crosby.  I could watch that “Golden Goal” (as announcer Chris Cuthbert called it) on loop for, probably ever.  I heard one comparison already of that goal to the likes of the Paul Henderson goal in the ’72 Summit Series, and the Gretzky-to-Lemieux Canada Cup goal, and I have to say I agree with the alignment.  It really was one of those goals that you’re going to always remember where you were and who you were with when it happened.  It didn’t matter if you were a hockey fan, or even ever played hockey once in your life – if you are Canadian, you were excited.

And wasn’t that the spectacle of Vancouver 2010?  All of us Canadians were excited, everywhere; seemingly all the time.  Not just in Vancouver; not even just in Canada.  Every living room, every pub, bar, airport, restaurant, Tim Hortons’, basement suite, townhouse, apartment, mobile home, rancher, bus, plane, car, city street, or any other dwelling place across the globe that displaced Canadians were currently occupying went absolutely bananas when they saw on their TV or computer, or heard on  their radio or phone that Crosby’s shot went in.  And it wasn’t just during that game; the jubilation and camaraderie really lasted throughout the entirety of the 17 days that were the 2010 Winter Olympics.  There was video evidence from various cities from the East Coast all the way across the country to the West Coast of Canada; from Kandahar, Afghanistan to LAX; of Canadians loving every moment.  I got to experience a few events, and even sported car flags on my vehicle (2 lost due to accidental window roll-downs, and one to manufacturers defect).  And who could forget the red Olympic mittens?  I had my pair.

We cheered and applauded, and/or got a little teary every time a Canadian earned a medal.  Was there a better back-story than Alexandre Bilodeau drawing inspiration from his disabled brother and winning Canada’s first gold medal at home?   We loved seeing giddy Marianne St-Gelais and Charles Hamelin win their medals and embrace.  Who could keep their composure after Joannie Rochette won her bronze just days after the death of her mother?  Canadian males everywhere grunted as Jon Montgomery screamed in victory, and guzzled a pitcher of beer.  We couldn’t stop from singing “O Canada” in the curling rink, and causing non-traditional delays.  The stories go on and on.  And as I referenced already, when Crosby went five-hole on Miller, silenced the fear of loss, and Canada triumphed over the US, and took the overall gold medal lead and set the all-time Winter Olympic record, well, is it of any surprise that IOC President Jacques Rogge was “boo’ed” when he announced the games were officially closed?

Our hearts broke every time one of our athletes told us they felt like they let us down.  Skeleton’ist Mellisa Hollingsworth, and cross-country skiier Devon Kershaw both broke down in tears as they fell short of the medal podium, and Jeremy Wotherspoon capped is career off still without an Olympic gold medal.  Through them wearing their hearts, pride, and passion on the sleeves of their Canadian uniforms, we not only forgave them (we were never mad at them), but we embraced them.

We rallied together anytime negative and irrelevant criticism was thrown our way, and retaliated in a civil way, if necessary.  We defended ourselves in, probably, a most unexpected manner.  When foreign newspapers and other media outlets tried to point out all our shortcomings as hosts, we accented our strengths, did our best to clean up our messes, and kept on waving the Maple Leaf and breaking into spontaneous street-hockey games anywhere and everywhere, with anyone who wanted to join in.  From the time the torch reached our shores from Greece and paraded to every corner of our country, to the time the flame was extinguished and started its journey to the next host, we were a team out there.  Even our Prime Minister placed bets on u

IOC President, Jacques Rogge, assessed Vancouver 2010 as “excellent and most friendly”.  Perhaps in part from being Canadian and watching Canadian broadcasts, my spectrum of the games were quite partisan.  But in all honesty, compared to any other Olympics I’ve seen from any previous year, Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Games were the best. Games. Ever.  Many have said Canada forged itself a new identity, and put some swagger in our step.  Some say it was there all along.  Whatever it is that we’ve become as far as a united nation, I hope we never forget it.

Olympic Quips: Quality Over Quantity, Happy With Harper, Big Kid Pictograms, and More Hockey Thoughts.

February 27, 2010 6 comments

Our country, and the world, has certainly been critical of our little “Own The Podium” program that we developed.  Now, the goal was to win more medals than any other country, and the likelihood of that happening is fading.  But do consider the following:  We’ve won more gold medals than anyone else, meaning we’re the best in the world at more sports than any other country, INCLUDING the first place US.  We tied the all-time Winter Olympic record for most gold medals at 13.  If a country had 32 bronze medals for coming in third every time, and another had a fraction of that amount in gold first place medals, wouldn’t you give the nod to the country with the gold’s?  Also, we’ve set another Canadian record for our medal count in Torino, which also was up from the previous record.  And thirdly, our female athletes are destroying our male athletes in medal winnings. 

  

I think it’s pretty cool that our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper is attending so many Olympic events.  Apparently he’s been paying his own way for tickets (as he should be), so he must have some deep pockets; tickets for medal events like he’s attended are all in the multiple hundreds of dollars range.  That aside, you likely wouldn’t see US President Barack Obama, or certainly not our old friend George W Bush, amongst the common people at such a largely populated public event.  Harper’s high-fiving Wayne Gretzky, and hugging athletes as they win medals.  I like it.

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Who did Pepsi think they were kidding when they tried to make us chant “Eh Oh Canada Go” because they had a contest and awarded a prize to someone

no sir, I don't like it.

 who came up with, what they believed to be, the best original chant?  I’m sure the entrant meant well, but come on.  Chants are as spontaneous as the wave, or events depicted in Bacardi commercials; like throwing a lot of rocks in the water, building an island, and having an insane party, all on a whim.  Our standard “Go Canada Go” chant is fine the way it is.  Also, I’ve enjoyed “WE WANT RUS-SIA CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP”; also sub-in SWE-DEN and U-S-A at the sight of inevitable Team Canada hockey wins as my favourites so far.    

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can they get a vase to go?

What’s the deal with the presentation of flowers after the medals?  I know in Roman times, the flowers were quite coveted by the winners.  Surely, it’s a tip of the cap to that tradition, today.  But I mean, I’m sure the athletes are like, “WOW THIS IS AWESOME I’M THE BEST THIS MEDAL RULES… oh, and thanks for the flowers… hold on, I gotta put these in some water… for something that’s gonna die fairly soon, these seem like something that we could’ve saved spending money on for something for necessary.”  Here’s a little quip about where the bouquets are made.

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I’m glad Vancouver 2010 decided to use pictograms to visually interpret the events that don’t look like kindergarten scrawls, as has been done consistently for like, ever.  These ones are well drawn, and actually look like what they are supposed to depict. 

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Team Canada’s Women’s hockey team prrrrrobably shouldn’t have been drinking champagne and smoking cigars in the public eye after their gold medal victory, especially with an underaged player on the team participating.  But you’re kidding yourselves if you think these things weren’t happening anyways in the dressing room.  They just got caught.  Oops.  Add this to the IOC’s list of reasons that will be reviewed to support women’s hockey remaining as an Olympic event… hmm, probably should’ve kept it in the room.  Well, they are the best in the world, again.  And they beat the Americans.  On those fronts, nice going girls!

Finally, after squeaking by Slovakia, CANADA IS GOING TO DESTROY THE US IN HOCKEY AND WIN THE GOLD MEDAL AND AVENGE THEIR ROUND ROBIN LOSS AND SETTLE THE PSYCHE OF ALL CANADIANS.  Given, the US has a great team, a hot goalie, and it would be good for the business of hockey for them to win, but my allegiances are unquestioned.  I have a friend who is a die-hard Calgary Flames fan/Vancouver Canucks hater, so much so that the mere thought of Roberto Luongo being credited for Canada’s success  spurs on thoughts of “Lu” assassination, and instead wants Iginla  to be credited for all triumphs.   I’ve got another (American) friend who only gets interested in hockey when the US plays Canada.  After some back and forth text-taunting since the first game, I NEED Canada to win for my own pride.  Is it interesting to anyone else that North American teams only make it to the Olympic finals when the games are played on NHL sized ice instead of Olympic sized ice (an insane stat; what other reason is there to have Olympic sized ice if not to be used AT THE OLYMPICS?)  I think we can all agree, it’s going to be one heck of a game.  Lets go Salt Lake City on ’em!

we look better in gold.

GO CANADA GO!!!

Glass-Housed Stone-Slingers: Return Fire for Foreign Olympic Criticism.

February 22, 2010 9 comments

So many Olympic thoughts running through my brain.  After watching it on TV EVERYday  so far, and even going to Vancouver to see a few events, I gotta say I’m really enjoying the Olympics overall.  I don’t think I’d be

from the CURLING preliminary match I went to.

 wrong to say that most Canadians are as well.  Have you ever seen spontaneous  jubilation in streets, or random outbursts of “O Canada” at curling matches before?  Unreal.  Truly something special; whether you’re viewing from afar, or are there to experience it in person.

Most people internationally would likely say the same thing as well.  Unfortunately, there are a few members of the American and British press who want to rain on everyone’s parade by labelling Vancouver 2010 as the “worst games ever”. 

Sure, the weather hasn’t been ideal; but events have continued, and medals have been awarded.  Sorry we forgot to import the weather machine that does our meteorological bidding.  Our courses are too hard?  The competitors are the best in the world at their sports, right?  Should we make

best Canadian celly so far.

them easier for everyone?  Sorry for training on our own tracks a lot; didn’t know that was such a bad thing.  The world doesn’t like our “Own The Podium” program, where we give more money and training opportunities than we historically have to our Olympic athletes in hopes of them winning a lot of medals?  Oh, sorry, should we just go back to being a mediocre sporting nation for everyone else to roll over like they used to?  What we gave our competitors is still nowhere near that of other nations, and hey, it’s not even working out THAT well for us so far, so chill.  We’re doing alright though, and no one here is going to be less proud of our athletes for any reason.   

A malfunction in the Opening Ceremonies?  Um… whoops.  We swear they were working in practice.  Some people thought the flaming icicles looked like male genitalia, or drug paraphernalia?  Well, think what you want, but be careful what indigenous people you vocalize those opinions around.  No one can get close to the flame?  Hey, they’re working on it.  I got a few good pics; I’m not complaining.  The US beating Canada in men’s hockey?  Wait, that’s Canada’s complaint.  Blame it on the goalies when things go squirrely, right?   

And the death of Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili; well that was simply a tragedy, nothing else.  That track has been ridden countless times safely, and it’s a very unfortunate and sobering example of just how dangerous that sport is.

So England and America, oh yee dwelling in glass houses and flats; how did your prior Olympic Games hostings turn out? 

London’s Olympic Games in 1908 saw England piss off the Finnish, Swedish, and USA by not displaying their flags at the Opening Ceremonies.  Finland decided not to march, and Sweden left all together.  The Americans were then asked to “dip” their flag to the Royals, which they outright refused.  Solid international relations, England.    

The USA’s Games hosting tenures haven’t been “squeaky clean” either.

Atlanta’s 1996’s Summer Games were considered over-commercialized, had a highly criticized Olympic Village and Opening Ceremonies by spectators and athletes alike, and… what else, what else…. OH YEAH, there was a BOMBING that killed 2 people and injured 111 others.   

Salt Lake City’s Winter Games of 2002 were marred by a bribery scandal (all-expense-paid ski trips, scholarships, Super Bowl trips, plastic surgery, deals on real estate, jobs for family members, and cash for IOC delegates from the Utah bid committee)  to bring the Olympics to Utah which saw several IOC members expelled, and others resign.  Allegations of foul play in figure skating judging saw scores and results reviewed and medals re-awarded.  Suspect refereeing in speed skating DQ’ed a Korean, and angered that entire country to the point that the Olympic website crashed from the overload of threatening emails sent to them over the result.  Russians threatened to go home after they felt they were unfairly accused of doping in cross-country skiing.   

Los Angeles’ Games of 1984 were boycotted by 16 countries.  In LA’s 1932 Games, President Hoover became the first head of state in Olympic history not to even show up at the event.  The 1904 Games in St. Louis became a sideshow of The World’s Fair, and lasted four and a half months. 

Now, all that to say to the critics look, we know things have been going wrong.  We’re working on it.  No one said Vancouver 2010 was going to be perfect.  And let’s be honest, everyone throwing stones at us right now has got plenty of skeletons in their own closets from when they tried to host the Olympic Games previously.  Can we at least agree that it’s a rather dubious task?   And London, you get them again in 2012, so you better be expecting an earful the second after the first thing goes wrong.  I’ll take a few unseasonably warm days in Whistler over any of those other issues any day.  There’s just so much good to be taken from these Games, maybe we can all just quit pointing fingers at our follies and just enjoy our athletes rising above the childish media behavior?      

I think US Men’s Hockey Team GM, Brian Burke, said it best with this earlier quote in response to the criticisms of Vancouver 2010:

I think that’s bullshit.  I’ve been to four Winter Olympics. This is the best one I’ve been to in terms of organization. You’re going to have glitches in an event this size. With this many people, logistical things with multiple venues, you’re going to have glitches. I don’t know why people are whining about it.  I think it’s been extraordinarily well run — again, this is my fourth one so it’s not like I’m a novice. I think they’ve done a marvellous job here. I wish people would quit bitching about it.”

Man, for a million reasons, I wish Brian Burke was Canadian.

Vancouver 2010: The Good, The Bad; The Olympics.

February 13, 2010 7 comments

 

From the 2:30 mark, “The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 21st Olympic games in 2010 are awarded to the city of….(dramatic pause)….Vancouver.”

I still remember ducking out of my hated construction labor job for 20 minutes in July of 2003; strategically hiding from my boss, taking refuge in my car which I parked out of plain view, reclining the seat and turning up the radio to hear the announcement being broadcast on a local station.  My hair stood straight up and chills ran down my spine when IOC President Jacques Rogge finally said “Vancouver.”  Unfortunately I had to go back to hating my job and life prompty after that, but they were 20 minutes I’ll never forget.  I still get those same chills even when I remember back to it now.  For seven years, I’ve been excited for Vancouver, and Canada, to host these winter Olympics.  I know I’m not the only one either.

An event like the Olympics effects not only one entire nation, but the entire world.  Anytime things of that magnitude occur, opposition naturally follows.  And that’s part of the beauty of our democratic societies; that we allow free speech, and people have the right to balk at things they believe are worth standing against.  Are there bad things that will come out of Canada hosting the games?  Surely.  The $500 million+ dollars pumped into these games could’ve been spent a lot of other ways; especially amongst a recovering economic recession.  Would we have ended homelessness in our country with that money?  Tough to say.  Were we not careful enough with the environment when constructing facilities?  Did we not represent the Indigenous people of Canada, and our other cultural origins correctly?  Did we go overboard on security in an attempt to keep terrorism and other threats to peace out of the picture?  Are there another 100 things that were not done to the liking of our 30 million residents?  Probably.  Is anyone actually making the case that we did things perfect?  Not likely.  Sometimes athletes cheat, sometimes there’s corruption in the IOC.  Sometimes they get away with it, sometimes they don’t.  Some countries get more money to train, and some have to just make due.  Personally, I don’t like the fact that our politicans and corporate sponsors ALL managed to get prime tickets to ALL the events, and the public was subject to an inane online lottery system.  Oh, and that some of those tickets cost $1000 or more.  Athletes get hurt, and probably more unfortunate than anything else, sometimes athletes are fatally injured; as in the case of Georgian Luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili.  So yeah, there’s a lot of imperfect things that the Olympics bring.

But can we think positively for at least 2 weeks?  If anyone who watched the opening ceremonies that saw the 60,000 Canadians packed into BC Place draped in red and white, waving the Maple Leaf, and resounding in excitement, thinks that Canadians aren’t pleased as punch to be hosting these games, well they couldn’t be more wrong.  For every stick in the mud, there’s an entire tree full of green, growing branches, reaching for the sky and enjoying their time in the sun.  And that’s exactly what Canada has before it; 2+ weeks to shine in international light.

Canadians love sport, and we love our athletes that compete for us as well.  The thing about athletics is it has the ability to transcend even the thickest cultural and international disagreements in the name of sportsmanlike competition.  If you need any proof of that, look at the nations of Iran and North Korea; absolutely scorned by the Western world as being on the brink of nuclear war with us.  But through all that justified tension, North Korea has sent a speed-skater, and Iran’s sent 2 skiers to compete in the Games; and to, if only briefly, join and be welcomed by the international community.  Even Israel and Lebanon will put aside differences to be a part of the Olympiad.  That’s powerful stuff.

Look at Ghana, Ethiopia, Nepal, and other impoverished countries that may or may not even see a flake of snow in their countries, but come to the Games with the support of their governments and train between full-time jobs to earn spots on their national rosters to compete because they believe that the Olympics are worth the effort and sacrifice necessary to get to them.  And really, that’s exactly what the Olympics are all about in their purest form; the best amateur athletes in the world, putting aside barriers, competing cleanly, for their country, to showcase the best that their human abilities have to offer in terms of their unique sport.

The thing is, there’s so much good to be harvested out of such a criticized event.  We ran a little flicker of a flame from Greece, around the entire planet, and through the streets and neighborhoods of nearly every city in our own country.  In Kelowna, we had a kid with cancer cut out a few days of his chemotherapy treatments so he could be a local torchbearer.  Many similarly touching stories laced our national torch relay as well.

We’ve come together as 6 continents to show that there’s at least one thing we can all be civil and peaceful about, if only for a short time.  The world of sport blends together with art and culture to put on a show unlike any other.  Our troops fighting for our freedom overseas gather around a TV, dressed in Canada clothing and sipping Tim Hortons’ coffee to watch the proceedings of Canadian icons Rick Hansen, Nancy Green, Betty Fox, Wayne Gretzky, and others completing the Olympic opening ceremonies.  We bought pairs of red mittens, various apparel, grocery items, and pretty well anything we could get our hands on that we either knew would support Canadian athletes financially, or just emblazoned “Canada” on them to show our support.

So, through all the things there are to protest against, there are plenty of others that Canadians are rightfully excited about.  How bananas are we going to all go when a Canadian wins our first gold medal that we’ve ever won on home soil?  Our when our hockey team(s) (hopefully) strike gold as well?  Between the Olympics and Paralympics, it’s going to be an exciting few weeks, and a historical moment for our country.  I hope you choose to enjoy them with the rest of us.  Go Canada go!

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