Tuesday, March 02, 2010

So, now what are we supposed to watch?

Where did they go? The snow board jockeys with their fancy tricks, the daring bobsleigh teams hurtling down a hill,  the courageous downhill skiers, the poetic skaters, the passion of the hockey rinks, the madness of a curling rink of all places.

For seventeen days Canada shared in the Olympic experience from Vancouver, through a vast mixture of television stations anchored by CTV but running the spectrum of TSN and Sportsnet to the presentations of APTN and Omni, we followed the victories and the defeats, the triumph and the tragedy of the 21st Olympiad.

For those that didn't make the trek to Vancouver, we sampled the noise and chaos of Robson street, a nightly carnival that probably has changed Vancouver forever. A teeming mass in the hundreds of thousands that gathered in a flowing body of one, no doubt causing ulcers for Vancouver police, but in the end a cross section of this nation and its guests that had but one mission to party with good spirits and friendship, rain or shine. In the end, the Vancouver Police had nothing to worry about, this was a self policing event, the herd minded its own for the most part.

Vancouver and Whistler were the national happening spots, but every corner of this vast land participated. A seventeen day escape from our assorted troubles, , an unusual overtly public display of patriotism, featuring spontaneous renditions of a national anthem and fuelled by young and old, teeming with spirit, pride  and one yes,  one partially fueled by beer and other popular products made famous in British Columbia.

In the end it was the people who took charge of their party, the naysayers domestic and foreign, who dared to try and disrupt or rain on their parade were sidelined by this growing movement of Canadians intent to celebrate. While we have not forgotten the very real issues that preceded these games, we instead  chose to defer them for later, the guests had arrived and it was time to show the world Canada.

Once the snow ball was moving down the mountain (whenever snow could be found) the momentum was unstoppable, the passion in the streets of Vancouver and in Whistler infectious, with each successive Canadian medal after such a torturous start, the nation embraced these games surging towards a finish line with a frenzy of victories in the last few days, culminating in that Holy Grail of Canadian essence, a showdown hockey game.

Sunday, over sixteen million Canadians watched every second, every shift, every shot and every goal, some 26 million in all found time to take a peek at what was going on, whether in huge congregations on Robson street or in bars, lounges, curling clubs or homes across the nation.

When Sidney Crosby provided deliverance to the national angst, the gold medal game had already become the most watched television event in Canadian history.

For seventeen days by the millions we had these games as our background, we were there when Alexandre Bilodeau won our first gold and when Sidney Crosby delivered that last one.

We held our breath for Joannie Rochette, walked down a crowded street in Whislter, beer in hand with Jon Montgomery and wished we could reassure Melissa Hollingsworth that she had let no one down. We felt the disappointment of all those that came oh so close to a medal and of those that finished far off the lists. Celebrating their efforts and passion for sports that many of us were mesmerized by during their short burst on our stage.

We mourned a life lost far too young, seeking to make sense of a death in the pursuit of a sport. The final judgment on the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili will be provided upon completion of an investigation, recommendations will be made corrections for future Olympics will be ordered, but it won't bring back a life and for that Canada will always remember that among our joy was sadness too.

Life as it always does intruded on our magical experience of seventeen days, on Saturday we were reminded of the world outside our borders and the fragility of it with word the catastrophe of an earthquake and the growing death toll in Chile. It was a numbing jolt back into the real world.

We felt uneasy at times in our own skin it seemed at times, especially in those early days of the games, stung by the hiccups of an event so large that it takes on a life of its own, but then we regained our footing, and in a very Canadian way we solved the problems, improvised solutions and moved forward.

When the critics suggested these games  might be the worst we pushed back, taking to the streets in larger numbers in Vancouver, vowing not to let them dim our lights or crush our spirit. In the end we weren't so much concerned about what they thought about us, we were fine, confident as seemingly never before, we celebrated our achievements and admired those of our visitors.

Cynics and would be anarchists faded from view as we reclaimed the streets and the venues, eager to let loose and show the world some of their stereotypes were wrong, keeping the good ones alive, dismissing the foolish ones with the wave of a huge Canadian flag.

For seventeen days we welcomed and hosted the world, set up the party and celebrated it to the very end

And now the long held secret is out, the strength of this country is but one thing, its people.

As it always has been, and as it always will be.

It's a spirit and passion that Stephen Brunt divined for us in such an eloquent style, below his video essay of what these games have done for this nation.  No one will ever express these seventeen days better.