Olympic Memories

Did you have a chance to enjoy the Olympics by attending or watching some of the events?

They were held in my backyard, Vancouver, and what a magnificent 17 days it was.

Inukshuk on Whistler Mountain, British Columbia

The spirit of the games started for me when I first saw the Inukshuk up high on the mountain at Whistler last October.  I went up the mountain to ride the new Peak to Peak gondola between Whistler and Blackcomb.  The vistas all around were incredible and seeing the Inukshuk helped me to believe that the Olympics were really coming.

And what a short few months that was!  The media was filled with stories about everything from the progress on the event sites, to selecting thousands of volunteers, providing transportation…including the days of practicing with 30% less traffic in the downtown core…to ticket sales.  We also got to learn about the world-class athletes who were coming and the challenges they would face. Then there was the weather buzz…always a topic of conversation here…but the Olympic committee did a fantastic job of figuring out what to do if there was not enough snow.

So as the days passed, the momentum built.  People started to wear red and white scarves, hats, jackets, anything with “Canada” written on it, and the now-famous red mittens.

Canadian flags were flying everywhere, Olympic symbolism was seen on buildings, buses, lamp posts, right down to pins on hats and lapels.

The TV advertising was encouraging us to get involved and to “Believe”….and it worked!  One of my favourite ads was about how beautiful our province is.  We don’t have thousands of years of history that is evident in places like Greece, Egypt, and Peru but we have amazing natural beauty.  Take a look at this 30 second youtube video and see a little of my world….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVcQ86Omn0I

Olympic cauldron, Vancouver 2010 Olympics

By the time the cauldron was lit at the opening ceremonies Canadian pride became more and more evident to the point where it was bursting at the seams.  

During the games I went downtown to experience the vibe and it was truly electric and contagious.  There were people lined up for hours to go on the zip line, see the Olympic coins in the mint, get a better view of the cauldron, and so on. Normally quiet people would spontaneously and collectively burst into song, singing “Oh Canada” at the top of their lungs. There was something for everyone including entertainers, ice-skating at Robson Square, magicians in the street, big screen TVs in plazas so that those without tickets could watch the events, and the ever-present helpful, smiling volunteers.  Although it was pouring rain the day I was downtown, it was wonderful to be in the midst of the excitement.

On the last day, the Canada-US hockey game was thrilling…both teams played with skill and determination…and the overtime Canadian goal had thousands celebrating in the streets until the wee hours of the morning.  People were honking their horns and  typically reserved Canadians seemed happier and more effervescent than usual.  WE DID IT…more golds than any other country and a celebration to be proud of.

We couldn’t have done it without the years of tireless effort by John Furlong and the VANOC committee. Were there glitches at first? Yes, like there would be anywhere…but they worked quickly to remedy them and the games just blossomed from there.  In fact, the weather in Vancouver was so sunny that the flowers came out early and bloomed as well.

I guess, by now, you can tell that I am proud to be a Canadian….always have been…but this Olympic experience, the outpouring of support by fans, and the incredible tenacity and courage of the athletes from all over the world made me very happy to be able to say “welcome to Canada, welcome to my part of the world.”

Thirty-nine thousand people left Vancouver yesterday by air.  Whether they were an athlete, a volunteer, a member of the press, or an enthusiastic fan, I hope they will forever keep in their hearts happy memories of their Olympic experience.

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