Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wasn’t that a party


After periods of hot sweating and swelling intensity, Canadians experienced that special physical and emotional release that comes at the peak of hockey excitation, following vigorous stimulation of the nation's love for the game. Hockey Gold triggered a climax that brought people into the streets Sunday, from the village of Vancouver to the centre of the universe, where they closed Yonge Street to accommodate the many streetwalkers.

The final gold is probably the Olympic medal that matters most to the wide Canadian nation and I'm thrilled that our group of millionaires beat their group of millionaires. Sorry, that just slipped out. I'll start again.

For Canadian hockey fans, the final game, winning Olympic Gold at home, may rank as the biggest ever moment in sports. At least it will for those not old enough to remember Paul Henderson's goal in 1972. But, the 21st World Olympics were filled with moments that only provoke admiration, respect and, dare I say, love of country. Normally, I dread patriotism because it has been an engine of excess, dangerous throughout history. Not today.

Canadians achieved so much in hosting this event. Not a few Canadians, either. Tens of thousands conducted the games, from youngsters in the opening and closing ceremonies to the regular citizens including many seniors who filled the ranks of volunteers doing essential but unglamorous chores. From the rising generation of performers, the almost stars, authentic stars, and even a couple of superstars, entertainers showed Canadian style at the closing, with playful wit and, I guess, the inevitable pre-recorded audio tracks. It is impossible to create a music program appealing to all people, including both those before and after onset of atherosclerosis. Nevertheless, despite Mounties, moose and flying beavers, at least we didn't get hit with Rita McNeil or a Moxy Früvous reunion.

Even politicians helped by staying largely away from microphones on the final day. Both Prime Minister Harper and Premier Campbell stared at worldwide television coverage and an audience of 60,000 trapped indoors at BC Place. Somehow, they resisted the opportunity to say a few thousand words. Actually, I appreciated VANOC's decision to let John Furlong's speech be the only extended discourse before Jacques Rogge called on youth of the world to reassemble in four years in Sochi Russia. Furlong, after proving wrong those who thought his resume too thin for the big job, deserved to be the official face of the 2010 Olympic Committee.

We also tip our metaphorical hat to the security folks, particularly the Vancouver City Police and the BC Civil Liberties Association Legal Observer program. Some worried that the streets might become a cherished battleground for disaffected social drop-outs. Instead, the police forces showed how to manage crowds. Was London watching? After serious failures at the G8 meetings and with the 2012 Olympics scheduled in their city, British police forces need massive improvements. At Vancouver 2010, anxious planners brought in thousands of extra security forces; so many that some became bored and stirred up action amongst themselves, leading to early flights home for some. In downtown Vancouver, battle ready troops remained hidden while the streets were covered by walking constables wearing uniforms of services from all over Canada. I'm convinced that heavily armed troops with covered faces escalate difficulties while smiling men and women in uniform decrease potential tension.

This event brought back the positive interactions that graced Vancouver throughout Expo 86. Maybe our country faces an imminent beer shortage but who cares. Wasn't that a party.


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