Winter Olympic closing ceremony shows Canada's heart & humor—too late
Seventeen days later, Canada rediscovered its sense of humor — and hopefully, its soul.
The 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony brought something that had been largely missing from these games — a Canadian sense of fun.
After taking itself so deadly seriously during these games, after hunting medals with a ruthlessness most of us have never seen before from our neighbors to the north, after treating any joke about the Vancouver games as a personal affront, after all but introducing the term "Ugly Canadian" to the world's vocabulary, Canada tried to return to its old lovable self on the Olympics' closing night.
The closing ceremony opened with a pure-Canadian-humor parody of the botched cauldron lighting that made so many Canadians so stressed about the opening ceremony. Just like that, the stiff tone that made these games extremely difficult to love — especially if you've spent time in Vancouver or Whistler and know the real spirit of British Columbia — seemed to evaporate.
Athletes mingled with each other as lines of country blurred. The Canadian delegation actually started looking like ... well, Canadians. They jumped around, carefree and light. For the first time after 17 days and nights of exhaustive hit-and-miss TV coverage (with the misses winning out handily), I finally recognized the British Columbia I'd come to love from a good half dozen trips there in the years leading up to the Olympic Games.
Too bad no one saw it until the torch was about to be passed over to Sochi, Russia — the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
These games were destined to be remembered for heart-wrenching moments more than heart-warming ones from the moment that Georgian lugger Nodar Kumaritashvili slammed to his death on that infamous curve No. 16 on the first day of competition. Even the feel-good story of the games - Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette's bronze medal performance in the wake of her mother's sudden death - came shrouded in tragedy.
What I'll remember most from the Vancouver Olympics though - even more than Spring speedskater Chad Hedricks' triumphant goodbye to Olympic competition - is how Canada lost the chance to show the world its true character.
Canada used to be the least serious nation on earth - one place where George W. Bush would never feel completely comfortable. You could ridicule Canadians for their ehs, their inexplicable obsession with maple syrup, their popgun army (even Grenada would be favored by the bookies in a war with Canada) and the fact that they live on a block of ice.
For a while there, Canadians stood out as the last people on earth who could take a joke.
No more. Not now. Perhaps, never again after these Olympics.
Where's Michael Moore's land?
Remember when Michael Moore walked through the unlocked front doors of Canadian home after Canadian home in Bowling for Columbine?
If the filmmaker tried that during these Olympics, he’d have left with more buckshot in him than if he attempted the stunt in East Texas.
Canadians will always have their game after that men's hockey gold medal, but have they forever lost their dignity?
Canada’s Olympic officials denied other nations the typical courtesy of extra practice time on their venues in a pathetically desperate attempt to maintain a home country advantage. That only likely contributed to the first death in Olympic competition in 18 years. Canada’s citizens booed a Danish curler during her shot, which is akin to screaming during a golfer’s backswing.
The Canadian women's hockey team celebrated more boorishly than the 1990s Dallas Cowboys of Michael Irvin, with the best women hockey players in the world bringing booze onto the ice and embarrassing the International Olympic Committee by having some underage (even by Canada's more liberal drinking laws) players guzzling right along.
In trying to “Own The Podium”, Canada’s only discovered its inner sore loser. Were the 14 gold medals worth that?
If the U.S. acted this boorishly, columnists around the globe would be spewing outrage. Bob Costas would reach full lecture mode. But the inhospitable hosts largely received a pass.
Then, in closing the Winter Olympics, the real Canada came back.
"As corny as it sounds to some people, this is what the Olympic Games are supposed to be all about," NBC sportscaster Al Michaels said as the whimsy of the closing ceremonies reached full force.
Why did they have to end for us to finally see it? Canada should have shown its light-hearted lilt long before Neil Young took the stage and Canadian William Shatner began his bizarre tribute to Montreal, (Captain Kirk did know what part of Canada he was in, right?)
"I'm proud we're a people that know how to make love in a canoe," Shatner later cracked.
Where was that all Games? When a feel-good appearance from Michael J. Fox cannot even save things, you know you lost your way.
The "always-enjoyable, giant inflatable beavers," as Costas put it, did make everyone feel a little better about things though.
If only Canada hadn't shown its inner jerk for more than a fortnight first.