Interruption – Olympic Reflection

I’m working my way through my Design Week mind maps, reflecting away, when I get to the Ali Gardiner and Ben Hulse map. I realize that I sent my family a recap of my Olympic experience (my mom edits a newsletter that goes out to our very large extended family) and it prompted me to jot it down here. So voila, in it’s full glory:
The minutes are ticking down til the newsletter’s deadline and I can’t think of what to write. I click on my bookmarks and the first tag I see is 2010 Olympics. Of course – the Olympics! How could I not write about the Olympics?!
First, the back-story. Some people remember where they were when JFK was killed, others when space shuttles didn’t make it back to earth. For me, I remember where I was when we got the news that Vancouver was hosting the 2010 Olympics. Funny enough, I wasn’t in Vancouver – I was in Montreal, and read about it on the front page of the paper. Back home in Vancity they had filled movie theatres with people anxiously awaiting the news.
I wasn’t an especially ardent Olympic supporter (like some people *cough* Brandie *cough*). I was more lackadaisical; open to it, but not especially against it. Yay for the exposure, not so good for funding that could have gone to hospital wait lists etc. On with the story… political hoopla ensues with new construction, new transit lines, budgets, over budgets, changes in mayorships and who knows what else I’m forgetting. In 2009 Nat and I were in the camp of people who figured it would be a good idea to get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of dodge when the world descended on our city. Even better – let’s make money off them and rent out the apartment! Well we ended up sticking around. My work went into major emergency preparedness planning anticipating that people might not be able to get into work due to traffic nightmares. I volunteered to be the sole manager on duty (I take the train to work and didn’t think it would affect me until I heard about the possible 1.5 hour waits for trains – egad!).
And the protesters. Oh my the protesters. What I admired about 99% of this city is that there came a point, shortly before the festivities began, that there was a collective putting down of arms and putting on the red and white. This said it best, in the week before the rings were lit: “Dear protesters. The Olympics are coming. Get over it.” And with that (or nearly) this amazing place I call home was absolutely lit up with the kind of Canadian pride I have never seen.
I got off the train on opening ceremonies day to Nat saying “hurry and get in the car – they’re about to start!” and spent almost all of the ceremonies sitting on the ottoman in front of our TV where we were live streaming the ceremonies (no cable – thank god for streaming internet video). It was amazing. Nat had to leave for his band practice so I started taking pictures on my phone of what was happening on TV and emailing them to him. And then – Murphy Murphy Murphy – just when the torch entered the building the streaming video feed crashed! I was on Twitter so I turned to it to find out what was happening while I cursed and refreshed and cursed and refreshed. It came back when Gretzky was being charioteered to the big outdoor torch.
Fast-forward… we watched so much Olympics between the internet feeds and the cable down at our cabin. Never, never have I watched so much coverage. We became arm chair critics… of moguls (what? his knees were coming apart!) of speed skating (impeding – he impeded!) to – of course – hockey. We were at the cabin when Alex Bilodeau won the gold. But we were back on home soil for THE hockey game. We stayed at a friend’s place in Vancouver the night before and woke up to the most Canadian scene possible – a group of friends (young and old) had put out some nets, draped a Canadian flag over the fence, with Timmie’s cups lined up, and were playing our game. It was AWESOME. Our friend Ryan was walking to work days before and described how on one street people were pushing a bobsled, then when he turned the corner there was a spontaneous game of pick-up happening and before he knew it someone was handing him a stick and said “you’re in!”. Who knew that we had this kind of spirit and camaraderie?
Anyway, it’s the biggest game day and we’re gathered with friends. Jumping and cheering and nail biting right into – gasp – overtime. My favourite two videos of what happened next were 1) someone at LiveCity with a handcam watching the game on the outdoor big screen when cheers erupted and the camera literally jumps up and down for two straight minutes and 2) a camera shooting over False Creek captures the peace and quiet until suddenly that magical shot scores and the decibel level in the city goes up and stays up.
What I loved most about the Olympics was the inspiration. Of hearing the stories of young kids seeing the torch many years ago and deciding they wanted to go to the Olympics (and here they are now – winning medals). Of people wanting so badly to represent our country they try event after event trying to find their niche – and succeed. Of someone I know very well leaning over the table at dinner and whispering to me “I think I could be a speed skater”. Of the way our city represented with what is the very best of Canada – warm smiles, helpful strangers, high-fives and so many Canadian anthem sing-alongs I’m pretty sure ever visitor knows the words. When Brian Williams says that there was something special happening here, I believe it. I’m getting teary just thinking about it again.
I hope it was just as special taking it in from wherever you were. No event like this is without it’s hiccups (some extremely tragic, others more comical). I’ve gone on for too long, but in case you didn’t see this, here is a link to an eloquent piece answering to world critics:
With glowing hearts and waving red mittens…

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