Community & Current Events

Remembering the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

By: Seamus O'Regan

Photography courtesy of AP Photo/Chris O'Meara Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography courtesy of AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Community & Current Events

Remembering the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

By: Seamus O'Regan

Has it really been four years? It seems like just yesterday that this country stood captivated by the wonders of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. Every day seemed to deliver not just victory and defeat, but elation and tragedy. Everything was big about those Olympics. Every day brought another tale to tell.

I hosted CTV's Olympic Morning for those two weeks, along with the rest of the Canada AM team. It was a gruelling schedule—in bed by 6 p.m., waking up at midnight to be bright and chirpy for the East Coast, and doing live television for six hours every morning—but who could complain? The eyes of the world were on Canada, and the eyes of Canada were on us.

A rough Opening Ceremony
Looking back, the Games had one of the roughest starts imaginable: on the morning of Opening Day, the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, killed during a training run at Whistler. Then, an Olympic Cauldron malfunction in the middle of the Opening Ceremonies, followed by warm weather and lack of snow at the freestyle skiing and snowboarding venues at Cypress Mountain. International media pounced: A reporter from London's The Guardian wrote off Vancouver as the "worst Games ever."

Less than two weeks later, as the Games concluded, the BBC ran the headline: "Were these Winter Olympics the best ever?"

A golden finish
What a ride. Vancouver 2010 rushed before our eyes to the storybook ending of the last day: hockey gold, again, against the Americans, again, in our national sport. A moment that will forever have Canadians asking one another, "Where were you when...?"

I, sadly, was on a plane. The Canada  AM crew needed to be back in Toronto for our show the next morning. I watched  the first two periods from the Vancouver airport. Even the absence of a comfortable venue couldn't deter the enthusiasm of my fellow travellers, who gathered around whatever screen they could find, cheering and groaning in unison with every passed puck, check and goal.

We had to board our flight before the third period, and the downcast Air Canada gate agent made a point of saying "I'm sorry" to every passenger who walked by. I was seated beside my friend, the composer Stephan Moccio, who had written the iconic (and, then, ubiquitous) Olympic anthem, "I Believe," sung by Nikki Yanofsky. Both of us moaned that we must be the only Canadians missing the game.

What happened next was amazing. The plane was still at the gate, and people were on the phone with friends or family or watching on their screens, when the Americans tied it up. Overtime was called. People on the plane were nearly hysterical—we'd be taking off and not knowing who won! The captain came over the in-flight system: "Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to have discovered a small technical problem that we need to look into."

We couldn't believe it. And then: Sidney Crosby scored, playing to a script that, if it had been written beforehand, no one would have believed. We had won Olympic Gold in Men's Hockey, to pair with our win in Women's. The plane erupted—there was hugging, kissing, crying. As people started to settle down, the captain came back on: "Um, that problem seems to have been solved, ladies and gentlemen. We'll be getting underway now..." We all laughed together. Maybe it was a coincidence, but I think not.

Pride felt across the country
Planes aren't known for incubating camaraderie, but we had it on that plane that evening. So did the whole country. We felt things together: the elation of freestyle skiier Alexandre Bilodeau's brother when Canada got its first ever gold on home soil, or the tragedy and triumph of Joannie Rochette skating to bronze while mourning the passing of her mother.

We allowed ourselves the joy of being lost in national moments. And that surprised us. We knew we were tenacious, hard-working, fearless, dogged; but the Vancouver 2010 Games reminded us how good we could be. We thought big from the start, mounting the longest domestic Olympic Torch Relay the world had ever seen. (I ran the torch in Conception Bay South, NL.)

But nobody embodied the national mood better than Jon Montgomery. I remember being awakened, at the ungodly hour of 9 p.m., to interview the gold medal winner in Men's Skeleton. I waited for him on our studio stage in Whistler. He took that medal graciously, and then, arms outstretched, chest out, he let everyone know just how happy he was. He walked through Whistler Village and, when someone offered him a pitcher of beer, he drank it. He had—there really is only one word for it—swagger.

We all did. Jon's win happened at just the right time. By that time, we knew how good these Games were, and how good we were. If there's a legacy to those momentous Games, I want us to remember that walk, that guzzle of beer. Yes, we Canadians are resilient and determined, and we should be proud of that. But we're allowed to be hotshots every now and again—to accept that we're damn good, and to revel in it.

Vancouver and Whistler gave us swagger. And for that, I'm grateful.

Get excited for the 2014 Winter Olympics, by checking out all our athlete profiles, meal plans and Olympic crafts.
                                               
This story was originally titled "How Did the 2010 Olympics Change Us" in the January 2014 issue.
           
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Remembering the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics

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