February 28, 2010
By Rod Mickleburgh
The Globe and Mail
Vancouver bids a reluctant
Two weeks ago, Vancouver was the scene of nervous
anticipation, a mixture of the possible and the unknowable.
Yesterday, this city, if not the entire country,
seemed suddenly transformed: confident, unabashedly proud, revelling
in the certainty of achievement.
Last night's closing ceremonies were about more
than a glitzy gala, and the chance to celebrate Canadian athletes'
record medal haul.
As VANOC chief executive officer John Furlong noted,
the event was a chance to measure how far Canada has come in recent
days, and how the Olympics has galvanized and changed the country
in a way few other things could.
"I believe we Canadians tonight are stronger,
more united, more in love with our country and more connected
with each other than ever before," Mr. Furlong declared,
bringing 60,000 spectators to their feet in a long, thunderous
"A beautiful kind of patriotism has broken
out across the country."
The celebration during the 2010 Winter Olympics
has been the spark for a national pride that is no longer quiet,
but loudly, if politely, proclaimed, he added, comparing "the
Canada that was with the Canada that now is."
Earlier, bronze medalist Joannie Rochette had entered
BC Place waving the Canadian flag, setting aside her personal
grief after the death of her mother, Therese, who passed away
during the Games.
Ms. Rochette was a picture of perseverance in the
face of tragedy -a fitting symbol of these Winter Olympics, which
began with a shocking death on a luge run, but ended in a spirit
When Canada's Olympic athletes pranced and danced
into the stadium last night during the Games' closing ceremonies,
they mugged for the cameras and happily waved Canadian paraphernalia,
with some sporting gold medals around their necks. Their relief
at a job well done, after 17 days of intense, anxious competition,
could not have been more evident.
Even with this new found Olympic swagger, Games
officials were not afraid to direct a few jokes their own way
before the eyes of the world.
In a marvellous piece of theatre, the ceremonies
began with the appearance of a lone workman who emerged from below
the stage to tow the missing fourth leg of the Olympic cauldron
To roars from the crowd, torchbearer Catriona LeMay
Doan successfully lit the flame. It was yet another example of
VANOC's ability to respond well when difficulties arose, a key
feature that made these Games so successful.
There were further roars when Mr. Furlong told the
crowd that "we are Canadians now, more united and proud than
we have ever been."
Referring to early troubles and the wildly successful
conclusion to the Games, Mr. Furlong, addressing the world, said,
"Now you know us, eh?" But there was an even greater
ovation when the head of the Vancouver Organizing Committee talked
about the country's first gold medal and "the last one that
will be remembered for generations."
The next host city of the Winter Games, Sochi, also
put on a lively, wonderful show, given the short eight minutes
Gleaming round zorbs - singe-passenger rolling globes
- circled the stage, while members of the Bolshoi Ballet and star
opera singers brought a touch of high-class culture to the event.
But amid the celebrations, the death of young Georgian
luger Nodar Kumaritashviliv was not forgotten.
The audience rose in a resounding tribute to Mr.
Kumaritashvili, after Mr. Furlong mentioned the sorrow felt by
all Canadians over the athlete's fatal accident.
In his formal speech closing the Games, International
Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge referred to the twin
themes of grief and joy that prevailed during the Winter Olympics.
"Together, we have experienced many strong
emotions," said Dr. Rogge. "We have shared the grief
of an Olympic dream cut short ... e have shared the joys of dreams
fulfilled. We have been moved by tears of elation and tears of
And he praised VANOC for their "outstanding
job" staging the Winter Olympics. "You have done it.
You have won. These were excellent and very friendly Games."
At the end, few hearts were left untouched by the
dishevelled, grand old man of Canadian rock, Neil Young, who,
fittingly, performed Long May You Run as the official Olympic
flame was slowly extinguished