After 16 days of spirited Winter Olympic competition (which, you may recall, began on February 13), the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games came to a close yesterday in a triumphant way for the host country of Canada. They ended up winning the Gold Medal in the Men’s Hockey Final against the US (and don’t forget, Canada also won the Women’s Hockey Gold Medal earlier in the week) and ended up with the highest Gold Medal count of every country in competition (tho, I might add, the US won the overall medal count with 37 — the most the US has ever won at any Winter Olympic Games). In jubilant celebration, Canada threw one hell of a party last night … which they called the Olympic Closing Ceremony:
The Olympics that started under the cloud of an athlete’s death ended Sunday, much more joyously than they had begun. A victory by the Canadian men’s hockey team over the United States in the final competition of these Games spurred throngs of fans onto the streets, where they celebrated a gold medal — and a Winter Olympics — that united this nation. In waves of their red and white hockey jerseys, they shouted “Go Canada!” to mark the country’s record 14th gold medal here. Not long after, inside B.C. Place, another celebration began. The Canadian singers Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne and Michael Bublé got the crowd of 60,000 dancing. The Canadian actors Michael J. Fox and Catherine O’Hara got the crowd laughing. Every detail — down to the spectators wearing foam moose antlers and the backup singers dressed like Mounties in miniskirts — was a reminder of who had hosted these Games. So, despite the tears of 16 days earlier, the Games ended on a high note, just as Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympics Committee, had expected. “I knew the Games would be a success, even though in the beginning they were a bit gloomy, with legitimate issues and teething pains,” he said Saturday, referring to the shaky start, which was marred by problems, including unseasonably warm weather … Canada, for the first time on its home soil, did not feel a similar pang of disappointment. The glory of the gold medal poured in for the hosts, with Alexandre Bilodeau leading the way. He won the men’s moguls event, becoming the first Canadian to win a gold medal on home soil. In the last week, the Canadians were on a roll, and their gold medal total ended up being the best. “Alexandre, your first gold medal gave us all permission to feel like and behave like champions. Our last one will be remembered for generations,” Furlong said, referring to the Canadian team’s gold medal victory over the United States in men’s hockey. Despite that final loss, the performance of Team USA was also memorable. It won 37 medals, more than it has ever won in a Winter Games. Apolo Ohno, a short-track speedskater, won three medals to become the most decorated American in Winter Games history with eight medals over all. Bill Demong, an athlete in the Nordic combined, won the United States’ first gold medal in that sport. Bode Miller won a gold in the super combined, topping off the best Olympic run for American Alpine skiers since 1984. “No matter what our projections were, it would be hard to deny that we’ve exceeded that,” said Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee. “The team performed fantastically, but we expected them to perform fantastically. They did better than we even thought they would.” Some American athletes, including the Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, failed to meet high expectations. Vonn came into these Games with a goal of winning five gold medals, but left with one gold, in the downhill, and a bronze. Still, she called these Games her best yet because of the welcoming atmosphere. “At the end of the day, I’m leaving these Games happy because I gave it everything I have,” she said … In the end, the Canadians managed a smooth ending to these Games, down to fixing the glitch from the opening ceremony that left the Canadian speedskater Catriona LeMay Doan holding a torch, but with nothing to light. One leg of the Olympic caldron had failed to emerge from the ground. But at the closing ceremony, that leg finally appeared, to deafening cheers. LeMay Doan lighted the flame, in a symbolic moment that showed that the Games could regroup. What marked these Games the most, though, was Canada’s performance, Rogge said. Nothing makes an Olympics better than when the host country finds success. That is why Bilodeau’s victory in the moguls proved so momentous. “Canada woke up, the Games and the rest of the world woke up,” Rogge said.
As far as Winter Olympic Games go, I think the Vancouver Games will be fondly remembered as among the most exciting of them all … it really was a spectacular 2 weeks of competition that we ALL got to enjoy. After the jump, check out a few more photos from the Closing Ceremonies and read some of my final thoughts on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games … More »