Feb 28, 2010 6:34:42 PM
Lonely Planet at the Games – Day 17: Fin
More than 30 million pins traded; $10 million dollars in daily international Visa transactions; and more Maple Leaf face tattoos than you shake a large stick at. The 2010 Winter Olympics is drawing to a close in Vancouver. It’s almost time for the locals to roll up their flags and return to the rainy hangover of regular life…and for mascot Quatchi to carve out a new existence far from the adoring limelight. If you see the big fella propping up a bar somewhere, buy him a drink and remember the good times.
Until then, there’s still some partying to be had. At least that’s the feeling on the Saturday night streets where, despite a mist of fine rain, an estimated 200,000 wide-eyed, five-ring-fans are promenading around the downtown core. Red –flag capes, wooly mittens, curly afro wigs and even full Team Canada hockey gear (sometimes including skates) – is the prevailing hue, while ragged but heartfelt renditions of O Canada and the slightly less wordy “Go Canada Go” join the continual thump-thump-thump of unseen drums.
Chatting to a few of the ever-smiling partiers, I gather some final impressions of how these Games have fared.
“The energy’s been really good, especially just hanging out on the street,” says East Vancouverite Kelly Brabbins, catching the evening action at the bustling, neon-lit Robson Square ice rink with friends Sarah Moir and Jenny Duke. In town from Victoria, Moir adds that “Everyone in Vancouver’s been super-friendly – not like normal – and I think I’ve sung O Canada about 40 times.”
Duke, from Alberta, wants the positive mood to stick around when the flame finally flickers out on these Games. “I hope the patriotism continues. The US is so patriotic and we’re usually not – it’s just nice to finally see it here,” she says, casting her gaze to the ice where a couple of cute, well-wrapped under-fives are learning how to skate just a few feet away.
With the big red sea washing around the streets tonight – the Canada-US men’s hockey final is still to come and there’s plenty of chest-thumping going on – not everyone here is a die-hard Canuck. In town from Seattle for the Games’ final weekend, Derek and Kimberly Mack are partaking of the atmos on jam-packed Granville Street. Derek is wearing his blue USA jacket. “The Canadians are very friendly but when they see I’m from the States they usually say they’ll get me tomorrow,” he says with a chuckle.
Heading over to the US House on Sunday to catch the big game, the pair has been massively impressed with what they’ve seen of the Games so far. “There’s a good electricity in the city,” says Kimberly, with Derek adding that, “It’s very family friendly and the street vibe is really unbelievable. I was at the Salt Lake Games and this really takes it down.”
Comparisons like this are inevitable over the coming weeks, but weaving over to the flaming Olympic cauldron on the banks of Burrad Inlet, I run into someone from a country that’s already been highly critical. Some elements of the UK media have lambasted the organizational deficiencies, weather challenges and “Canadian jingoism” of these Olympics, with the Guardian going so far as to label them the “worst Games ever.”
“I don’t know what they’re on about,” says Jackie Smith, wielding a Union Jack umbrella and visiting from London, upcoming host of the 2012 Summer Games. “I think it’s been great and really well run. Things always go wrong at big events like this but you just have to deal with it and move on don’t you?”
And as for Vancouver? “I’ve been here before so I know how lovely it is, especially the mountains. I’m sure they’ll be plenty of people thinking about moving here after the Olympics,” she adds, turning her rain-dappled camera towards the glowing cauldron for one final photo. It’s probably the best way to end any visit to the Games.
See John’s report of the Olympics from day 16.