Saturday 20 March 2010

2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games: 10 Great Moments

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games were a shining moment for Canada in general and for Vancouver in particular.

Canada's 14 Golds were the most ever by any country at the Winter Olympics. In total, Canada's 27 medals were the country's best ever performance at the Winter games. Canada's athletes won with grace and humility, and gave the country plenty of reasons to celebrate both the hosting of the event and the sporting achievements.

For the country, these Olympics redefined Canadian national pride. Canada renewed its own image of itself, as a country that will always be polite but that can now aim for and achieve victory, and also a country that can be openly proud and exuberant when needed.

And Vancouver took another giant stride towards global recognition as a world-class city. Vancouver has now moved on from just being a great place to live with terrific scenery and a moderate climate -- it's now also a city that has the capacity to host and celebrate a successful world-scale event, and capable of throwing one heck of a party.

From 17 days filled with memories, here are 10 great moments from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, from the perspective of a long-time Vancouver resident:

10. Bilodeau Wins Canada's First Home Gold

The moment that all of Canada was waiting for happened on Sunday February 14, Day 3 of the Olympics. Alex Bilodeau claimed the Gold medal in the moguls, and thus became the first Canadian to win a Gold medal in Canada. At the previous Canadian Olympics held in Montreal (1976) and Calgary (1988), Canad had been kept off the top step of the podium.

9. Joannie Rochette Wins Figure Skating Bronze

Rochette's mother flew from Quebec to Vancouver to watch her daughter compete at the Olympics -- and tragically died of a heart attack soon after arrival. Rochette won the hearts of the world by pulling herself together, competing elegantly, and claiming the Bronze.

8. Canadian Men Win the 5000m Relay in Short Track Skating

The Canadian men used guts, strength, stamina, and an unexpected strategy to win a thrilling race, fractions of a second ahead of South Korea and the US.

7. Sidney Crosby Scores Overtime Hockey Winner

In a moment that will forever be remembered by Canadian hockey fans, Crosby fired home Canada's overtime winner, converting Jerome Iginla's feed past US goalie Ryan Miller at 7:40 of the overtime period. The US had tied the game with a last gasp equalizer, causing what mercifully proved to be temporary agony across Canada, but effectively setting the stage for Crosby to heroically ensure that Canada won the Gold medal in memorable fashion.

6. Vancouver's Downtown Party

There has rarely been a party like this, at any Olympics. For 17 days, pedestrians took over many downtown Vancouver streets and turned the core of the City into a family-oriented party central. LiveCity venues offered entertainment, concerts and big-screen viewing, long but good natured line-ups formed at all downtown attractions, and street entertainers kept many intersections closed due to crowds. With Vancouverites embracing transit like never before and leaving cars at home, it was a demonstration of what happens when happy crowds take over the streets.

5. Maelle Ricker Wins the Snowboard Cross

Was there a cooler Gold medal winner at these Olympics? Local girl Ricker, 31 years old, grew up snowboarding the Cypress and Whistler mountains, suffered heartbreak and a concussion at the 2006 Turin games, and simply obliterated the field in the 2010 Final to claim the Gold. She then exuded the humble coolness of a winner wondering exactly what all the fuss was about, while modestly enjoying the attention anyway. Watch for a spike in the name Maelle among newborn girls in British Columbia.

4. Hamelin Wins 500m Short Track Skating Gold -- and St.-Gelais Watches!

The thrilling race ended with Canada's Charles Hamelin skating almost sideways and off-balance across the finish line in first place, with carnage behind him as skaters toppled and collided in a mad scramble for the medals. Even more thrilling was Marianne St.-Gelais, Hamelin's girlfriend and a medallist herself, watching from the stands, jumping up and down for the entire race, cheering wildly, and finally bounding down the stairs, over the barriers, and into the arms of the jubilant Hamelin.

3. Virtue and Moir win Ice Dancing Gold

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were simply flawless -- and breathtaking -- performing under pressure in the Free Dance, to solidify their lead and claim the Gold medal. Virtue is 20 and Moir is 22. They have been skating together since they were children, and they are the youngest couple ever to win the Ice Dancing Gold medal. Young, confidant and leading from the front -- they represented Canada's spirit at the games.

2. The Clown Fixes the Cauldron

Perfectly combining a grand spectacle with Canada's ability to laugh at itself, the closing ceremony started with a clown emerging with a shower of sparks from below the ground at BC Place stadium, connecting a large cable, and pulling the fourth arm of the Olympic flame into place. The stubborn hydraulic arm had embarrassingly refused to cooperate during the opening ceremony.

1. The Crowd Sings Oh Canada! at the Men's Curling Final

It was the final frame of a rather uneventful Final game in the men's curling tournament. Canada's Kevin Martins team was never in trouble during the game against Norway, en route to another Gold medal for the host country. But in the final frame, the game was interrupted when the crowd broke out into a quiet rendition of Oh Canada! All the curlers on both teams paused and respectfully listened to the impromptu anthem, and the emotion on their faces was clear. It was the moment that captured perfectly what these games were about. Fun, emotion, and quiet pride in a job very well done.

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