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Vancouver 2010 Olympics: Thoughts on the games before they become irrelevant seems only fitting that I miss the most important hockey game likely to be played in my lifetime.
Why? Because I don’t want to be an addicted sports junkie anymore.

Yeah that’s a pretty bold statement, but I’ll more on that in another post coming soon. But as a short preview, let’s say I’d like to calm the Vancouver 2010 Olympics my “bittersweet swan song” and my “farewell to being a sports addict”.

But this post is about the Olympics.

Like most of my memories, I can trace my first exposure to the Olympics back to my earliest of grade school years. It was the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta that first caught my attention, and as a young boy sitting in front of the television watching the opening ceremonies, I knew immediately that these games were something special. Sports like Track and field, rowing and names like Donovan Bailey (whom I share a birthday- Dec 16 & a hometown – Oakville) and Marnie McBean became household names and sports in mind…. Michael Johnson was the enemy. And in 1998 in Nagano, waking up early to watch hockey games before going to hockey practice myself (7:00 am on the ice) before school that day – the heartbreak of the women’s’ gold medal loss I recall so vividly… that was balanced out by seeing speed skating for the first time – watching Catriona Le May Doan whoop everyone… And of course Elvis Stojko in figure skating…By 2000 in Sydney, I was completely hooked; the family all decked out in Roots Canada Olympic gear (we were suckers for the hats). I recall in Grade 8 for our graduation breakfast we did a reunion skit and I was a medalist at the 2008 Toronto Olympics (of course we know that didn’t work out…)

And of course, 2002 was something else. Something magical. (Link to best of sports)

And then the announcement that Vancouver had won the 2010 Olympics. I was thrilled! At that time, fully wanting to be a journalist, I dreamed and calculated I would be out of university by then and covering the games as a journalist!! Or just being there with my aunt, uncle and cousins who live in Richmond – where the speed skating oval is.

2004 and 2008 soon felt like lineups which I just wanted to get through where the front of the line was 2010. This sense was increased by my missing the 2006 Torino Games, which took place while I was in yeshiva. It’s good thing too that I missed them because we all know I didn’t miss much… (That’s if we’re talking hockey…)

And now came 2010. While I couldn’t be there in person, I would be as close as possible. Having Reading week during the first week of the games helped too. (It pretty much meant everything else got put off 😉 And with the way CTV was viewing the games on TV with TSN, Sportsnet and others along for the ride, I actually can’t recall how we managed only watching the games on CBC.
Better yet, with quite possibly the best IPod App I’ve found, the official Vancouver2010 App kept me up to date with everything to the second – sometimes even quicker than live on TV. No other sports style/up to the minute App can compare to that (or I haven’t found it yet)

So with all the tools needed to follow. Here’s my breakdown of the games and the moments that really stuck out.

Have in mind that I do have a life (and that I was still knee-deep in a crap load of issues and problems so I missed a few things… Then again the games were a nice distraction too from the worries of life…)

•Bilodeau’s gold was so good! I don’t understand why my parents don’t appreciate watching things live… As he won, I had to run upstairs to watch it because they wanted to watch a recording of Jenn Heil and the moguls (something I also saw live while they were watching a tape of the disappointing opening ceremonies- with the strange torch lighting… I just don’t have yen patience for drawn out ceremonies, that’s excluding the athletes walking in cause I can show off my knowledge about them).

The point is: Nothing beats seeing something live (or in person).

•Snowboard Cross is like something out of a video game – it’s awesome! The same goes with the half-pipe (even though we already knew that). But what I didn’t know was how amazing is Shaun White. I’ve heard the hype but to see it live – that dude can fly!

• Why is it that Canada seems to disappoint the most when we all see it coming, yet the commentators lead us on that “he/she is a medal contender…” Take alpine skiing: most Canadians can recall the commotion made whenever an alpine skier had a world cup podium finish this season – this built up our hopes and low and behold: zero medals in Whistler. Zero. That’s right. And that’s also why the USA (8 medals) and Germany (4 medals) beat us in the standings. Not to mention zero medals in cross-country skiing, biathlon, Nordic combined, luge and ski jumping. Way to invest equally… Yes obvious sports like speed skating have a Canadian tradition and everyone loves the fast paced sports (even curling 😉 but Canada is going to “Own the Podium,” at least every sport should have a medal threat (athlete registration regulations and competition aside).
• I cannot believe there is no padding or sufficient safety barrier around the metal bar that the Georgian Luger crashed into and died afterward. Even it was the first luging causality; common sense should suggest that luge is a sport that should have tons of safety precautions. John Candy’s character said it best in “Cool Runnings”: “In bobsledding, bones don’t break. No…They shatter.” And in this case more than bones were shattered.
• Is it just me, or did they create new clothing regulations for curlers? And besides that, when did so many young people start to get into curling? When I thought curling, I saw older & overweight folk in big and baggy winter coats (like what football coaches wear) with bad hair making a lot of noise. No disrespect to the athletes, I’ve tried curling myself and its challenging (and fun). But Norwegian pants aside, we started seeing tight-fitting clothing on women, fit and good licking dudes like John Morris (I also don’t remember Canadian skip Kevin Martin looking that slim and in shape – so good on him). Suddenly people seem to be paying attention to the sport…. I even found a curling calendar featuring women’s curlers such as Cheryl Bernard (Look her up in Google Images and you’ll e amazed at the transformation she’s made to her look pre-Olympics). It seems like curling is taking a page out of tennis and golf’s’ page in terms of marketing the sport. It’s a good thing because like I’ve mentioned, it’s a fun and challenging sport that anyone can play.
• If it’s played on ice: it’s an awesome sport (& Canada is likely really good at it). Figure skating, hockey, speed skating, even bobsledding & skeleton. Call me a speed freak or just a typical ice loving Canadian, but there’s something about ice sports that are simply awesome. It’s the winter Olympics equivalents to running in track and field (speed skating- both long and short track) and gymnastics (figure skating to a degree). *If you can find a summer Olympic equivalent to bobsledding, please tell me…
• did I mention how much I would’ve loved to be in Vancouver? Talk about a party!
• I have a feeling Steve Yzerman knew all along that the hockey team would have it tough yet pull it through. Excluding a player injury and miraculous return, (or a tragedy a la Joannie Rochette, btw what a trooper!) you could not had written a more compelling, thrilling and satisfying script to Canadian Men’s’ Hockey team’s journey through the Vancouver Olympics (at least the commemorative DVD will be a hit). To see my American friends lambast our hockey team on Facebook after losing in the preliminaries was embarrassing and disheartening. What redemption it was to beat them the way we did in the finals.

There seemed to be so many parallels to the 2002 Olympic Gold:
– The hype, the adversity from the previous Olympic results,
– The chance for revenge (Switzerland in 2010 after losing to them in 2006 – Czech Republic in 2002 after losing in 1998)
– The devastating loss (Sweden in 2002, USA in 2010)
– The redeeming victory and rise of gold medal optimism (Germany in 2010, Finland in 2002)
– The big semifinal victory over the unheralded underdog (Slovakia in 2010, Belarus in 2002)
– The rallying of the troops against adversity (Yzerman advising to “stay the course”, and Gretzky’s “I’m hot; I’m tired of people taking shots at Canadian hockey” rant in 2002)
– The goalie switch (Brodeur to Luongo in 2010, Cujo to Brodeur in 2002)
– The stepping up of the youth (Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith & Jonathan Toews in 2010, Jarome Iginla, Simon Gagne & Eric Brewer in 2002)
– The veteran composure (Scott Niedermayer & Jarome Iginla in 2010, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and too many more to mention in 2002)
– The “You know we’ve got the gold medal moment” (Sidney Crosby in 2010, Joe Sakic in 2002) *more on the Crosby moment below…

But two moments will stand out when recalling these Olympics… Moments unprecedented in 2002…

1. The win against Russia:
It will go down as one of the biggest wins in Canadian hockey history. No one could’ve expected Canada to demolish the hated Russians the way we did in that game. I won’t go so far to say it’s our Miracle on Ice moment (since moment #2 will have a greater legacy), but there were many, including myself, wondering how was anyone – let alone an uncertain Canadian team -going to beat Russia?
And for me, this game also has sentimental value: For reasons I won’t disclose, my father decided to cut the cable and disconnect the Internet in the house as an attempt to stop me from watching the game (let’s say I was in trouble and being punished). Watching the game seemed very dim.

That is until I recalled what channel the game was on.

After becoming transfixed with our cable box and its numerous channels, I had completely forgotten that CTV is one of two channels you can get without cable.

And with my room serving as storage for a very old Zenith television, here I was removing the cobwebs, moving it to a discreet location in my room, turning off the main lights, and proceeding to watch Canada whoop Russia on a static, yet clear TV screen. And of course there was the radio, if all else failed. (It’s amazing what modern technology can make us forget about older technology… Nonetheless all this happened in my old room, where pre-yeshiva I had spent countless intuitive hours making things work outside of the box – whether getting mp3s off the net *before they were mainstream or maximizing the sound and quality of my bar mitzvah present of a boom box, which I’ve began using again to great success!!)
This wasn’t the first time I’ve went all out for a hockey game. I’ve talked about the 2006 NHL opening night after the lockout while in Israel (post link). And in 2004, while at a cottage in the Muskoka, I watched a Canadian victory at the World Cup of Hockey on a very static TV screen in a trailer on an August evening – and then hopped in the sauna afterward 🙂

2. Sidney Crosby’s golden goal:
Call it this generations’ “Paul Henderson” moment. The question of “where were you when Crosby scored” will be commonplace. It’s up there with Henderson in 1972, Lemieux in 1987, Bobby Orr in 1970, Brett Hull in 1999, Bill Barilko in 1951 and other greatest goals in hockey history. The stakes riding on the result, the intensity of the game, the magnitude of Canadian heart rates rising simultaneously, and the utter expression of collective joy that erupted when the goal was scored. The above descriptions themselves don’t even justify the moment’s grandiosity.

And so there you have it. The world’s party in Vancouver has come and gone. Canada, a nation of immense pride after a successful medal haul and world hosting – had every right to let loose in the closing ceremonies. (As awesome as Neil Young is, we can do better than Nickelback, Simple Plan and Hedley… The Tragically Hip, Rush and Arcade Fire would’ve been much better. Or Sam Roberts.

And as the hangover takes it course, I won’t make it harder with a rant on how there’s no way Canada can match this standard at later commitments and that we’ll be disappointed later on…

Let us briefly enjoy the fruits of Canada’s hard work before moving on to the next task.


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