Oh no Canada! But don’t be so quick to write off these Olympics
The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver have been beset by tragedy and trials, from the death of the Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, through the Goldilocks weather up at Whistler and Cypress — too much snow or too little snow, it’s never just right — to a biathlon scoring fiasco described as “the blackest day ever“.
Then there was the opening ceremony fail with the missing fourth ice pillar, the PR disaster of moving ugly chain fencing in front of the outdoor cauldron so no one could take a decent picture, the thousands of ripped up tickets and having to call on Calgary to the rescue after the ice machines broke down.
It’s quite a list of mess-ups and there are plenty more besides.
But calling these the Worst Games Ever? That’s quite a stretch just a few days in and it may have more to do with certain sections of the media looking for a good overarching narrative — a theme they can keep going back to in every story they write. An entire press pack cannot live on one outside hope of a curling medal alone.
I don’t want to skate over the problems — see what I did there? — so I encourage you to follow the links above to read all we’ve written about them, but I also think we risk losing sight of a few things that have gone well in Vancouver. Here are a few reasons why these might well turn out to be not such bad Games after all.
1. Lindsey Vonn. Her gold in the women’s Alpine skiing downhill means the American skier may end up giving us a great story of triumph in adversity, after she came her worried that a badly bruised shin might mean she wouldn’t be able to compete at all. Vonn is competing in four other medal events, meaning a huge gold rush is still possible. That sort of achievement would change the whole mood of these Games and make them one of the most memorable … for the right reasons. The downhill itself was spectacular as well, with so many skiers ending up on their backsides in the icy conditions. Made for terrific viewing.
2. These are the Games we’ve stopped being snooty about arriviste sports like snowboard and freestyle skiing, and put these wonderful athletes at the heart of the Olympics. Just think about the significance of starting the opening ceremony with the image of a snowboarder freestyling off a cliff and leaping through the Olympic rings. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? And the action itself has been at times beyond description, culminating in Shaun White’s outrageous skill and daring in winning gold in the halfpipe on Wednesday night. Awesome, as they’d probably say themselves.
3. Hockey. I was at the Canada Hockey Place to see the host nation give Norway a real going over and this seemed to be another case of perceptions among the press being out of step with the public mood in Vancouver. The crowd blew the roof off and if the hockey-mad country reaches the final it will be the occasion of the Games.
4. We should also keep a sense of perspective about all this. There are no boycotts or political stand-offs involved in these Games, as in the Summer Olympics of 1976, 1980 and 1984. All the countries you’d expect are here and there have been no major protests or violence threatening the Games.
5. The city of Vancouver itself. A more welcoming place you will struggle to find, the views are gorgeous and the people are excited and proud. Head up to Whistler and its’ the same story. You can’t move in the main square as thousands crowd round to watch the big screen and cheer. Will London 2010 be able to match Vancouver’s Olympic spirit, I wonder…
That’s without mentioning the breathless action from the speedskating, the breathtaking beauty of the ice skating and that terrific quote from pairs winners She Xue ad Zhao Hongbo.
You could add the extraordinary courage shown by Slovenia’s Petra Majdic in winning bronze despite a nasty fall in qualifying for the cross-country sprint and dozens more examples of triumph over adversity.
We’re a little over five days in to these Games and a long way away from the final verdict but don’t be surprised if the general percecption has changed a lot by Feb. 28 and the closing ceremony.
PHOTO: Gold medallist Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. celebrates during the medal ceremony for the women’s alpine skiing downhill competition at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, in Whistler, British Columbia, February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar