Games Belong to 2 Countries, 1 Continent
VANCOUVER - The ending couldn't have been scripted any better, for Canadians, or, really, for the USA. As the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics finished with a touch of humor at the closing ceremony, the Games' legacy already was established: They were Canada's Olympics by name, but North America's in reality.
While Canada won the gold medal it most coveted, the final gold, in men's hockey, the USA "owned the podium," as the Canadians would say, by winning the most medals any nation ever has at a Winter Games.
Canadians had a wonderful time at their Games. A few hours after their overtime victory against the USA in the hockey arena next door, they poked fun at themselves in the closing ceremony by spoofing the mechanical glitch that occurred during the caldron lighting 16 days ago. They even brought back Olympic gold medalist Catriona LeMay Doan to light the fourth arm after it rose this time.
All the laughter in the world, however, couldn't shake the memory of the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili before the Olympics began, triggering questions about safety and speed that rightly accompanied these Olympic Games every step of the way. This will be part of the enduring legacy of the 2010 Games, just as the 1996 Atlanta Olympics will always have to deal with the deadly bombing in Centennial Park.
The closing ceremony took place as a spontaneous celebration poured into Vancouver's beautiful downtown streets after the hockey victory. The street scene here Sunday was a larger rendition of the Games' nightly ritual, the alcohol-fueled celebration that will be remembered as much for its frat-party debauchery as for its serendipitous joy.
On the bright side, people gathering in any manner meant we were no longer in Beijing, where the Chinese government cracked down on anything resembling normal human group activity in the 2008 Summer Games. Vancouver couldn't replicate Beijing's over-the-top, multimillion-dollar ceremonies, and thankfully didn't try.
But these are games, after all, and in the end, they were what they were supposed to be.
"Canadians and Americans alike cheering us both on," Lindsey Vonn, the first U.S. skier to win the Olympic women's downhill, said over the weekend. "You definitely don't get that at every Olympics."