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Vancouver’s Winter Olympic Games are over. Now what?

Like many other Canadians, specifically Vancouverites, I woke up on Monday morning with a sense of loss and a bit of an emotional hangover. The euphoric buzz of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games, over less than 24 hours, quickly wore off. It left me with a question that I’m sure many of us are asking, “Now what?”

Photo by kennymatic on Flickr

In 17 short days Vancouver hosted the biggest extended party it has ever seen and, possibly, ever will see. I’m even going so far as to say that a Stanley Cup win by our beloved Canucks would not even come close to the carnival (as fugitivephilo says in a thoughtful blog post about consumerism & patriotism) that we saw. Wow!

A better fictional account of the most dramatic Canadian Olympic games could not have been written.

Day one started with the horrible news that Georgian Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili had been killed during a run at the Whistler Sliding Centre. There has been much speculation as to the reasons for the fatal crash and a complete analysis is yet to come. With this tragic event came the ringing true of that old adage, “the show must go on.” All but one of the Georgian athletes, the other luger, decided to continue their participation in the games.

The extended torch relay crossed Canada, traveling approximately 45,000 kilometres, and wound through Lower Mainland neighbourhoods and had us frothing like Pavlov’s dogs, tweeting madly about who was going to be the final torch bearer lighting the Olympic cauldron. The speculation was more fierce than a Next Top Model photo shoot with guesses ranging from the very possible like Betty Fox, mother of the late Terry Fox, to the extremely unlikely and downright silly, like the ghost of Mr Dressup.

Protesters attempted to thwart the torch’s progress but succeeded only in having it re-routed around them. The spectacular Opening Ceremonies were tarnished by a few ‘technical difficulties’ (which seemed to be a recurring theme with the CTV coverage of the games as they went on). Watching Wayne Gretzky (actually the most speculated final torch bearer), the great one, chased by maniacs while riding through Vancouver in the back of a VANOC pickup truck, torch in hand, off to light the Olympic flame on the waterfront seemed perfect. How Canadian.

The 17 days of the games went by in a blur. It was certainly a roller coaster ride for Canadians. Jenn Heil came ‘this close’ to capturing Canada’s first Gold Medal on Canadian soil with her moguls run, but that honour went to another freestyle skier, Alexandre Bilodeau, for his defeat of bad boy Canadian turned Aussie, Dale Begg-Smith.

Alex Bilodeau by John Biehler on Flickr

Gold Medallist Alex Bilodeau - photo by John Biehler on Flickr

Things continued along the same lines for our country throughout the games. There was medal after medal by the Canadian female athletes. We learned that Canadian girls really do kick ass. After a bit of a rocky start, yes even the hockey team, the men finally began showing up and then the gold rush began. Although Canada didn’t own every step on the podium it certainly owned the gold medal podium winning 14 gold medals, breaking the all-time record for golds by any country in the history of the Winter Olympic Games by one. That one medal happened to be the last of the games, won by those dudes from the NHL and that over time goal against Team USA by the now legendary (and fellow Nova Scotian) Sidney Crosby in the most epic hockey game I can recall in my 40 years on the planet.

Here’s what that win sounded like from across False Creek. If you watch the whole video, take note of the “Loooouuuuu” Luongo cheer as he makes a save at 1:00, and then at 1:20 the entire city goes insane as Crosby scores his goal:

Nice.

Then the city celebrated…

Canada Wins Gold photo by John Biehler

Canada Wins Gold - photo by John Biehler on Flickr

“Booze free”, of course, as the VPD closed down liquor stores early after learning some hard lessons during the the alcohol fueled ’94 post Stanley Cup riot. I’m sure people managed to find their booze elsewhere, or just did something else. This is BC after all.

I didn’t get to see as much as I would have liked to due to massive lineups (of oddly friendly and happy people) and insanely high prices for the sporting events. Two trips to the Hudson’s Bay official Olympic store saw me go away empty handed. No red mittens or Canada hoodie for me. Oh well. I don’t need more crap anyway.

Those were the biggest downsides that I experienced.

For me, the traffic every day of the games seemed extremely light and I had no trouble with my usual commute. Translink did a very good job of scaring enough people out of their cars and onto transit to make that part of the games go off without a blip.

The protests were under reported in the mainstream media, although a group of self-accredited social media reporters, myself included, came together under the True North Media House banner and did our best to report the other untold stories and other perspectives during the games. I think we did a decent job getting the alternative word out considering our rather noisy competition.

It appears there is still some work to do before social media is the ‘go to’ place for the masses to get their news. The main flaw with any form media is that people must be tuned in to receive the message and the masses it seems remained glued to the more traditional television coverage of the games. That said, the amount of people tweeting comments during all of the events especially the opening ceremonies, hockey games and closing ceremonies proved there is plenty of crossover between the old and the new. Eventually the convergence of technologies that we’ve been hearing/dreaming about and we’ll be seamlessly commenting on events to a communal stream ticking across the bottom of our giant TV/computer screens.

Anyway, I had a ton of fun, and I think we made some new and closer friends in the process. Isn’t that was life should be about anyway?

As someone who poo poo’d the games I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. When I ask myself, ‘what now?’, today I think we had better start saving up for a trip to London in 2012 and/or to Sochi in 2014. The Olympics are coming. For now I think we’ll check out some Paralympic events. Wheelchair curling and sledge hockey look kind of cool.

**I’ll add some links to others’ awesome coverage of the games later on. This post pooped me out. I need a break. **

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • tV March 2, 2010, 6:23 pm

    hey, thanks Mike. It’s an odd experience to now summarize the past two weeks.

    I still have many reservations about social media, at least as it formed any kind of go-to resource for alternative or untold stories. My own thoughts on the matter can be found here [ http://fugitive.quadrantcrossing.org/?p=340 ]. Darren Barefoot also makes the great distinction between “covering” and “uncovering” the news. Alternative media should be doing the latter [ http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/archives/2010/02/citizen-journalism-covering-and-uncovering-the-news.html ]. In this respect I am not sure social media succeeded; most of the tweets and blog posts either rehashed existing stories, retweeted each other’s photo essays, or offered a personalized though contentless (for a journalist) reportage of the Games.

    Indeed, perhaps social media’s greatest impact was as a public relations tool for social media marketing firm Palladian Creative, which created the fake character of French journalist Gaston Tartarin of the “Gaston Report” as a marketing scheme [ http://www.pallian.com/2010/03/02/the-story-behind-gaston-report/ ].

    And perhaps the second greatest of impact of social media was on the athletes themselves, many of whom tweeted throughout the Games, and some of whom even tweeted between races, such as Julia Mancuso’s angry (and later censored/deleted) tweet over Lindsey Vonn’s fall that upset her run…

    As for “citizen journalism” — did we really see much of it in the social media? Or was it just amateur types being social *with* media?

  • Mike Browne March 2, 2010, 6:33 pm

    I would have to say you are right on the money — “amateur types being social *with* media”. Exactly, but, for better or worse, I have a funny feeling that really is the future of journalism. Less focus on the factual more on the experiential, social and emotional. Gonzo journalism becoming the rule rather than the exception. Perhaps Hunter S. really was ahead of his time.