I am suffering from a strong addiction. I can’t help myself from watching Olympic events late into the night. It’s easy to forget how interesting and dynamic the Olympics games can be until they are on home soil.
Although focused on sport and athleticism, the games are really much more than that: I believe they embody interesting human tales that go well beyond sport.
Think of the stories which have emerged only a few days into the games: the tragic death of a courageous 22-year-old Georgian luge competitor during a practice run, the spectacular opening ceremonies which weaved innovative technical effects with one of Canada’s greatest cultural attributes, which I think is our capacity to produce divas (i.e., outstanding female singers). The performances of K.D. Lang, Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan, Nelly Furtado and Montreal’s own teen sensation, Nikki Yanovsky, impressed a massive audience worldwide.
At the pivotal moment of the lighting of the Olympic flame, rather than choose one person, we came up with a classic Canadian solution and shared the honours with five outstanding athletes who symbolize the best of Canadian achievement and Canadian values: Nancy Greene, Katrina Lemay-Doan, Steve Nash, Rick Hansen and Wayne Gretzky.
On the slopes, organizers struggled all of the first weekend with rain and mother nature, and during the first ski competition—freestyle moguls—we were dazzled by the talent of all competitors, especially our athletes, netting Canada a silver in the women’s category by Jen Heil and a gold by Quebecer, Alexandre Bilodeau. I was even more impressed by what both of them said and how they expressed themselves when dealing with the media after medaling in their respective competitions. Both thanked the many people instrumental in getting them to the pinnacle of athletic success; their coaches, parents, friends, and in Bilodeau’s case, his handicapped brother who Bilodeau described as teaching him so many important life lessons and helping him keep things in perspective.
We have seen skaters and skiers both soar and fall, unknown athletes have experienced success and flown into the media limelight, and our women’s hockey team started the games with an 18-0 and 10-1 drubbings of their opponents. Our beloved men’s hockey team also began its quest for gold with a solid victory, but that very talented team is in a pool of many talented teams filled with professionals from all over the world. Their work is cut out for them.
Over at the long-track skating oval, organizers have faced major headaches. Despite good planning and preparations, the zamboni broke down and they had to airlift a new one in from Calgary, and maintaining the ice has proved difficult. Clearly there are many visible and behind-the-scene challenges in the day-to-day mechanics of organizing and hosting something as massive as the Olympic Games.
In the Vancouver games there are still stories to be written, surprises, upsets, profiles and special profiles and insights into the remarkable beauty of the city of Vancouver. Lots of spectators are keenly following sports they rarely pay attention to. It’s fantastic to watch the best of the best, including some who are still pure amateurs in the modern sense…..thrilled and ecstatic when they achieve for the sake of achievement, not purely for some enormous financial payoff.
Try to get enough sleep in the coming days. As Canadians, be sure to watch lots of events, celebrate the achievements and the challenges and revel in the honour of not just Vancouver, but all of Canada hosting the world. —Chris Shannon, Headmaster