You know you’re in the middle of a wild and crazy national party when female models are lining up to have the Canadian flag painted on their naked bodies in public, their modesty (or what’s left of it) preserved by strategically placed red stripes. That was the scene, or a tiny part of it, last Saturday night inside the private Budweiser-Lululemon-sponsored bash at Club Bud, in the Commodore Ballroom on Granville Street. Just getting close to the place, past the cheering revellers, was an Olympian challenge.
Inside, past the red carpet, where Australian half-pipe gold medallist Torah Bright posed for photographers, the mood was equally buoyant. The 18,000-foot space was transformed into a pulsating three-level ice palace where DJs spun, go-go girls (and boys) gyrated in scant Lululemon-wear, a fluorescent Chinese dragon snaked its way through the room, and Budweiser (the only brew on tap, natch) flowed. Anheuser-Busch, which owns the Labatt and Budweiser brands, had set up versions of Club Bud at the Torino and Beijing Olympics, to huge success. In Vancouver, the parties went on until 4 a.m., and drew Michael Bublé, American figure skater Johnny Weir, U.S. long-track skater Shani Davis, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm and snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. Saturday night’s guest list included a who’s who of Canadian medallists including Cheryl Bernard, Charles and François Hamelin, Alexandre Bilodeau, Scott Moir, Tessa Virtue, and Brian Orser, plus a smattering of CSI stars.
Leave it to the beer guys to know how to throw an Olympic party. There was branding, for sure, but no speeches, no goody bags filled with promotional swag, no waiters delivering trays of the ubiquitous 2010 Olympics cocktail munchie: medium-rare roast beef in a Yorkshire pudding crust.
It has been 17 days (officially) of Olympic parties, a circuit that has included stops at Birks’ brunch for Jenn Heil and her line of silver jewellery for Birks, where guests mused whether the metal choice had been an omen. No sponsor used the Olympics to splashier effect than Omega, which hosted packed receptions for Cindy Crawford, Michael Phelps, and former U.S. astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Brand-building underlined parties thrown by governments, as evident in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s appearance at an Ontario Pavilion party where he declared the province “the best in the best country in the world.” Local real estate mogul Bob Rennie used the time for community-building, throwing a party in his $10-million Downtown Eastside private gallery that was attended by Olympic organizers, politicians, athletes, artists and community activists who had opposed the Games.
Then there was the Roots “Cultural Summit” in its hospitality suite high up in the Shangri-La hotel, honouring Wende Cartwright, head of VANOC’s hugely successful Cultural Olympiad, which drew Douglas Coupland, local artist Paul Wong and Elvis Costello. The most coveted invites were the hardest to get into—like B.C. businessman Frank Guistra’s cocktail party at his Whistler chalet, attended by Prince Albert of Monaco and Research in Motion’s Jim Balsillie. But unlike the Club Bud bash, that one didn’t have female aerialists contorting above the crowd.