Passing judgment on various elements of the Vancouver Olympics using a numerical ranking from zero to 10, with zero being a complete disaster and 10 being utter perfection, would be a crude and highly superficial way of looking back on the XXI Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
So what are we waiting for?
11.0 Men’s. Hockey. Gold.
10.0 Canada vs. Russia. I’m sure there have been louder places to be than Canada Hockey Place for the men’s hockey quarter-finals—inside a jet engine, for instance, or across from Kirstie Alley at dinner. It was so loud I could hear the noise with my pancreas. Team Canada’s total domination over the Russian side was nice, too.
9.8 The Olympic atmosphere. There was genuine enthusiasm and excitement right across the country, and especially in Vancouver and Whistler. Outdoor viewing parties, live concerts, cultural events: as a nation, we haven’t felt a sense of community this strong since we collectively agreed to pretend Céline Dion is American.
9.7 Joannie Rochette. The flawless Kim Yu-Na of South Korea owned the gold in ladies’ figure skating, but Rochette owned the crowd at Pacific Coliseum and hearts across the country. Confronted during the opening weekend of the Olympics with the death of her mother, Rochette performed two inspired and fiercely athletic programs to take a well-deserved bronze.
9.6 Alex Bilodeau. A country never forgets its first—especially when its first just so happened to beat that tedious Dale Begg-Smith guy.
9.5 Clara Hughes. How much do we as a nation like and admire this woman for her athletic accomplishments and her generous nature? So much that we’re actually willing to forgive her that Cold-FX ad. (P.S. congrats on your gold, Christine Nesbitt—if Cold-FX calls, please hang up.)
9.5 Super Saturday. In the span of a few hours, Canadian men won gold in curling, speed skating and snowboard. The victories gave Canada the most gold medals ever by a nation. We also led the world in a number of gold medals won by a guy named Jasey-Jay.
9.4 That skeleton guy. His name is Jon Montgomery, gold-medal winner, but in Whistler everyone seemed to refer to him as That Skeleton Guy. This is a slight improvement on what, judging from his personality and lifestyle, his previous nickname must have been: That #@!*ing Crazy Guy.
9.3 Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue. Fine, I’ll be the one to ask even though we’re all thinking it: what would it take for our ice dancing gold medallists to make out in front of us just a little bit? I’m only talking about second base. The chemistry is such that seeing them on camera together is like watching the first two seasons of Moonlighting.
9.3 The Canadian women’s hockey team celebrates. The ladies caught hell for holding a boozy, on-ice party after defeating the Americans to win gold. The truth is that the images of fun-loving women smoking cigars and drinking beer and champagne will do more to promote the cause of women’s hockey than anything since . . . ever. Women in Eastern Europe saw that and were like, “Gimme a damn stick… and a light.”
9.2 The Canadian women’s hockey team beats the United States and wins gold. That was good, as well.
9.1 Canadian women in the bobsled. Who knew we dominated the world in women’s bobsled? In your face, nations that previously dominated the world in women’s bobsled! Hang your heads in shame!
8.9 Zamboni. The arena icon zoomed in to rescue the Richmond Oval from inferior ice-resurfacing equipment. Surely, epic poems will now be written in honour of the mighty Zamboni—or at the very least one peppy song by Stompin’ Tom. (Good rhymes for Zamboni: baloney, spumoni, hamboney, cute pony.)
8.7 Cheryl Bernard. The Canadian curling skip became one of the breakout stars of these Games, thanks in part to her solid athletic performance and in part (a slightly bigger part, to be honest) to her hot-mom looks. Take my word for it: she was very popular among the European journalists. If Bernard ever has the urge to start a new life in Poland, I can help make that happen.
8.6 Kevin Martin is also a very good curler— but is on his own if he wants to move to Poland.
8.3 Sportsmanship. It would be wrong to impugn the sportsmanship of the entire Olympic community because of a few isolated incidents. It would also be fun to remember the isolated incidents. My personal favourite: when the Canada 1 sled crashed in two-man bobsled, the TV coverage cut to a shot of a rival crew that was currently in first place. One member clapped his hands and jumped up and down in delight, then saw that his reaction was being filmed, then did an exaggerated wince and pretended to be worried about the health of those who had crashed. Convincing!
8.1 Security. Except for that moment where officials let a mentally disturbed man—carrying an “official pass” that was made from construction paper, glue and macaroni—get within a sniff of Joe Biden, the security team did its job well and with patience.
6.7 The opening ceremonies. Some beautiful moments, but lowlights included: changing the arrangement of the national anthem, leaving proud Canadians with no opportunity to sing along (and why did Nikki Yanofsky sing it so slowly? Were organizers hoping that people at home would make out to it?); that earnest poem about how Canada is great and is not meek and is soooo awesome and oh golly look out world here we come; approximately 40 minutes of someone running through wheat for some reason; and, of course, the botched cauldron lighting, which will define these Games the way one ground ball defined Bill Buckner and one Britney Spears defined Kevin Federline.
5.3 Bryan Adams is called on to perform in the opening ceremonies. And at that exact moment, somewhere in a Canadian basement apartment, Corey Hart resigned himself to the fact that Olympic organizers were just not going to call.
5.2 Attitude. Throughout the Games, a number of athletes vied for a gold medal in “Waaaaaaaah!” There were complaints about the cross-country skiing course (too many turns and hills). There were complaints about the downhill course (too difficult) and the revised luge track (not difficult enough). One Norwegian even blamed his poor performance on the fact his next-door neighbour in the athletes’ village was having too much sex. There were so many complaints that the IOC has agreed to change the Olympic motto to: Swifter, Higher, I Want My Mommy.
4.7 Cross sports. We do well at them, but where do we draw the line? Biathlon cross would be fun. Every time the athletes got to the shooting range, it would be like the climax of Bonnie and Clyde. Or maybe we should just “cross” every Olympic event. Launch four Norwegians off the ski jump at once. Throw four curling stones at once. Get four Ben Mulroneys breathlessly covering the Olympic party scene, and then push all of them in front of four speeding bobsleds. That’s something we can all enjoy.
4.5 Mother Nature. Too much winter in Whistler, promoting anxiety about postponed ski races. Too little winter in Vancouver, promoting anxiety about fat-guy shirtlessness. It’s not clear what Mother Nature has against Canada. Is she jealous? Did she catch us putting the moves on the Tooth Fairy? Come on, baby, we’d never two-time you. We love you. [Whisper: Call us, Easter Bunny.]
4.3 Frowny IOC members presenting medals. Do you ever get the feeling that members of the International Olympic Committee don’t really care about the Winter Games? There aren’t as many nations at the Winter version. There are fewer marquee events. Plus it’s cold, so their hookers show up wearing snow pants—and that’s nobody’s idea of a turn-on (exception: Santa Claus).
3.8 Cypress. In the end, organizers held it together, but at a stratospheric cost: trucked-in snow; dry ice; a huge workforce; massive ticket cancellations. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Whoa. You mean holding winter-type Olympic events just outside a city where flowers bloom in February has risks?
3.6 Owning the Podium. First Canada got mocked for wanting to Own the Podium. Then, after some early disappointments (everybody turn now and stare accusingly at the alpine team—grrrrr), Canada got mocked for failing to Own the Podium. Finally, we all decided to pretend that only gold medals count and we kinda-sorta did Own the Podium. We are so adorable.
3.4 Protests. They fizzled out pretty quickly. At one juncture, protesters in Vancouver smashed windows in an effort to make their point, which so far as anyone could discern was that they were capable of smashing windows. (In which case: point well made!) Meanwhile, the tony ski resort of Whistler was not immune from civil disobedience. One potentially violent uprising was quelled when the sommelier returned to say they did have the 1978 vintage. Put your monocle back on, troublemaker.
3.2 That endless drive through the streets of Vancouver with Wayne Gretzky standing precariously in the back of a pickup truck. I believe it is safe to say that these were the first Olympic opening ceremonies to conclude on board a redneck Popemobile.
3.0 Having to line up for hours to buy merchandise. For 16 days, the Olympic Superstore in downtown Vancouver was pretty much like the scene at the pier in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. And for the privilege of joining the mob, you had to wait outside for two hours or more. Apparently, no one connected with the operation was aware there are 24 hours in a day, and that staying open all night might reduce the lineups. One afternoon I walked slowly along the queue and, at the risk of feeding a stereotype, I can only tell you the truth: the women were, for the most part, cheery and chatty; as for the men—let’s just say I haven’t seen this many looks of distress and resignation on men since the invention of chastity.
2.3 Molson Canadian Hockey House. You can’t put a price on drinking beer in the company of some old-time NHLers—unless you’re the operators of the Hockey House, in which case the price is $450. That’s how much it cost for an all-day VIP pass to a tent near Canada Hockey Place, where you could stand on plastic carpet, watch the hockey games on a big screen and potentially bend the ear of Stan Smyl.
0.3 Going to the trouble of creating an external Olympic cauldron, so that everybody can see it—and then placing it behind a hideous chain-link fence, so that nobody can see it.
0.2 The Olympic cauldron itself. It looked pretty ugly on TV, and even worse when viewed in person. The tubes made it resemble an industrial plumbing job gone horribly awry. Add some fire shooting out the top, and you had a pretty good model of what the devil’s toilet must look like. Forget about tearing down the fence that surrounds it—let’s focus on tearing down the cauldron itself.