Seventeen days of Canadian patriotism

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games were a shining, golden success in every sense of the word.

They may have started off with their share of problems but a strong finish by Canadian athletes, especially the men’s hockey team, has given Canadians across the country something to be proud of.

We always knew we loved our country, but it was never more apparent than the 17 days that the Olympics were in Vancouver.

The lasting affect of the games has permeated the core of all Canadians.

It wasn’t just Alexandre Bilodeau winning Canada’s first gold medal on home soil.

It wasn’t just Joannie Rochette’s courageous performance just days after the passing of her mother.

It wasn’t just the Canadian men’s hockey team winning gold over the United States.

It was all those things and more.

The city of Vancouver, and the country as a whole, was alive with Canadian patriotism for 17 days and I was lucky enough to be part of it for a few of them.

Sunday’s hockey win may have been the crowning moment of the games.

Hockey is part of our national identity and winning the gold meant so much to us.

Sitting in a restaurant downtown Sunday, as Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner and the streets flooded with Canadian fans, was surreal.

It wasn’t limited to downtown, either.

It stretched from sea to sea, Vancouver, British Columbia to Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and united a nation.

Whatever your opinion was before the Olympics began, they have no doubt changed.

I hope, the Olympics have started a trend where Canadians can show the same kind of patriotism that Americans do all the time, rather than hiding it away bashfully for fear of being likened to the United States.

Thanks world for coming, but we would like some time alone with our gold medals now.

It could not have been better

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

What just happened?

The long-awaited creation and permanent entrenchment of an accurate and patriotic Canadian identity is what just happened.

The 17 days of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games achieved what 142 years of being a country could not: a sense of belonging among Canadians, a connection between east and west and most importantly, a clear definition of what and who Canada is.

As I got carried away in seas of red and white Cowichan sweaters that clogged up the streets of Vancouver every day I ventured downtown, I realized for the first time in my life that I am proud to be Canadian.

I’m not a sports fanatic, but I cried along with the thousands of others present as Joannie Rochette skated a bronze medal performance just days after her mother died.

I’ve hardly watched hockey, but I sat on the edge of my seat and shouted at the TV screen as Team Canada played Team USA in overtime.

I am one for fashion, but despite that I wore my two-fingered woolly Canadian mittens with an awkward sort of pride.

Sure the buildings, Canada Line and other infrastructure built to accommodate the various Olympic events are wonderful spinoff benefits of having the games in Vancouver. And the worldwide promotion of our city and the millions earned in revenue are great, too.

But having the games in our hometown, more than anything else, has given us the right to be patriotic, and the desire to show the world that we are Canadian.

And why shouldn’t we be proud?

There’s nothing wrong with beer, hockey, being a little chilly once in a while and cute furry little creatures.

And the fact that a country with the population size of the state of California can dominate the gold medal count on an international level is nothing to scoff at.

What just happened was the awakening of a fiercely-loyal, fiercely-patriotic and highly-competitive nation that has finally been brought together as one.

Watch out world, we are Canadian.

The downtown vibe

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The strangest thing in the world is seeing Granville and Robson quiet and empty in the morning and packed with people from all over the world only a few hours later.

Every Tuesday and Saturday for the last 17 days of the Olympics, I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. and make my way to Robson Square by SkyTrain for volunteer work with a company called DigiBC that specializes in technology for media outlets.

Once at Robson Square, I got an almost eerie feeling seeing the streets around me empty, other than for a few reporters and Vancouverites starting an early day at work.

Then, when my volunteer work was done, I would head back outside to see the previously roomy sidewalks turned into a giant international can of sardines.

And yet, I felt as if I was at home among the thousands of people surrounding me.

I realized that this is what the Olympics must truly be about.

The power of sport brought the world together for two weeks and no matter where I looked, I saw everyone getting along, only gently pushing through crowds when necessary and being good sports about the sports whether their country won or lost.

It amazed me that such a thing could happen.

I was always one of the folks who were cautious about what having the Olympics in Vancouver would do to such a beautiful city.

But being part of it changed my mind and at the end of each day, I honestly did not want to leave Vancouver.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t be downtown when Team Canada won hockey gold on Feb. 28, but seeing what it looked like on television was enough for me to understand how thrilling it must have been.

I’m curious to see the streets of Vancouver now that the Olympics are over.

I wonder if the powerful feelings I’ve had there for the last two weeks can ever be achieved again.

It was about more than just the medals

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Having someone ask you if you “want to go up” to crowd surf in the heart of downtown Vancouver on the closing Sunday of the Olympics in our now golden land feels good.

With a simple DJ set up near the corner of Granville and W Georgia streets, music at an outdoor venue never felt so liberating, so electrifying.

With Sidney Crosby scoring the gold medal goal 7:40 into overtime only hours before, Vancouver, the True North Strong and Free, and every Canadian was sent into a bewildered state of celebration.

When we look back at the history which was written in Vancouver over these last two weeks, sure we will recognize the 14 golds, seven silvers, and five bronze. But to us, the heavy-weighted feeling of our patriotic hearts came from more than just winning sporting events.

Whether our athletes stood on the podium or not, with their well-fought, courageous efforts and the nation’s overflowing enthusiasm, Canada was on top of the world.

From every hug, kiss or high five given in Robson Square, in Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia — it was those little moments which made the XXI Winter Games that much more worth it in every aspect.

Or maybe it was when I watched a homeless person participate in a road hockey game using a broom as a hockey stick after the boys brought home gold medal number 14.

He had his two shopping carts crammed full of his life’s valuables parked behind the cardboard box goal while he battled it out with other proud Canadians just like himself.

To see his team score gave me the chills and a smile I held with me for the rest of the night.

With the crowd that surrounded the game cheering and screaming, the homeless man received the most loving hugs and high fives I have ever seen.

Seeing people coming together the way they did is more than I could have asked for.

I am forever grateful I was there, I was in it, and I hope everyone else is too.

Vancouver, the place to be

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

These last two weeks in Vancouver have been indescribable. People from all corners of the world gathered together as one to witness the most amazing event in the world, the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

Walking down the streets of downtown Vancouver, you got a real sense of people. Everyone instantly became your friend if they were wearing the same Team Canada jersey as you.

A quick glance and you could tell where all of these people came from — all dressed head to toe in the colour that represented their country and supported their athletes.

Although not everyone was fortunate enough to be in this beautiful city, they were still tuned in to the games and cheered from their own hometowns.

But our home, Vancouver, was the place to be.

Stories of personal strength and courage arose when Joannie Rochette performed her routine just days after her mother’s death. Although she didn’t win gold, she still won a bronze medal and the support of people worldwide. Even Celine Dion, her mother’s favourite singer, called Joannie to commend her on the amazing and emotional performance.

The audience roared with applause when Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir won gold for figure skating. They have been skating together since they were children, and proved that with determination and motivation you can succeed.

But the biggest game of all was the final hockey game: Team USA against Team Canada, one would win gold, the other silver.

It was amazing to see that people from all around the world were watching this game, from soldiers in Afghanistan holding a Canadian flag, to crowds of people downtown with a maple leaf painted on their faces.

I was overwhelmed with a feeling of joy and pride when Sidney Crosby scored the winning goal in overtime. Whether you were at the game, celebrating in the streets or jumping up and down in your living room, much like I was, this was an incredible moment that we all witnessed and will remember forever.

After the game, cars were honking their horns and drivers were cheering at all of the people passing by. All were celebrating being Canadian.

The 2010 Olympic Winter games showed the world who we are. It also showed us what it means to be Canadian.

Canadian pride in unlikely places

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Vancouver 2.0. That’s what Disneyland looked like this February. A little less grey and gloomy perhaps, but full of Canadians decked out in their very best Vancouver 2010 apparel.

Most of these people, like me, were fleeing the Olympics. But Canadian pride was still thick on the ground.

Rather than the usual which-ride-comes-next conversations, people were discussing medal counts and athletes’ chances. The ticker on the ESPN Zone building in Downtown Disney was constantly cycling through the latest Olympic headlines, and every television in every bar near Disneyland was tuned to Olympic coverage.

Anaheim was so Olympic-happy that a friendly (read: drunk) Californian woman in the hotel room next door to ours actually knew that I was from the west coast when I said I was from Vancouver. Quite an accomplishment, considering she thought Calgary was just a couple miles up the road from Toronto.

And really, that’s what the Olympics have done for Vancouver: made us a concrete location in the mind of Americans. Canada is no longer seen as igloo-covered, either — it is now a real, maritime-moderate metropolis, complete with skyscrapers and public transit.

Critics will tell you that this isn’t much of a return on Canadian taxpayers’ multi-billion-dollar investment in these Games. But in the long run, Vancouver will benefit, and not just from the tourist dollars of foreign nationals, either.

Friends of mine from Calgary who’d never visited our city were so favourably impressed by their Olympic visit that they plan to return as soon as possible.

We’re better equipped than ever to play host to large congregations of people. We’ve got the infrastructure and experience, and thanks to the Olympics, now we’ve got the exposure, too.

So bring it on, world. Vancouver is ready and waiting.

Patriotism, eh?

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

When it comes to differentiating us from Americans, there are several things that come to mind, for Canadians are polite, kind and modest.

But if we take away anything from the last two weeks, it is that we are more like Americans then we could ever imagine.

Taking the Expo Line downtown, I could see the numerous flags hanging out of apartment windows and on houses, none of which where there before the Winter Games began.

Patriotism is a noble characteristic to have, but there is a limit.

There has to be some worry when a Texas columnist is comparing our Games to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

The rest of the world views the United States as a joke because of all its patriotism and inability to be open-minded.

I fear that their patriotism is climbing up the 49th parallel.

Walking down Robson Street over the past two weeks has been very inspiring to all Canadians.

It is comfortable to go up to a person and give them a high five because a Canadian athlete just won a gold medal. But after watching a Seattle Seahawks game at Qwest Field, Seahawk fans would walk up to me and give me high-fives too.

Also, the U.S. government provides a lot of taxpayer dollars to American athletics. Canada’s Own The Podium program is similar to what the Americans have done with their athletes.

Yes, it’s inspiring to hear that Canada finally wants to achieve more than participation at these Olympic games and that our medal count is comparable to that of the States. But all of this being done at once, for the Games in our nation so we can claim our first gold on home turf, is very American.

There is very little to separate us now, and now rivalry with the U.S. seems unavoidable.

And, the Games are supposed to put Canada in debt so that’s another thing we share with our brothers to the south: Spending money we don’t have.

How the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics brought out the patriot in all of us

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

We definitely proved those Olympic pessimists wrong.

When Zach Parisé, son of Jean-Paul Parisé, scored the tying goal for U.S.A. with 24 seconds left in the game, the sound of racing hearts could be heard across Canada.

In a movie, Team Canada would score the winning goal in overtime to take home the gold. And that’s just what happened.

When Sidney Crosby shot the puck past Ryan Miller, the American goalkeeper, Canada Hockey Place roared as we won our 14th gold medal.

An award-winning screenwriter couldn’t have written it better.

The reaction to that goal could be heard all across Canada and even overseas. CTV showed footage of Canadians celebrating in downtown Vancouver, Whistler village, Nova Scotia, downtown Toronto, and in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Canadians in London even tweeted about Trafalgar Square being a sea of red and white and celebrating the win at a nearby pub.

The 2010 Winter Olympics had a bit of a rocky start, with many being apathetic or even opposed to the Olympics being held in Vancouver.

It was like people were waiting for us to crash and burn. But the opposite happened.

The Olympic games ended on a high as we broke a record, winning the most gold medals ever won at the Winter Games.

But we came away with more than just medals. We came away with a greater connection to our fellow Canadians and a sense of pride that we always had, but didn’t always show.

We will look back on these past two weeks as historic, defining moments in Canadian history.

But first, we have to get through the week with this Olympic hangover.

Red, white and gold: The euphoria of athletic success and spirit overshadows initial follies of the games

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

With dark clouds looming over the opening ceremony, we were shocked to hear of the death of the Georgia’s young luging contender, Nodar Kumaritasvili.

Later that night in B.C. Place, the world waited for the hydraulics to lift the Olympic caldron from the bowels of the stadium and we winced as Catriona Le May Doan was robbed of her opportunity to light the caldron.

Then there were the mass protests, the destruction of HBC’s windows, and, of course, there was no snow on our coastal mountains.

The Vancouver Olympic Games did not start off the way we had imagined but something happened that changed the course of the two-week event.

On Feb. 14, as Alex Bliodeau came cascading down Cypress Mountain, Canadians had something to celebrate: Canada’s first gold medal at the Vancouver Olympic Games, as well as Canada’s first gold medal on home soil.

Suddenly, the hiccups of the opening ceremony seemed to be a thing of the past. Canadians were more interested in what could be, instead of what was.

As our athletes became national icons, volumes of stories emerged from many of our Canadian contenders and presented the diverse personalities taking part in the Olympic games.

These stories of personal success and overcoming emotion played an important role in winning the spirit of Canadians across the country.

We devoutly watched Joannie Rochette perform her figure skating routine only days after her mother’s death.

We felt a connection with the unrelentless admiration Frederic Bilodeau displayed while his brother, Alexandre Bilodeau, finished his gold-medal run.

It seemed as though we drank from the same pitcher as Jon Montgomery paraded through the streets of Whistler after winning gold in men’s skeleton.

And for many of us, time stopped as the USA’s Zack Parise scored to force overtime during the gold-medal men’s hockey final.

But as Sid “The kid” Crosby scored at 7:40 in overtime, the whole nation came together to cheer for the impressive results of Canada’s best performance at an Olympic games.

From Coal Harbour to Kandahar, we raised flags and cheered for our success as a competitive nation and toted around the reality that our country must be doing something right.

As the flame was extinguished and the party continued into the night, we found our voice and our pride in two weeks in February.

And now we have a chance to move forward and face the challenges of our future as a nation.

If we must look back at the games of 2010, let us remember a generation of strength, spirit and pride for our nation.

Olympic ban a tight squeeze for Spandy: Vancouver street performer dances around city busking regulations

March 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Standing in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Andy Rimer adjusts his tight yellow short-shorts, which he wears atop his custom-made, neon checkered spandex outfit.

“Today, I am wearing a luxurious one-piece,” said the 22-year-old, as he modeled his outfit with a laugh, pulling a pair of black goggles over his curly locks and placing his oldschool boom box on the sidewalk. The Andy Samberg look-alike spent a moment skipping through techno songs before bursting out onto the street and gyrating down the road.

He moon-walked, break-danced and freestyled down the pavement, and pedestrians couldn’t help but laugh. As Rimer danced circles around an unsuspecting businessman carrying a briefcase and shook his booty at a middle-aged man, an old woman on an electric scooter stopped to watch and smiled.

“I love getting people’s reactions and shocking people. I love bringing them out of their regular day,” said Rimer. “Whether they smile or they’re just stunned, I know they won’t forget what they just saw.”

His parents know him as Andy, but Rimer is better known as his alter-ego, Spandy Andy: Vancouver’s spandex-wearing break-dancer, who has dominated the street-performing scene since his first appearance at English Bay.

His slogan?

“Spandy Andy puts the mint in entertainment,” said Rimer, “and that’s fresh!”

After his audition on So You Think You Can Dance Canada was aired nation-wide, and he won the title of Colgate’s Freshest Dancer and $10,000, “Spandy” has returned to the streets of Vancouver to do what he loves best: make people smile. Even though many choose to shy away from his wild antics, Rimer doesn’t mind in the least: this is what he loves to do.

“For sure people ignore me,” said Rimer. “They’re scared of me, which is kind of funny since I’m a five-foot-nothing guy in spandex.”

Although the cold weather didn’t stop his performance today, the approaching Vancouver Olympics could. According to the City of Vancouver, buskers are not permitted anywhere near the Olympic venues during the 2010 games. A representative from the city’s busking department told the Chronicle that the ban around the Olympics was due to “security concerns,” something Rimer has a hard time understanding.

“Look at me,” said Rimer, looking down and laughing at his ridiculous outfit. “What is this short, goofy looking man in spandex going to do?”

The city wanted to make it clear that artists have the opportunity to perform in other areas of the city, as long as they have a permit and follow the city’s guidelines.

Within the past year, Rimer has fought many battles with city officials, including one over the volume of his boom box and another over where he can park his neon-green electric scooter, but this is by far his biggest battle. With recent changes to the regulations, Rimer could bunable to perform in public.
“We are not allowing any music amplification [including] batteryoperated or electric…no boom boxes,” said the city’s representative. That’s a change to the original “reasonable” volume control allowed last year.

The new restrictions and Olympic ban has forced Rimer to take “Spandy Andy” elsewhere, seeking out local community-building project “I Heart Van Art” to support his act. I Heart Van Art has partnered with the Yaletown Business Improvement association, according to Rimer, who said the association would be filling up the streets of Yaletown for a 17-day street event during the Olympics.

Rimer plans to apply as a performer at the event, but he also has a way of getting around the city’s bylaws, allowing “Spandy Andy” a chance at worldwide fame, as tourists from all over the world swarm the Vancouver Games.

“It creates complication when you put your hat out and ask for money, so if I don’t have a hat, I’m not technically a busker,” said Rimer. “Nobody can get mad at a random guy dancing in spandex. You just can’t be angry at that.”

As Rimer danced past a row of cars stopped at a traffic light near the Art Gallery and signalled for them to start dancing, a middle-aged man rolled down his window and began dancing behind the wheel. A huge smile came across Rimer’s face, as he danced with the man until the light turned green.

“Just wait for the Olympics,” said Rimer. “Without the hat, I’m going to be busting out of trees. You never know when Spandy Andy’s going to pop out of nowhere and surprise you.”

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