Tongue-in-cheek farewell

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER -- Can an Olympic hockey gold medal victory make up for 95 years without a Stanley Cup? Can 17 days of street parties turn this laidback city into a party town?

The 2010 Winter Olympics ended Sunday night in B.C. Place Stadium, the very place former Vancouver Canucks’ owner Arthur Griffiths announced in September 1998 that the city was bidding for the five-ring winter circus.

The three-hour show was a tongue-in-cheek farewell to athletes, media and sports fans of the world with dancing Mounties, lumberjacks, voyageurs, inflatable beavers and moose. The dome was transformed into the world’s biggest bubble hockey arena and two of Hollywood’s best-known Canadian exports William Shatner and Michael J. Fox professed their love for the country. Then a rock concert broke out with Nickelback, Avril Lavigne and Alanis Morrissette.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said Vancouver hosted “excellent and friendly Games” before declaring them closed. The traditional “boos” and “ahhs” of disappointed host city residents were muted, compared to past Games.

The Olympic flag was passed from Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson to the Russian organizers of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, who offered spherical zorbs and Bolshoi ballet dancers while a symphony performed live via satellite from Moscow’s Red Square.

The show began on a self-deprecating note when mime Yves Dagenais willed the cauldron arm that malfunctioned on opening night out of its trap door, allowing Catriona Le May Doan to finally fulfill her flaming duty. More than 1,000 snowboard-toting youths took over the floor, singing “Woah-oh-oh, Van-cou-ver!”

When the Games began Feb. 12, locals and visitors alike were muttering “uh-oh, Vancouver” as one thing went wrong after another. Rainstorms, the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, a broken-down Olympia ice cleaner and hundreds of broken down or wayward buses from the United States that left some athletes stranded.

The Games were organized amid the worst economy since the Great Depression in a city that also relied on the 1954 British Empire Games and Expo 86 for infrastructure and public buildings. Both were small compared to Vancouver 2010. A pre-recession estimate by the province’s auditor general in 2006 estimated it would cost taxpayers at least $2.5 billion. Recent media estimates peg the cost closer to $6 billion.

Canada’s next sporting mega-event is the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.

Different season and different sports. Expect similar challenges.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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