For the past two weeks, the world’s best athletes gathered in Vancouver, Canada to compete in the XXI Winter Olympics (and, apparently, to distract me from my psets). After seventeen days of procrastinating in front of the TV (and enduring countless bad Geico commercials), there’s my list of the ten most memorable things from north of the border.
10. The opening ceremony
The Vancouver Games got off to a rough start, from the lip-syncing performers who were completely out-of sync with the music, to the Vancouver Organizing Committee chairman who seemed like he desperately needed a teleprompter and some practice for his speech. The ceremony culminated with a torch malfunction, which left Wayne Gretzky standing there with a weird look on his face and Catroina Le May-Doan posing awkwardly with her torch. The organizers parodied their mistake masterfully in the closing ceremony, in which Le May-Doan got another shot to light a “repaired” torch.
9. Controversies…or the lack thereof.
The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili right before the opening ceremonies cast a shadow over the beginning of the games, and also stirred up controversy about the safety of the sliding track. The celebrations of Scotty Lago and the Canadian Women’s Hockey Teams also stirred up some buzz, and Lago was even sent home by U.S. Officials. However, nobody was caught cheating or doping, and the Games will be remembered in a positive light.
There was a gratuitous amount of buzz about U.S. athletes like Shani Davis, Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, and Apollo Ohno. The media made it seem as if they were the only ones competing. Some athletes justified it (White, who earned another gold in snowboarding and landed the first-ever McTwist 1260), while others either fell short (Ohno, who ended his Olympic career with a few more silver and bronze medals) or just fell (Lindsey Jacobellis, who failed to redeem herself for losing the gold medal in Torino four years ago). There should have been coverage of other athletes and events as well, like…
This glorified version of shuffleboard saw a revival in a country where it’s one of the most closely-followed sports. From the mad broom skills to the Norwegians’ ridiculous pants (which, apparently, you can order online), the concept of tossing rocks at other rocks is just…entertaining. The curling arena also provided one of the most spirited moments of the Olympics, when the home crowd spontaneously broke out singing the Canadian national anthem during a match against Great Britain. (And how cool was it that during the Sochi 2014 video clip, they had a guy curling with Sputnik?)
6. Canada win!
The spontaneous outbursts of the crowd weren’t just confined to the curling arena. The entire country embraced the games, with crowds gathering in streets to watch on TV. The Beijing games in 2008 awed everyone with technical marvels; Vancouver surprised the world with its emotion. Although their $170 million “Own the Podium” program to win more medals was a disappointment and the country waited for days before capturing its first Olympic gold on home soil, the Canadians would win the most gold medals overall — including gold in hockey and curling.
5. Russia fail!
The Russians declared they would take home forty medals from Vancouver, and Vladimir Putin even called it a political crisis, but they fell well short of their expectations. Their vaunted hockey team was blown out by Canada in the quarterfinals, and they failed to clinch a gold in figure skating for the first time in decades.
4. Figure Skating
In addition to the failure of the Russians to win any golds, figure skating events made many headlines, from the perfection of Kim Yu-Na to the courage of Joannie Rochette. On the men’s side, Evgeni Plushenko was upset that Evan Lysachek took first without attempting a quad, which brought up debates about the scoring system and “regression” of the sport. At least this time there weren’t any corrupt French judges…
3. U.S. Medals
In addition to Lysacek’s gold in figure skating, the U.S. won its first-ever gold in nordic combined and the first gold in four-man bobsled in 62 years. Apollo Ohno became the most-decorated American winterolympian in history, adding a silver and two bronze medals in short track speedskating.
2. Medal Count
The U.S. led the count with 37 total medals — a record for the Winter Olympics — followed by Germany with 30, Canada with 26, and Norway with 23. Canada, however, took fourteen golds, also an Olympic record. So who really “won” the Olympics, the U.S. or Canada? The question would be settled on the last day of the Games, in the gold-medal match of…
…where the two North American teams would meet to conclude a thrilling tournament. Canada, fielding arguably the world’s best team on home soil in a sport they invented, were the favorites and saw the gold medal in hockey as their right. The surprising Americans, who had upset the Canadians in the preliminary rounds to clinch the number-one seed, surpassed all expectations. The final match, played exactly thirty years after the “Miracle on Ice,” was another epic. Canada got out to a 2-0 lead, but the U.S. would fight back to tie the game with 24 seconds left in regulation. Sidney Crosby scores in overtime to give Canada the win, setting off celebrations in the entire arena and country – a fitting close to a memorable Winter Olympics.