How will you remember the Olympics?

By Nathan White

It seems like Sidney Crosby’s goal changed everything, but did it really change anything?

Crosby’s dramatic overtime winner in the Olympic gold-medal hockey game will be remembered forever by Canadian hockey fans. To clinch the all-time highest total for gold medals (14), and to do it in the one sport we care about more than any other, was as satisfying an end as any Canadian could have scripted for the Vancouver Games.

An event marred by protests and death ended with crowds cheering in public squares, not only in Vancouver, but Toronto, London, and any other place Canadians were gathered. It was like Canada stopped for that time and we celebrated ourselves, perhaps more openly and unrestrainedly than ever before.

Within an hour, thousands of people had joined a Facebook group in honour of Crosby’s goal. The goal will go down in history with Paul Henderson’s in the 1972 Summit Series and Mario Lemieux’s in the 1987 Canada Cup. It will change the way we remember the Games, and it will change the way we remember the I Believe song we’ve been forced to listen to since the end of the Super Bowl.

But as the wind whipped snow against my window all night, I kept wondering, did it change anything deep down?

Celebrating the Olympics wasn’t about winning alone. We’re a proud people, but most of us aren’t about waving it in everyone’s face every chance we get. The 14 gold medals were nice. Yes, we wanted to see our boys and girls do well, especially in hockey. But without the 14th, would we have been any less proud of who we are as competitors and our place in the world?

As Globe and Mail sportswriter Stephen Brunt articulated in this excellent video essay, even before the hockey gold, a feeling was emerging in Canadians.

People make fun of us for being too meek and polite, and we’re so different from east to west, we make fun of each other sometimes. But when it comes down to it, we all just really love our country.

It’s not about gold, it’s about how we supported the team through everything. It’s about how we realized how lucky we are to live in this country. It’s about how we’ve always wanted to celebrate, but it took the big stage of the Olympics to bring it out.

When we celebrate Crosby, we’re celebrating the small town of Cole Harbour, N.S., that’s supported him since he was a young boy. And when those athletes compete on the grand stage, they’re doing it for those same people who have supported them all of their lives.

We saw it in the tears of women’s skeleton athlete Mellisa Hollingsworth, who felt she had to apologize for not winning a medal. We saw it in figure skater Joannie Rochette’s performance, dedicated to the memory of her mother. We saw it when freestyle skier Alexandre Bilodeau won the first gold medal on home soil, inspired by his brother who wasn’t given the same opportunity.

They weren’t competing to beat anybody, and I don’t think it would have mattered to Canadians in the end if they did or not. That they did is just a nice reward on top of a celebration of a country and its athletes.

As Vancouver Games CEO John Furlong said, it was the “telling of our humble Canadian story.”

And as the song says, “I believe the time is right now; To stand tall and make the world proud.”

I wonder how long we’ll be whistling that tune.

What will you remember?

THANK YOU

With the Olympics over, I’m not sure where I’ll take this blog next. I want to thank all of you for reading, but the biggest thank-you goes out to my biggest supporter: My wife Clarissa.

Some of you may know I had hoped to cover these Olympics, but it was a dream that didn’t quite come true. Clarissa is the one who encouraged me to blog about them, and helped me with many of the ideas, including today’s.

Things don’t always work out the way you plan. Look at hockey play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert. CBC let him go during the NHL lockout and we felt bad for him. Sunday he got to call the biggest hockey game in a generation, which never would have happened had he never lost the CBC job.

Although I had dreamed of being in Vancouver for Sunday’s gold-medal game, I probably would not have had the chance to share that memorable game with Clarissa in our living room, and the celebratory hug, kiss and high-five that followed Crosby’s goal.

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~ by Nathan White on March 1, 2010.

8 Responses to “How will you remember the Olympics?”

  1. A heartfelt piece, and one that represents my own sentiments. Thanks, Nathan, for taking time to put into words what many of us would like to say.

    i particularly resonated with your concluding remarks with respect to Chris Cuthbert, and how opportunity often arises when we least expect it – a great attitude for our own lives and careers.

  2. Thanks Kathy, I’m glad it resonated with you.

    As one reader e-mailed me, “I wish you every success on your journey. Pack much! It will be a long trip.”

    Also reminded me of the classy words of Conan O’Brien upon leaving the Tonight Show, particularly his comments at 3:45 of this clip http://ow.ly/1cOxX

  3. I am going to throw out some food for thought…

    There is more to sport, and the Olympics, than men’s hockey!

    My greatest memory from the 2010 Olympics is Alexandre Bilodeau wining the first ever olympic gold on Canadian soil and having his brother Frederic, who Alex draws so much support from, pumping his hands in the air to celebrate the gold. Yes, the men’s hockey gold is awesome and affirms our dominance in the sport; however, there is a major difference between those athletes and the rest of our Olympians.

    The majority of our Canadian Olympians have a difficult time scraping pennies together to make ends meet. In contrast, our men’s hockey players annually make more than the majority of Canadians make in their entire lifetime. Most of our athletes (those who did not medal) will today return to their cash-strapped lives. Not our men’s hockey players, they will return to fame and fortune of the NHL.

    In the spirit of the Olympics, Olympians are asked to live in the Olympic Village, which is built and operated at enormous cost. Due to security reasons, family and friends of Olympians are forbidden from entering the Village – this can be difficult on the Olympians. Our men’s hockey team didn’t live in the Olympic Village. Instead, they flew in to Vancouver, when necessary for games, and stayed in hotels with their families and friends.

    Olympians are given an incredible opportunity – to take part in a bonding experience that only the world’s sport elite are able to take part in. Part of that experience is attending the opening and closing ceremonies. The men’s hockey team was visibly absent from both.

    Although Canada has managed to set a record for gold medals obtained at a Winter Olympics, the current feeling in the air is that the only one that will be most remembered is the men’s hockey gold.

    Do we perhaps place hockey stars on a pillar far higher than those of other athletes?

    Remembering that there is more to the Olympics than men’s hockey,

    Ace

    • Ace, great thoughts, thanks for taking the time to put that out there!

      Bilodeau’s gold was an awesome memory, and I think moments like that do get a bit overshadowed with the hockey-mania. Great points about them not being at the ceremonies. I thought at least some of them did spend some time in the village, though, I remember hearing a story about Crosby playing ping-pong with other athletes.

      We do put the hockey players on a pedestal, we’re just a hockey-mad country. I’ll ask you this: would you remember the Olympics more fondly if they hadn’t won, and moments like Bilodeau’s remained the highlight for the majority of Canadian fans?

  4. i didn’t want to see the rest of the game when the Americans tied it .
    Then Sidney shot the winning goal.I couldn’t believe it .It happened so fast .wow
    I thought Canada wasn’t going to do well because of the bad start,with the timing glitch and the unfortunite death of the young luge parcipitant .

    • Haha, Eileen, my mom said the same thing. Apparently she left the room and started channel-surfing cable shows until my dad ran out like a madman screaming “SIDNEY CROSBY!!!!”

  5. Great blog, Nathan! All I can say is I have a big crush on Sidney Crosby.

  6. Thanks April, I think you might like my next entry then, stay tuned!

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