VANCOUVER, British Columbia — On the first day of these Olympics, I chased Wayne Gretzky’s pickup truck through the streets of Vancouver. On the last day, I sat a section over from him (and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper) and the gold medal hockey game between Canada and the U.S. It’s hard to let go of such an upwardly mobile blog.
I’m sitting at the Closing Ceremony, drinking what I hope will not be my closing Molson of the Games. I have 15 hours left before leaving Vancouver, there’s still some Canadian money in my wallet, and I’d rather not take it to a currency exchange at the airport. I’d also like Nickelback to get off the stage here at BC Place ASAP. Have you ever tried writing anything while sitting at a Nickelback concert? It’s impossible — that stuff softens your brain. I didn’t attempt to write anything during Neil Young’s one song, Long May You Run, because I wanted to enjoy it. Seeing him on Canadian soil — a tiny Neil in a dark suit, standing in front of a giant flame — was my ceremony highlight:
VANOC really pulled out all the stops for this thing — Neil, Michael Buble, Nickelback, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morrissette, William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, Catherine O’Hara, A Simple Plan — when they probably just would’ve appeased everyone by trotting out the Team Canada players to wave to the crowd. The loudest ovation came when VANOC CEO John Furlong simply alluded to the hockey gold. The cheers shook the stadium. Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal earlier in the day, as Ed Swift wrote on SI.com, was “the perfect ending for what had become something of a fairy tale Olympics for the home team.”
The mood of the Closing Ceremony has been lighter than the opener, which came just hours after the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. He was referenced in speeches today, but the ceremony began with a large-scale joke: a Canadian woodsman pulling up the torch that malfunctioned during the Opening Ceremony, so that former speedskater Catriona Le May Doan could finally light something.
After that torch re-lighting, a series of anthems were played: Canada’s, Greece’s, The Olympic Anthem, Russia’s (for Sochi 2014) … and Norway’s, as part of the final medal ceremony of the Games, for the men’s 50k cross country race won by Petter Northug.
I preferred to imagine that the Norwegian anthem was being played in honor of cross-country skier Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset, for providing the Olympics’ best quote. After costing Norway gold in the 4 x 10 relay, he said: “My name is Odd-Bjoern Hjelmeset. I skied the second lap and I f—ed up today. I think I have seen too much porn in the last 14 days. I have the room next to Petter Northug and every day there is noise in there. So I think that is the reason I f—ed up. By the way, Tiger Woods is a really good man.”
If I have one regret, it’s not having profiled Odd-Bjoern in the blog. But some solid posts appeared in this space, on everything from 1964 lugers, to Japan’s bad-boy snowboarder, to Germany’s knitting biathlete, to Sweden’s straitjacket-wearing figure skater, who performed to Cypress Hill. My gurus from Canadian Design Resource looked at every aesthetic aspect of the Olympic, and I reviewed a few heinous items from the Games to come.
Maybe I’ll do this thing again from Sochi, where I’ll hope to have posts as popular as “Ain’t No Party Like a Gold Medal Party,” from Friday. That was the most-visited item here by a margin of more than 100,000 views, and all it really consisted of was photos of Canadian women’s hockey players drinking Molsons and smoking stogies on the ice. The controversy over whether that was appropriate for Olympians was absurd. It was totally appropriate. This is Canada. And this is my last night in Canada, so I’m shutting this thing down, and going out to act just like they did.