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A Place in History - Vancouver 2010 Winter Games - a Gold Medal Valentine
A Proud Day
On February 14th, 2010, Canadians received the most memorable Valentine's Day present in Olympic history. Alexandre Bilodeau made Canadian Olympic history at approximately 6:15 this evening, when he won the Gold Medal in the Men's Freestyle Skiing.
Millions of Canadians perched on the edge of their seats as they watched his near-perfect run - erupting in cheers as he crossed the finish line. Not twenty minutes earlier, we had watched Canadian athletes take first and second place in the freestyle event, only to be beaten out of medal contention by the U.S. and the defending Olympic Champion from Australia.
Alexandre Bilodeau is the first Canadian to ever win a gold medal on Canadian soil, a feat that took thirty-three years to come to fruition.
I`m not ashamed to say I had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when he was interviewed after his gold medal run.
A terrible tragedy
Before the official opening of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, a devistating accident took the life of a 21 year old luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili from the Republic of Georgia, whose death cast a pall over the games before they even started.
His teammates and coaches marched into BC Place Stadium to a standing ovation, wearing black armbands and carrying a black trimmed national flag. A full minute of silence was observed in honor of Kumaritashvili, the fourth competitor to die at the Winter Games, all in training, and the first since 1992.
There's gold in them hills!
After witnessing the horrible luge accident, our Olympic spirit was dampened, but still it continued to burn. Not only were we cheering for our athletes, we were cheering the participants from each country, as they showed the world the true meaning of being an Olympian.
From trucking snow 24/7 to Cypress Mountain, to the historic 45,000 km Olympic Torch Relay, and the Opening Ceremonies, Vancouverites and Canadians from every corner of the country have been tuned in to these Winter Games, every single one with the same desire - to see a Canadian athlete win the gold on our home turf.
Never in my life, have I had so much enthusiasm and excitement for the Olympic Games! I, like thousands of other Vancouverites, smiled knowingly about the weather challenges that are part and parcel of living on the West Coast, and animatedly discussed the transportation and traffic challenges that also had to be overcome.
For a while, it seemed as though we might fall short in our efforts to provide the visiting athletes with suitable surroundings in which to compete. But thanks to the tireless efforts of Vancouver's Olympic organizers, we succeeded.
I didn't realize that the simple act of witnessing the Olympic Torch Bearer running past my window would affect my patriotism and increase my desire to be a part of the Winter Games, but it did.
Every time I turned on my television, I tuned into the sports channels to see the Olympic coverage - not just to see the medal standings, but to watch the many gifted athletes compete.
When I discovered that my Valentine's gift was a drive into Vancouver, to see, with my own eyes, the Olympic Flame that the 'Great One', Wayne Gretzky lit at the close of the most amazing Opening Ceremonies I have ever seen, I was elated! For the first time in my life, I was going to be a part, if only a small one, of the most prestigious sports venue in the world.
It was truly an exciting day! I was expecting the roads to be packed with cars, however, the traffic was non existent, all the way to the downtown core.The Vancouver Planning Committee certainly did their job providing transportation and rerouting traffic.
The closer we got to the waterfront, the more evident it became, exactly how large a commitment, hosting the Olympic Games really was. Everywhere, volunteers, officials, police officers, and security personnel patiently and politely directed the traffic and masses of people who crowded the sidewalks and storefronts of Vancouver.
I have been in downtown Vancouver many times over the years for different venues, but I have never seen so many people, threading their way through the streets and shops, buying souvenirs, shooting videos, and snapping pictures. The air was humming with Olympic fever.
People waving Canadian flags, wearing red and white toques, scarves, and maple leaves flooded the streets. Visitors and residents alike, crammed into souvenir shops, eager to take home a small part of the 'Games'.
I must admit, we couldn`t resist the lure of the shops either! After all, we had to have something to commemorate such an auspicious day!
When we finally managed to ease our way through the throngs of spectators crowding around the cordoned off area that proudly housed the Olympic Flame, we weren`t disappointed.
Even behind a chain-link fence, it was a truly magnificent sight. The Eternal Flame ignited our passion and national pride.
Vancouver Olympic History
Thousands of visitors, spectators and residents flocked to the downtown core to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Flame, outside Canada Place.
It was thrilling to hear the different languages being spoken by our visiting guests, and know that the whole world was on our doorstep.
My son`s video of the Olympic Flame
Even my twelve year old son was excited to be a part of the festivities. So much so, that he wanted to shoot the video I have posted below.
It may not be CBC quality, (the commentary needed a few prompts...) but it shows just how much these Winter Games are supported and enjoyed by so many, including my son.
An emotional ending
As we left downtown Vancouver, (with a promise to return again before the Closing Ceremonies,) we were pleased and satisfied that we had been a small part of the Winter Games. Little did we know that only three hours later, we would be celebrating an historic moment, as Canadians the world over cheered Alexandre Bilodeau, the first Canadian to win gold on home soil.
It is with great pride and emotion that I share with you 'A Most Excellent' Valentine's day!