Friday, February 26, 2010

Devin's Diary: Day Six

Olympic Blog 4

On Tuesday of this week, our last full day at the games, we had no event tickets in hand and no particular sights to see: only a volunteer shift at the University of Saskatchewan reception in the giant white globe at the Saskatchewan pavilion. And almost as if the city predicted our imminent departure, the clouds rolled into Vancouver to cast a blanket of grey over the Olympics.

Truthfully, the Vancouver mood had sobered slightly after the record crowds out and about during the weekend. By the time we headed downtown, the crowds had thinned significantly. For lack of any particular plan, we lined-up at the art gallery downtown that had been expropriated by the Province of BC for its own pavilion. We entered after a very short wait in line. After a quick look around, went to the most lovely museum cafĂ© that featured gourmet sandwiches, salads, quiche, drinks and deserts for the lowest prices we had encountered during our entire trip, complimented by the most serene physical atmosphere and calming smooth jazz. It was perfectly wonderful. If it wasn’t for the flashes of colourful team-inspired clothing sported by other patrons, it could have been a charming afternoon lunch at the Vancouver gallery on any given February afternoon: the Olympics had finally left us for just a few moments.

We proceeded to work our shift at the University of Saskatchewan reception, which was a warm and intimate affair within the Saskatchewan globe. During the course of the reception, the Canadian men managed to win their game against Germany, and Ashley McIver proceeded to win gold in women’s ski cross. Spirits were a little higher once more, but well below the manic character of the weekend’s public: the Olympic spirit in Vancouver had become a calm, measured optimism. We left the Saskatchewan reception, with our host, my brother, and wandered into the main pavilion, which, by all accounts, is an authentic Saskatchewan experience, much akin to attending a cabaret at the town hall in (insert town name here) Saskatchewan. It was warm with people, loud with voices, sported lots of green and smelled of stale Pilsner: it was very homey.

After meeting with Saskatchewan friends and watching small children dance to exhaustion, we headed out, into the False Creek area, arguably the centre of Olympic activities in the city, to see what more we could squeeze out of a Tuesday evening, our last night at the games.

Of course, the evening wouldn’t be complete without a last ode to the Olympic influence, so as we made our way to the Sky Train Station, we stopped at McDonald’s 24-hour Olympic-themed store for a round of Olympic nuggets, which we feasted-upon while watching the day’s highlights. As our Olympic experience faded into the night, the almost-bread purchased earlier that day was the furthest thing from our hearts and minds, as was the sour attitude of the bearded clerk who sold it to me.

The next morning, we headed back to Saskatchewan via the Canada line train, a flight to Calgary and another to Saskatoon. The further we went, the more the concerns of every-day life crept into our consciousness. The car was cold, the front floor was dirty, the mail was piled-up and we needed groceries. Didn’t the world know the Olympics was on? During our short escape to Vancouver, we fashioned our existence around the games — they were everywhere. Every newspaper story, every SkyTrain advertisement, every passer-by and every web-streamed moment reminded you of the Olympics in your midst. Even the Olympic nay-sayers were nay-saying about the Olympics: it was surreal.

While returning to “real life” presents a bit of a mental challenge, the television and the web continue to provide a consistent portal to all things Olympic: we can wean ourselves from the experience gradually. In retrospect, its shocking how much emotion we invest in a relatively anonymous collection of athletes, most of whom grace our living rooms only once every four years. Yet, the majority of us, without reservation, will hitch our emotional sleighs to anyone bearing our country’s colours. Why? I suppose that philosophers, sociologists and psychologists will all have answers, but frankly, I don’t care. It felt good to be there (except for my tired, tire feet). It feels good to watch from here. And it feels good to share that irrational, bi-annual emotional investment with friends, Canadians and all humans. Aside from a modest handful of detractors, the world cares about sport and country, and that’s just fine. Shouldn’t the world have at least one thing we can all feel good about?

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