March 1st, 2010
10:46 AM ET

From grief to triumph – what a Games!

It’s always hard to be objective when you have “worked” an Olympics - lived and breathed every day of it, on the ground, from the inside - but I believe this was a great Winter Games.

Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette overcame the death of her mother to take the bronze medal (Getty Images).
Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette overcame the death of her mother to take the bronze medal (Getty Images).

The fact that Vancouver 2010 got off to such a difficult start actually worked in its favor. After days of rain, controversy and tragedy the mood slowly improved - and felt all the more satisfying for the turnaround.

Why did it change for the better? Well, to manipulate that overused political slogan: “It’s the sport stupid!”

Yes, the ever-increasing commercialization of the Olympics is an irritation and, yes, we in the media can be guilty of exaggerating both successes and failures.

However, the Games are still inspirational, and when you peel back the layers you’re left with the individual stories of courage, determination and excellence which make sport, generally, and the Olympics, in particular, so compelling.

In case you missed them, here are my favorites:

Petra Majdic won a bronze medal after skiing more than five kilometers cross country with broken ribs and a punctured lung. She had injured herself during a fall in training, but refused to take a pain killing injection before the race because it would hinder her movement and she was desperate to win Slovenia’s first medal in the event.

Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette somehow found the focus to claim a bronze medal just days after her mother died in Vancouver General Hospital following a heart attack. Therese Rochette had come to the city to watch her daughter compete. Joannie, still stunned by the sudden loss of her mum, earned an emotional place on the podium.

He’s broke, a recovering alcoholic and has tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion, but American freestyle skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson conquered all of his personal demons to take the silver medal in the aerials competition.

Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong, Ghana’s "Snow Leopard," put a smile on everyone’s face. With echoes of Jamaica’s bobsled team and ski-jumper Eddie “the Eagle” Edwards, the former indoor ski center worker rightfully claimed his place among the Winter Olympians here - and successfully negotiated two runs in the men’s slalom.

There were more than two-and-a-half-thousand athletes at these Vancouver Games and there are many other stories, not to mention one of the most exciting hockey matches of all time. Before I came to Canada for the first time I said I didn’t “get” (ice) hockey. I do now.

I also got the experience of a lifetime - not a cliché, a fact. Every Olympics is unique and inspirational, and this one has been no exception.

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Filed under:  2010 Winter Games
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Lou Mercier

    Well written my american friend and thank you for the appreciation. Nothing is perfect but as long as we try...

    March 1, 2010 at 12:10 pm | Reply
  2. alehandro

    You could pick inspirational stories out of any Olympic Games, but your selection does not mask the fact that these Games were flawed and lacked any atmosphere that came through to the TV audience, which I presume is the one you guys on TV were supposed to be servicing as opposed to yourselves.
    Who plans to start climbing a mountain by digging a trench? No organizer wants their event to be good only by comparison to how bad it was. So damning these Games with feint praise is disingenuous. I think the best we can say is that the Canadians tried. They put a brave face on it, and enjoyed themselves in that muted Canadian way of theirs. But their enthusiasm did not translate, and ultimately they delivered a mediocre Games that will be remembered, if they're remembered at all, for mostly the wrong reasons.

    March 1, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Reply
  3. Rollande Curney

    I am a born Canadian and I live in Québec. I must say, this is the first time that I have seen my fellow Canadians so excited about Olympic games. It was wonderful, exciting, colorful and yes CLEAN. I have enjoyed every moment of it and I congratulate each and every athlete who participated.

    GOOD JOB YOU ALL and thank you for the memories.

    Rollande in Montréal, Québec

    March 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Reply
    • Line Curney

      J'avais simplement envie de te dire bonjour en passant...

      Ta sœur Line

      April 9, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  4. S

    Thrilled that Canada is getting the praise that it so warmly deserves by the world media. It's about time that people see beyond minor glitches and into the eyes of one of the most beautiful and respected country in the world. Enjoy your moment, Canada. ▌♥ ▌

    March 1, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  5. L. Pinette

    muted canadian ways????? guess you missed the games alehandro cuz that was the best thing canadian unity (and world unity) have witnessed in many many years, congratulations to the city of vancouver to the superb athletes and definately to all canadians on coming together so strongly for the worlds best athletic competition.

    March 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Reply
  6. monika

    alehandro, it is unfortunate that our "enthusiasm did not translate" over to you, but i can assure you that enthusiasm was never lacking. i live in vancouver and will never forget the these 17 days where we opened up our city to the world. a sea of red and white, and smiling faces greeted me wherever i went. canada jerseys, canuck shirts, canada tuques, canada hoodies were on proud display. our city has changed forever and has felt an unprecedented patriotic pride. i am proud to be canadian. i am proud of our resilience despite the obstacles during the games. and i am especially proud that we can celebrate an unprecedented success at the podium in a humble and grateful way. that is why i am proud to be canadian. PS plus it feels pretty good to kick *ss at hockey. 🙂

    March 1, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Reply
  7. Mike

    Being a canadian i wanted to leave canada to hear what other countries had to say. Thank you for this article. The olympics we're flawed from the start, warm weather, a death, and of course the opening ceremonies. However VANOC came through by the end of it. The tragedies that occured in this olympics shouldnt value the success or the failure of them. Olympics are about sport, and perseverence of the Athletes to overcome against odds, and shine. All Athletes perfomed amazingly in these games. We are proud of all of you!

    March 1, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Reply
  8. Francois

    Alehandro, I can only guess that you are American. You were looking for the same kind of hoopla that surrounds the Superbowl. Well, that would be un-Canadian. We love to be boring.

    We like apple pie without whipped cream, thin crust pizza without the Chicago-style flood of cheese. We like substance without fireworks. We also enjoy the results of what we like: sturdy banks that did not need tax-payer rescue; a steady real-estate market that did not bust; Olympic games that delivered in spite of circumstantial difficulties.

    March 1, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Reply
  9. Charles

    Why in the world did NBC interrupt the closing ceremonies with the Seinfeld show? WHY? WHY? Are they NUTS?

    March 2, 2010 at 1:20 am | Reply
  10. Dale Leger

    I feel that alehandro missed the excitement that we in Canada saw and heard by watching the NBC feed from the games. If he would have tuned in to Canadian TV, he would have seen a lot more excitement. After watching the Olympics for 40+ years, I can recommend any other countries' coverage of the games over the American networks, who don't seem to cover any of the events live, and especially when an American isn't favoured to win.

    March 2, 2010 at 2:10 am | Reply
  11. handyman

    Dear alehandro,

    Thank you for your comment. Maybe it was the TV coverage that you are unsatisfied with? As someone who attended the Sydney Games in 2000 and as a Vancouver resident I can tell you that your ideas are misguided and wrong.

    What happened in Vancouver was an amazing accomplishment. What began with hope, determination and many years of hard work ended in triumph. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and Canadians celebrated every night and everyday overcoming the elements, adversity and tragedy.

    Are you sure you were on the right channel?

    Well done Vancouver!

    March 2, 2010 at 7:16 am | Reply
  12. Chris Kennedy

    One of two things, Joannie ROCHETTE won not because as you say "earned an emotional place on the podium". I f you do then do need to address the issues with the judges. NOT the individual.

    Secondly my friend, as you say "The fact that Vancouver 2010 got off to such a difficult start actually wor'ked in its favor. After days of rain, controversy and tragedy the mood slowly improved – and felt all the more satisfying for the turnaround". There are certain factors neither you or your crystal ball can predict. These conditions were worked with, resulting a satisfactory result if not better.

    March 2, 2010 at 8:30 am | Reply
  13. Darff

    alehandro might be american, and possibly a hockey fan. The American eagle rarely enjoys having its feathers torn off by the lowly beaver. 😉

    March 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Reply
  14. Michelle

    I live in Toronto and we were all very excited for these games that all the organizers and athletes worked so hard to achieve. They were all an inspiration, in their training and their determination to even get to the games.
    It is ashame the American TV networks did not allow their audiences to enjoy the full concerts of the closing ceremonies....why is it? Doesn't the American TV feel the people of their country should have the right to enjoy the shows of other cultures, especially of the biggest event of the year? Very selffish and narrow minded I must say!!

    March 3, 2010 at 3:47 am | Reply
  15. Fred

    Darff stinks.

    March 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm | Reply
  16. AN10

    i'm not sure which games alehandro was watching, but the atmosphere certainly came through my swiss tv. I particularly liked the Canada v USA gold medal ice hockey match..and the Canadian national anthem at the end...
    lowly beaver indeed!

    March 3, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  17. rad13

    Alehandro, you are one miserable pseudo-intellectual.

    March 5, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  18. rad13

    ugh–post it then

    March 5, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Reply

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