It’s easy to throw out the hyperbole. Newspaper columnists need to have some sort of opinion about the Vancouver Olympics in order to feed the beast, satisfy their readers and their bosses. Depending on which one you read, it was either the most friendly, welcoming and well-organized Games ever, or it was a non-stop glitch-fest that will forever be marred by the death of an athlete.
Internationally, it seemed how countries thought about these Olympics had everything to do with whether the number of medals they got met expectations.
NBC, which laid on the love for Canada pretty thick (or maybe we just thought it was thick because we’re so unused to international praise), continued afterward, with Brian Williams sending a thank-you note. Jim Caple of ESPN went the opposite way, poking fun at the northern neighbours but still with the attitude that these games were awesome. (He even made fun of Canada’s men’s hockey team after the U.S. beat them in round-robin play, with some jokes he probably regrets now)
For Australia, which won only three Olympic medals, it was still the best winter games ever, screamed headlines from Australian Associated Press, the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian minister for sport.
On the other hand, Russia was a disappointment at these games (a disappointment that forced the resignation of the head of the Russian Olympic Committee), and Pravda went on a rant saying simply that Vancouver is not fit to hold the Winter Olympics. On the day of the closing ceremony, criticisms read more like conspiracy theories about how organizers and officials unfairly hurt Russia to Canada’s benefit.
And then, of course, there’s Great Britain, which managed only a single medal at these games. But in their defence, the criticism came long before that result.
Of course, that prompted a lot of defend-Canada pieces from Canadian media, who quoted Olympic historians, members of the IOC and VANOC attacking that view and rating these games highly. Other columnists and editorial writers took it upon themselves to defend Vancouver 2010.
The truth is that the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games were somewhere in between. The people were friendly, but they could also be dicks sometimes, especially when they let their national pride get the better of them. The organizers were beset with an avalanche of problems, but reacted quickly to them. The opening and closing ceremonies were well choreographed, but … well, I won’t get into another debate about that.
And as for the athletic performances, there were plenty of triumphs and disappointments (or, in the case of Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno and the Canadian men’s speed-skating teams, both in the same week). There was the tragedy of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the heartbreaking disqualification of Sven Kramer in the 10,000-metre race, the childish reaction of Evgeni Plushenko after failing to win gold in men’s figure skating, and of course Joannie Rochette, who stole some of the spotlight away from an incredible performance by Kim Yu-Na.
I spent most of these Olympics in front of my TV, and will remember quite a bit of them. I’ll also remember quite a bit from the 2008 Games in Beijing, and other Olympics before them.
But to suggest that the Vancouver Olympics were the greatest ever (better than Lillehammer? Lake Placid?) or the worst ever (worse than Munich? Atlanta?) is probably pushing it a bit much.
The next games are in Russia in 2014. And even though it’s four years away, it’s already being denounced as the worst ever.