This post was originally published on the now-retired Make & Meaning blog on February 26th, 2010. It’s not very topical now, five months after the Olympics, but I wanted to save this post in a public forum.)
It’s hard for me to believe it’s been nearly a month since I wrote about the Olympics coming to Vancouver. In a way it feels like a lifetime ago, and in another way it feels like only a moment has passed.
It turns out, in hindsight, that I lacked imagination when I wrote that post. I mean, I used a good amount of imagination when I sat down and thought up all kinds of catastrophes of scale and mediocrity that could go on. But I most definitely had left my optimism at home.
I’d smack myself now if I weren’t having such a good time.
My chief complaint in anticipation of the Games had been how Vanoc – the Vancouver Organizing Committee – had perpetrated such a spectacular FAIL when it came to engaging the average citizens of Vancouver.
Well, it turns out the average citizens of Vancouver didn’t need Vanoc to engage us. Once the torch came to town, we came out by the thousands to see a piece of history in the making in our own neighbourhoods (I took the photo above after the torch passed by a few minutes from where I live).
For the last two weeks, with the exception of an isolated incident of minor violence imported from afar, Vancouver has been an astonishing, massive party.
In my last post, I wrote that
If [Vanoc had spoken to us as fellow Vancouverites who feel honoured to host such an important event], I imagine we’d feel honoured, ourselves – honoured and pleased to be a part of something so huge, something that brings people from all over the world together in our relatively small yet tremendously beautiful home.
Well, again, it turns out we managed to feel that way all on our own.
I’m not entirely sure how it happened. It’s possible our city experienced a true viral phenomenon of camaraderie, enthusiasm, hospitality and patriotism – a special new Canadian patriotism filled with vocal pride yet devoid of over-the-top bravado. As a few people felt it, so it spread to those around them. It’s certainly the case that where before the Games I’d speak to friends and neighbours about the hassle, the bad decisions and the at-best guarded optimism, I now speak with them about whether they’ve been downtown to experience the masses, or which pavilions they’ve waited in line for. I know I’m not the only one of my peers who cried like a baby when Virtue and Moir skated to their ice-dancing gold medal, or who sat with fingers in teeth while Joannie Rochette held back her tears. And let’s not even start about the hockey.
Just as I thought about our online community a month ago when I was lamenting the certain demise of my physical one, I’m pleased to say I had more fun with crafters online in the last two weeks than I have since we all went on an escapade to line up a Hollywood interview a couple of years ago.
From the moment the Swedish Olympic team entered BC Place Stadium during the Opening Ceremonies, people were fascinated by their crocheted hats (in Canadian, we call them toques). And so a weeklong online quest ensued, during which people from all over North America and Europe dug through Twitter search, Google, and radio broadcasts to find any bit of information about who designed the hats (Eva Christensson), and who made them all by hand for the Swedish team (sponsor of the Swedish Olympic teams uniforms Li Ning Sport Goods Ltd).
Alongside the thousands of people challenging themselves to craft during the 17 days of the Games, I loved this group effort to work together to get to the bottom of a story the mainstream media (outside of Sweden, anyway) wouldn’t likely pay attention to. It was a fantastic excuse to get to know each other better, and to get something done that any one person likely couldn’t have done on their own.
So as these Olympics wind down, the me from a month ago would be surprised by the me from today. Today I’m so happy I managed to let my cynicism go. I’m happy I got out of my house to experience as much of the Olympics as I could, from sports events to public singing to conversations with perfect strangers from all over the world. I feel better in touch with the crafts community and I feel inspired to have more fun en masse. I’m glad I got into the sports so I could ensconce myself on the couch with yarn and hook while I rooted for athletes who have dedicated years of their lives to get to my city to compete.
The Today Show had spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan on their show today, and just as he helped to set the mood when the Games began, he sums it all up so eloquently toward the end. “Our story starts: We were here.”
Unfortunately, all comments were lost when Make & Meaning was taken down. Don’t hesitate to repeat yourself here, or to join in on the new conversation!