I don’t expect anyone, who isn’t Canadian and who hasn’t spent time in Vancouver during the last 16 days of these games, to fully understand the feelings I’m feeling tonight about what these Olympic games have meant. What an incredible two weeks it has been. We are so so blessed to have had the time and the resources to be in Vancouver during this historic, once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Canadians have, for the most part, been a pretty understated group of people. I would consider us quite laid back, humble, down-to-earth. With 32 million inhabitants, we equal the population of the state of California. We comprise mostly of immigrants, from every corner of the globe (You have no idea how amazing a feeling it is to be in a train-car after a quarter-final hockey game where Canadians of Chinese, African, Indian and Middle Eastern descent together spontaneously break out singing the national anthem). Politically our dramas don’t compare to those of our Southern neighbours and for the most part, whether the Prime Minister is conservative, liberal or independent, nothing much changes in the way the country is run. We’re peacekeeping, peace-loving and polite. We grew up with Polish, Italian and Iranian classmates, boy/girlfriends, teachers, neighbours. Multiculturalism was so engrained in our upbringing that my brother and I didn’t know the meaning of racism until we left the country as teenagers. We have the most beautiful backyard anyone could ask for, with the rocky mountains, the great plains, and western oceans all within a day’s reach. And there isn’t much that we’ll fight over, scream about, boast loudly for, riot over except perhaps hockey. Canadians are blessed. And Canada is an incredible place to grow up, to call home, to be rooted to.
The last few weeks have been a testament to our strength, pride and humility as a nation. I have never seen so many happy, cheery, positive people all gathered in one place ever in my life! Whether we were winning the gold in speed skating, losing it for the silver in women’s curling or placing 24th in the biathlon, there seemed to be no lack of pride, celebration and joy in the faces and smiles of Canadian fans. When Canada won over Russia during the men’s hockey quarter finals, the city went wild with celebration, dancing and fireworks in the streets. You’d think we had won the gold! When Sheryl Bernard lost the women’s curling gold medal to the Swedes, the hundreds of us in the pub gasped in shock, watched in silence and then all of a sudden cheered in joy for the silver medal, because hey, it’s silver and silver is nearly as good as gold! =) And such celebrations continued day-in and day-out for the entire time we’ve been here. We celebrate over golds, we celebrate over 5th place winnings, we celebrate because we can, we celebrate for the heck of it! The positivity is contagious. Wearing your heart on your sleeve feels good. Being open, happy, proud is so innately human and raw and real. The joy joy joy that emanates from this place has the power to change you, to transform you, to lift you up. It melts your heart.
Tonight, as Sidney Crosby ushered in our 14th gold win of the Games, I sat on the floor of my Auntie Josie’s living room surrounded with two dozen aunts, uncles and cousins enraptured with the TV screen. Clad in Olympic gear, red shirts, white sleeves, we screamed, we gasped, we jumped for joy. Pandemonium. A room comprising of three generations, immigrants from the Pacific Islands cheering on a team whose sport none of us have even played, shrieking with pride and glowing with relief. The moment could not be more Canadian. It was so very very Canadian! Canada is us, is this, is me, is you. It is one nation and all nations. It is the coming together with pride and the celebration of differences. It is being Filipino, Italian, Croatian, Chinese AND being Canadian. It is the cheering for first place, fourth place, twenty seventh place. It is a nation mourning the loss of a mother, a nation celebrating the perfect ice dance, a nation cheering a team relay. It is the always ready friendly smile, the thank you to the bus driver at every stop, the random high five on the crowded street. It is bagpipes down Granville street, free hot chocolate in Yaletown, Tim Horton’s coffee on a rainy day. It is the welcoming of the world. It is this. And it is incredible. There is no better place in the whole wide world.