Mixed Memories of 2010

For the past two weeks, many people here in Vancouver have been reminiscing about the 2010 Winter Olympics. Many of those memories reflected on how great the experience was, and for the most part, it was true, despite the constant angst during the years leading up to it about the cost overruns, potential disruption of our daily lives, the social inequities it would reflect and, most anxiety inducing of all…lack of snow. That should not have been surprising. We have to remember that of all the cities in a country that spends most of the time in winter, Vancouver is the only city that doesn’t do winter..and when it does show up, we don’t do very well with it. In that regard, the fact that we pulled off one of the most successful Winter Olympics in history is still a marvel to me.

For many of my colleagues at CTV, there are very strong memories from 10 years ago, since CTV was the host broadcaster. For us, it was a showcase for not just a national but international audience. Anchors, reporters, producers, directors, camera operators, technicians…everyone would be showcasing their skills for nearly 18 hours each day for 17 days. Gruelling at times, exhausting but exhilarating. A once in a lifetime opportunity that would become a highlight to everyone’s career. Covering events, history making moments, great athletes, compelling stories, not to mention welcoming the world to our city and showcasing ourselves and our talents as professionals. And I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to take part…

or so I thought.

At that time, I was still technically a part time, freelance employee of CTV. My main duties were as weekend weather anchor and fill in when needed. I was included in all the meetings and filled in on all the coverage plans leading up to the games. CTV Vancouver would broadcast daily as part of the national coverage, including live 9 hour coverage of the torch relay on opening day. Despite showing myself to be ready, willing and able to do more. The fact that I had received a complete CTV official Olympic clothing package ( winter jacket, zip up light weight jacket, pants, gloves, toque) led me to believe I would be involved more. But so far, it was on the opening day only. I was assigned to cover one of the exchange points at the countdown clock beside the Vancouver Art Gallery. So, I manned my post at 6 am that morning, waiting for the moment when the torch would be exchanged as it made its way through downtown towards BC Place and the opening ceremony later that evening. As you can imagine, about 3 and a half hours later, my magic moment on national television came and went very quickly, with my entire segment barely lasting over a minute. The relay continued on as we wrapped up at my location. I walked back half a block to the studio, where I changed from my official CTV Olympic gear to my official City of Vancouver gear. I was heading down to David Lam Park in Yaletown to emcee the first day of Live City, the largest of 2 outdoor venues put on by the city, featuring live coverage of the big events as well as concerts and celebrations. I was asked to emcee both the opening day and closing day activities. As much as I enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity, it became apparent that this was somewhat akin to winning the participatory ribbon. Or, in Olympic parlance, I didn’t make the podium. Because, with the exception of that first day, I would not appear on CTV for any of their remaining broadcasts during the games. I would be absent for almost the entire run and, on top of that, I would be without income for over 2 weeks, since I was paid only when I was on TV, not off it. I would spend the next 2 weeks hoping that, maybe, the phone would ring and I would be needed somehow. But the call never came. The biggest event and opportunity for many of my friends and colleagues was turning into one of my biggest disappointments.

But I digress…

As much as I was discouraged by not being part of covering the games, it did give me time to enjoy them. We saw the luge competitions, women’s downhill skiing and ski jumping in Whistler, as well as taking in the atmosphere downtown and, albeit somewhat envious, watching it on TV. Then, on the final day, it was back down to David Lam Park and the Live City stage to emcee the final day. It would turn out to be my most favourite memory of the games and one that made up for the disappointment of not being more involved. The big event that day was the Gold Medal game in men’s hockey…Canada vs the US. It was shown live on the two gigantic screens beside the stage. After introducing a couple of musical acts, including the great Jim Byrnes, myself and over 3,000 people settled in to watch the game. As we all know, it was a game for the ages…..Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead, the US narrowing it to a one goal lead in the 2nd and then tying it up in final seconds of the third period. Even though the entire country was watching, it seemed that all of us gathered there were in our own world, emotions running from joy to anxiety. Then, seven and a half minutes into overtime, Sidney Crosby yells out to Jarome Iginla…then the golden goal! I will never forget what happened next….over 3,000 people erupting into an explosion of sheer joy & celebration. Yelling, screaming, crying, flag waving, hugging, high-fiving…it was a perfect ending to what had been a stellar performance by not only our hockey heroes, but the entire Canadian Olympic team. It was also a fitting end to what turned out to be a great performance by our city and the people in it. Being there in that moment, I realized how special this was, how fortunate I was…and all the feelings of being left out…left me. After we wound down the day and the closing ceremonies were about to take place, I walked the few blocks from Yaletown back up towards Burrard Street downtown. For the entire walk, people were out on the street, in their cars, leaning out of windows, cheering, waving flags, honking horns, exchanging high fives and congratulatory screams. It was pure joy and celebration. By the time I got to Robson and Burrard, it was jammed with a mass of celebration and goodwill. Just for that moment alone, all the trauma and division leading up to the games was gone. It was all worth it. And all my feelings of disappointment were gone too….that final day made up for all the previous days.

It would have been nice to build more on that….and it would have been nice if subsequent public viewing of big events would have gone as well, such as the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals…but we know what happened then…

..but I digress…

We’ll always have 2010..and the Golden Goal.