Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Party-pooping Grinch can't steal our Hoser Games
VANCOUVER -- At times such as these, never before felt or lived, we can sometimes turn to the great literature of the ages for answers.
Because at these 2010 Winter Games, which began with untold promise and were interrupted by the reality of winning and losing, your humble agent has harkened back to the written word of one of the pre-eminent scholars of our time...
It was Seuss, after all, who penned the classic poem, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You all know the story. How a mean-spirited ogre with a heart two sizes too small conspires to ruin Christmas for all the Whos in Whoville. He steals their presents, their buttons and bows. He takes their roast beast, and even their tree.
Worse, he leaves little Cindy Lou Who -- who we assume grew up to be a world-class speedskater -- with nothing but a cup of water and a pat on the head. Sound familiar?
The rueful Grinch leaves the Whos with squat, and ascends to his lair, gleefully believing the Whos, the tall and the small, would stop standing close together and singing, which he hated most of all.
Welcome to the Vancouver Olympics, where a similar storyline unfolded for the first underwhelming week of these Games. After all, this was supposed to be Canada's Games. We would win medal after medal, more than anyone else.
But others stopped our Christmas from coming. The Americans took the gold, the Germans took the silver. Even the Norwegians looted much of what was left, even the plums.
You can almost sense the Grinch up in Cypress Mountain, his green hand pressed to his ear, listening for the cries of Boo-hoo. "That's a noise," he said, "that I simply MUST hear!"
Theodor Seuss Geisel died in 1991. He never heard of Own The Podium.
But his words resonate these days at the 2010 Olympic Games. Because with the disappointment in Canada's less-than-projected medaul haul beginning to take hold -- not withstanding a late surge at the podium -- I feared that these Games would devolve into a self-defeating pity party; that the anticipation of the host nation would turn against itself, as it has before.
Like the Grinch, your humble agent paused and put his hand to his ear. In the words of Mr. Geisel, I heard a "sound rising over the snow. It started out low. Then it started to grow."
Instead, it was every Hoser down in Hoserville, the tall and the small, and they were joyously singing with hardly any medals at all.
They've been up in Whistler, by the tens of thousands, partying with gold-medal phenomenon Jon Montgomery, the pride of Russell. And that was long before Oprah called. They've been flooding Robson and Granville, decked out in their Team Canada jerseys and huddled around television sets on the streets, where you can hear one of their own win a medal from literally a mile away.
They swarm the arenas and the curling rinks and stand for hours in the cold and/or rain at the bottom of the slopes at Cypress. They jam the hockey rinks and wear their Maple Leafs on their sleeves and faces.
How does it sound? Well, merry. Very.
Indeed, the Whos have nothing on the Hosers when it comes to celebrating a Team Canada thrashing of Russia.
You see, the Grinch hasn't stopped the Olympics from coming. It came just the same.
Maybe these Games don't come from a podium, after all. Maybe the Olympics, perhaps, mean a little bit more.
Sorry, again, for paraphrasing Mr. Geisel. But in watching these Vancouver Games unfold, and seeing so many Canadians holding hands and singing -- and making that noise, noise, NOISE! -- regardless of anyone's optimistic medal projections, is a testament to this country's character.
That pleasant surprise was no more exemplified than when Winnipeg's Cindy Klassen stepped on the Richmond Oval on Wednesday for the 5,000 metres. The overwhelmingly Canadian crowd let out a deafening roar for each of her 12 laps, even though the hobbled queen of Turin was falling well off the pace. When she finished 12th, they were still applauding Klassen as she lapped the track exhausted.
"That's something that's so unique, something I've never experienced before, and something I'll never experience again," Cindy Lou, er, Klassen said, afterwards. "It's very emotional, too. I mean, I always feel support of Canadians. But to step on the ice here and hear them cheering... I really didn't expect this, to have that much support during each race. Seriously, every time a Canadian would step on the ice they'd go wild."
Yes, all the Hosers in Hoserville cheered. Standing close together, they cheered just the same.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2010 C2
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