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The U.S. can have the podium, Canadians own the spirit – Metro US

The U.S. can have the podium, Canadians own the spirit

The media, me included, never saw it coming.

It took a long time for us to recognize it, though we were all sniffing around looking for The Olympic Story like hungry hounds for a ham bone.

I knew something was up as I walked to my downtown Vancouver office on the second morning of the Games: There was a lineup in front of what is usually the SFU Business School, now transformed into the Canada Mint Pavilion.

It was 8 a.m., yet there were hundreds, even thousands, of people standing in line waiting for … something.

It took the media a couple of days to figure it out … were they in line to buy commemorative coins? No, it turns out they lined up just to touch an Olympic medal.

Huh?

And if you think waiting for up to seven hours just to touch a medal is strange, there are people lined up for all kinds of weird and wonderful things in this Olympic-besotted city: Buy a pair of Olympic mittens; get an unobstructed view of the Olympic torch; buy a $9 beer at a pavilion; ride the zipline across Robson Square; ride the Canada Line; or buy the culinary street sensation of these Games: The Japadog, a bizarre concoction of bratwurst, seaweed and wasabi that enjoys inexplicable multicultural appeal.

And that, folks, is The Story. The “people” have redeemed these Games. Instead of joining the anvil chorus of Olympic scolds, people just decided to celebrate.

They parted company with the media right from the opening ceremonies, when all we saw was mechanical failure. They saw magic. We saw the messup at Cypress Bowl. They went and cheered their champions, lustily exhorting them to go ahead, own the podium; don’t be shy. We saw the oppressive boot of VANOC land on unauthorized Olympic marketers. They went out and bought every single piece of official Olympic gear available, including more than three million pairs of red mittens. Even the lions guarding the entrance to the Lions Gate Bridge have their own, super-size red mittens.

We were in denial, but they were irrepressible. And they won. These Olympics are a success because ordinary Canadians embraced them and infused them with enough good cheer to vanquish any residual gloom. They have set the bar for successive Olympic crowds. The U.S. may own the podium, but Canada owns the stands. And the streets.

As a charter member of the anvil chorus, I admit defeat. We spent six billion bucks on the stupid Olympic Games. And to our surprise, we got a huge shot of grassroots national unity as a bonus. This city, this nation, will never be the same.

With five days left, what can I say? Go Canada Go.

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