What a Difference a Day Makes

Today things really turned around. But, first, how they ended the day before:

Yesterday was the first official full day of the Olympics. The much-anticipated Men’s Downhill skiing event was postponed due to warm weather conditions and out went the possibility of opening the Olympic games with a gold medal for Canada. Canada didn’t win gold in the short track skating events either, and even Apolo Ono, a Washington state native who Vancouverites like to think of as a local, earned “only” a silver in the Men’s 1500.

The Ladies Mogul event last night was certainly beautiful to watch, and Cypress Mountain looked surprisingly good on the TV. (The mogul run has been kept artificially intact with tons of snow trucked and even helicoptered in from interior B.C. and the jumps on the hill are kept hard with dry-ice filled tubes inside them. Yet daytime shots of practice runs showed hills of mud lining the snowy run itself. With the finals events occurring at night under blazing spotlights, however, the mud was invisible, looking simply like evening blackness framing the resplendent white course).

But watching the Ladies Moguls run, it was tough to see Canada come so close to actually earning a gold medal on opening day — and then not doing it. Canadian freestyle skier Jennifer Heil skied a beautiful mogul run and was sitting in first place, but then US mogul master Hannah Kearney ran a beautiful, incredibly fast line down the course and nailed her jumps. She deserved to win gold, and did.

So we awoke to a morning where Canada had not yet broken its “curse” of never winning gold at a home Olympics and yet more dismal weather. It had rained so much overnight that huge puddles dotted Whistler Village and, after a few hours of morning sunshine, the rain came down hard again.

We were feeling low. Whistler is such a special place to us that we want it to be able to put it’s best face forward. Instead, we were watching people buying plastic ponchos to wear while standing in long lines to attend the competitions.

We decided to delay heading over to the Whistler Sliding Center to watch the Men’s Luge events, as we didn’t want to spend too many hours standing in the rain. I decided to send my camera back home with the grandparents as well, since I didn’t want it to get soaked.

Then, suddenly, the sun came out. Rained still drizzled onto the stones of the main Whistler plaza but faces brightened. Then the rain stopped altogether and a blue sky emerged overhead. By now the line to board the gondola to the Sliding Center was gone and off we went to see the events.

There spectators were clearly not bothered by the rain or the medal counts. They were enjoying the sunshine, the music, the view, beers, and, of course, the competition. I’ll post separately about the luge events, but suffice to say that a good time was had by all, as far as we could tell. And it didn’t seem to matter to anyone that a Canadian wouldn’t be on the podium.

When we got back to Whistler Village at 5pm, the place had seemingly burst to life. The pedestrian-only streets were teeming with happy people: some were coming off the mountain, but most were simply soaking in the atmosphere. Groups of 3 or more in jackets from places like Belarus, Italy and Norway traded pins and took pictures with one another and with excited admirers in the crowd.

We watched a groovy band play on a fabulously lit stage in one of the village plazas. People at outdoor tables at the bars and restaurants bordering the square savored the music as much as those dancing up front. We sat our girls on the wall behind us so they could take in the scene as well.

Over by the Medals Plaza the mood was equally festive. The beautiful new playground structure was filled with children and adults well into the night. Kids went down the slide on their bums; intrepid teens skied down on their feet, and everyone was happy to share the same space.

Then it was time for the Men’s Moguls competition. Canadian mogulist Alexandre Bilodeau unexpectedly blew away his competitors and electrified the crowd. It wasn’t a flawless run, but it was very fast, technically demanding and elegant; and better than any of the other male mogulists, all of whom sacrificed precision for speed. With his older brother, who has cerebral palsy, cheering him on from the sidelines, and his entire country holding its breath, Bilodeau broke the spell: Canada got its first gold medal on home soil.

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